MOONEYHAM COLUMN: Pro wrestling books worth reading; ‘The Voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling’
Looking for some good wrestling material to peruse as we head toward the biggest show of the year?
There’s a number of top-notch books currently on the market, and they all offer a little something for everyone.
And since this is the peak of Wrestlemania season, you can’t go wrong with the second and expanded edition of WWE’s mammoth encyclopedia.
If you liked the initial offering, you’ll love the latest version of this visual, alphabetized history of WWE.
“WWE Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment” (DK Publishing, $45) is a 400-plus-page volume that would be a welcome addition to any wrestling fan’s coffee table or library collection.
Keep in mind that the book is a WWE-backed product, and as such one shouldn’t expect an abundance of behind-the-scenes dirt that’s prevalent in many independent literary ventures.
This book, though, remains an invaluable source for any WWE fan looking to become more well-versed on the company’s storied history.
Admittedly it is a near-impossible task to condense nearly 50 years of history into any number of pages. The book does a respectable job of taking the reader through the history of WWE from 1963 (when it was the WWWF) through last year’s Wrestlemania 28, while cataloging the people and events into several hundred reader-friendly pages.
And, thank goodness, there’s a handy index that lists all the performers who appear in the book.
The authors are Brian Shields, whose work with WWE dates back to 1998, and Kevin Sullivan, who began his career with both WWE’s website and magazine in 1998 before leaving the company.
Both are lifelong wrestling fans, and it shows in the book.
The project has been a labor of love for Shields, 35, a Long island native who grew up “in the shadows of the Garden.”
“There have been many times along the way where I’ve had to remind myself this was work and I had to get back to the entry that I was working on,” notes Shields, who helped create the Legends program after marketing WWE video games.
Shields says he’s extremely proud of the finished product.
“DK Publishing has a really great history in making these beautiful, picturesque, coffee table-type books,” says Shields. “Once they started working with WWE, as fans Kevin and I were just very excited to see what was going to come out. When we were given the opportunity to work together and work with them on it, it was really just a dream come true.”
Shields and Sullivan also teamed up for the initial volume that was released in March 2009 prior to Wrestlemania 25.
That edition took the authors more than a year and a half to complete. The updated edition, says Shields, took more than a year.
More than 1,500 images are featured in the five-pound book.
“It’s very humbling trying to carry it around in public,” jokes Shields. “It was really a team effort with all of us working together to select the photos. Between the WWE archives and Pro Wrestling Illustrated archives, I was like a kid in a candy store.”
Shields says fans tend to gravitate toward the superstar entries and the special sections.
“Just because of how in-depth we go, and obviously that’s more evident in the entries for the superstars who have longer histories. There’s also some great information on the history of Raw and Smackdown, the magazine, home video.”
Interspersed among the many pages are some fun facts about the company and its performers.
“People will tell me that they didn’t know that Antonino Rocca was a professional soccer player or that he appeared on the cover of a Superman comic, or that Hulk Hogan at one point quit the wrestling business,” says Shields.
The authors don’t hide the fact that some performers featured in the book also at one time enjoyed runs outside the confines of WWE.
“We acknowledge wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin or Mick Foley and the earlier portions of their careers in other organizations,” says Shields.
Unfortunately, he adds, not every performer who ever appeared for the company made the cut.
There were time constraints and deadlines to meet.
“Unfortunately this is a product, and there is a release date attached to it, as tough as it was for us. And at some point it has to get to manufacturing. The toughest part is letting go. Being such huge fans and loving WWE ... that was one of the toughest things for us.”
Shields, who has authored five WWE books, says more names hopefully will be added in a future edition. “We do keep a list and hopefully there’ll be another edition and we’ll be able to add to that as well.”
Six-time NWA world champion Lou Thesz, regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, made the book on the basis of just a few WWE-related appearances.
“I personally wrote Mr. Thesz’ entry,” notes Shields. “He actually did appear for WWE on three occasions. One on an episode of the old TNT talk show with Vince McMahon in 1984. He appeared as a wrestler in a Legends Battle Royal in 1987 at the Meadowlands. He also appeared in 1997 at one of the pay-per-views in which WWE was honoring the NWA world champions.
“The book, in terms of the size of the entries, is based for the most part on the person’s impact within the realm of WWE. So Lou Thesz would be a great example of that. If this was an encyclopedia on wrestling, you could probably make the argument that he would have one of the biggest, if not the biggest, entry. In our encyclopedia, he (still) has a quarter-size-page entry.”
Probably the most conspicuous omission, says Shields, is Sting, who surprisingly never worked for WWE.
