Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Domed Globe: NWA Event Program 2010



In 2010, I was honored to have my photo of the NWA World championship title belt featured on the cover of a souvenir program for an NWA wrestling event in Charlotte, NC.

The photograph is of the original belt used in the late 1970s though mid-1980s, and not the belt that was currently in use at the time of this photograph held by Blue Demon, Jr.

It is the same photo that is featured on the cover of my book "Ten Pounds of Gold." You can always identify that particular photo because the "KVE" initials scratched into the plate can be clearly seen just above and to the left of the wrestlers on the belt. I've never seen other photos where this showed up as clearly.  -D. Bourne

(Originally published on the Domed Globe website April 28, 2019)

http://www.tenpoundsofgold.com

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Look Back: Wrestling on TV in North Carolina in October 1975




TV Guide Memories: 
Wrestling in North Carolina in October 1975
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

We like to occasionally take a snapshot-look at a Saturday back in the day and see what wrestling was like on TV at the time.

Younger fans may not realize that before all of wrestling moved to cable TV channels, your local channel was where you found your weekly pro wrestling show, and usually always on a Saturday afternoon or evening.

In October of 1975 in the state of North Carolina, all the TV markets in the state aired the local promotion run by Jim Crockett Promotions out of Charlotte. But during this time the Florida show was syndicated broadly in the state as well. This was not an adversarial thing. It was actually another outlet for Jim Crockett Promotions to run spots for shows in that market. JCP ads would run where Florida ads would be seen in the Florida markets.  Stars from Florida would occasionally be booked into Charlotte and more often Greensboro. These included Dusty Rhodes, the Brisco brothers, the Funk brothers, Bill Watts, and others.

Here is a brief run down of all the wrestling on this particular Saturday in October of 1975:



3:00 PM

36 WRET Charlotte - Super Pro Wrestling with Charlie Babb
This independent didn't last long, only about 6 weeks according to our resident wrestling-on-TV expert Carroll Hall. They were using some of the local guys that had worked for Eddie Einhorn's IWA which had all but closed up shop at this point, and was transitioning to a more local group run by Johnny Powers. They taped TV Saturday mornings in the studio of WRET-36, which later became WPCQ and would host the TV taping for Jim Crockett Promotions for a couple of years in the early 1980s.


3:30 PM

11 WTVD Durham - IWA Wrestling
As mentioned above, the Eddie Einhorn's IWA was closing down and transitioning to a group by the same name run by Johnny Powers. The Einhorn show was still on here in Durham, and Carroll Hall remembers that many weeks they would show re-runs because they had no new TV programs taped.

13 WBTW - Florence (SC) - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle
This South Carolina station was listed in the North Carolina Edition of TV Guide because a good portion of the southern part of North Carolina could receive its signal. This was the Mid-Atlantic "A" show taped at WRAL in Raleigh every Wednesday night.


4:00 PM

3 WBTV Charlotte - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling had replaced the long running "Championship Wrestling" show taped at WBTV and hosted by Big Bill Ward in 1974 when all the Crockett TV tapings were consolidated to WRAL in Raleigh.

8 WGHP High Point/Greensboro - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Les Thatcher
The Mid-Atlantic Wrestling "B" show replaced the long running "Championship Wrestling" show taped at WGHP hosted by Charlie Harville in 1974. This alternate/additional version of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling was taped each Wednesday night at WRAL in Raleigh. All the Crockett TV tapings were consolidated to WRAL in Raleigh at that time.


7:00 PM

12 WCTI New Bern- Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie
Bob Bailey reports to Carroll Hall that the Florida show aired on this station during this time period.

28 WRDU Durham - Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie
This was outlet for Florida wrestling in Raleigh, Durham, and the Greensboro market as well as the WRDU signal was very strong and penetrated all through the Piedmont area of North Carolina. A few years later, WRDU would replace Florida wrestling with the syndicated version of Georgia Championship Wrestling out of WTCG (later WTBS) channel 17 in Atlanta.

36 WRET Charlotte - Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie
As you can see, Florida Wrestling blanketed the Central and Eastern parts of the state of North Carolina during these years.


11:30 PM

13 WLOS Asheville - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Les Thatcher
WLOS-13 was not included in the North Carolina Edition. It was in the Carolina/East Tennessee Edition of TV Guide and included East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and the upstate region of South Carolina. I've included it here to further accurately reflect TV wrestling in the state of North Carolina.

