Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Meet Our Baby Brother: Ole Anderson

The Anderson Brothers Bring in the Baby!
by Richard “Dick Deluxe” Egner
for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

     In 1966 I was 11 years and old and our family had just moved to rural North Carolina,  In those days television was much simpler-3 networks and TV antennas with aluminum foil on them.  One Saturday afternoon after bemoaning the lack of entertaining shows I stumbled onto a truly life changing event.  It was Championship Wrestling from Charlotte with Big Bill Ward at the microphone.

The Minnesota Wrecking Crew: Gene and Lars Anderson
     I vaguely knew wrestling existed, when we were younger and living in Wisconsin in the late 50's my Dad used to pick up the phone when my brother and I got too rowdy and pretend he was calling “The Whipper”.  The mere implication Whipper Billy Watson was coming over to restore order was enough to straighten us out! (I didn't know who he was but it sounded pretty serious!)

    At any rate Saturday afternoon's became my most anticipated moments of the week.  The shows were filmed at a TV studio in Charlotte and the always avuncular and serious Mr .Ward would always carefully describe the action as evenly as possible-especially considering the dastardly deeds so often perpetuated by what I soon found out were “heels”.

    While the show almost always began with singles bouts, the real action as the hour progressed inevitably was tag team action.  Little could I have imagined that nearly 50 years later the names and memories would remain so vivid. George Becker and Johnny Weaver, Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, the Scott Brothers, the villainous Infernos with the evil J.C. Dykes as manager, Tex McKenzie and Nelson Royal, Aldo Bogni and Bronko Lubich with their scheming mastermind Colonel Homer O'Dell.

    But perhaps the scariest and most exciting team was the Anderson Brothers from Minnesota.  Lead by Gene, he and Lars we a cruel and efficient machine and somehow their blend of physicality, brute strength and clever methods of bending the rules made them truly a force.

    As the weeks went by I noticed that at the end of each show there was information on how to attend the TV tapings on Wednesday nights.   Hey Dad!..Sure enough, after some cajoling Dad decided it was time to pack up the car and drive the 90 miles to Charlotte for the show!

   I'm guessing it was spring of 1967 but at any rate we got to the studio and sure enough there was Big Bill Ward! The ring was somewhat smaller than it appeared and the 50 or so fans who attended were crammed in the bleachers very tightly-and boy was that ring close!

    The opening bout featured a “scientific” match between, if I recall correctly, Les Thatcher and the young rookie Bobby Shane. They shook hands and for 10 minutes put on a great demonstration of holds and despite a testy moment or two it was all fair and square.  Somehow right before the 3 count the time limit was up and it was declared a draw!  After a hearty shake of hands it was off to commercial break.

    Prior to match number two, Big Bill strode up to ring side and to my surprise Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson came out for an interview.  Rip did all the talking and while I don't recall the exact fued, it was clear they planned to rip their opponents a new one-and in turn they listed a full schedule of nights of mayhem ahead-Monday in Charlotte at the Park Center, Greenville, South Carolina, Lumberton, Winston Salem and so forth.

    At the time it was not yet “Mid-Atlantic” Wrestling, it was Carolina's Wrestling and it was clear that Mr Jim Crockett and the NWA were in charge! And there were a fair amount of titles at stake on any given bill.  Clearly the Southern Tag Team Belt was the prize possession but also a variety of other belts were at stake including the mysterious and always traveling NWA World Champion who at the time was Gene Kiniski.

    I also about this time discovered national wrestling magazines and soon my walls were filled with pictures of my heroes locally and from territories throughout the USA and worldwide.  AWA? WWWF?  Who was Bruno? Verne Gagne?  Could they beat Kiniski?

    Another great feature was the addition of new talent and after a while via studying the magazines I had a pretty good idea of who these newcomers might be.  When The Missouri Mauler was introduced I felt very superior that I knew his name was Larry Hamilton!  And there was a rumor his brother Jody was one of the Assasins!
Lars, Gene, and Ole Anderson
     But of all the memories of my 3 years in North Carolina from 1966 to 1969 the most memorable was the night the Minnesota Wrecking Crew introduced “baby brother” Ole-fresh from the Northwoods of Minnesota.  As rough and tumble as Lars was, Ole somehow seemed meaner and more in tune with Gene.  That first night was a 6 man tag match and while I don't recall who the opponents all were I do remember poor old Lee Bulldog Henning taking a ferocious pounding.

    Within weeks the Andersons were feuding with everyone with extra special heat between them and the hero's of all hero's-George Becker and Johnny Weaver.   At a subsequent taping I have the unforgettable memory of the teams facing off on a special 2 of 3 fall grudge match for TV.  We were there and the buzz in the room was palpable. 

    After a particularly rough and tumble first fall, the lights dimmed and to my surprise both teams-moments before attempting to cripple each other, decamped to beyond the footlights and Geroge Becker and Gene Anderson popped over to ringside to bum a smoke from my Dad!..What?  Anyhow within minutes they were back in and out of the ring pounding each other and the end of course was riddled in controversy.

    Later that summer my family moved to Houston and my love affair with Carolinas Wrestling was replaced by my newfound passion-Houston wrestling promoted by Paul Boesch.  I kept up with the action in North Carolina via the magazines and I continued to follow wrestling closely-eventually I worked for Mr Boesch and for a time was a columnist for The Wrestler magazine (Texas Rasslin roundup!) where I breathlessly recounted the action.

    It's hard to believe 50 years have passed but I have nothing but fond memories of those Wednesday tapings and Saturday afternoon's glued to the TV soaking up every match.  And who could have ever imagined that the introduction of Ole Anderson to the scene would have turned out to been such a historic event and lead to such a long and iconic career,  And I was there!

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Richard “Dick Deluxe” Egner is now a 61 year old musician/entertainer based in New Orleans, Louisiana.