In the wake of recent wrestling deaths I wanted to share something special. I have proudly been a professional wrestling fan for over 40 years. My love for what Ric Flair always called the “greatest sport in the world” started in 1974. The number of matches I have attended, honestly I have lost count. The memories are so plentiful that when reading articles on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway or ones by Mike Mooneyham I can almost always find a connection somewhere that I was either there or vividly remember the event or the feud.
Needless to say wrestling has been a major part of my life for most of my life. I was blessed to even give it a try for a season of my youth and certainly found it to be so much harder than it looked on television. I learned to respect not just the performance, but indeed I learned to respect the performers. These men and women were real life superheroes. They were not like the movies where they could not be seen beyond the silver screen, you could see them nearly every night in an arena somewhere across the Mid-Atlantic territory. For me it was Charleston County Hall located in Historic Charleston, SC. I was hooked at the first show and for so many years it was what I looked forward to the most on Friday nights. So what is my point? Why would I want to share this little story with anyone?
All wrestling fans who enjoy history know that over the years we have lost many of the greats. Johnny Valentine, Tim Woods, Wahoo McDaniel, George “Two-Ton” Harris, Swede Hanson, Rip Hawk and the list is honestly too long to write. I was so blessed to have each one of those men at the reunion I promoted in 1998 except Wahoo, but he would later make an appearance for me at one of my house shows. To say it was a fans dream event would honestly be an understatement. I cannot speak for one other person beyond myself, but I had the time of my life.
Recently I was blessed to put all of this in a book and I have made it my goal to get one in the hands of everyone who was there that is still alive. I was blessed to make one of those happen recently when I had a meeting with the one and only Ole Anderson. Our mutual friend Peggy Lathan helped me get that lined up with Ole since I had been out of touch with him for several years. We had a great time during our over two hours of very enlightening and at times very colorful conversation. We often take for granted it would seem with all the “legends reunions” and “fanfest” that take place all the time, but it hits home when we learn that one of our childhood heroes has stepped into eternity. The passing of so many of the men that I called heroes and even more importantly called friend is always hard to hear. The news of Dusty Rhodes and Buddy Landel seemed personal. These are guys that all of us here in the Mid-Atlantic grew up with.
My time with Ole was special to me and I not only wanted to give him a copy of the book, but I wanted to tell him thank you. As I did that he simply asked me why would I say that, why would I care? I was quick to respond that him and so many of the others I have mentioned were such a special part of my childhood that to have the opportunity to simply say thank you was special to me. I wanted him to know that all the work, all the blood, all the pain, all the miles, they did matter. As I shared my heart with him I could see that it actually had an effect and as he reached across the table to grab my hand, he in return said “thank you, no one has told me that before.” You know what, maybe fans over the years have said something similar in passing or while waiting for an autograph, but this moment was personal and it meant something.
My point is that if you get the opportunity to meet one of these guys pictures and autographs are nice, but by experience I can tell you, sharing your heart with them and honestly letting them know you were touched by their work, it is one of the greatest ways to let them know that what they did indeed mattered. All the events in the world can be held and thousands of pictures can be signed, but at the end of the day that is all that exist. However, that conversation, that meal, that two hours of going down memory lane, that heart felt thank you will be something that you can cherish forever and for most of the guys it will be something they truly appreciate.
As a fan for over 40 years my greatest memories certainly are the incredible matches that I witnessed in person. The first time seeing Wahoo or Ric or Andre the Giant. I will never forget that, but I have to admit sitting with Ole two weeks ago, having Jimmy Valiant at my kitchen table having supper with me, driving down the road with Tully Blanchard in my car, sitting with Johnny Valentine over a meal, asking Wahoo how he was doing when he was having health issues, these are parts of my heart that will last forever and to have had the opportunity to say thank you to each of them is something that is beyond special to me. Enjoy the legends while they are still with us and when you see them please make sure to say thank you.
Memories they are indeed pressed between the pages of my mind
- Andy McDaniel
Reunion at County Hall: The Night the Legends Returned
Authored by Dr Andy McDaniel, Foreword by Mike Mooneyham
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