by Kyra Quinnfrom the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives
I live in Charlotte now. I just moved here after having spent most of my life in Pennsylvania. During repeated visits over recent years I slowly fell in love with Charlotte's tree-lined streets, distinctive neighborhoods and New South charm. But what drew me here initially and continues to captivate me is wrestling - the gritty, compelling wrestling of Jim Crockett Promotions from the mid-1980s.
I discovered Crockett wrestling one Saturday morning in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1985 when I was 8 years old. Immediately I became hooked, captivated by what I now understand to have been the perfect mix of athleticism, drama, and charismatic personalities working together to near perfection. The result was wrestling so gripping and so real that people truly believed. I certainly did. I believed in the hatred between Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. I believed that the Four Horsemen were trying to permanently maim Dusty Rhodes. And I believed without question that Ric Flair was the best wrestler alive in what he always referred to as the "greatest sport in the world".
I quickly became an avid fan and was even able to see wrestling in person when the NWA came to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. But they didn't come to Pittsburgh very often, and it didn't take me long to realize that the wrestling I loved was centered in the faraway and, to my young mind, exotic states of the Carolinas and Virginia. As a 4th grader in 1985 my knowledge of United States geography was undoubtedly broader than that of my classmates because each week I watched as Tony Schiavone promoted upcoming shows in places like Greensboro, Raleigh, Richmond, Norfolk and, of course, Charlotte. The names of these cities - and their venues - took on an almost mythical status for me. But Charlotte - home of Charlotte Coliseum, Memorial Stadium, Jim Crockett Promotions and the "Nature Boy" himself - was clearly the center of it all.
That, though, was all decades ago. The Charlotte of 1985 could scarcely have imagined its present-day self. The Queen City has grown exponentially in the years since Jim Crockett Promotions grossed millions of dollars working out of a tiny office on Briarbend Drive. Charlotte is now the country's 17th largest city. It is home to professional sports teams, a vibrant cultural scene and a continually growing and diversifying population. Charlotte is a modern boomtown that continues to carefully craft and cultivate its burgeoning identity as a cosmopolitan New South city. But professional wrestling is no longer part of Charlotte's reality or self-image. Although it was a mainstay of the city for decades, wrestling simply slipped away. Jim Crockett Promotions was sold off, the wrestlers left town, and Charlotte didn't look back. These days, the only official recognition of the importance of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions is located at the exceptional Levine Museum of the New South in uptown Charlotte. There, as part of the main exhibit, a small display educates visitors about the storied history of Mid-Atlantic wrestling and its cultural significance to the city and the region. Beyond that, there are sporadic references in the local media to the glory days of Charlotte wrestling. And the city still has a healthy independent wrestling scene. But that grand tradition - the sold-out arenas, the white-hot feuds, the rabid fan base - seems to have been relegated to a footnote in the story of Charlotte.
|The Grady Cole Center, once known as the Charlotte Park Center, home to weekly Monday night Mid-Atlantic Wrestling cards from the late 1950s through early 1980s|
|The Charlotte Coliseum in the early 1960s. The facility was known as Independence Arena during the 1980s heyday for Jim Crockett Promotions. It is now known as the Bojangle's Coliseum.|
|Ric Flair and Nikita Koloff square off at the Great American Bash at Memorial Stadium|
When I come across native Charlotteans - which is not the common occurrence one might think here in Charlotte - I always try to work wrestling into the conversation, just to see if they remember. They usually do. They remember and they smile and then casually toss out a memory of the Bash they saw at Memorial Stadium, or nonchalantly recall how they used to live on the same street as Ricky Morton. I listen, and I wonder all over again what it must have been like to live here then, when wrestling was so much a part of this city.
Much has changed, but wrestling will always be part of the story of Charlotte. And for those of us who listen - for all who remember and all who believed - the whispers of magic will never cease.
|Charlotte's Memorial Stadium in the distance, much as it might have looked on a hot July night in 1985 at the Great American Bash. (Photo credit - Flickr: Compulsive Collector)|
Originally published December 14, 2013 in the Smoke Filled Rooms section of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
The original article, with additional supporting links and material, can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives.
This article was written during my brief but meaningful stay in Charlotte in 2013. Since that time I moved back to my home state of Pennsylvania. I love Pennsylvania, but I miss Charlotte; most of all, I miss my near-daily encounters with the city's magical wrestling relics. But I know that wherever I am, the whispers will continue.
- Kyra Quinn, June 2015
Feedback From a Friend
by Dick Bourne
A good friend of ours, Linda Ostrow, gave Kyra Quinn (the author of the above article) some positive feedback on "My Secret Charlotte" that I thought I would include here. While Linda is admittedly not a wrestling fan, she has a strong connection to wrestling, Charlotte, and to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway as well.
Linda wrote Kyra:
"So moving and touching. Your writing brought tears to my eyes. I was taken back to what I thought was a great movie about second chances...Field of Dreams. If only to go back to that time, even for just a day. But dust is slowly covering memories and nothing seems as glorious. Even though I never got hooked, wrestling touched everyone [in Charlotte] and I think it had a lot to do with putting Charlotte on the map. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. - Linda"
Her story, as it regards that wrestling connection, is documented fully in "Ten Pounds of Gold", the book written about the history and construction of that belt.
When I first took Kyra by to meet Linda years ago at her Queen's Gallery studio in Charlotte, we learned Linda is originally from Pittsburgh as is Kyra. The two immediately struck up a friendship and have enjoyed occasional visits now that Kyra has moved to the Queen City.
Linda Ostrow's art gallery and frame shop are located at 1212 The Plaza, Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit www.thequeensgallery.com
- Dick Bourne, Jan 2014, Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Photograph by Dick Bourne from the book "Ten Pounds of Gold"