Saturday, February 22, 2020

John Ringley: The Match Maker

The following article was originally published in the Charlotte News in May of 1973. It was written by Ronald Green, sports editor of the News at the time. Green, a journalist and columnist in Charlotte for 50 years is member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, among many other career honors in North Carolina and nationally. 

Green had a series of great articles about pro-wrestling in Charlotte in the 1970s, including this one on promoter John Ringley, who had just taken over as head of Jim Crockett Promotions one month earlier following the death of Jim Crockett, Sr.

Charlotte News
Originally Published May 9, 1973
Article by Ronald Green, Charlotte News Sports Editor

Johnny Ringley's idea of an easy chair is one made of metal that folds and is situated where he can watch a good wrestling match. Preferably in a big crowd. Anything softer and in quieter surroundings makes him uncomfortable.

At the age of 33, Ringley has traveled close to a million miles, much of it by car in late afternoon-to-wee hours journeys to towns around the Carolinas and Virginia. So hurried has been his pace for the past 13 years, he gets restless after 24 hours away from his work and wants to "jump back in."

Ringley is the new maestro of grunt and groan in this area, the successor to the late Jim Crockett as promoter of professional wrestling and assorted other entertainment.

"I've done it all," said Ringley, tall, sandy-haired and quick with a smile. "After I married Mr. Crockett's daughter Frances, he offered me a job with him but I turned it down.

"A few months later, I accepted it. I started out doing everything — putting out window cards, setting up rings, selling tickets, taking tickets, announcing in the ring . . . I've done everything there is to do in this business but wrestle and I don't intend to do that. But wrestling is No. 1 with me and always will be."

To those whose tastes run away from hulking gladiators, this may be difficult to understand. There is a more glamorous side to Ringley's work, that of dealing with stars like Tom Jones and the Rolling Stones.

Ringley recalls, "We had Tom Jones when he was the second or third act from the opening on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. We had Dionne Warwick when she was still so little known, she did her act and then went into the audience to sell programs."

Ringley has hauled the Rolling Stones all over this area and thanked the Lord when he was rid of them. He has had Herman's Hermits in his home to celebrate New Year's because they were on the road and he thought they should have company for the occasion.

We're not into rock and Broadway stuff as heavily as we used to be," he said. "They cost too much and are much more difficult to deal with."

But Ringley's organization has stepped up its promotion of the Harlem Globetrotters from about 10 games a year to 25 or 30. Next to wrestlers, he counts them as the easiest group with whom to work. No written contracts, just verbal agreements and never a failure to appear.

Wrestling, the world peopled with brawny, long-haired Jack Armstrongs and bearded or masked badmen, remains the primary product flowing out of the old house-turned-office on East Morehead St., though.

"We're operating in three towns a night, six nights a week with wrestling," said Ringley. "And we're booked solid into September. We've already booked dates, in fact, as far ahead as next spring."

Ringley is the matchmaker, assigning wrestlers for all these shows, rushing to see one of them here, one there, feeling out the audiences to determine what they like.

"The fans are really the matchmakers," he said. "They make the match. I just write it down on paper. Mr. Crockett always said, "Give them what they want and they'll come to see it."

"I try to operate along the same lines as he did. I learned from him and before he died, he had turned over most of the business to me. It was always comforting to have him sitting in that office, though. It was like having money in the bank, knowing I could ask his advice."

It was mid-morning as Ringley talked. He had a trip to make to Danville, Va., and back.

In one recent week, he worked the wrestling show here on Monday night, drove to Columbia and back on Tuesday, drove to Savannah and back on Wednesday, conducted business by car and plane in Greenville, Macon and Atlanta on Thursday, flew to Orlando and back on Friday, drove to Roanoke and back on Saturday and to Raleigh and back on Sunday, keeping early morning office hours here most of those days.

"I love it," said the matchmaker. "There's nothing I'd rather do."

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Originally published in The Charlotte News, May 9, 1973.
Jim Crockett, Sr. had passed away only 39 days earlier.

Special thanks to Mark Eastridge for providing this article
to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.