Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Let's Take Time...

Who can forget this familiar announcement we heard every week, twice during each syndicated television program?

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sound Bytes: Joe Murnick Introduces Johnny Valentine vs. Bob Bruggers

Joe Murnick was the local promoter for Jim Crockett in Raleigh NC, Norfolk VA, and other towns in the 1960s and 1970s. But he was probably more famous during that time as the ring announcer for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. 

Joe's voice and vocal style were unique and reminiscent of the classic old-school ring announcers going back decades. His ring introductions were one of my favorite parts of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling each week.

From time to time we'll post some of Joe's ring introductions as we come across them on audio tape archives. We hope they bring back good memories to those of you old enough to remember Mr. Murnick's smooth delivery. And for those of you too young to remember him, we are happy to expose you to one of the classic television voices in the history of Jim Crockett Promotions. 

JOE'S CALL - July 20, 1974
Johnny Valentine vs. Bob Bruggers for 1000 Silver Dollars

Joe Murnick

This audio is part of a feature on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway looking back at how Johnny Valentine's infamous 1000 Silver Dollars became 2000 Silver Dollars in 1974.

Monday, October 19, 2015

WGHP "Championship Wrestling" Ticket

Check out this rare original ticket to the studio wrestling tapings at WGHP channel 8 in High Point, NC. Note the hand-written alteration on the ticket of the day and date. Someone just didn't think through things very well when they printed December 25, 1973 on that week's tickets. They certainly weren't going to have a taping on Christmas Day.

They instead decided to double up the week before, having a taping on both Tuesday (normal night for WGHP taping) and a special Wednesday night. The tickets originally printed for 12/25 were honored on Wednesday 12/19. Johnny Weaver's personal journals showed this to be the case.

"Championship Wrestling", which aired on WGHP-8 in High Point, NC (a TV market which includes Greensboro and Winston-Salem as well) was taped at a studio at the Sheraton Hotel. WGHP's original studios were located inside the Sheraton Hotel on North Main Street in downtown High Point, and the wrestling tapings took place there until they were discontinued and consolidated with the WRAL Raleigh tapings in the summer of 1974. The station moved to new studios around 10 years later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It's Miller Time (1987)

Greensboro Daily News
Friday, April 24, 1987
By Jerry Bledsoe

Had a call the other day from my old buddy, Tom Miller. Tom is one of my more unusual friends. He has an unruly sense of humor and he’s always doing wild and outlandish things. To come right down to it, Tom’s just a little weird.

I could tell a thousand stories about Tom, some of which I might even be able to print here with a few alterations, but I won’t get into that.

Lots of folks in these parts know Tom, of course. He was in radio in Greensboro for many years. He was remembered for other things, too. Tom was bad to take a nip now and then and you never knew how it would affect him. Sometimes he would dress up in a rabbit suit and wander around town.

When you run into a six foot five, 250 pound rabbit sitting on the curb singing to himself, you aren’t apt to forget it any time soon.

Tom also had an elf suit that he was prone to wear on certain occasions, but he quit going out in it after the glue-on Dr. Spock ears that came with it refused to unglue and had to be surgically removed.

Some years later, Tom went off to Charlotte to become “Truckin’ Tom” on a late-night show. Later, he moved to Danville and was at a couple of radio stations there. That’s where he was when I last talked to him, in fact.

I hadn’t heard from him since sometime back about the first of the year. He left a message on my answering machine saying he was in the hospital.  They’d run a garden hose down his throat and discovered an ulcer, he said.

But he was healed and chipper when he called the other day. He called for several reasons.

One was that he had just been to a supermarket and seen one of those tabloid papers with a headline that said, “Baby Born Whistling Dixie.”  He thought I ought to know about it, but he hadn’t taken the time to read any of the details. Must’ve startled the doctor, though, don’t you think? I hope the mother was a Yankee so she didn’t have to struggle to her feet and salute.

Tom Miller and Ric Flair in Greensboro
Another reason Tom called was to let me know he’d left radio. In recent months, he’s been traveling around the country as a free-lance ring announcer at rasslin’ matches. He was enjoying the work, he said, but he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out over the long haul, so he’s been giving some thought to getting back into radio.

Anyway, Tom obviously was in a philosophical mood and clearly had been doing some deep thinking.

“How long have we known each other?” he asked. “Twenty years? Back when we first met, if I’d made these predictions to you, ala Jeanne Dixon, would you have believed any of them?”

“You’ll be writing a book about murder. I’ll no longer be in radio. It’ll snow at the GGO. A 75 year old actor will be President. You won’t be able to buy a ‘Boar & Castle’ steak sandwich. The Old Rebel will be dead. They’ll be making movies in Wilmington. You’ll be able to rent a videocassette of an autopsy. And a funeral will cost more than a Volkswagen used to.”

I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have believed even one.

Apparently, free-lance rasslin’ announcers have a lot of free time between matches, because Tom had come up with another list he wanted to read to me.  This was a list he called “13 crimes that have yet to be committed or have not yet been reported.” It follows:

1. Unauthorized camel vasectomies.
2. Sexual molestation of a car.
3. Church steeple larceny.
4. Assault on a gorilla.
5. Unlawful discharge of a bazooka in an Alaskan library.
6. Bee hive bombing.
7. Theft of all the eyeballs at a bingo game.
8. Threatening phone calls to the school for the deaf.
9. Junkyard vandalism.
10. Illegal use of a weenie in the commission of a felony.
11. Sheep fighting.
12. Concrete arson.
13. Failure to honor a PTL pledge.