The B show on WLOS with Les Thatcher dominated the rating as night in the Asheville/Greenville/Spartanburg market, sometime getting 60 and 70% shares. Just weeks later, the new Jim Crockett show "Wide World Wrestling" hosted by former Atlanta broadcaster Ed Capral would replace the Mid-Atlantic B show in all of the markets where it aired (including WGHP-8 listed above.) Should point out that the Asheville market got the Mid-Atlantic "A" show with Bob Caudle on WFBC-4 (now WYFF) out of Greenville, SC.


12:00 AM MIDNIGHT

5 WRAL Raleigh - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle
The battleship show on the flagship station. But once WRAL quit taping a local show for Raleigh only in 1973, wrestling got kicked to late at night.



12:45 AM

3 WWAY Wilmington - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle



1:30 AM

10 WIS Columbia (SC) - Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with Bob Caudle
Like the Florence station listed above, this South Carolina station was listed in the North Carolina Edition of TV Guide because a good portion of the southern central part of North Carolina could receive its signal. This was the Mid-Atlantic "A" show taped at WRAL in Raleigh every Wednesday night. Likely had been bumped this late this week because of a sports preemption earlier in the day.

* * *

Thanks to Carroll Hall at the All Star Championship Wrestling website for his assistance with this article.

Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway September 1, 2018


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/yearbooks.html

Monday, June 17, 2019

Truckin' Tom Miller

Tom Miller introduces Barry Windham and NWA World Champion Ric Flair
before their title match in Fayetteville, NC in January of 1987

For lots more about "Truckin' Tom Miller and his various roles in Jim Crockett Promotions, check out all of our related posts on the Studio Wrestling website.

Also see our post on the 1975 "Wide World Wrestling" theme music on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

(Originally published on the Studio Wrestling website March 23, 2017.)

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/book-store.html

Friday, June 14, 2019

Almanac: August 1980 (Part One)

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
 
ALMANAC DIRECTORY

CLICK FOR THE ALMANAC INDEX
AUGUST 1980 - PART ONE
1st  WEEK IN AUGUST

The first week of August in 1980 saw the continuation of the summer's major feuds in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, two of which were in their final stages. Those two climactic programs being the battles between Blackjack Mulligan and Enforcer Luciano and the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship series between the Iron Sheik and Jim Brunzell.

Enforcer Luciano with Bob Caudle and David Crockett
The month of August began with a Texas Street Fight clash between Mulligan and the Enforcer at the Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia on August 1st. It was clear from the local Richmond promos that this bout could be one of the last between these two heated adversaries. Blackjack told the Richmond fans, "They're some pretty tough boys around Richmond. I want everybody to get up real close, because I want them to hear the screams of terror and pain, and there may be some from myself. I guarantee you one thing brother, Luciano, somebody's gonna be hurt very badly right there in the Richmond Coliseum."

The Enforcer had his own choice words for Blackjack, remarking, "This is your kind of match. Come dressed as you are, I'm gonna come dressed as I am right now. And I've got a slapjack for you Blackjack! And if that ain't enough, a hunk of chain to wrap around your throat! And if that doesn't get it, one of the most dangerous weapons in the world in the hands of a man like myself...and that Mr. Mulligan, with a hunk of steel across your head is about all it will take!"

Mulligan and Luciano also met in a Texas Street Fight in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 5th, and the Enforcer exclaimed to the Raleigh fans, "Every time I come out here I get people giving me a finger to speed up, not to say anything else, they push fences in front of me, they do all kinds of things that I really don't like! And there's something else I don't like and that's Mulligan, and I'll tell you something Mr. Mulligan..."

Luciano then continued excoriating Blackjack, "...You've been fooling with fire since you've started with me. I came in here, I pounded you, I've pummeled you, I've put you down and you're going to stay down Mister! I'm telling you something...I'm going to get you if it's the last thing I do! I'm coming equipped, this is a Street Fight. Suppose I handcuff you to the ring pole and beat your brains in with a blackjack?!?" In both Richmond and Raleigh that didn't come close to happening, as Blackjack thoroughly destroyed Luciano, leaving the Enforcer stretched out in the middle of the ring in both venues.

In the first week of August, Mulligan also hammered Luciano in Chain matches in Greenville, South Carolina on August 4th and then again at the Norfolk Scope Coliseum on August 7th. All in all, the first week in August could not have gone any worse for the Enforcer!

