Wednesday, January 18, 2017

JAWS: Prof. Boris Malenko's Forgotten Assassin

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

If you've hung around the Mid-Atlantic Gateway for very long, you know we like to seek out the obscure. Hard to argue that we haven't succeeded in that quest this.

First, it was David Chappell's look back at Enforcer Luciano. Now we take a look at Boris Malenko's henchman JAWS.

Photograph by Jackie Crockett
© Crockett Foundation. Used with permission.
In 1977, the Mighty Igor was embroiled in a bitter war with the camp of Professor Boris Malenko -- which included The Masked Superstar and the "Korean Assassin" Kim Duk. Malenko liked to call his group "the Malenko Family." Despite the Professor's best efforts, he had continually failed to eliminate the Polish strongman from the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling scene. Igor remained a perpetual thorn in Malenko's side.

During a brief few weeks in the spring of 1977 when the Masked Superstar was on a tour of Japan, Malenko brought in a third member to his family, a masked wrestler named JAWS. With this new masked assassin, he hoped to finally rid the territory of the Mighty Igor.

Now I can't seem to remember important things about work from last week, yet I typically can remember the smallest little details about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling from 40 years ago. However, even I had completely forgotten about Jaws until I was sorting through the photographs Jackie Crockett had taken back in the late 1970s and early 1980s that I was helping prepare for the Crockett Foundation's book "When Wrestling Was Wrestling."

There among the photos of legends like Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, and the Brisco Brothers were two photographs of a masked wrestler I didn't recognize at first. But something about the mask looked familiar - - my goodness, it was the open mouth of a shark - - these were photographs from 1977 of the long forgotten henchman in the family of Professor Malenko. This was JAWS!

We have never known there to be any pictures of Jaws before, none in the Crockett publications of that era, and none in the news stand magazines. These photographs were a rare find, indeed.

There is no mistaking the mask, though; the open jaws of a shark surrounding the front face of the mask, with a small emblem of a shark on the side.

It's unknown who thought up the idea of Jaws as a wrestler, but it wasn't unusual for pro-wrestling to play off something very hot in popular culture. In 1975, Steven Spielberg directed his first massive theatrical hit, the Academy award winning film "Jaws", an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley. "Jaws" was a massively popular movie, setting all-time box office records that stood until toppled by "Star Wars" a few years later. "Jaws" was so popular in the summer of 1975, it was re-released again in the summer of 1976 to huge business. It is widely considered one of the greatest movies of all time.

Even further, playing of the popularity of the film, a character was created for the 1977 James Bond motion picture "The Spy Who Loved Me", a steel-toothed villain called Jaws, played by actor Richard Kiel.

So why not in wrestling? And Jaws was born.

I asked David Chappell if he also remembered Jaws, and he quickly confirmed that not only did he remember him, but he had a brief bit of an audio recording where Boris Malenko was talking about him on TV.

So from Chap's archival audio recording straight from the TV broadcast, here is Prof. Boris Malenko extolling the virtues of Jaws to Bob Caudle and David Crockett on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" taped 4/20/77:

Prof. Malenko: "I have imported this fellow Jaws here, and he's going to take care of Igor for once and for all! He's gonna get rid of him, I don't want any more menacing of the Malenko Family."

David Crockett: He's not doing a very good job of it right now, he's laying on his back!"

Jaws wasn't around long, apparently for only a matter of weeks, and he did not headline against Igor as best we can tell from exploring newspaper ads from that time. He did wrestle on TV (as heard here) and wrestled mid-card on a few house shows and in tag matches against Igor that spring of 1977.

So how's that for the rare and the obscure? Only on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. We celebrate this kind of stuff.

And if you're interested in more rare photographs from that era, this photo of the wrestler Jaws is but just a small example of the amazing collection of rare pictures to be found in "When Wrestling Was Wrestling", a collection of photographs taken by Jackie Crockett of the famous Crockett wrestling family. Proceeds from the sale of the book support the charitable work of the Crockett Foundation. The book can be purchased on their website (click here for their online store) or in person at selected fan conventions, including the upcoming Wrestle Expo in Richmond in May, and the annual Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest weekend later this summer in Charlotte.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Blackjack Mulligan vs. Enforcer Luciano . . . in a FISH match??