You see what I mean about weird?

* * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to Carroll Hall at the "All Star Championship Wrestling" website for providing this article through his research, and thanks to Peggy Lathan for transcribing the article.

The photo of Tom Miller and Ric Flair was not taken from the original article.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Man behind the Mike: Gordon Solie

From Wrestling Revue
February 1966

At the age of twelve, when most boys dream of becoming firemen, policemen or aviators, Gordon Solie was entertaining thoughts of becoming a radio announcer. He followed the idea through high school, taking all available courses in broadcasting and dramatics. Today, at thirty-six, Solie is one of the foremost announcers in the nation. This distinction is due largely to a syndicated television program entitled, "Championship Wrestling From Florida."

After finishing high school, Solie joined the United States Air Force and was sent to Okinawa. Upon returning to the United States, Solie was assigned to the Seventh Geodetic Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base. Here, he became a member of WRCN, the base radio station.

While announcing for Uncle Sam, Gordon got acquainted with Vinn Marshall of KWKH radio. Marshall, an "old pro," gave Solie many valuable "pointers" whenever Gordon visited the commercial station following his own sign-off trick at WRCN. Through it all, Solie managed to eke out three or four hours sleep each night, as he was also working a regular daytime shift with the Air Force. It was sometimes pretty hard to keep going," Gordon recalls, "but the valuable experience I got was worth it." Upon leaving the Air Force, Gordon Solie journeyed to Tampa, Florida, to try his luck as a professional announcer. His first job was at a small independent radio station known as WEBK. The station (now WSOL) had no sports programming whatsoever, and Solie was quick to recognize the opportunity. It wasn't long before he had his own fifteen-minute sports show each evening.

As WEBK's first sports announcer, Gordon interviewed many of the day's top wrestlers, such as the late Gorgeous George, Primo Carnera, Baron Leone and Wild Red Berry.

After one year at WEBK, Solie was contacted by WFLA, then the area's top radio station, and asked to join the staff. He readily accepted. At WFLA, Gordon soon became good friends with Milt Spencer, that station's sports director, and it wasn't long before the two of them came up with a late night show which rapidly became the most popular in the entire area.

Not long thereafter, Solie announced a live automobile race at Speedway Park, just outside of Tampa. He did so well he was offered a full time job at it. After three years with Art Swenson and the Auto Thrillcade, Solie was named as the outstanding outdoor announcer in the country. When he returned to Tampa, weary of the road and looking forward to settling down to a more normal existence, "Cowboy" Luttrall, Tampa's wrestling promoter, offered Solie a job as publicity man. Solie accepted, and it was natural for him to become the wrestling commentator on the now highly popular weekly TV program.

The next big development in Solie's career came when Frank Dery Jr. interested him in building a race track for stock cars in Tampa. The resultant Golden Gate Speedway has become the finest short track stock car race-way in the entire United States. Solie handles the mike for the races at Golden Gate every Friday and Saturday night.

A many-faceted person, Gordon is also half owner of a new motor oil distributorship in Florida, is secretary of the Southeastern Promoters Auto Association and chairman of the Babe Zaharias Cancer Fund Drive in Tampa. Known as "Scrambler" according to a recent story in the Tampa Tribune, Solie continues to look for new fields to conquer.

"My first love is wrestling," he told us. "I feel that wrestling and stock car racing are the two outstanding action sports in the United States. The men I have met in both professions lead me to believe that you will go a long way to find nicer, more sincere people anywhere. Lou Thesz, Don Curtis, Eddie Graham, Haystack Calhoun, Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Art Malone and Don Garlits are some of my favorite people and I feel that I am privileged to know them."

Married to the former Eileen Thibaut of Lorain, Ohio, Solie has three children, Denise, sixteen, is an athletic young lady with an interest in acrobatics. Greg, a fourteen-year-old wrestles as an amateur. Eric, the eleven-year-old, in interested in be-coming a race driver.

With such a talented family Gordon Solie could even produce his own shows.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to Carroll Hall at All Star Championship Wrestling who provided this article to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Classic Studio Images: Rich Landrum with Dusty Rhodes

One of the things I loved most when I was a kid watching wrestling was when they would show a taped interview of a wrestler sent in from another territory's TV show. For some reason this was always very cool to me. It was a glimpse into another territory's TV studio, their announcer, their studio backdrop - - anything that gave a little of the flavor of that territory and their program.

Usually it was a tape of the reigning NWA world champion who was getting ready to tour the area and would send in a tape from where ever he happened to be at the moment. All of the NWA promotions cooperated with each other and would send tapes to each other in this regard. Other times it would be of a new or returning wrestler getting ready to come into the territory and he was sending in an interview from the territory he was getting ready to leave.

However, I never really thought about then that there were tapes recorded in our studio (Mid-Atlantic area) that were being sent to other territories, too. It obviously makes sense, but I just hadn't ever really thought about that side of it.

This image of Rich Landrum interviewing Dusty Rhodes is a great example of that. This was likely during the time Dusty was NWA world champion in 1981, and he was taping a promo while in the Mid-Atlantic area that would be sent to air on "Georgia Championship Wrestling" to promote a world title defense at the Omni in Atlanta.

The studio backdrop you see in this image was one of my personal favorites, and was used on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" in the 1970s until it was replaced in 1977. But it was maintained for use during the local promotional spots taped the afternoon before the Wednesday night WRAL tapings until Crockett relocated their studio television tapings to Charlotte in August of 1981. One of those local promo taping sessions would be when this would have been taped. Rich Landrum wore a suit for those tapings, but would change into a tuxedo for the taping of the "World Wide Wrestling" show that he hosted from 1978-1982.