Mid-Atlantic Champion, the Iron Sheik, and Jim Brunzell also wound down their spirited program during the first week in August, 1980. Brunzell succinctly told the fans in Raleigh how important his No Disqualification match in the Raleigh Civic Center on August 5th against the Sheik was by stating, "Anything goes, and if somebody would have told me a year and three months ago that this was going to happen I wouldn't have believed them. You know, the loser of this match might as well pack up and leave. You know, I came here and I established something for myself and now I'm fighting, fighting for existence here. This is my new home Sheik...be prepared because anything goes! I know you don't like to be hurt, you've proved that. You're paranoid, you're scared...you better be ready in Raleigh!"

The Sheik and Brunzell also squared off in Spartanburg, South Carolina on August 2nd in a Texas Death match and again the next night in the Greensboro Coliseum. The Sheik prevailed in those bouts, in addition to the Raleigh match, so their appeared no doubt that the Iranian had bested "Jumping" Jim in this red-hot summer program.

The one major feud that was active and competitive during the first week of August was the battle over the NWA World's Tag Team Titles between champs Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens and former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. The teams split their two matches during the first week of August, with the champs taking a hard fought Fence match in Richmond on August 1st, but the challengers responded with an impressive count out win two days later in the Greensboro Coliseum. Unlike the other two feuds above, this one was far from over!

The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show of the week that was taped on August 6th featured the in-ring return of Paul Jones, who was back wrestling for the people with a scientific style. The program began with a segment featuring Blackjack Mulligan, who explained to the fans that he had been spending too much time in Texas attending to issues, and not enough time attending to the new challenge presented by fellow Texan "Bad Boy" Bobby Duncum. Blackjack assured the Mid-Atlantic faithful that his full attention would be on Duncum going forward, exclaiming, "As far as I'm concerned Bobby Duncum, the case is open my friend...the banking days are over, the wrestling days are back, and you are a marked man my friend right now!"



The August 6th TV show also took a look back at the Ric Flair-Greg Valentine dust up from the previous week, where Ric tore most of the clothes off the new United States Heavyweight Champion Valentine. Greg told the fans that he wasn't prepared to wrestle the week before, and that the Nature Boy took advantage of him. Valentine went on to taunt Flair by bragging about the new version of the U.S. Title belt that he was holding. Greg crowed, "I've got the gold right here, and by the way, this is a new belt made up by the NWA who is the governing body of all wrestling, the biggest governing body, and they sent me a new belt because they know what a great champion I'm gonna be! I'm gonna make Ric Flair look sick!"

The final bout of the first Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV program in August saw Ric and Blackjack team up again for the first time in many months, and was a clear sign of their solidarity against the new threat of the duo of Greg Valentine and Bobby Duncum. Tag team matches between these four were imminent during the remainder of the month of August. Flair told announcer Bob Caudle, "We're not sparing the whip! If Valentine and Duncum want to play dirty, then they just tied into [two] of the dirtiest! Jack Mulligan can do anything he wants to, and Ric Flair I feel wrote the book!" It sure appeared that the hottest summer in many years was just about to get a lot hotter!


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Mid-Atlantic Photographs & Memories


Mid-Atlantic Photographs & Memories 
by Peggy Lathan
Special for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Photo by Peggy Lathan
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I went to wrestling almost every week in Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina. Over the years, I got to be good friends with many of the wrestlers, friendships I maintain to this day. We had lots of fun hanging out with Ric Flair and many of the other wrestlers out behind the Spartanburg Auditorium where the wrestlers entered the building, sometimes throwing frisbee and just killing time.

I was able to take lots of photos over the years, many of which I have shared on my facebook page. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway has presented many of them, too, and Dick Bourne has even featured several of my photos in his books.

Here are links to two online photo albums the Gateway has presented of my photos. I hope you enjoy them. These are such great memories of a special time in my life with such special people.


Photos include:
Roddy Piper, Ole and Gene Anderson, Greg Valentine, Tommy Young, Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair, Scott McGhee, Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka, Paul Orndorf, The Hollywood Blondes (Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown), Ray Stevens, Dick Murdoch, Don Kernodle, Bill White, Doug Somers, Lanny Poffo, and Blackjack Mulligan.