“It’s amazing to me that it’s still talked about a lot. He’s been one of my favorites since I was a young boy. I got to work with him when I was in the video game business in a non-WWE video game called ‘Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.’ He appeared on the front cover with Hulk Hogan, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man and Andre The Giant.”
Shields says one of the most fascinating parts of the project was learning about how the company got started.
“Things like how Vince McMahon Sr. at the time did the unthinkable, and seceded from the NWA, and how he eventually brought former rival Toots Mondt into his business as a partner. I never realized just how adamant Vince McMahon’s father was against him getting into this industry. Those are the kinds of things that I wasn’t around to read about in real time or watch on television. You really get an idea of the rich history of the company.”
“Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs”
Covering a more specific area of pro wrestling history, the colorfully titled “Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Professional Wrestling” (ECW Press, $19.95) provides the ultimate guide to Montreal’s legendary wrestling scene.
Authors Pat Laprade and Bertrand Hébert do an excellent job covering the history of one of North America’s richest wrestling hotbeds.
One of the most fertile areas during the territorial days, Montreal was a proving ground for some of wrestling’s biggest names. Andre The Giant, Abdullah The Butcher and Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon all made their initial impact in the city.
The title, says Laprade, represent three things that the Montreal territory is closely identified with.
“Mad Dog Vachon is known by everyone, but he wasn’t the only Mad Dog in Montreal. Pierre Lefebvre and Michel Martel (Rick Martel’s brother) used that nickname as well.
“Not only did the first midget wrestling match happen in Montreal, but so many great midget wrestlers were born in the province of Quebec ... guys like Little Beaver, Sky Low Low, Little Brutus, Pee Wee James, Tiger Jackson (Dink).
“And finally, everyone knows about the Montreal Screw Job of 1997, but there was also another screw job in Montreal in 1931, between Henri DeGlane and Strangler Lewis.”
Included along with the well-researched text are more than 200 exclusive photos of those who made Montreal wrestling famous, along with comprehensive bios of hometown legends such as Edouard Carpentier, Killer Kowalski, Dino Bravo and the Rougeaus.
Of particular interest to many readers will be the in-depth coverage of the tragedies that befell the territory, along with detailed accounts of the rise and fall of various promotions.
“My favorite part of the book is the promotional war between the Rougeaus’ All-Star Wrestling and the Vachons’ Grand Prix Wrestling in the 70s,” says Laprade. “It was a great time for pro wrestling in the city, for both the fans and the wrestlers. That era witnessed the two biggest attendances ever in Montreal, the debut of Andre The Giant in North America, the debut of Dino Bravo, let alone everything that comes with a promotional war in wrestling. See here what happened during the Monday Night War.”
Also featured is a complete title history from 1936 to 1987 — from Danno O’Mahoney to Abdullah The Butcher.
And, of course, no book on Montreal wrestling history would be complete without an account of the infamous double-cross involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michael at the 1987 WWE Survivor Series. It was, as the authors note, “the day wrestling changed forever.”
Both authors have strong ties to the town. Laprade is the creator of the first Quebec Wrestling Hall of Fame. Hébert has been involved in the Montreal wrestling scene for two decades.
“The most surprising thing I learned is how Montreal was a great wrestling city back in the early 1900s,” says Laprade. “Legends like Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt wrestled in Montreal in those days and wrestling was talked about almost every day in the newspapers.”
“The most rewarding and important thing I will probably ever do in the business. I have learned so much and been able to meet so many great legends along the way,” says Hébert.
“It’s also rewarding because we’re the first to write about this great history,” adds Laprade. “The Montreal Canadiens of the NHL have plenty of books written about their history, and the Montreal Expos as well, so it was about time a book on the history of pro wrestling in Montreal was written.”
The glory days of Montreal wrestling may be a distant memory, but Hébert feels a sense of duty to keep that history alive.
“I felt it was very important to preserve the history of our territory as people who actually lived in that era are slowly leaving us for a better world. Their stories will disappear and be gone forever if we don’t preserve it, and I think this is the most important thing about the book. I wish every wrestling territory in history the same treatment.”
If you’re a wrestling fan, and in particular a fan of rich wrestling history, you won’t be disappointed with this informative and entertaining book.
“The 50 Greatest Professional Wrestlers”
Quite a few books have come out in recent years running down various lists of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Some have been serious studies, some not so serious, and some based primarily on an association with a particular company.
For example, in WWE’s attempt in 2010 to choose its “Top 50 Superstars of All Time,” few believed that it would be based solely on historical data.
Larry Matysik, who has been around the St. Louis wrestling scene since the ‘60s when he worked closely with longtime NWA president Sam Muchnick, decided to drill holes in WWE’s list and come up with his own.
