Monday, July 11, 2016

Texas Ranchers and Charlotte Wrestling

A longtime friend of my father's, who has always been thoughtful of me, mailed to me a Vince Staten column about wrestling from the Kingsport Times-News in Kingsport, TN. I went to the Times-News website in hopes of linking to the column, but the article appears not to be there. So I've transcribed the whole thing here.

I love finding references to "Charlotte Wrestling" and "studio wrestling." And how many folks in the mainstream media write about the great George Becker anymore? Not many, that's for sure.

I've added a couple of photos below that were not part of Staten's original article.   - Dick Bourne

How did Texas ranchers know about Charlotte Wrestling?
by Vince Staten, Kingsport Times-News

I was a thousand miles from Kingsport, sitting by myself at a table in the Dove Creek CafĂ© — Roanoke, Texas' answer to Kathy's Korner. There wasn't a female customer in the place. All the men seemed to know each other. I munched on my country ham biscuit and eaves-dropped on the conversations.

First they dissected the Warriors-Cavaliers' basketball series. Pretty much everyone in the house had been for Golden State but they appreciated what Cleveland had done.

Studio #2 at WBTV-3 in Charlotte,
home of "Championship Wrestling"
Then my mind was jolted into another time when one of the old men took the conversation in a different direction.

"What was his name, George Becker? What was it he did, the Figure-Four Grapevine Hold? No, that's not it. It was the Abdominal Stretch."

How in the name of Big Jim Crockett did these fellows in Roanoke, Texas — ranchers, most of them from the tenor of their other conversations — know about George Becker, the cleanest of the clean-cut wrestlers of my youth? George was a regular on "Studio Wrestling," broadcast live every Saturday from the studios of WBTV in Charlotte.

That is a thousand miles away from Texas. Apparently George and his signature hold, the Abdominal Stretch, got around.

I was late getting into wrestling. I was 10. We had just got-ten cable and I was fascinated with "Studio Wrestling," a regular Saturday afternoon show from Charlotte. I didn't know at the time that it was really just a promo for a regular Monday evening wrestling card at the Charlotte Coliseum.

I had seen wrestling before we got cable. Johnson City carried "Texas Rasslin'," a show that was filmed in a big arena in Dallas. It didn't seem real. The major player was Gorgeous George, and even at 10, an age when I pretty much believed anything, I didn't believe Gorgeous George. He be-longed in an arena, an arena for show dogs.

George Becker (center) applies his famous
abdominal stretch in the ring at WBTV.
But Charlotte wrestling, I knew that was the real thing. Large, sweaty men who threw each other around and, my favorite part, wrapped each other up in signature holds.

Like George Becker and his Abdominal Stretch. I can still see him pulling on his opponent until he started screaming, "Give! Give!"

I never could figure out how the Abdominal Stretch was supposed to hurt. But I could understand the Figure-4 Grapevine Hold. That was Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers' signature hold. I used to practice it on kids in the neighborhood. It didn't take much pressure to get them to scream, "Uncle." Of course, I usually practiced it on kids half my age.

I was about to interject myself into the conversation, tell them it was Buddy Rogers who had the Figure-4-Grapevine, tell them about Charlotte wrestling, when they started talking about the upcoming bull sale.

I would have literally been out of my league. So I paid and left.

But it did get me doing a little Googling. And I discovered, much to my amazement, that Gorgeous George had wrestled in Kingsport, at the Civic Auditorium, three times: in '51 (he defeated Herb Welch); '55 (he defeated Tex Riley); and '58 (he lost to Angelo Martinelli).

When he died in 1963, the Times-News put his obituary on the front page.

Next time I'm in Roanoke, Texas, I'm going to see if I can get those old men talking about Gorgeous George instead of George Becker.

Columnist Vince Staten can't be blamed for not getting every detail right about TV wrestling from the 1960s, but one thing needs to be clarified here:

The wrestling program on WBTV-3 from Charlotte was never called "Studio Wrestling", although it certainly did take place inside the cozy confines of WBTV studio #2. The show was called "Championship Wrestling" from its inception in January of 1958 until it ended in the fall of 1974.

However, Staten's memory of Gorgeous George on "Texas Rasslin'" was pretty accurate. If Gorgeous George and George Becker had ever met in the ring, Becker would have mopped the floor with him.

And lastly, just to set the record straight on my all-time favorite rasslin' hold, one demonstration of the abdominal stretch by George Becker would have demonstrated to Mr. Staten just how much it really hurt. Just sayin'.

For more information on wrestling from WBTV channel 3 in Charlotte, click here.

For more on the Dove Creek Cafe in Roanoke, TX, click here. Alternatively, for more on the Texas Tavern in Roanoke, VA, click here.

You can contact Vince Staten at His blog can be found at