Originally published January 19, 2016 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mid-Atlantic TV: December 5, 1981

http://network.wwe.com/video/v1870847183
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling
on the WWE Network
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
TV Summaries & Reviews
by David Taub
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

This is a review of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling as it appeared on the WWE Network. Results are included for the week (Monday-Sunday of the given week) as available. Please email with any corrections, typos, results, other details at 1davidtaub@gmail.com

For links to all available summaries and links to these TV shows on the WWE Netowrk, visit our TV Summary Index.

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
Original broadcast: 12/05/81
(taped 12/02/81 at WPCQ-TV studios in Charlotte)
WWE Network feed.  [Watch this Episode on the WWE Network.]

Bob Caudle & David Crockett preview the hour.

— Int. w/Bob Caudle: Sandy Scott
The NWA representative says Ole Anderson has taken Ray Stevens as a partner, and they will defend the World tag team title. He continues to talk about the Cadillac tournament. He keeps saying there will be one winner, even though all the cities on the tour are holding the tournament.

Tommy Young, in his green pullover, is the referee for the hour.

Match 1
Jake Roberts & Blackjack Mulligan Jr. d. Jerry Frator & Tony Russo.  
Mulligan Jr. pins Frator after a jumping knee drop.

[Break]

— Int. w/Bob Caudle: Big John Studd
Studd is holding the Canadian championship. We get a replay of the incident between Studd and Mulligan, Jr. where Studd hits him in the head, from an earlier taping at Charlotte Park Center. Caudle nearly calls him Blackjack, which angers Studd.

Match 2
Big John Studd d. not Tim Horner
The wrestler is identified as Horner, but it’s clearly not. He is wearing blue tights with three stars in front. Anyone know who this guy is? Mystery man. Studd wins with the over the shoulder backbreaker. I believe that mystery guy is Jim (Jerry) Gray. Possibly Mike Prater. Hope someone can confirm.

— Int. w/Bob Caudle: Sandy Scott
Scott presides over a contract signing between Mid-Atlantic champion Roddy Piper and Ricky Steamboat. An obnoxious Piper reluctantly signs. Steamboat, who brings out a big bag of fan mail, signs as well after Piper leaves the set.

Match 3
Pvt. Jim Nelson (w/Sgt. Slaughter) d. Tim Horner
Slaughter joins the announcing desk. Sandy Scott comes out, and so does Mulligan, which quiets Slaughter. Nelson wins with a clothesline

— Local promos w/Bob Caudle: Sgt. Slaughter (live in WPCQ studio)
Caudle reminds us wrestling is on next week Sunday at midnight on WBTV in Charlotte. So, at least we know where this tape is from. He runs down the card for tonight in Charlotte, with a battle royal to determine the pairings of the Cadillac tournament, plus Slaughter vs. Mulligan Jr. for the U.S. title. Slaughter runs down both Mulligans. Ole and Piper are out, with Piper taking slight digs at Ole over the Cadillac.

Match 4
Jay Youngblood d. Jeff Sword
This is Sword’s, sporting the blonde flowing hair, first appearance. Youngblood wins with a leaping chop on a prone Sword.

— Int. w/Bob Caudle: Blackjack Mulligan Jr. & Jake Roberts
Mulligan wants the U.S. title and Slaughter. Roberts wants Ole. Black Jack Mulligan joins in. He says he had a friend who served with Slaughter in the Marines, and told him all Slaughter did was serve as a mess cook in Okinawa.

Caudle introduces the next match via magic blue screen.

[Break]

Match 5
Ole Anderson & Ray Stevens (w/Gene Anderson) d. Paul Jones & Buddy Landel
No mention if this is a World tag team title match. Gene joins Caudle and says he and his brother are still champs. Caudle needles him about not defending the championship. The finish sees Ole ram Landel’s head into Ray Stevens’s head. Stevens is hot and starts going after Ole. Stevens then finishes off Landel with a back elbow for the pin. As Ole celebrates ringside holding both tag title belts, Stevens grabs one and takes into the ring with him. Stevens and Ole start yelling at each other, but Ole isn’t willing to go into the ring to retrieve the belt.

— Local promos w/Bob Caudle
More from tonight’s card in Charlotte. Paul Jones, Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts take turns talking about the Cadillac tournament. Mulligan Jr. joins in talking about his match against Slaughter.

