Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Southeastern Championship Wrestling (Knoxville)

Les Thatcher and Phil Rainey on the set of "Southeastern Championship Wrestling"

"Southeastern Championship Wrestling" emanated from the television studios of WBIR-10 in Knoxville, TN. It was the NWA promotion in the mid-to-late 1970s that covered East Tennessee and later parts of Northern Alabama.

The host of the show was veteran wrestler and broadcaster Les Thatcher. His frequent co-host and promo announcer was Phil Rainey, who was one of the lead sports personalities at WBIR.

Rainey's voice is heard over the opening theme song to "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" uttering these famiar words:

"Welcome to Southeastern Championship Wrestling, featuring slow motion, instant replay, and other technical firsts. The program voted number one by the Wrestling Writers Federation. Join us now for the fast paced competition of professional wrestling, featuring the top stars from the world's largest governing body, the National Wrestling Alliance."
Thatcher was one of wrestling's busiest men (still is!) as he not only hosted the program out of Knoxville, but produced it as well. He also published the area's arena program and magazine, was a photographer, organized the local promotional spots, sold advertising, and occasionally still wrestled - - a renaissance man if there ever was one!

We are proud to spotlight this great photo from the Southeastern Championship Wrestling studio.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dusty Rhodes Promo on Ric Flair for Atlanta TV (WPCQ)

One month and one day after losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Ric Flair in Kansas City on 9/17/81, Dusty Rhodes gets his rematch on 10/18/81 in the Omni in Atlanta. This taped interview with Rhodes promoted that rematch and aired on "Georgia Championship Wrestling" on Saturday, 10/03/81.

The interview was likely taped in the studios of WPCQ-36 in Charlotte, the home of television tapings for Jim Crockett Promotions since August of that same year. Crockett had just recently moved his base of TV operations from Raleigh to Charlotte. (There is also the slight possibility this was shot at the Briarbend studio where the local promos were taped, although those typically had a different background.)

The introduction by Gordon Solie was taped at the WTBS-17 studios in Atlanta, GA.  The interviewer in the clip is Ken Conrad. (Click here for more info on Ken Conrad being added to the roster of Jim Crockett Promotions on-Air Talent.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gulf Coast Wrestling

Charlie Platt with Bob Armstrong on the set of "Gulf Coast Wrestling"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As I've done several times in the past on this blog, I have strayed outside the confines of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling to explore the look and feel of other studio locations for pro-wrestling from the territory days, as well as the sound and style of the broadcasters that brought us that wrestling.

When I moved to work and live in Alabama in early 1982, the local wrestling program I discovered on TV out of Montgomery and Birmingham, AL was "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" hosted by Charlie Platt and Ric Stewart. The funny thing about this program was that it had the same name and opening theme music and video sequence as the "Southeastern Championship Wrestling" show I grew up watching out of Knoxville, TN. That show was promoted by Ron Fuller and hosted by Les Thatcher, someone very familiar to me from the Mid-Atlantic area.

What I didn't know then was that in the late 1970s, Fuller had bought the territory based out of Mobile, AL promoted by Lee Fields known as "Gulf Coast Wrestling" and for several years the Knoxville show aired in the Alabama territory, too. Around 1980, Ron Fuller sold his interests in the Knoxville territory and moved his television tapings out of Knoxville down to WTVY-TV channel 4 in Dothan, AL which had been the home of Gulf Coast TV for many years.

The TV show was taped each Saturday morning and then sent out to TV markets throughout the territory which spanned from the panhandle of Florida up through roughly 2/3 the state of Alabama, just past Birmingham.

The studio setup in Dothan was much like the studio setup in Knoxville with a couple of bleachers on two sides of the ring, and a desk where the hosts sat and introduced the show and also did interviews with the wrestlers. The back-drop behind the desk of the Southeast show was the same as it had been in the 1970s in the Knoxville studio. But I had never known what the back-drop looked like for the Gulf Coast show.

But recently I came across a video on YouTube of wrestling from Georgia in 1980 where a taped interview with Bob Armstrong had been sent in as he prepared to return for a special match or two in the the territory. It was a great surprise to see the friendly face and hear the familiar voice of Charlie Platt introducing "Bullet" Bob against a back-drop I had never seen before. A closer look and I could make out the bottom half of the words "Gulf Coast" above the word "Wrestling" behind Armstrong and Platt.

I thought it was a very cool looking studio back-drop and it made me wish that during my time in Alabama that the show had still been called "Gulf Coast Wrestling." 

So this is our small glimpse across Charlie Platt's broadcast desk back in the Gulf Coast days of the Alabama/Pensacola territory. 

For a closer look at that territory in the Gulf Coast days, see Mike Norris's excellent series of articles on Kayfabe Memories or check out some of the relevant podcasts produced by Karl Stern on the premium side of the Wrestling Observer website.