Sunday, September 22, 2019

Andre the Giant's First Night in Charlotte

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Awhile back I posted a series on Andre the Giant's first tour of the Mid-Atlantic area in June of 1974. The story was inspired by a submission to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway by Les Thatcher of some photographs that he took and a wonderful story he had written then when he was tasked to take Andre on several promotional stops around the territory.

The can check that series out here:

Part 1: The Tour (includes a photo with Joe, Elliot, and Carl Murnick.)
Part 2: Les Thatcher's Opus: Les Thatcher's "lost story" about taking Andre on tour (including photos with Charlie Harville, Nick Pond, and Joe Murnick.)
Part 3: Context (Including additional photos with Scott Casey and Bill Ward, plus other Mid-Atlantic history that week.)

As I mentioned in the series, I was amazed out how much memorabilia seemed to exist from that one week in 1974. And now I've come across a bit more.

Scooter Lesley, who owns the vast photo archives of the late Gene Gordon, recently sent me a photo Gordon took of Andre in the locker room at the old Charlotte Coliseum (aka, Independence Arena, now Bojangles Coliseum.) I immediately thought of Les Thatcher's story and his photographs.

Nelson Royal, Swede Hanson, and Andre the Giant in Charlotte, June 10, 1974

The photograph, seen here, is of Nelson Royal and Swede Hansen looking up in awe at Andre. Although clearly staged, Nelson and Swede were no doubt legitimately in awe of the "Eight Wonder of the World" as they spent the week with him on his first tour of the area.

I knew the photo had to be from that week in June 1974, just based on some quick tell-tale signs. Nelson Royal still being in the area at the same time Swede Hansen was a babyface pegged it to those months in 1974, and this was likely Andre's only tour through that time. I knew that Nelson had teamed with Andre on Andre's first card in Charlotte. I looked up the newspaper clipping of that 6/10/74 Charlotte Coliseum show in Mark Eastridge's vast clipping archives, and confirmed that Swede Hanson was indeed on that same show, too.

That night in Charlotte, where Andre teamed with Royal to defeat Mr. Ota and Mr. Hiashi, was part of an 11-day tour that stretched from 6/3 to 6/13/74.
  • Mon 6/3 - Greenwood SC - Andre beat Pedro Godoy and Mike Paidousis
  • Tue 6/4 - Raleigh NC - Andre defeated Mike Paidousis and Bill White
  • Wed 6/5 - Anderson SC -Andre & Sandy Scott def. Mr. Ota/Mr. Hiashi
  • Thu 6/6 - Greensboro NC - Andre participated in a Battle Royal
  • Fri 6/7 - Richmond VA - Andre participated in a Battle Royal
  • Sat 6/8 - Roanoke VA - Andre def. Chuck O'Connor and Mike Paidousis
  • Sun 6/9 - Rocky Mount NC - Andre def. O'Connor/"Two Ton" Harris
  • Mon 6/10 - Charlotte NC - Andre & Nelson Royal def. Mr. Ota/Mr. Hiashi
  • Tue 6/11 - Columbia SC - defeated Mike Paidousis and Bill White
  • Wed 6/12 - Raleigh NC - Studio TV Appearance
  • Thu 6/13 - Norfolk VA - Andre participated in a Battle Royal
Andre was also one of the "lumberjacks" in the main event that night, a Lumberjack Match between the Super Destroyer (Don Jardine) and Swede Hanson. That match ended in a "no decision" when at one point all of the lumberjacks found themselves in the ring in swinging away at each other until Andre cleared the ring of everybody!   

No doubt Andre made a big impression on wrestling fans as well as his peers that first week in the area. Gene Gordon's photograph, added to Les Thatcher's photos and "lost story" documented earlier, are a lasting record of that memorable period of time.

Republished as part of the Best of Series on December 7, 2020.