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the strangest feuds in the storied history of Jim Crockett Promotions featured the legendary Blackjack Mulligan against the whacky Enforcer Luciano in the summer of 1980. The Enforcer was only around the Mid-Atlantic area for about three months, but he managed to pull off several strange stunts on television in his short tenure including chewing up glass from a light bulb.

Enforcer Luciano with Bob Caudle and David Crockett
When Luciano came out during the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show taped on June 4, 1980, color commentator David Crockett noticed, “Looks like he’s got a bag, whatever it is.” The Enforcer told the fans, “Right now I have something; it’s a family tradition. And I’d like to call Blackjack Mulligan out here. I have something for him here.” An incredulous announcer Bob Caudle asked, “You mean you have a gift for him?” Luciano confirmed, “I have a gift for Mr. Mulligan.”

The Enforcer then called out Mulligan to come in front of the cameras to accept his gift. When Blackjack appeared from the back with “Cousin Luke” Mulligan, Luciano insisted that Luke not be part of this gift presentation. As Mulligan reluctantly escorted his cousin to the back, Luciano told the fans, “I want to explain something to these people. You see this hand? I did a job one night; I took a crowbar and I was breaking presses for some of the boys. There were ten presses, and I broke nine of those presses.”

Enforcer Luciano
Mulligan then reappeared on the set, and Luciano barked, “Just get out of the way; I’m talking.” The Enforcer then continued, “I broke nine of those presses. And the boys came in and they caught me, and there was one press left. Well, they put this hand in that press and they CRUSHED it…AND THE PAIN WAS PLEASURE! They put the hand together with steel pins. This hand is STRONGER than any human hand!”

As everyone on the TV set looked on in disbelief at Luciano, the Enforcer said, “Now Mr. Mulligan, I have something for you. This is a family tradition.” Mulligan countered, “What is it, a bomb or something in there?” Luciano retorted, “Just take it and open it up and take a look.” Mulligan said, “For me?” Luciano answered, “It’s for you; just take a look. This is for Mr. Mulligan. Mr. Mulligan can appreciate this I’m sure!”

Bob Caudle then asked, “What is it Blackjack?! As Mulligan began to open the bag he said, “I think it’s a bouquet of flowers.” As the gift was revealed an astonished Caudle commented, “Oh goodness gracious alive it’s not; it’s a FISH!” A beaming Enforcer Luciano then chimed in, “Come on take it out of that thing! Take it out of that thing!” A dismayed Crockett bellowed, “What?? A FISH??” After getting a good whiff of it, Caudle confirmed, “And it’s a REAL fish!”

A maniacal Luciano then yelled out, “DO YOU KNOW THE TRADITION? DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS MR. MULLIGAN? DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS??” A completely dumbfounded Blackjack Mulligan responded, “Down where I come from it means you’ve been cat fishing or fishing on a trout line or something.” Luciano became even more overbearing, shouting, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS MR. MULLIGAN, HUH? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA?” And at that point Luciano slapped Blackjack across the face, and scurried backstage.

Trying to regain his composure, an infuriated Mulligan exclaimed,

“YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH THIS YOU WEASLEY RAT! Let me tell you something Bob Caudle, I don’t know what this means. Where I come from it means you’ve got a big meal. But nobody slaps me and gets away with it. I’ll tell you something Luciano, you yellow rat, if it’s a match you want… you want a Fish Match? I don’t care what you want! But now you’ve got my wrath! I’m gonna wrestle you in any kind of match, any place, anywhere…it makes me no difference! You name the rules brother, and I think I’ll take this and cook it up tonight.”

As Blackjack went off camera, Crockett exclaimed, “Please do!” And Caudle followed up, “Take it somewhere! David, it’s a real fish!” Crockett laughed, “Yes it is, and it’s ripe too!” Caudle countered, “It’s been around a while David; around out of the water! I don’t know what it means.” Crockett concurred, “I don’t know the meaning of the fish either, but I’ll try to find out for you. If he wanted to make Mulligan mad, and if that’s what the fish was for, he did it.”

While there was no follow up that I recall about the fish (I guess we were supposed to understand the reference to the Godfather movies), this TV incident did spark and lead to a number of specialty bouts between Mulligan and the Enforcer, including Detroit Street Brawls, Texas Street Fights and Russian Chain matches. However, the one match that Mulligan mentioned that didn’t happen between these two was a Fish Match! And considering the wackiness that followed Enforcer Luciano everywhere, it really is surprising a Fish Match wasn’t served up on the plate of some Mid-Atlantic arena sometime, somewhere during the summer of 1980!

