Friday, March 20, 2015

Wrestling in Raleigh with Joe Murnick (1975)

Pro Grappling: Punches, Pulls and Holds Attract Snarling Zealots
The Daily Tar Heel – January 29, 1975
By: Marty Lagod

The inviting smell of popcorn and pepperoni pizza fills the air in Dorton Arena. Concession operators busily hawk their wares as fans file into the arena. Married couples have brought their children; bespeckled grandmothers, their grandchildren; and college students, their dates. Blacks, whites, young, old, blue collar and businessmen have all paid their $3.50 to see the same thing – Championship Wrestling.

Some of the best will be there – Paul Jones, Tiger Conway and the Super Destroyer. Big time wrestling. The same stuff that draws capacity crowds once a month to Madison Square Garden and holds attendance records at large arenas all over the country.

Tonight’s crowd of 2,000 will be treated to three single bouts and a special main event – a “Texas Tornado” tag team match.

Ric Flair and the Super Destroyer, two of the bad guys in the Tornado match, stalk about nervously while the crowd warms up watching Kevin Sullivan and Tim “The Outlaw” Dillinger battle in the ring. Sullivan, the crowd favorite, is being beaten to the apparent brink of death. He groans loudly every time The Outlaw resorts to illegal hair pulling and leaping from the top of the ring ropes.

“We’ve got names for guys like you,” yells a rotten-toothed spectator in a monogrammed service station shirt, “but we can’t say ‘em cause there’s a lady present.” With this encouragement, Sullivan recovers from his scrape with death to make a lightning comeback and win the match with the feared “Japanese Sleeper Hold.”

Meanwhile, a young girl approaches the 270 pound Flair and asks for his autograph.  “I don’t sign nothing for nobody,” the Super Destroyer growls.

Back in the ring, the crowd is cheering madly as Mike Paducis, a former University of Tennessee football player, makes a brilliant comeback to defeat his opponent with the lethal “Boston Crab” submission hold.

The stage is set for the main event.

A fan jeers, “Ric Flair, you’re nothing but a long-haired hippie. Look at them flowered pants! Paul Jones is going to clean this place up – all these sissies.” Flair glares at the fan. His partners are greeted with similar niceties.

On the other side of the ring, Tiger Conway and Sonny King are welcome as conquering heroes, but the standing ovation is reserved for Paul Jones, 1974s most popular wrestler.

Jones bounces into the ring looking like Captain America, complete with a red, white and blue jacket boasting stars on the sleeves.

The fans look worried as the wrestling begins and the Super Destroyer beats all three of the good guys to the mat. He pokes Conway in the eyes and is about to stomp on Jones head when the Tiger stages a comeback by smashing the Destroyer and his two partners with his rock-hard head.

The crowd is now on its feet screaming, snarling, cursing and moving closer to the ring. The frenzied are about to rush the mat when Conway finally rescues the subdued Jones from the Super Destroyer who is choking him with the cord of a ring-side microphone and pounding his head with the mike itself. Renewed, Jones fiercely throws the Russian to the mat and holds him for the three count.

Justice, good, America and apple pie have prevailed as the three seemingly groggy losers are escorted away in disgrace by the police. The fans, limp and emotionally drained, file out quietly.

The man behind all this wrestling extravaganza is Joe Murnick, the “M” of C&M Promotions. Murnick has been promoting professional wrestling for the past 17 years in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. He has promoted everything from stock racing to rock concerts.

Murnick also produces the syndicated television wrestling program for the same three state area.  The television program is one of the most successful locally produced programs, despite the fact that it is shown at 11:30 on Saturday nights.

“We have to be constantly aware of the demands of the fans,” Murnick says. “The fans are the key to this business.  If we don’t get the fans, we don’t make any money, and that’s what it’s all about – making money.”

“We have good, regular fans. Some have been sitting in the same seats for years.  You would play hell trying to move them somewhere else.  There’s the story of the guy with two broken legs that was brought here every Tuesday night by an ambulance while he had his casts on. He still claimed his regular front row seat.”

“People want to see plenty of action and lots of excitement. A good class A wrestler (one who wrestles in main events) can make $70,000 to $80,000 a year, depending on how often he wrestles and whether or not he gets hurt.  Guys in the preliminary matches make $15,000-$20,000 a year if they wrestle often enough.”

“Ken Patera and Chris Taylor were both Olympic performers before they started wrestling. To make money, these guys must wrestle as often as possible. If you think that this stuff is fake, just sign the waiver of liability and get into the ring.  Any wrestler would be very happy to show you just how fake it really is. We’ve had to carry many a wrestler to the hospital for treatment after a tough match.  We’ve had some wild matches. One policeman told me he didn’t consider it to be really wild until people start throwing chairs, but that only happens once or twice a year.”

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Thanks to Carroll Hall for providing this article and to Peggy Lathan for transcribing this article for us.