Studio Wrestling in Augusta, GA

Live Wrestling premiered on channel 12 WRDW in Augusta, Georgia on March 26, 1956. The first commentator was Don McIntyre. He was assisted by Lou Stratton.

(Information from Carroll Hall's "Vintage TV & Wrestling Nostalgia" website.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Close Look at George Harben (WBTV-3)

I'm happy to find some information on George Harben, who was ring announcer on WBTV's "Championship Wrestling in the 1960s and 1970s. His voice was an important part in the fabric of studio wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1960s and early 1970s, and I'm glad to have him better represented here on the Studio Wrestling website and the Mid-Atantic Gateway.

by Mike Cline
Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats

Remember George Harben? I certainly do.

I remember George Harben as the ring announcer on WBTV's CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING TV program, which was video taped every Wednesday night in Charlotte and broadcast that following Saturday afternoon.

And for a number of those years, the same program was broadcast over WBTV's 'sister station' in Florence, South Carolina.

However, Mr. Harben's career in the wrestling business went back quite a bit further than announcing on television and at house shows at PARK CENTER and the CHARLOTTE COLISEUM.

Harben was born in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a famous historical spot that is still visited by tourists the year round. He broke into the business as a wrestler in 1933 and had an active career until retiring in 1956.

In 1935, George helped train one of the all-time greats of modern wrestling, none other than LOU THESZ, who went on to become WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION six times. THESZ was a young boy of eighteen when he worked with Harben.

In 1940, during the years of World War 2, George Harben made a trip to Australia by boat to wrestle and was on board when the vessel was struck by a mine off the coast of New Zealand.

He also wrestled in Cuba before Fidel Castro took control of that country.

George Harben wrestled with his brother Charlie over most of the United States as a tag team. The two were in the main event that drew the largest crowd to ever witness a wrestling card at the old CHARLOTTE ARMORY. It was in early 1953, and the Harbens' opponents were GEORGE and BOBBY BECKER.

Besides his ring announcing duties for JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS, Harben also assisted in advertising the company's wrestling shows in several other towns besides Charlotte and for a while promoted house shows in Hickory, North Carolina.

George Harben passed away some years ago, but I can still his voice---
"Good evening Ladies and Gentleman and welcome to another exciting evening of Championship Wrestling on Channel 3."

* * * * * *

Thanks to Mike Cline at "Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats" for allowing us to post his story on George Harbin here on the Studio Wrestling blog, part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Visit Mike Cline's "Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats" website.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Landrum & Weaver calling Flair match at WRAL Studio (1980)

This is a nice little Ric Flair match from WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, NC,  Ric Flair vs. Billy Starr from "World Wide Wrestling" in 1980 at WRAL TV-5 studio in Raleigh, NC. WRAL was the longtime home of TV tapings for "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" and "World Wide Wrestling."

Johnny Weaver and Rich Landrum
Any footage from WRAL studio is relatively rare. Jim Crockett Promotions moved taping to Charlotte in the late summer of 1981 before VCRs were in wide use. And the WWE's tape library for Crockett TV largely begins in November 1981 after the move to Charlotte.

The commentary is by Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver. Landrum began hosting a revamped version of "World Wide Wrestling" in the fall of 1978. He had various guest commentators before settling in with Weaver who became the permanent co-host for World Wide for many years.

The only thing missing is Johnny singing "Turn out the Lights, The Party's Over" at the end of the match, which was Weaver's homage to "Dandy" Don Meredith who would often sing that refrain during Monday Night Football in those years. 

This taped match aired on "NWA Championship Wrestling" from the Knoxville territory in November of 1981. The wrap-arounds are shot in the WBIR TV-10 studios and are hosted by Les Thatcher, the voice of Knoxville wrestling for many years.

(This video was also posted on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ed Capral with Mulligan and Flair on Wide World Wrestling (1976)

U.S. Champion Blackjack Mulligan and Mid-Atlantic Champion Ric Flair are interviewed by host Ed Capral on the set of "Wide World Wrestling" at WRAL. Sitting just off camera to the right is booker George Scott.

Blackjack Mulligan wearing the United States championship belt, with Ric Flair
in the ring on "Wide World Wrestling" 

Referee Angelo Martinelli seems anxious to get the match underway.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brad Keene in Canada

Man Behind the Mike
Wrestling Revue Magazine, April 1966

During the thirteen years that Brad Keene has been doing wrestling on TV he has given the audience some unusual exhibitions of his own.

Brad Keene
Some of the odd-ball things he's done to liven up the program are breaking a rock on the chest of Klondike Bill with a 16-pound sledge hammer; 'being held up in the air on one hand of Hercules Cortez while interviewing him; having Whipper Billy Watson demonstrate some of his favorite holds on him; taking on Hard Boiled Haggerty in a wrist-wrestling contest, and so forth.

Over the years he's interviewed most of the big names in pro wrestling both on radio and TV and knows the game inside out and backwards.

Brad has worked throughout West-ern Canada, handling shows in most of the big cities like Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver. He is currently doing a regular weekly wrestling show in Vancouver, B.C. for a tremendous viewing audience. This is one of the highest rated time periods art the Pacific Coast.

