Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Wrestling and Election Returns on the bill at Dorton Arena (1972)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I recently came across this little Raleigh newspaper clipping for a November 1972 card at Dorton Arena. I was struck by the mention that election returns would be announced during the event.

Promoter Joe Murnick assured fans they would be made
aware of local election results at his Dorton Arena show.

This got me thinking about that presidential election year of 1972 and how differently we follow things like that today with our smart phones, Twitter, and cable news networks. In 1972, there were only three broadcast networks and unless you were glued to the TV in your living room or perhaps to your local AM radio station, you had no idea of how the election was playing out.

But savvy promoter Joe Murnick wanted fans to know that they didn't need to sit around the television at home and wait for local WRAL news anchor Charlie Gaddy to give them election results - - - election results would be announced in the arena!

That's an unusual pitch for a wrestling show. Politics have always been an ugly business, but can you imagine election results being announced at a wrestling event today? The fights in the ring would likely pale in comparison to the brawls that would break out in the stands.

I'm guessing that the local races were what were really of interest to the local crowd. There wasn't much drama in the presidential race that year as Richard Nixon wound up putting a 520-17 electoral college smackdown on George McGovern. But in North Carolina, Republican Jesse Helms was in a tough battle with Democrat Congressman Nick Galifianakis for the open U.S. Senate seat. Galifianakis led early in the race by 20 points, but Helms wound up winning on election night by a solid 8-point margin. It was the first time a Republican had won a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina in the 20th century and began a long tenure for Helms in the U.S. Senate.

Helms had several connections to wrestling. In the 1980s, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling announcer Bob Caudle, who was a longtime WRAL news personality, worked for Helms in his constituent office. Several wrestlers, including area stalwart Johnny Weaver, did political ads for Helms that aired during the wrestling programs in Helms' re-election bid in 1978. In the 1990 election, Ric Flair campaigned for Helms. 

Here are the match-ups in the three top bouts which all featured members or affiliates of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew:
Ole Anderson vs. Johnny Weaver
The winner of this bout would go on to meet NWA World Champion Dory Funk, Jr. on a future show. The stipulations were that there would be a $1,000 fine to anyone who interferes in the event. We're assuming that was targeted to other wrestlers and not angry fans because their candidate lost.

Gene Anderson vs. Art Nelson
This was billed as "brass knuckles" match.

The Menace vs. Sandy Scott
The Menace was a masked associate of the Anderson Brothers. He wore a maroon colored mask (Anderson colors) and often accompanied Gene and Ole in matches and would occasionally interfere on their behalf. I'm guessing that tendency to  interfere was one of the reasons there was the $1,000 fine stipulation in the Anderson/Weaver main event. 

Late edit: Results of the show - -
  • Johnny Weaver defeated Ole Anderson
  • Gene Anderson defeated Art Nelson
  • Sandy Scott won by DQ over The Menace
  • Freedy Sweetan & Mike "The Judge" Dubois defeated David Finley (Crockett) and Frank Hester
  • Terry Kay defeated George "Two Ton" Harris
  • Bobby Kay defeated Tinker Todd

There were two other Mid-Atlantic cards that evening, one each in the other two states of the territory, as Jim Crockett Promotions often ran three shows a night:

  • In Columbia, SC, Eastern Heavyweight Champion Jerry Brisco defended his title against Rip Hawk, who was being managed for the first time by Homer O'Dell. O'Dell had recently taken over the managerial duties for Hawk and partner Swede Hanson from Gary Hart.
  • In Danville, VA, Thunderbolt Patterson and Ronnie Garvin battled The Royal Kangaroos in a tag team main event. 

I earlier mentioned Charlie Gaddy, who wound up a broadcasting legend in the Raleigh market, hosting the local news anchor desk at WRAL into the 1990s. The national network anchors at that time were John Chancellor on NBC, Walter Cronkite on CBS, and Harry Reasoner on ABC.


Special thanks to Mark Eastridge as always for access to his newspaper clippings archive.
Updated with results from the Raleigh show provided by Carroll Hall of the All Star Championship Wrestling website.