* * * * * * * * * *

For more on the whacky character Enforcer Luciano, see these other posts on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway:

Almanac - May 1980 - Enforcer Luciano comes to the Mid-Atlantic area

Hot August Night  Enforcer Luciano's swan-song in the Mid-Atlantic area on a big card in Richmond. (Includes audio of the Enforcer!)

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Jimmy Snuka - Rest in Peace

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Sad to hear the news of the passing of Jimmy Snuka this weekend. Personal controversies not withstanding, Snuka will always be remembered as a huge star in the Mid-Atlantic area in 1979 and 1980, first as one half of the world tag team champions with Paul Orndorf, and then later his long, bloody, memorable feud with Ric Flair over the United States Championship.

One of my lasting memories of Jimmy Snuka will always be a special moment I shared with him at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest weekend in Charlotte in 2010 when I photographed him with the a replica of the U.S. belt he wore for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1979-1980. He lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw it and I will never forget the sparkle in his eyes as he briefly reminisced about wrestling Ric Flair and being managed by Gene Anderson.

"Good times, bruddah!" he said with a big smile on his face.

You can read my complete account of that moment here:
Jimmy Snuka Remembers the U.S. Championship Belt

Our condolences go out to Jimmy's family and friends.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gordon Solie gives a shout-out to Peggy Lathan on WTBS (1984)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It's not often that one of the top wrestling announcers in the country mentions your name on national television. But such was the case in May of 1984 when "World Championship Wrestling" host Gordon Solie mentioned it was nice to have our friend (and Gateway contributor) Peggy Lathan in the audience for the TV taping.

During a WTBS studio match between Jerry "Crusher" Blackwell and Dale Veasy, Solie gave a shout out to several special guests in attendance:

We've always known Peggy was the queen of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. On that particular Saturday it was Georgia, too, and a nationwide audience on the SuperStation.

Wrestling came across on such a personal level back in those days. It was a regular thing on the territory TV shows (especially those emanating from the television studio as opposed to an arena setting) for wrestling hosts such as Solie, Bob Caudle, Lance Russell, Charlie Harville and others to mention folks who were in attendance. It was often a local church group or the local Boy Scout troop. Solie would often mention those that were in Atlanta for the taping that had come from some distance, as you heard in this clip. It is a nice touch that has long since passed us by and is one of the little things I miss about territory wrestling.

Thanks to Andy Tolbert who caught the reference while watching old Georgia Wrestling on YouTube.

This link will take you directly to the point in the Crusher Blackwell match where Solie mentions Peggy:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Saturday TV: Tully beats Dusty for the National Championship

World Wide Wrestling 3/15/86 - Complete Show

This is one of my favorite World Wide shows of that era for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with the main event and the interview that followed.

The main event of Dusty Rhodes (with Babydoll) defending the National Heavyweight Championship against Tully Blanchard (with James J. Dillon) was actually not taped at the same time as the rest of the show. It took place a week earlier as a special match that followed a normal Mid-Atlantic/World Wide TV taping in Spartanburg, SC and was the main event of that local show, but not a part of the those TV tapings.

They had Ric Flair come out and do color commentary with Tony Schiavone and David Crockett which foreshadowed Flair's involvement in the finish. The crowd was insanely hot for this match, and the audio level of the commentary is such that the crowd pops often times drown out the commentators.

The finish is perfectly executed, and the after match where the Horsemen are holding Baby Doll for Flair to jump on her from the top rope is one of the craziest, most heated moments you will ever see. This was during a wonderful era where a lot of people still believed, and they were totally buying into this. And even if you knew better, it was easy to suspend your disbelief and get totally caught up in what was happening. This was also before the time where men typically got physical with women on TV wrestling, and so it made the prospects of Flair actually jumping on Baby Doll from the top rope more shocking.

The real payoff is the interview that follows the match, where host David Crockett is at his (wonderful) obnoxious best losing his mind with Tully Blanchard and Tully just totally puts him in his place, followed by a funny jab from J.J. Dillon, too. An absolute, not-to-be-missed classic.

