Monday, November 07, 2016

The Great Bolo: Colorful Franchise Player in a Black & White World

It's not often that we publish about wrestlers or events from the 1950s (the main focus of our website is the 1970s and 1980s), but it's fun to occasionally take a look back and learn about some of the key players for Jim Crockett Promotions in earlier years.

Mike Cline recently wrote about some of his memories of The Great Bolo on his "Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats" site and we have republished that article here with his permission.

by Mike Cline
Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats 

In the late 1950s, JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS was virtually built around one guy, a really 'bad guy'...THE GREAT BOLO.

He wore a yellow gold mask with matching attire. No wrestling fan knew his true identity, and according to a lengthy interview by the man under the hood himself (TOM RENESTO), the other wrestlers didn't, at the time, know either. This idea, he said, was designed by JIM CROCKETT himself. BIG JIM felt that keeping the wrestler's identity a real secret made for a more realistic approach to the storyline.

THE GREAT BOLO had his own private dressing room, and he wore the mask into the building upon arrival and out of the building when he left. (I'm not sure if I really buy into that, but true or not, it makes a great story.)

THE GREAT BOLO was BIG! Fans laid out their money every night in some city hoping to find out who the guy really was. All of the top wrestlers ('babyfaces' and 'heels') in the territory worked the masked man.

I experienced my first LIVE wrestling event fifty-seven years ago at the old semi-pro baseball park one summer night in Statesville, North Carolina. The main event was Indian star BILLY TWO RIVERS VERSUS THE GREAT BOLO. Next to GEORGE BECKER, BILLY was the top 'good guy' in JCP at the time.

Most of us tikes in the neighborhood went. We lived in a black and white world in the late Fifties, and when THE GREAT BOLO stepped out of one of the dugouts and made his way towards the ring, we were stunned by the bright gold colors. Up to that point, we could only guess what colors he wore. On black and white TV, it could have been most any shade.

My group, along with some other local kids, made a dash towards the masked man, whopping it up and trying to taunt him. A threatening move and a loud growl-like sound scattered us all back to our grandstand seats in record-setting speed.

Several years later, with tag team wrestling becoming extremely popular, THE GREAT BOLO brought in a partner BOLO (JODY HAMILTON). From this point on, the duo was billed as THE GREAT BOLO and BOLO, or simply THE BOLOS.

Either way, they were just as hot as RENESTO had been as a single.

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This article was originally published on Mike Cline's "Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats" website and is republished here with his permission. © 2016 Mike Cline