Match 6
Carl Fergie d. Larry Hamilton
Caudle & Crockett remind fans about “Supreme Sacrifice” and the Andersons (famous angle from 1975), and how Stevens isn’t an Anderson. Fergie gets the win with a leaping elbow, followed by a neckbreaker.

— Int. w/Bob Caudle: Ray Stevens

Stevens runs down the Andersons. He isn’t Ole’s brother, he doesn’t want to be. No one is going to sacrifice him. Wow, classic fired up Stevens. Way better than most of his 1980s stuff in Mid-Atlantic, WWF or AWA.

“So long for now!”

Arena Results for the week after the jump.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Andre The Giant's First Tour Through the Mid-Atlantic Area (1974) - Part Three

PART THREE - CONTEXT
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Andre in Joe Murnick's Office
PART ONE: THE TOUR
PART TWO: THE STORY


Some of the interesting things that crossed my mind when putting this feature together from Les Thatcher's memorabilia were the other things happening both on the day of Andre's trip with Les as well as the day following.

Preserved documentation of events back in those days is hard enough to come by at all, much less several events within 48 hours of each other. But along with Les's story and photographs of his trip with Andre on June 4, 1974, there exists video footage of two other bits of Mid-Atlantic history that took place at the exact same time. That these recordings and photographs all exist from those two days when very little else does, is almost a matter of divine grappling kismet!

Here are the three bits of documented history from June 4 and 5, in 1974:

(1) Andre the Giant's first visit to the Mid-Atlantic area
The story and photographs of June 4, 1974 that you've already read, written and preserved by Les Thatcher, now published all these years alter.

Andre, Bill Ward, and Frank Valois
(2) Andre's interview with Big Bill Ward at WBTV
In the late 1980s when Jim Crockett Promotions was moving their offices from Charlotte to Dallas, dozens of reels of 16mm film footage were to be thrown away as they were cleaning out storage. Jim Cornette rescued and saved a majority of this footage, which he currently sells on DVD sets through his web business and personal appearances. One of the clips is an interview that Andre did with Charlotte's "Championship Wrestling" host Big Bill Ward on Wednesday, June 5, 1974 before the taping of the wrestling show at the WBTV studio that night. This was the day after Andre's trip with Les Thatcher as recounted in Les's story in Part Two. That interview with Bill Ward can be found searching YouTube.

(3) Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny Valentine fight on WGHP TV
As Les wrote about in his story, and as we observed in a rare photograph that he took that day, Andre did a prerecorded interview in High Point, NC, with channel 8 sports director Charlie Harville on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 4 in the parking lot outside the studio. After that interview concluded, Andre then traveled to Raleigh to do a similar prerecorded interview with Joe Murnick at WRAL-TV and then on for a wrestling match at Raleigh's Dorton Arena.

But while Andre was in Raleigh that Tuesday night, the regular weekly TV taping of "Championship Wrestling" took place that same evening in the studio of WGHP-TV, which Charlie Harville hosted. That show aired every Saturday on WGHP channel 8, as well as on a delayed basis in a few other select markets. (This was at the very end of the era where Jim Crockett Promotions taped three different TV wrestling shows in High Point, Charlotte, and Raleigh.) On that taping that night at WGHP, legendary wrestler Wahoo McDaniel made a special appearance in our area, a couple of months before beginning his long 13-year run as a Mid-Atlantic regular in August of 1974.

Wahoo defeated Gene Lewis in a typical TV match that night, but sitting at ringside doing commentary with Harville was Wahoo's longtime nemesis Johnny Valentine. The two were bitter rivals from their days in Florida and Texas going back to 1968.

Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny Valentine square off
moments before one of the most brutal TV brawls
ever witnessed.
Wahoo took exception to Valentine being at ringside during his match and challenged him to climb in the ring with him on the spot. Valentine obliged and what resulted is to this day one of the most brutal slugfests ever seen on Mid-Atlantic TV. They exchanged blows and chops for the better part of the next five minutes with poor referee Angelo Martinelli trying to break it up to no avail. The matches between these two over the years, especially in Texas, were notorious for their brutality as both men enjoyed working very stiff. It was no different here, and in front of the small WGHP TV studio audience, they weren't going to let any light shine between them.

A tape of this altercation was shown six years later on a 1980 "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" highlights show. It has been seen only one other time, presented at a tribute to Wahoo McDaniel at a show in Mooresville NC in October of 2005 promoted by George South. The entire confrontation was shown on a large projection screen to the lucky folks in attendance that night. While there are highly edited (and poor quality) versions of this that still float around online, the full complete unedited confrontation hasn't been seen since.

