Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wrestling 101

by Wayne Brower
Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, March 2004

My desire to watch wrestling was limited only by our television’s ability to receive the distant signals. In the early 1960s there was neither cable nor satellite TV available. Most reception was either through “rabbit ears” – with or without tin foil – or from a roof mounted antenna.

Growing up in Trinity, North Carolina did not allow for reception of numerous stations. The area programming of that time was from WFMY Channel 2 in Greensboro and WSJS Channel 12 in Winston-Salem. Neither broadcast wrestling. The best we could occasionally receive with ideal atmospheric conditions was WDBJ Channel 7 of Roanoke and Charlotte’s WBTV Channel 3.

Two events would occur that had a significant impact on my viewing habits. In October 1963 WGHP Channel 8 in High Point signed on the air. Shortly thereafter wrestling was held in their studio on Tuesday nights for broadcast the following Saturday afternoon. Next, my dad purchased an antenna rotator connected by wire to a control box that sat on top of our television. With a turn of the dial pointing to the preferred direction we now had clear signal access to the aforementioned stations, plus another wrestling provider, WRAL Channel 5 in Raleigh. Talk about sensory overload. And it was so much more interesting than anything I was being taught in school at the time.

Viewing multiple hours of wrestling each weekend was not the most accepted form of character development for an adolescent, but I did learn the simple and straight forward good versus evil pugilistic play. The babyfaces always obeyed the rules and listened to the referee’s commands. They acknowledged the fans and signed autographs. The good guys usually had names like friends or family members – George, Sandy, Johnny, Jesse or Bobby. Even their female counterparts were called Penny, Susan or Pat. These folks were so pure that they would occasionally end their interview time by saying “We want to say hello to our sick and shut-in friends” or “Please take time to go to church this Sunday.”

American Indians were great achievers. The guys almost always had earned the rank of Chief even before they began their wrestling careers. Lady Indians were so virtuous they often had the first name of Princess. Other faces were so proud of their heritage that they included it in their names such as “Argentina” Rocca and “Irish” Mike Clancy.

The heels were of course total opposites. In that era no one would have admitted to even knowing someone named The Matador, Skull, Bolo, Two-Ton or Mauler. You wouldn’t think about introducing your parents to your new lady friend – Slave Girl Moolah. Grapplers from other nations brought forth the political beliefs of their countries. Russian wrestlers were communists determined not only to take over our nation, but more importantly win the Southern Tag Team titles. German wrestlers were disgruntled Nazi sympathizers, and the Japanese were sneaky operators on orders from the Emperor to bring back all trophies and belts. You just had to believe the Mexican bad guy named Pancho had associates responsible for murdering Fess Parker at the Alamo.

Charlie Harville
In almost every conflict the heels would consistently create mischief and mayhem, all in cowardly ways or while holding an unfair advantage. The hosts of the TV shows would passionately describe the action, and often disagree with the cheater’s denials during their interviews. Nick Pond warned many bad guys that scores would be settled at Dorton Arena next Tuesday night. Big Bill Ward argued with manager Homer O’Dell, and told him that he and his team should be very concerned about facing the Scott brothers at Charlotte Park Center. Charlie Harville provided detailed results of matches in Greensboro where more often than not the good guys ultimately defeated the heels and from there would go on to the next challenge. Virtue and honor had been satisfied.

But always, at the end of every broadcast, you were advised to “Tune in next week for more Championship Wrestling!”

For more information, history, and memorabilia related to the broadcasters mentioned in this story visit the Studio Wrestling website, part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

For an in-depth look at the career of Charlie Harville, see Wayne Brower's excellent look at the NC Broadcast Hall of Famer: Charlie Harville: Remembering His Remarkable Journey