His station, Channel 8, also makes video tapes for other cities including, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener, Montreal, Halifax, Regina, Saskatoon and, for almost two years, Tacoma, Washington. Thus, Brad's shows reach a vast audience stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific on both sides of the U.S.A. - Canadian border.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Occasionally the Studio Wrestling website will spotlight some of the great voices and TV hosts from territories across the wrestling landscape in the 1960s and 1970s.

Thanks to Carroll Hall for providing this article to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sound Bytes: Les Thatcher (1975)

Back in the mid-1970s, the television hosts for Jim Crockett Promotions would always run down the list of current champions that week. Bob Caudle, Les Thatcher, Ed Capral, Rich Landrum - - they would announce that the show was sanctioned by the National Wrestling Alliance and then list all of the champions, starting with the NWA world heavyweight champion.

In this example, Les Thatcher announces the NWA sanctioning and runs down the champions of the NWA in July of 1975.

From the 2nd hour of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling taped 7/23/75 at WRAL in Raleigh:

Les Thatcher

Quite a distinguished list of champions!

NWA World Heavyweight Champion: Jack Brisco
NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Champion: Hiro Matsuda
NWA World Tag Team Champions: Gene and Ole Anderson
United States Heavyweight Champion: Johnny Valentine
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion: Wahoo McDaniel
Mid-Atlantic Television Champion: Ric Flair

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Championship Studio Wrestling" (Mid-America Wrestling)

Check out this rare footage from a program called "Championship Studio Wrestling" from the NWA Mid-America Wrestling promotion out of Chattanooga, TN. It features host Harry Thornton (one of the promoters behind the scenes) interviewing Bobby Eaton and the Great Togo. 

The show was taped at WDEF-12 studios in Chattanooga, TN under the promotional mantle of Nick Gulas.

I was particularly pleased to hear the theme music at the end of the show, which rekindled a childhood memory. It is a Chico Buarque de Hollanda song called "A Banda" performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. My parents had the 1967 album from which that song was taken, "Herb Alpert's Ninth", which featured both Beethoven and Alpert on the cover.

Here is an audio clip from the video above that jumps straight to Harry Thorton doing the show close and then to the theme music. 

"Championship Studio Wrestling" host Harry Thornton
Mid-America Wrestling promoted by Nick Gulas

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ring Introduction by Elliot Murnick

Elliot Murnick (Facebook)
If you're as old as I am, you will remember back to when Carl and Elliot Murnick did the ring introductions on Mid-Atlantic and Wide World Wrestling from around 1976-1978. They are the sons of Raleigh promoter Joe Murnick and were involved in several of the family businesses. Mr. Murnick did the ring introductions for years at WRAL, but by early 1976 had mostly turned it over to the boys.

As part of our Mid-Atlantic Gateway "Sound Bytes" series here on the Studio Wrestling website, we'll present a few sample of ring introductions from those years.

This one is from August of 1976 from Mid-Atlantic Wrestling hosted by Bob Caudle, who you will also hear in this clip, pitching to Elliot Murnick in the ring.

Ring Introduction by Elliot Murnick

The Death of Introductions from the Ring

In 1978, Bob Caudle and Rich Landrum started doing the ring introductions from the floor near their announce position using blue-screen chroma-key composting on the studio backdrops to show the wrestler being introduced in the ring. I always found this highly annoying and missed the introduction form the ring form the moment they were gone. Ring introductions should always be done form the ring. It's as if WRAL had this new chroma-key technology and just looked for any way to use it, rather than a useful way to use it. Fans never got the hang of it, and usually couldn't hear the intros that well anyway. Bob and Rich would be looking at the monitor off-screen (sort of like the weather people do when they use green-screen chroma key today) rather than looking at the ring or at the fans, so the fans sort of watched the monitor, too, and never reacted to the introductions. Those introductions most always fell flat.

TV wrestling mostly eliminated their ring introductions when they moved out of the studio to the arenas anyway, except when there was a main-event level match. But I digress.

More Sound Bytes to come.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ed Capral Profile

by Les Thatcher
from Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine (Vol. 2 No. 3, 1976)

"Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Wide World Wrestling."

Ed Capral
The words are spoken and yet another program is being recorded in the studios of WRAL-TV in Raleigh. The tape machines are humming; the camera men are awaiting their cues; the director and engineers are giving instructions to the floor crews.

In front of the camera, however, away for all of this hustle and bustle stands a quite composed gentleman from Atlanta, Mr. Ed Capral. In a manner now familiar to wrestling fans throughout the southeast, Ed tells viewers what they are about to see. Then "Right after this word from our sponsor," cameras break away for a commercial and Ed makes his way to his desk where he will describe the action in a way that only he can.

All of this explanation sets the stage to answer the question "Who is Ed Capral?

Ed is one of the most experienced voices of wrestling beginning as a guest commentator 30 years ago. Ed was given the guest shot by Atlanta promotor Paul Jones and from that time has never looked back.

After attending the University of Georgia and serving a tour of duty in Korea, Ed returned to television where he would become the voice of Georgia Championship Wrestling for the next 20 years. Many wrestlers were to come and go but Ed remained vigile at his post.

In 1975 Ed joined Wide World Wrestling as the voice of this new program. Now the program is gaining popularity in the Mid-Atlantic area by leaps and bounds.

Ed may not go down in the annals of sports broadcasting history but his face and voice bring the same reaction from wrestling fans as Howard Cosell, Curt Gowdy, and Pat Summerall get from football fans.

"This is Ed Capral saying so long until next week." 