Also on this show, tremendous promos from Ivan and Nikita Koloff and Magnum T.A. as that feud was just getting rolling, setting the stage for the eventual best-of-7 series between Nikita and Magnum that was still four months away.

What a great era to be a wrestling fan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Audio Recording: Mick Mixon Mentions Mid-Atlantic Wrestling

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One thing you've probably learned about me by now if you've visited this website for any length of time is that I love the smallest little details, moments, and memories having to do with Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. A little over a year ago I wrote about Carolina Panther's play-by-play voice Mick Mixon invoking the memory of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling while describing an on-field brawl between Panther's cornerback Josh Norman and New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham.

"My goodness, it's like Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling out there!" - Mick Mixon 

What I didn't have at the time was the actual audio from that broadcast; I only could provide a written description of what Mixon said. But recently I was able to obtain a recording of that radio broadcast and I have excerpted the relevant discussion (approx 1:15) and have included it below:

The audio is from the 12/20/15 game between the Panthers and the Giants. The original article (also updated with the audio) can be found here:
Mick Mixon has to be a Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Fan

Yes indeed, it's the smallest details.Thanks to Mick Mixon for helping keep the memories of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling alive.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Talent List for Wrestle Expo in Richmond is Growing

The list of those scheduled to appear at the Wrestle Expo in Richmond in May continues to grow.

Those announced so far include:
Demolition Ax and Smash (Bill Eadie and Barry Darsaw), James J. Dillon, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Valiant, Road Warrior Animal, The Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson), Rich Landrum, The Barbarian, Td DiBiase, Nikita Koloff, Big Van Vader, James J. Dillon, Bruce Prichard, Bill Apter, along with referees Earl and Dave Hebner, and Tommy Young. 

A complete list of talent is updated here:

The first ever Wrestle Expo is being held May 19-20 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia.

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway will have a booth there, as well as the Crockett Foundation. 

For full details, including updates on talent, schedule, tickets, and more, visit their website at:

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Saturday TV: World Wide Wrestling 2/22/86

Lots of fun stuff on this complete episode of "World Wide Wrestling" from 2/22/86 including Ric Flair showing off his new $35,000 NWA World Championship ("big gold") belt for the first time on the syndicated Jim Crockett television network. (The belt was first seen on television on the 2/14/86 "Battle of the Belts II" special from Florida.)

Some great (and hilarious) promos by Jimmy Garvin, Ric Flair, Magnum T.A., and many many others.

The main event is Ric Flair and Arn Anderson vs. Dusty Rhodes and Ron Garvin. Crazy heat. 

Local promos are for an upcoming card in Roanoke, VA.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ten Years Ago: A Visit with Ole Anderson

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Ten years ago this month (January of 2007), George South and I went to visit Ole Anderson at his home in Toccoa, GA. This article was originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in August of 2007, written primarily so that I wouldn't forget every detail of that special day.

* * * * * * 

In the Woods of North Georgia
A Visit with Ole Anderson on the shores of Lake Hartwell
(Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway August 2, 2007)

The mid-winter blues. We all get them at one time or another. Those grey December days that are made tolerable by Christmas lights and family gatherings suddenly turn into bitter, sometimes lonely, and always cold days of January. 

It was on one of those raw cloudy days, a Tuesday afternoon in January of 2007.  I was miserable, business was bad, nothing was working out like I wanted it to. Then the phone rang.

“Highspots needs two cases of Ole’s book, and they want them autographed,” George South said. “Ole doesn’t want to ship them, so I’ve volunteered to go get them, and that way I can visit with him. I’m going to Toccoa tomorrow morning. Want to come with me?”

The real world suddenly seemed less important for the moment. This is not a question George needed to ask me twice.

* * * * * *

Wednesday, in contrast to the day before, was one of those beautiful cold winter days; sunshine and blue skies. The temperature was right at freezing when I arrived at 7:45 AM to pick George South up at his house in Concord. His twins Abigail and Scarlett and youngest son Garrett were getting ready for school. The smell of bacon and eggs still lingered, and George’s wife Missy had started chili in the crock pot for supper later that night. Man, that house smelled good.

