Monday, March 28, 2016

Booking Changes at Jim Crockett Promotions (Early 1970s)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I recently had the pleasure of a casual conversation with John Ringley, at one time the most trusted confidant of promoter Jim Crockett, Sr. He had graciously agreed to talk with me for a feature I am constantly working on and updating related to the old TV studio tapings of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling as well as some information on the various local promoters that worked with Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1960s and 1970s. But we also touched on a few other subjects, one being the major booking change in 1973 that changed the face of the Mid-Atlantic territory.

Ringley was the man who recruited and hired George Scott to take over the booking responsibilities of the promotion, a move which changed the face of the company in the coming years. He and Scott immediately brought in Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, and Don Jardine to the territory, which shook things up on top of the cards and began to redefine the territory as a "singles territory" at least in terms of the main events.

This was the booking change in the company that is most remembered and discussed historically. But before hiring George Scott, Ringley had pushed Jim Crockett, Sr. into making another major change in booking a few years earlier.

David Crockett, Charleston promoter Henry Marcus, and John Ringly (circa 1973)

Ringley told me he felt things had become a little stale with long-time booker George Becker in the late 1960s.

"(Becker) had started regularly booking 6-man tags as the main events, and I was frustrated with that direction," he told me, as an example. "What was next? 8-mans? 10-mans?"

Ringley began lobbying Crockett Sr. to make a change. Crockett resisted at first, but they finally came to a compromise. Becker would step down as booker to be replaced by the tandem of Johnny Weaver and Rip Hawk. Both Weaver and Hawk had assisted Becker with finishes and other booking chores for years. This change took place in late 1969 or early 1970.

But Ringley explained that he always saw wrestling in 7-year cycles, and felt that the company was in the bottom of one of those cycles at that time. He still felt that the company needed a more significant change in direction.

"After Mr. Crockett died (in April of 1973), I decided to make a wholesale change," he said. That's when John Ringley hired George Scott.

Scott immediately began making changes, the most significant being changing a tag-team driven territory to one with more singles-oriented main events. He was given full reign to make those changes by Crockett Sr. and Ringley. Scott's changes in booking strategy, as well as bringing in a whole slate of new talent, including a promising rookie named Ric Flair, eventually went on to set the territory on fire again.

Ringley, however, wasn't around to see those changes pay off. He left the company not long after Scott was hired.

"Jim Crockett was like a father to me," he told me. "He had a big heart and helped a lot of guys out when they first came to into territory." Ringley's own father died when he was young.

Ringley went to work for Eddie Graham in Florida. While there he was recruited by music promoter Buddy Lee to come work for him in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a good fit given Ringley's vast experience working for Jim Crockett Promotions as a promoter of music events and such attractions as the Harlem Globetrotters. Lee had been a wrestler who worked for Jim Crockett, Sr. back in the 1950s and formed a music promotional company in Nashville in the 1960s. The company he started, Buddy Lee Attractions, is still one of the largest talent agencies in Nashville. Ringley later worked for wrestling promoter Leroy McGuirk in Oklahoma.

John Ringley's push to change the booking direction of Jim Crockett Promotions had lasting effects on that family's business, and the wrestling business in general,  for years to come.

I'll have more tidbits from my conversation with John Ringley in future posts.