He wipes his face; shakes a few hands; packs his bag; and leaves for the airport for his trip back to Atlanta.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sound Bytes: Joe Murnick Introduces Wahoo McDaniel

Joe Murnick was the local promoter for Jim Crockett in Raleigh NC, Norfolk VA, and other towns in the 1960s and 1970s. But he was probably more famous during that time as the ring announcer for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. 

Joe's voice and vocal style were unique and reminiscent of the classic old-school ring announcers going back decades. 

From time to time we'll post some of Joe's ring introductions as we come across them on audio tape archives. We hope they bring back good memories to those of you old enough to remember Mr. Murnick's smooth delivery. And for those of you too young to remember him, we are happy to expose you to one of the classic television voices in the history of Jim Crockett Promotions. 

JOE'S CALL - April 1976 - Wahoo McDaniel vs. Jim Lancaster

(This post mirrors a post on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tickets for Wrestling Tapings at WRAL in Raleigh

During the years that wrestling was taped at WRAL channel 5 in Raleigh (1959-1981), admission was free for the 300 or so folks that could be seated on the bleachers in studio A, but you had to write in for tickets.

Each week Bob Caudle would tell viewers the address in which to send request for tickets:

That was in the mid-1970s. It was so simple then, you didn't even need a PO Box number or a zip code. Just Tickets, WRAL TV, Raleigh, North Carolina. Later, they would add the PO Box 12000.

Over the years, the tickets changed in appearance. By the end of the run at WRAL, they were actually sending you a letter instead of tickets.

I'm not sure which I format I liked better! The tickets are very cool, but the letter I received in April of 1981 to attend my one and only taping at WRAL was very special for different reasons. It was on Jim Crockett Promotions letterhead and had the Mid-Atlantic and Wide World Wrestling logos at the bottom, as well as the logo for the other family business, the Charlotte O's baseball team.

All of the logos were in color, and I've always regretted not making a color copy of the letter. But color copiers were very rare in 1981, and even if you found one, the copy was very expensive to make.

I am fortunate to have been able to attend a taping at WRAL. Four months after my visit, in August of 1981, Jim Crockett Promotions moved the taping of the show to WPCQ-36 studio in Charlotte.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

For more on the three decades of TV tapings at WRAL, see this article on the Studio Wrestling website. : Television History: WRAL-5 Raleigh, NC

This article is mirrored at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website.

Wrestling 101 (Excerpts)

by Wayne Brower
Excerpts from "Wrestling 101",  an article published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

My desire to watch wrestling was limited only by our television’s ability to receive the distant signals. In the early 1960s there was neither cable nor satellite TV available. Most reception was either through “rabbit ears” – with or without tin foil – or from a roof mounted antenna.

Growing up in Trinity, North Carolina did not allow for reception of numerous stations. The area programming of that time was from WFMY Channel 2 in Greensboro and WSJS Channel 12 in Winston-Salem. Neither broadcast wrestling. The best we could occasionally receive with ideal atmospheric conditions was WDBJ Channel 7 of Roanoke and Charlotte’s WBTV Channel 3.

Two events would occur that had a significant impact on my viewing habits. In October 1963 WGHP Channel 8 in High Point signed on the air. Shortly thereafter wrestling was held in their studio on Tuesday nights for broadcast the following Saturday afternoon. Next, my dad purchased an antenna rotator connected by wire to a control box that sat on top of our television. With a turn of the dial pointing to the preferred direction we now had clear signal access to the aforementioned stations, plus another wrestling provider, WRAL Channel 5 in Raleigh. Talk about sensory overload. And it was so much more interesting than anything I was being taught in school at the time.

. . . . . . . . .

In almost every conflict the heels would consistently create mischief and mayhem, all in cowardly ways or while holding an unfair advantage. The hosts of the TV shows would passionately describe the action, and often disagree with the cheater’s denials during their interviews. Nick Pond warned many bad guys that scores would be settled at Dorton Arena next Tuesday night. Big Bill Ward argued with manager Homer O’Dell, and told him that he and his team should be very concerned about facing the Scott brothers at Charlotte Park Center. Charlie Harville provided detailed results of matches in Greensboro where more often than not the good guys ultimately defeated the heels and from there would go on to the next challenge. Virtue and honor had been satisfied.

[ Read Wayne's entire article Wrestling 101 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. ]

For more information, history, and memorabilia related to the broadcasters mentioned in this story visit the Studio Wrestling website, part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

For an in-depth look at the career of Charlie Harville, see Wayne Brower's excellent look at the NC Broadcast Hall of Famer: Charlie Harville: Remembering His Remarkable Journey

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pittsburgh's Bill Cardille (1969)

This is one of the better and more lengthy profiles of a TV wrestling host that appeared as part of a series called  "The Man Behind the Mike" in "Wrestling Revue" magazine back in the 1960s and early 1970s. 

The show featured in the April 1969 issue was called "Studio Wrestling" (you know we love that title) and was hosted by Bill Cardille on WIIC-11 TV in Pittsburgh.

Cardille was quite the character himself as you will learn in this great feature.


Chilly Billy - Nimblest Man on Camera!
Wrestling Revue - April 1969

Bruno Sammartino and Bill Cardille
Several hundred thousand calloused fans of Pittsburgh's Studio Wrestling relaxed in front of their television sets with sharp appetites, and maybe a fresh beer, for the debut of still another Masked Marvel.

If they realized that it was April First, the Marvel soon made them forget it. He brought them upright in their easy chairs the instant he strutted - arrogantly into the ring.

