Monday, January 18, 2021

Pete Apostolou and Roanoke Wrestling

Pete Apostolou promoted many wrestling matches in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, both on Saturday afternoon TV shows on WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) and in live evening venues such as the old American Legion Auditorium, Legion Stadium, and Starland Arena, seen here. (Roanoke Times Photo)

The following is an edited from a much larger article from the Roanoke Times by Ray Cox, originally published March 11, 2018. We extracted info about longtime Roanoke promoter Pete Apostolou for historical purposes, fleshing out some great detail about the old TV tapings that took place at WDBJ channel 7 in Roanoke.  Take time to read Cox's entire article on the website here.

Professional wrestling has a rich history going back many decades from coast to coast, up into Canada and down into Mexico. A fondly recalled footnote involved the many Star City bouts promoted by Pete Apostolou on behalf of Jim Crockett Promotions.

WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) carried live studio wrestling Saturday afternoons from 1957-67. Early years of the show were staged on the second floor of the offices that still serve The Roanoke Times. Beloved WDBJ weatherman Hal Grant handled ringside blow-by-blow and post-match interviews. Apostolou was the color man. [The shows] were usually preludes to live evening bouts at venues such as the old American Legion Auditorium. More on the Bolos in a minute.

Eventually, in 1965 Apostolou bought an old bowling alley between Salem Turnpike and Shenandoah Avenue, dubbed it the Starland Arena, and continued Saturday night shows there. Apostolou thus had “the perfect set-up where the guys could come in and do the live ‘All Star Wrestling’ TV and the Starland Arena show all within hours of each other,” wrote Dick Bourne at Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Another perfect setup for these weekend productions was that the touring grapplers would stay at the former Ponce De Leon Hotel on downtown Roanoke’s Campbell Avenue, right across 2nd Street from the Times-World building. Thus the beefy stars of the Saturday beating and banging matinees could wake up from their naps and walk to work.

Retired Roanoke newspaperman Bob Adams recalled the bad old days of Campbell Avenue head-busting. “The wrestlers would come up to the third floor rest room, which used to be right next to the sports department, to use as a dressing room,” Adams said. “On the second floor, they hated each other. They’d come up to the third floor, and be laughing and talking.”

Apostolou would take down the results of the bouts and bring them up to the sports desk, where editor Bill Brill, moonlighting as a publicist, would write up the press release, Adams said. At other times, one wrestling magazine or another would call into the sports department for results. Peeved copy editors, with regular newspaper deadlines looming, were as likely to make something up as give an accurate report, Adams remembered.

* * * * * * * 

Here is the link to the original story on the website which includes greater detail, plus references to Jimmy "Boogie Man" Valiant and a deep dive into the Bolos via Gateway contributor Mike Cline. Great stuff from Ray Cox! (And thanks for mentioning the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.)

WOYM: Who were those masked wrestlers of the early days of Roanoke television?
By Ray Cox | Special to The Roanoke Times Mar 11, 2018

Thanks to Kyle Rosser for making us aware of this particular column.

This Gateway article was originally published on the Studio Wrestling website, a part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway family of websites.