With Ole Anderson at his home on Lake Hartwell
in Toccoa, GA in January 2007

We headed out for a three-hour road trip to Toccoa, GA.  Journey is the official music of Gateway road trips. They are George’s favorite band. That music takes him back to the early 1980s, during the time Gene Anderson managed US Champion Jimmy Snuka, when Steamboat and Youngblood ruled the world as tag champs. Like a lot of us, George lives in the past, so Journey just always seems right, no matter what the circumstances. That music had gotten us through two separate 22-hour round-trip adventures to the Headlock Ranch, and it was now serving us well on our way to see Ole Anderson.

Toccoa is a small north Georgia town at the intersection of US highways 17 and 123, several miles off Interstate 85, just south of the Georgia/South Carolina state line. Business-17 is the main drag through town, littered with the usual suspect steakhouses and fast food joints. The original plan was to meet Ole for lunch at Quincy’s restaurant downtown, where we were to meet him for lunch and pick up two cases of autographed books to take back to Highspots in Charlotte. But the plans changed when we called Ole mid-morning from the road to make sure we were still set to go.

“We’ll have lunch and then you guys follow me out to my house and you can pick up the books there,” Ole said.

We were in shock. A day earlier when George had called to line up the trip, he told Ole we would be glad to come to him and pick up the books so he wouldn’t even have to leave his house. “Hell no!” he said. “There has never been a wrestler at my house, and the first one sure isn’t going to be George South!” Needless to say, we thought this was a great change of plans. We couldn’t believe we were going to Ole’s house.

We got to Quincy’s Steakhouse around 11:30 AM and Ole got there not long afterward. He looked great, shook our hands, and seemed glad to see us. I had met Ole on a few occasions before, at a show three years earlier in Hartwell, Georgia where he was there signing autographs. David Chappell and I had been fortunate enough to have dinner with Ole and Paul Jones at the NWA Fanfest in Charlotte in 2005. George of course had known Ole for almost 25 years, first doing TV matches for him in the last days of Championship Wrestling from Georgia in 1985 on TBS, and then as a regular enhancement talent for Crockett Promotions throughout the rest of that decade. There is lots of video tape of Ole and Arn Anderson beating the crap out of George in buildings everywhere from Shelby to Roanoke.

When we had walked into the restaurant, it was like walking in with Norm at Cheers. All the waitresses said hello to Ole. We found out later that this was where Ole had lunch almost every day. A waitress came over and asked Ole to sign an autograph for a lady at another table who was too shy to ask for it herself. The girl that ran the cash register told us she had grown up watching Ole on TV with the Horsemen, watching wrestling out of Atlanta with her Dad every Saturday. Ole Anderson should run for Mayor of Toccoa. He’d be a sure bet.

At one point Ole asked George “So you are still doing this horseshit?” George responded “Shoot Ole, I’ll probably never quit wrestling.” George told Ole about the short little program he had with Brad Anderson, Gene's son, the previous summer, and how Brad carried his dad’s boots to the ring, how he wore his Dad’s ring jacket (that famous maroon jacket with “Gene” written in script on the front and “Anderson Brothers” on the back.) Ole stopped eating and looked at us. “You’re kidding,” he said. He paused for a moment, smiled, and said, “Well that’s great.” It was sort of a special moment; you rarely seem to get a smile out of Ole.

He started talking about those boots, the maroon and gold stripped boots so closely associated with the Andersons over the all the years they wrestled. He told us Gene and Lars wore them first, and then he started wearing them when Gene brought him in to the Carolinas in 1968 and made him one of the Anderson Brothers. It was such a thrill for us just to hear him talking about simple stuff like those boots. Those boots are so iconic of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, one of the strongest lasting memories I have of watching wrestling growing up. The Andersons always wore those maroon and gold boots.

I’m surprised Ole could finish his lunch with George talking a mile a minute. No kid on Christmas morning could possibly be more excited than George South at 44 years old when he gets to spend time with one of his childhood heroes. Ole gently kicked me under the table. “Does he ever shut up?” he asked, with a quick wink. “My God, how in the hell did you ride down here with him?” We were just glad Ole seemed to be having a good time.

After lunch, we headed for Ole’s house. He still drives that same old Cadillac that he told us later had over 300,000 miles on it. George rode with Ole, and as I followed behind them, all I could see was the profile of George’s face, that mouth yacking a mile a minute. Poor Ole.