The Marvel was tormenting lovable Izzy Moidel, the big, easy-going referee. Izzy cowered under a slap and a kick. Then the reckless Marvel interrupted the pre-match instructions by roughing up his opponent, Ace Freeman.

Freeman is a respected veteran of countless matches and a number of Masked Marvels, and he wasn't about to take much guff from this one. After a brief flurry, he rushed the Marvel into a corner, locked him against the ropes, and yanked off his mask.

The camera darted in expectantly for a close-up. And the words "April Fool!" flashed under the famous face that exploded on thousands of TV screens.

And you could almost hear the collective, delighted groan—"Oh, no! Not that nut again!" For there, unabashed and happy with his deceit and grinning foolishly, crouched "Chilly Billy" Cardille, the commentator-host of WIIC-TV's Studio Wrestling.

Moments later, Cardille was back at his ringside microphone in a tasteful suit, a quiet tie, again darkly handsome and unruffled as a baby's brow. It was business as usual in his quiet corner of the madhouse. If he gave any hint of the recent zaniness, it was in a restrained smile.

Stunts like that one, along with his bright, knowledgeable commentary throughout the matches, have made Bill Cardille (pronounced "Car-dill") a great favorite on the Pittsburgh wrestling scene. He's helped make Studio Wrestling the top-rated local show on WIIC, Pittsburgh's NBC outlet. The show (Saturdays, 6 to 7:30 p.m.) goes into some 200,000 homes, said a recent Nielsen rating. It also plays before a packed house of some 300 at the studio, and they're not the same 300 each night. They're scramblers. There's a six-week wait for the free tickets.

Cardille and TV wrestling grew up, and down, together.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Charlie Harville: Remembering His Remarkable Journey (Excerpt)

by Wayne Brower
Exclusive to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives

The following is an excerpt from the main article. A link at the bottom will take you to the conclusion on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website.

In the spring of 1954 Jim Crockett spoke before an audience in the City of Lexington, North Carolina to publicize the debut of professional wrestling at the local YMCA gymnasium. He announced an agreement that he had entered with the organization whereby a portion of the proceeds would go towards funding the newly constructed arena. Crockett also told the assembled group about his plans for weekly shows if the initial matches drew adequate crowds.

Marketing the wrestling matches would be through advertisements in local newspapers, along with display cards in store fronts and on utility poles at strategic intersections. Since locally affiliated wrestling was not televised in the immediate area, Crockett described the need for a strong connection with the population in the Piedmont section of the state. He then advised the attendees about his new association with a prominent sports authority who would play a significant role in providing a major event atmosphere, while drawing sports fans not previously interested in wrestling. That prominent authority was Charlie Harville.

Charles Edward Harville was born December 15, 1918 in High Point, North Carolina. From an early age he had a tremendous interest in playing various sports that progressed into his college years. Not being as successful as he had envisioned in football, Charlie turned to baseball but failed to make the High Point College team. Showing his lifelong ability to overcome setbacks through trust in his own self-reliance, he would later tell a newspaper reporter that being cut during the baseball tryouts made him strive to succeed in his second ambition – being a sports broadcaster.

So while still in college, Charlie went to his hometown WMFR radio and boldly offered his services as a substitute play-by-play announcer for the Thomasville Tommies baseball games. The station manager was impressed by the articulate young man and decided to give him an opportunity in an on-the-job audition on April 28, 1938. The next day he was hired as their full time play-by-play announcer for baseball and football games.

World War II interrupted his career, but after an honorable tour of duty in the Army Air Corps, Charlie reemerged in radio working at stations in Martinsville, Virginia, Goldsboro, North Carolina and then LaSalle, Illinois. During his time at WLPO in LaSalle he created the unique closing phrase that would always end his future sportscasts: “That’s the best in sports today.”

In 1949 WFMY Radio in Greensboro provided an opportunity for him to return to his home area. The station had made the effort to broadcast the new medium of television and obtained the license to do so later that year. Charlie was selected as host of what is believed to be the first live local sports show broadcast in North Carolina. Almost fifty years later he would tell a staff writer for the Greensboro News & Record “It was a gamble on the part of the station. I practiced by pretending I was looking at a camera during my radio broadcasts. I had no doubt I’d succeed at it, but I didn’t know if it would go over with the public. I was surprised at the speed and breadth of its acceptance. By 1953 WFMY’s venture into TV was so successful that it closed the radio station.”

However, radio continued to be a significant part of Charlie’s career. Through the late 1940s and into the 1950s, he was a part of the Tobacco State Network that broadcast big four Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. For the next three decades he was the play-by-play announcer for numerous universities’ football and baseball programs, including East Carolina, Appalachian State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

* * * * * * * * * *

On Saturday night, May 1, 1954 Charlie Harville walked toward the ring, through the then record setting attendance of 4,300, for the first professional wrestling matches ever held at the Lexington YMCA. Neither he nor those in the arena knew that they were a part of events that would significantly impact him and wrestling in the region for the next thirty years.

Friday, July 3, 2015

"The Best of NWA Wrestling" with Johnny Weaver (1978)

Lots of folks remember that Johhny was a popular co-host of wrestling programs in the Mid-Atlantic area, first with Rich Landrum on World Wide Wrestling in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then with Bob Caudle on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and NWA Pro Wrestling throughout much of the the 1980s. Not many folks may remember that Weaver briefly hosted his own wrestling show in the fall of 1978 called "The Best of N.W.A. Wrestling".

