Friday, December 27, 2019

Mr. #1 Comes Through

by Andy McDaniel
Contributor, Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Wrestling conventions are a regular thing these days. Along with comic-cons and the like, pretty much any weekend or month, there is an event taking place somewhere. I remember the days of wondering what it would be like to meet my heroes from wrestling. On Saturday morning television, they were larger than life figures. At the matches on Friday nights, they seemed even larger but somehow more personal. You could reach out and touch them. If you were close enough, you might get some of their sweat on you or even some blood. (My mom had a fit when I came home after a Wahoo match in a white shirt that had several spots of McDaniel blood on it, and they were not mine) The one thing still missing was a conversation or a personal moment with the wrestlers. While close, they still seemed far away. The conventions have helped open doors for the questions people always wanted to ask, the handshake, or the picture desired. Now, such is not unusual or out of the norm.

"Mr. No. 1" George South
Most recently, there was an event held in Winston-Salem, NC. All that I could read, and from all the pictures posted, it appeared that many, many legends and wrestling stars were there. It is always great to see the stars of the past get recognized for their contributions to the business. However, there was one name that stood out to me, my friend Mr. #1 George South. Here it is 2019, and George was not only still on the card but was in a match with the Great Muta. Social media had a mixed response to this match up. I get that to a degree. However, the intent was to have a connection to the past. It was not going to be Ric Flair, it was not going to be Abe Jacobs, it was not going to be Jimmy Valiant, but to give some nostalgia, to give a nod to the past and do so in a credible way with a guy that could put on a fun match, there was no better choice than George.

I have been friends with George South for as long as I could remember. I got to "know" him from a distance while watching on television. I would later enjoy booing him at the live matches. His interaction with the fans was hilarious. The matches between him and Rocky King stole the undercard by far. I just enjoyed the guy. However, things became different in 1998. I was promoting a fanfest type show in Charleston, SC. I very well may be wrong with this statement, but such an event had never taken place in Charleston. Beyond a significant show like Slamboree in Atlanta in 1993, there had not been that many convention-style events. Regardless of how many or where the fact is that we were bringing in the legends.

No one had seen Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson together in 25 years. They had not seen each other in that long. Few had seen Johnny Valentine or George "two-ton" Harris, but they were there. In the midst of this was George South. Although we did not know each other, from the moment we met, it was as if we always had. His friendship is one that I cherish after all these years. The event was, of course, centered around all the legends. On the night of the main show, we planned for a few matches. The historical County Hall would be the arena. Legendary promoter Henry Marcus was our guest of honor. The very man who, for years and years, brought in the very best in professional wrestling. Friday night at 8:15 was a staple moment in the lives of many in the greater Charleston area. We had a mixture of matches, featuring local talent, known talent, and even a few legends from the business. One of the unique things that took place in each bout was the special referees on hand. Mark Curtis/Brian Hildebrand, Charles Robinson, Ronnie West, Tommy Young all joined us and were so gracious to lend their talents to our show.

The main event was to crown the first-ever Low Country Wrestling Champion. The masked Unknown (yours truly) was to face Lee Scott. I was so excited about this match for many reasons. First, Lee was a great opponent. I was getting to perform in front of many of the heroes from my childhood. Finally, it was the fact that this was taking place at County Hall. The very place I first saw professional wrestling. I was now on the card in the main event, and Tommy Young was the referee. Talk about a kid's dream moment taking place; it was without question my fifteen minutes of fame. How does George South fit into this story? This event was a considerable on-taking. It required planning, scheduling, marketing, and so much more. I had help from various places and people, none more critical than my dear friend Mike Mooneyham, without whom this event would not have happened. During planning for the show, I was trying to get a championship belt made. At this time, it was not like today when you simply go on the Internet and order one or find websites to connect you to belt makers. It was just not like it is now. However, I was able to contact Exotic Adrian Street, and he, at that time, was offering custom made championship belts. I spoke with him, had a great conversation, and commissioned the work on the first-ever, LCW title.

Due to circumstances beyond all of our control, the belt did not arrive by the day of the show. However, as the adage states, "the show must go on." We pressed forward with everything that weekend and had a great time. All the while, in the back of my mind, I could not help but wonder how I was going to have a title match with no belt. During a conversation with George, he told me that he has his PWF belt in his bag and would be glad to let me use it. I was very grateful for the offer. I took him up on his kind gesture, and the match went forward with Tommy Young counting my shoulders down for the 1-2-3. The little kid inside of me was cheering, screaming, crying, and pretty much every emotion imaginable.

As the years have gone by, the friendship I have maintained with George is something I cherish. He is one of the only active links to wrestling the way I remember it. He came through for me when he did not have to, and I will never forget his kindness to me in a moment of need.

Thanks, George, you are #1.