We drove along a two lane highway, and then off onto a winding road that snaked around Lake Hartwell, occasionally crossing bridges that spanned inlets and entrances to small lake coves, then through long sections of deep woods.

I imagined for a moment that Ole might actually be taking us out in the woods to shoot us.

Suddenly he pulled off of the two-lane road onto the shoulder. There was this long pause and I could see Ole talking to George. Then George got out of the car. My goodness, Ole has had enough and thrown George out, I just knew it! Thankfully, he had only asked George to get the mail out of his mailbox. To this day, that’s one of the things George liked most about the trip: he got Ole’s mail out of his mailbox.

We pulled off the main road into the drive way, a long winding gravel road that led to the back of his 14 acre property. You always hear people talk about what a cheap son of a gun Ole is. When we got to his house, we got to see first hand what being a cheap son of a gun all those years allowed him to enjoy now. What a beautiful home. He built the house himself, a huge 4000 sq. ft. two-story Cape Cod-style structure sitting on a hill some 200 feet high over looking Lake Hartwell. That house is immaculate. Ole even made us take our shoes off in the garage before we could come in. So there we were, getting a tour of Ole Anderson’s house - in our sock feet. This was pretty cool.

Ole showed us the rock work he did himself on the fireplace in his bedroom, the furniture he had re-finished, even a table that he had made. He was especially proud of the wood work he had done, the custom molding he had made around the ceiling. It was simply a beautiful house, inside and out.

There was a huge bookcase in the living room full of photographs of his family. One in particular caught my eye, his son Bryant graduating from college, walking the stage in cap and gown, receiving his diploma. What jumped out were Bryant’s huge trademark Anderson sideburns. Ole explained Bryant was getting started in pro wrestling at the time, and he had the complete Anderson look. He was the spitting image of his Dad.

Ole sat down at the kitchen table and stated signing the books we were picking up to take back to Charlotte. He bitched and griped about signing every one. “We aren’t through yet?” he asked when I opened another case. In between every fifth book or so, George kept shoving something in for Ole to sign. At one point Ole punched George right in the chest, never looked up, signed the photo, and then grabbed the next book. “Jesus Christ, how many kids do you have?”

Ole Anderson with replicas of the NWA
World Tag Team championship belts that
he and Gene Anderson wore in the 1970s
When he got through signing books, it was my turn to pester him. What a mark I am for him. I had brought my replica NWA world tag team belts with us. These were custom made from Reggie Park’s original 1974 engraving artwork. I wanted  to get a photo of him with them if he’d agree to do it. I was half-way expecting him to throw me out the bay window there in the kitchen. But his reaction actually surprised me. He held one of the belts and said “These look great,” but then he quickly pointed out they weren’t exactly like the originals. The original plates were in two pieces, the engraved pieces attached to a separate flange piece. The plates on my replica belts were all in one piece (as they are typically made today.) Ole actually remembered how the original belts were made. Dave Millican, who made these beautiful belts, later told me it was really kind of neat that Ole made that observation because so many of the guys never paid attention to things like that. For someone who would occasionally insist that belts were simply props, Ole sure had a good memory of those belts that he hadn’t seen in 27 years.

Throughout the visit, we got Ole talking about our favorite old wrestling angles, including the “Supreme Sacrifice” that took place during Gene and Ole’s epic feud with arch-rivals Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel. Grumpy old man that he is (and by his own admission, by the way), Ole seems to dog everyone, but he clearly has respect for those two guys. He seemed most proud of their one-and-a-half-hour time limit draws that led to two hour time limit matches in the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1975.

Finally, after several hours, it was time to head home, and I was sure Ole was quite ready to get rid of us. We loaded the books and put our shoes back on out in the garage. Ole thanked us and told us to be careful driving home. It took several minutes to load everything up and get turned around in the big driveway.

As we pulled away, the sun had started to set over Lake Hartwell, and it was getting cold again. I looked back and saw Ole standing out at the edge of his garage. He was waving goodbye. Or perhaps he was just making sure we didn't rob the place. There are a couple of people who know Ole really well that have told me that despite his gruff exterior and constant grumpy disposition, he is basically an old softie deep down. I obviously couldn’t tell you, but there was something special about seeing him at that moment. It is a memory I never want to forget.

* * * * *

Our trip to visit Ole took place on January 17, 2007, ten years ago this month.