It's fun to think that while Andre was in the ring making his first appearance in Raleigh, and only his second appearance at all for Jim Crockett Promotions, this lost classic between Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny Valentine was happening the very same night. And amazing that a record from both of these days exist.

* * * * * * *

I'd like to share one other photo taken by Les during his day with Andre the Giant. It was taken outside in the parking lot of WGHP TV in High Point while Andre was waiting to do his interview with Charlie Harville. Scott Casey had accompanied Les and Andre that day.

Andre the Giant and Scott Casey


Once again, we want to thank Les Thatcher for sending his story and photographs to us, and allowing us to publish them all these many years later on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. It brought back great memories, as well as resulting in the look at some other things happening at that time.

http://bookstore.midatlanticgateway.com

Friday, June 07, 2019

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Les Thatcher's Lost Opus: Andre the Giant arrives in the Mid-Atlantic Area (1974)

PART TWO - THE STORY
As we mentioned in Part One, Les Thatcher sent us an amazing package of memorabilia related to Andre the Giant's first visit to the Mid-Atlantic territory, including never before published photographs and a story Les wrote that has never seen the light of day. Until now.

Rarely are we fortunate enough to get such a detailed inside glimpse of a day in the life of an international star making his first tour in a territory. But that's what Les story gives us, a rare and special gift because this story was never published as originally intended, stored away for over four decades.

So now, we proudly present Les's lost article, likely originally intended for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine (which he published for Jim Crockett Promotions), rediscovered all these years later, like hidden treasure now for all of us to enjoy. Exclusive to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, originally written in June 1974, and published for the first time.



Andre the Human
Story and Photographs by Les Thatcher
Charlotte/High Point/Raleigh NC, 1974

What do you think it would be like to be a seven-foot, four inch, four hundred plus pound Superstar in the world of wrestling? Well, I got the chance to find out. No, I didn’t have my fairy Godmother turn me into a giant. I just had the chance to spend the day with one!

Running late as usual, I bounded up the steps of Jim Crockett Promotions in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, my friend and tag team partner, Scott Casey, right on my heels. As we entered the door and rounded the corner, I was almost knocked over by the “Great French Wall”.  Andre the Giant.  A large size smile looked down at me and an enormous right hand was extended. I put a meek smile on my face and stuck my hand into what appeared to be a flesh covered baseball glove. I muttered the only French word I knew, meaning hello, as my hand was engulfed by his. His smile was warm and the English hello came from down deep, but was soft and matched the smile.

On this beautiful June morning, Casey and I were to take Andre on a nice Tuesday drive. It would take us up to High Point, North Carolina for a television interview, and then on to the State Capital of Raleigh for still another interview and a wrestling match that night. After a few words with the promoters, I loaded my cargo into my car and we began our trip. As we sped through the North Carolina countryside, Scott and I both talked to the big man. His command of the English language was not great, but he made himself understood. In the hour it took us to reach our first stop, the three of us had become well acquainted.

Charlie Harville and Andre outside the
WGHP studios in High Point, NC.
We arrived at High Point’s WGHP, Channel 8, where we were greeted by their sports director, Charlie Harville. The TV crew was setting up their equipment in the parking lot below their studios. They weren’t quite ready for us. During the wait, Andre was patient and watched the goings on with great interest. He stood quietly off to one side until he was called before the camera. The whole affair took only about 20 minutes and then we headed across the state toward the Capital. On this second leg of our trip, Andre sat without speaking in the back seat, watching the small towns and trees roll by.

Our trip made Raleigh in time for lunch, which we were all in need of. Our meal consisted of four steak dinners.  Yes, four! One each for Scott and myself and two complete meals for our friend. The two dinners were joined in that massive body by at least seven glasses of iced tea and a couple of glasses of water. While we ate, we talked to “The Giant” and he told us of his travels around the world and how he enjoyed being in the United States. He was looking forward to a trip in the near future to Japan. We were pressed for time and had to hurry on to the TV station, but I was left with the impression that my recently made friend, Andre, was not full and could have eaten more.

As we pulled to the entrance of WRAL, Channel 5, a welcoming committee consisting of wrestling promoters, station officials and cameramen awaited us. They filmed Andre stepping from the car and talked with him briefly. It was all over until six o’clock when we were to return for an interview on the news program and another interview filmed.

