Monday, October 16, 2017

The Giant Comes to Charleston County Hall

 by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It is without a doubt that most lifetime professional wrestling fans have a favorite arena where they went to the matches. For Mid-Atlantic fans, there are many to pick from. While I was blessed to travel and have been to Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, and many others, for me, my all-time favorite place to witness the matches was Charleston County Hall. It was must-see and if it were at all possible, it was the place to be on Friday nights at 8:15.

Mr. Henry Marcus, the promoter, was known to be near the door and the entering fans would hear his famous words, “hold your own ticket.” The last matches held in the historic building was nearly 20 years ago. I had the honor of promoting that final show. As I have been reflecting on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the final wrestling show ever held at County Hall, I have been thinking of the history of the events that were held there.

I started going in 1974, but long before that, the biggest stars in pro wrestling would make the journey to the home of the Battery and the place where the Civil War started, Charleston, SC. In my current place in life, I serve as a minister. I love words, and often key in on certain ones when I am searching for a message. As I am thinking about all the big stars that came through County Hall, I can say I was there, the night the biggest star -- and I mean literally, the “biggest” star -- entered the hallowed Hall. Yes, I was there the night Andre the Giant came to town. It was the first time seeing him in person and as a young kid, I was in total awe. He looked way bigger in person than he did on TV. It was one of those moments you just don’t forget.

Andre was in town to face the dastardly Masked Superstar. The card was announced during the "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" television program when they aired the local promos, and I knew I wanted to be there if there was any way possible. I mean this was Andre the Giant. I had seen the posters, read the magazines, but now for a chance to see him in person, wow, I couldn’t wait.

The Masked Superstar has been running over everyone and now he would face an opponent that would not be so easy to dispatch, the undefeated Giant. I had seen Superstar in other battles against Mighty Igor, Blackjack Mulligan and many top stars of the area, but never did I imagine they would bring in Andre the Giant to try and bring justice. Superstar was certainly no small guy, but when Andre entered the ring it was just awesome. When he walked under the balcony on the way to the ring, he reached up to touch the hands of the fans leaning over the railing. He was sporting the big hair, often seen in his pictures, and that night, he left a larger than life impression with this young fan.

The match was back and forth between these two, but I was blown away when Superstar locked in his famous “Cobra hold” on Andre. Such did not seem possible, but he did it and Andre went to the mat. The referee continued to check the arm to see if it would drop for the third time, but Andre kept holding on. As the hold seemed to be wearing down the giant, the fans began to rally and it would not be long before he made his way back to his feet and broke the hold. After a few more exchanges, Andre hit the headbutt and made the pin much to the joy of the crowd. It was something to see, that is for sure.

Later in life, I met Andre at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, GA. This was near the end of his life and he was not in great shape, but he was still that legendary figure, the one I saw in person, all those years before in Charleston. In 1997, Superstar would work the main event of the very first wrestling show I ever promoted and was nothing but a class act to me. I also got to be the ring announcer, one night, for a match between Superstar and my dear friend George South.

I am so grateful for all the things I have been able to be a part of in wrestling. The memories are almost too many to count. I was blessed to see so many of my pro wrestling heroes come to County Hall, but I will always remember the night Andre and the Masked Superstar came to town in one “giant” showdown.

Oh, there is the time Masked Superstar faced Rufus R “Freight Train” Jones, but that’s another story with one really funny twist.

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Order your copy of "Reunion at County Hall" on
Black & White Version   |   Color Version

Read the review by Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier
Wrestling Book Takes a Look at County Hall