Originating from the studios of WCCB-18 in Charlotte, NC, Weaver would review tapes from the other Mid-Atlantic TV shows as well as special arena film, and would have studio guests there to offer commentary as well.

The program only lasted 13 weeks, and aired only in a few markets.  David Crockett conducting some of the interviews. Weaver had a different co-host each week, and they would review tape and film of matches both from the arena and also from previous broadcasts of Mid-Atlantic and World Wide Wrestling. Occasionally, tapes would be shown of matches from other NWA territories, usually from Florida or Georgia.

The studio was very small, and there was no ring set up for wrestling. There was a desk-set with an NWA logo behind it, and a separate interview set as well.

As a matter of trivia, WCCB was the original choice location for the weekly TV tapings when Crockett moved them from WRAL in Raleigh to Charlotte in 1981. That deal fell through, and the decision was made to move to the tiny confines of WPCQ-36 in Charlotte.

WCCB was located right next door to the old Charlotte Coliseum (now the Independence Arena/Cricket Arena).


For more information on this program, including several photographs of Johnny on the set of his show, check out the following link on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tony Schiavone on The Ross Report

Last summer, good ol' J.R. had Tony Schiavone as a guest on his highly ranked podcast "The Ross Report" on Podcast One, which can be found on iTunes and at PodcastOne.com.

There was lots of great discussion and of course the expected back and forth on the WCW days, but I was most interested in Tony's reflections on his early days with Jim Crockett Promotions and his days growing up in Richmond a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in t he mid-1970s.

Tony was always one of our favorites, and although the main focus points of this Studio Wrestling site are the Mid-Atlantic television studios in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the WTBS studio in Atlanta was an important part of the studio wrestling history as a taping location for Crockett from 1985-1988.

When Tony began work for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1983, the weekly TV tapings had just moved out of the WPCQ Charlotte studios earlier that year. He was a regular fixture, however, in the make-shift studio on Briarbend Drive hosting many of the local promos over the next years.

Here are some one-minute excerpts from that August 27, 2014 podcast with Jim Ross:

On moving to Charlotte and how he got started with Jim Crockett Promotions:

On road trips to Richmond, Roanoke, and Greensboro as a fan in the mid-1970s:

We encourage you to listen to the entire episode at "The Ross Report" via iTunes or the Podcast One website, and to visit J.R.'s sponsors and to support his show directly.

Also visit J.R.'s website J.R.'s Place at http://www.jrsbarbq.com. You hit links to take you to the podcast there, buy some of J.R.'s outstanding BBQ sauce and check out J.R.'s very popular blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mid-Atlantic TV Program Wins Awards (1976)

From a 1976 issue of "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine"
Mid-Atlantic TV Program Wins Awards (1976)

The television program "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" didn't win any Oscars, Emmies. or Grammies in 1976; but they walked away with a lions share of awards in their field. In the 1976 National Wrestling Alliance Poll of television Programs, Mid-Atlantic was awarded the following:

  • Best Production, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
  • Best Director, Robert Parnel
  • Best Technical Supervisor, George Scott
  • Best Commentating Team, Bob Caudle and David Crockett

Many things behind the scenes go into putting together an award winning production. The camera crew, floor director, audio man, etc. The wrestling talent you see on the program is second to none, but awards are not given for wrestlers. It is the program itself that is judged. On the Mid-Atlantic program, experience is the by word.

Director Parnell has been in the directors booth on wrestling programs for over nine years. Handling that job is the toughest of any sports programing. He keeps three cameras in play at all times in trying to follow the action wherever it takes place. Sometimes that is all over the studio!

Tech man George Scott needs no introduction to area wrestling fans. He was a top mat star for more than twenty years. His job is to work with the television crew and brief them on what wrestling styles to look for in each match. During a taping, he is in contact at all times with the directors booth.

The men at the microphones, Bob Caudle and David Crockett add more experience to the team. Bob has been in radio and television most of his adult life and at the controls of the Raleigh taped program for over ten years. David has grown up around wrestling. Working in promotion and a brief wrestling career has given him an insight into what's happening in the squared circle.

By mixing all this talent and experience, you have something that spells quality and proven wrestling programing. This year it payed off in winning the most awards of any program in the country.

This week when you stretch out in front of your TV set and turn on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrest-ling, remember that the hour you are watching has taken many hours of planning for this hand full of men. The program you are watching is the best in the country.

* * * * *
[From a 1976 issue of "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine"]

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bill Connell with Weaver & Youngblood

In 1981, Johnny Weaver and Jay Youngblood served as Grand Marshalls for the South Rowan Christmas Parade in China Grove, NC. The annual parade was held each year on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Featured in this photo, taken Monday November 23, 1981 are Jay Youngblood, Johnny Weaver, and local radio and television personality Bill Connell. The person on the far right is David Rogers, a member of the China Grove Parade Committee presenting plaques to Youngblood and Weaver.

Bill Connell hosted local TV promo inserts for a short time at WRAL studios in Raleigh, NC for Jim Crockett Promotions in the late 1970s. He later served as play-by-play man for Nelson Royal's "Atlantic Coast Wrestling". He also did broadcasting work for NASCAR*.

On a side note having to do with title history, later that very same week, on Friday November 27, Johnny and Jay would win the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championships from Chris Markoff and Nicolia Volkoff.

Photo credit unknown -From the collection of Johnny Weaver.
Thanks to Mike Cline for South Rowan/China Grove information.
*NASCAR/Nelson Royal info from WrestlingClasscis.com message board.