WRAL Sports Director Nick Pond and Raleigh promoter Joe Murncik escort
Andre the Giant into the studios of WRAL TV for an interview.
(Pond was also the Raleigh-only host of  "Championship Wrestling" in the 1960s and early 1970s)

We had two hours to kill so we strolled off through a shopping center nearby. We window shopped and finally found ourselves in front of a movie theater. Andre said the tickets were on him, so inside we sent to settle down and watch Goldie Hawn in “Sugarland Express”. “The Giant” made himself comfortable in the theater seats and seemed to get the whole plot of the movie. The sight gags broke him up and the laughter would pour out. As we left the theater, Andre made the comment, “It was a good movie.”

Casey and I both agreed. Meanwhile, back at Channel 5, it was time for more interviews. Again, we met with news director Nick Pond and Raleigh’s family of wrestling promoters:  Joe Murnick and sons Elliott and Carl. The tapes were made in short order. Andre smiled and made the comments that he must have repeated a thousand times before. We piled back into the car and made our way to Dorton Arena.

Andre the Giant with Raleigh's First Family of Promoters: Joe, Elliot, and Carl Murnick

We were at the arena one and a half hours before bell time, but “The Giant” busied himself getting reach for his match. As other wrestlers arrived, Andre introduced himself and shook hands. He joined in the normal dressing room chatter and took a lot of good-natured kidding about his size. Around 9:30 he entered the ring and some 12 minutes later, was back in the dressing room, having wiped out two opponents!

Joe Murnick prepares to interview the Eighth Wonder of the World" Andre the Giant

On the return trip to Charlotte, the big man seemed more at ease than he had all day, laughing and telling stories about his travels. Upon our arrival in Charlotte, Andre put away another large size meal, had a few beers and said good night.

It had been a long day for me, but after talking to this friendly Frenchman, I didn’t feel too bad. Since rising to the top of the pro wrestling wars, Andre has been following this pattern seven days a week, wrestling from coast to coast. He is up early every morning appearing on TV shows, making interviews and wrestling someplace that night. It’s a tough pace and lonely life. My overall impression of the man was this:  His mind is as strong as the over-sized body in which it lives. In my day with him, I saw him happy, sad, moody, friendly and lonely. At the end of that day, he put it all together and was a fine human being. He patted the children on their curly heads, he smiled at the lovely ladies, he answered the same questions over and over, and above all, he was tolerant of his fellow man. As I dragged myself home to bed, I felt refreshed that I had a chance to spend some time with this wrestling Superstar and I had been touched to find him to be a super human as well.


[For a look at Andre's full tour of the Mid-Atlantic area in June 1974, visit PART ONE of this series.] 

ONE THOUGHT AS TO WHY THIS STORY WAS NEVER PUBLISHED

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine was the in-house publication of Jim Crockett Promotions that began in 1973 when Les Thatcher talked the office into letting him put together a "program" that could be sold at matches across the territory. Prior to that, Charlotte was the only town in the territory that had it's own program for its weekly events.

Those first issues in 1973 and early 1974 were printed in black and white and were only eight pages, but included a wealth of information for fans, including articles, photos, a station list, early t-shirts, and Les's own signature column that would be included in all the issues he would publish over a five year period - "Wrestler's Eye View."

Around the time Les wrote this story on Andre's first visit, JCP temporarily ceased production of the newsletter and instead published two photo albums during that year. This may be the reason that the Andre story didn't appear - - there was no magazine at that moment for it to appear in.

If you are a regular visitor here at the Gateway, you know of our deep respect and affection for Les Thatcher. It's hard to imagine a more versatile, multi-talented person in the history of the wrestling business. Wrestler, writer, photographer, publisher, commentator, host, producer, booker, promoter, trainer, podcaster - - he literally has done it all. We are eternally grateful to Les for sharing this lost story with us, as well as his photographs from that day in 1974.

Coming up in the third and final part of this series, we'll take a look at couple more of Les's photos, as well as put the whole day in t he context of the times. We'll highlight a few other things going on in the territory, including a famous (unrelated) confrontation on TV that took place at WGHP the very same day Andre visited there involving one of wrestling's greatest (and most brutal) rivalries.

Stay tuned for PART THREE.

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/yearbooks.html