Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Wrestling in the Rain

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The following is edited from was a private message to our Facebook account from Bryan Taylor, who used to attend cards at the Rocky Mount Ball Park in Rocky Mount, NC, back in the 1970s.

Outdoor wrestling at the ball park was a tradition in Rocky Mount, usually on Wednesday nights. The wrestlers would finish up on the TV tapings at the WRAL TV studio in Raleigh and speed west out U.S. highway 64, Sometimes just barely making it on time for the main events.

With outside shows, though, there was always the threat of rain, especially in the heat of the summer. Bryan's story deals with what happens when it rains on a wrestling mat. It's a nice little memory we thought we'd share here with his permission.

My dad used to take me to the matches at the Rocky Mount ballpark when I was a kid. One of the most vivid memories I have from there was a day when it was raining steady the entire day. I was so afraid they would cancel the event since it was outdoors. Luckily it let up around 5 or 6 PM.
Mark Eastridge Collection

It started to drizzle just as the show started. Once again a rush of fear came across me as I just knew they we going to pull the plug. 

The show went on, the mat was slippery and they kept falling down in the first match. Every match after that they spent 90% of the time fighting outside the ring around the crowd. Ric Flair was the main event. I can't remember his opponent, maybe Blackjack Mulligan? Anyhow, half way through the match it started pouring, but the guys kept going. The next day all I could tell everyone was "I saw Ric Flair wrestle in the rain!" 

Those guys were the best. Thanks for all you do to keep their memories alive!

- Bryan Taylor           

If it was indeed Ric Flair vs. Blackjack Mulligan in that main event, it was bound to have drawn a huge house, as that was one of the the top feuds of 1978. I'm sure promoter Joe Murnick had no interest at all in cancelling that show due to weather and having to offer refunds. When it's Flair vs. Mulligan, the show must go on!

Bryan's note got me thinking about the 1978 Sylvester Stallone movie "Paradise Alley" which starred former NWA World Heavyweight champion Terry Funk as wrestler Frankie the Thumper. The final battle between Frankie and Victor Carboni (played by Lee Canalito) took place in the rain, which added to the drama of the whole thing as the imagery of the bodies taking bumps in slow motion in that huge rain storm stands as one of the greatest wrestling scenes ever in cinema. (A brief glimpse of that scene can be found toward the end of the original theatrical trailer for the movie. You'll also catch a glimpse of wrestler Ray Stevens, who appeared with many other wrestlers in earlier scenes of the movie, doing his patented turnbuckle flip that was the inspiration for a spot Ric Flair was later famous for.)

Thanks to Bryan for sharing his memory of wrestling in the rain with us.