Television Wrestling History: WRAL-5 Raleigh, NC

WRAL TV in Raleigh is the studio location most closely associated with Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Studio A at WRAL was the site of weekly TV tapings for over three decades. By 1974, all of the remaining regional taping locations (WFBC, WGHP, WBTV) had ceased, and all Crockett TV taping was consolidated into this location.

At that point, two versions of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling were taped, one hosted by long time Raleigh announcer Bob Caudle, the other hosted briefly by Sam Menacker and then regularly by Les Thatcher. The Thatcher-hosted "B" show replaced WGHP's Championship Wrestling in markets where it was also syndicated at the time. (Example: Asheville's WLOS-TV).  On October 8, 1975, a new program called Wide World Wrestling, hosted by long time Atlanta wrestling announcer Ed Capral, replaced the Thatcher version of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Thatcher would continue to do the local promo spots to be inserted in the local broadcast of each show. (Thatcher also produced and hosted the Southeastern Championship Wrestling program for Ron Fuller in Knoxville, TN. during this period.) Capral left the promotion in late 1977 and was replaced by Tom Miller and George Scott. On the weekend of October 7, 1978, Rich Landrum became the permanent host of the show, which was renamed World Wide Wrestling.

Bob Caudle's main co-host was David Crockett through the WRAL period. Tom Miller filled in during the summer of 1976 when David Crockett was tending to another family business with sister Frances Crockett, the Charlotte O's minor league baseball franchise. Big Bill Ward, who hosted Championship Wrestling for Crockett Promotions in Charlotte on WBTV from the late 1950s through early 1970s, briefly co-hosted with Bob Caudle on the 2nd Mid-Atlantic show after TV tapings had been consolidated to Raleigh. Lord Alfred Hayes had a brief stint as co-host in 1980.  Landrum's regular co-host on World Wide Wrestling would eventually be Johnny Weaver.

Prior to this consolidation, in the 1960s and early 1970s, WRAL was actually the site of one show only, a one-hour taping with simultaneous "dual" audio tracks being recorded. As they taped the matches, they had two broadcasters calling the action separately. Nick Pond, a WRAL sportscaster, hosted the show that would be seen in the Raleigh market (with co-host Joe Murnick much of that time, who was also the local Raleigh promoter), while at the same time one desk over, Bob Caudle called the action for a tape that was sent out to other markets in the Mid-Atlantic area that didn't have their own local TV tapings. Both Pond and Caudle also did sports and weather for WRAL television. Elliot Murnick replaced Pond on the Raleigh broadcast around 1972-1973. For most of this time, the Raleigh show was called Championship Wrestling and the syndicated show was called All-Star Wrestling. When all of the other studio locations ceased taping by 1974, Caudle became the sole host of what was now titled Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling which was now sent to all of Crockett's TV  markets including the home base of Raleigh.

Wrestling first debuted on WRAL on January 31, 1959 at 5:00 PM. The show at the time was titled Championship Wrestling. In the earliest days of wrestling on WRAL, the legendary broadcaster Ray Reeve called the wrestling action before turning over the duties to Pond, who was Reeve's assistant early in his career at WRAL. Reeve was the long time radio voice of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and was the first broadcaster inducted to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. (On a side note, Charlie Harville, the long time host of wrestling taped at WGHP in High Point NC in the 60s and 70s, was the 2nd broadcaster inducted into NC Sports Hall of Fame.) 

But the voice most associated with WRAL wrestling will forever be the one and only Bob Caudle, a long time employee and on-air personality at WRAL, who continued to do TV for the Crocketts when they moved production to WPCQ in Charlotte and then took the production out to the arenas. Caudle is still loved by wrestling fans today, recently receiving a standing ovation at a wrestling legends show in Spartanburg SC. He was an inaugural inductee into the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Hall of Heroes in August of 2007. Fans still call for his trademark show closer, "We'll see you next week fans, and until then, so long for now."

  - Dick Bourne

Call Letters: WRAL
Channel Number: 5
Network Affiliate:
ABC  (Originally NBC, now CBS)
Began Taping Wrestling:
Late 1950s
Earliest known broadcast: January 31, 1959
Ceased Taping Wrestling: July 29, 1981 (Final Taping)
Play-by-play Hosts:
Raleigh telecast (1960s - approximately 1972): Ray Reeve, Nick Pond, Elliot Murnick
Syndicated telecast: Bob Caudle, Les Thatcher, Sam Menacker (briefly)

Ed Capral, Tom Miller, George Scott, Russ Debuq, Rich Landrum
David Crockett, Tom Miller, Joe Murnick (Raleigh version only) Short term: Lord Alfred Hayes, Big Bill Ward. (There were brief runs by several others including Sandy Scott, Roddy Piper, and Sir Oliver Humperdink)
Johnny Weaver, George Scott, Tom Miller (There were brief appearances by several others.)
Ring Announcers:
Joe Murnick, Carl Murnick, Elliott Murnick, David Crockett, Jim Crockett
Local Promos:
Bob Caudle, David Crockett, Rich Landrum, Ed Capral, Les Thatcher, Bill Connell, a couple others yet identified.
The famous commercial bump "Let's take time for this commercial message about the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events coming up in your area..." was voiced by WRAL weatherman Bob Debardelaben.
Taping night: Wednesday nights
Show titles: Championship Wrestling, All Star Wrestling, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Wide World Wrestling, World Wide Wrestling