He did exactly that with his fourth book, “The 50 Greatest Professional Wrestlers of All Time” (ECW Press, $19.95), which lists Lou Thesz, who just happened to be a St. Louis native, as No. 1.
That’s not bad, considering Matysik lists Ric Flair a close second.
Some of Vince McMahon’s top superstars were based on marketing, merchandise and pay-per-view numbers and not superior talent, argues Matysik, who was an announcer and promoter for Muchnick and the TV show “Wrestling at the Chase,” which aired from 1959-83.
One of the things that distinguishes Matysik’s book from similar volumes is that he presents very convincing arguments for the inclusion — or the exclusion — of certain performers.
He presents those arguments respectfully, along with a sense of fun and intelligence.
His decades of experience provide a unique perspective that should command high regard for his rating system.
And just because he’s critical of WWE’s list doesn’t mean some of them aren’t in his Top 50.
Current stars such as John Cena, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker are all on the list, as are old-time favorites such as Harley Race and Dick The Bruiser.
While Michaels and Undertaker rank 1 and 2 respectively on WWE’s list, neither make the top 10 in Matysik’s rankings (Michaels is 15 and Taker comes in at 37).
Matysik wryly notes that McMahon called them “superstars” as opposed to “wrestlers” in the title of the DVD.
There’s no argument that WWE’s list contained the names of 50 very entertaining “superstars.” And some of them ranked high on Matysik’s list. But Matysik is talking “greatest wrestlers” here. And that covers a lot of territory over a long period of time.
“If they had something like this in another sport, the media would say how ridiculous it was,” Matysik says of the WWE list. “I think we owe ourselves something from a different perspective about what the Top 50 might be. It may not be right, but it will be a different perspective and it will provide a starting point for arguments and debate and discussion who it might be.”
Matysik hopes readers might learn a little history by reading his book.
“Hopefully people will be serious about it and will take the time to look into the background of wrestling and try as best they can to grasp a situation that’s really going to be hard because they weren’t there. I was fortunate enough to have the Sam Muchnicks around me where I could listen and learn and pick up things.”
Matysik does a masterful job capturing the aura of a bygone era while bridging old school and new school.
“I would hope that I could capture some of that mystique in the book about what wrestling has been. It’s more than just the 50 names. The 50 names are fun, and I’m glad I did it. It points out some of the other things that wrestling is. I hope I captured some of it.”
Where his list goes down a very different road than the WWE list is at the top.
“Shawn and Taker are both in my 50. But Michaels vs. Thesz? Please. Michaels is a very good performer. As far as Undertaker’s concerned, I think he had a gimmick that could have just as easily turned into a clown show. But he turned it into something because of what Mark Calaway brought to it.”
Matched against Thesz and Flair, says Matysik, the differences are striking.
“ Mark Calaway against Ric Flair? Ric Flair is Ric Flair. And Mark Calaway is not The Undertaker. He’s put a tremendous shot of energy into The Undertaker, but the difference between Ric Flair and Mark Calaway is pretty huge. He did a lot of good things in the ring, and I recognize that he risked his body, which is very much old school in a lot of ways, and he eventually became the kind of performer that learned that less is more. He deserves his spot in the Top 50, but not at the top.
“Flair and Thesz are two beasts from a totally different generation and a different part of the universe. I don’t know that we can capture them by trying to be a gimmick. They weren’t a gimmick. They were the real deal. That’s who they are. Michaels and Undertaker ... that’s not who they are so much.”
Matysik devotes a chapter to each wrestler on his list and chronicles his career, key matches and a synopsis on why he belongs in the book.
Without giving away other rankings, suffice it to say that some of Matysik’s picks are bound to stir some controversy. Then again, that’s exactly what these types of books are designed to do.
In Matysik’s case, those conversations should be real humdingers, because his background and expertise in the business place him on very high ground.
But it’s hard to argue with most of his choices, as he presents arguments for each ranking, whether it be popular or controversial.
The business, he says, isn’t as simple as some would like to make it.
Some, for example, might question why Jerry Lawler, the “King of Memphis Wrestling,” isn’t ranked in the Top 50.
“He’s not Top 50. I don’t think he’s Top 100,” says Matysik. “A top 50 wrestler should get over everywhere. He didn’t. Jerry did a good job in what he did, but did he draw 15,000 in Chicago and 17,000 in Minneapolis and 12,000 in Denver? No he didn’t.”
There are plenty others that are bound to generate debate.
Most of Matysik’s Top 50 worked main events in the pro wrestling capital of St. Louis. Surprisingly Ray Stevens, one of the top workers of his era, didn’t.
“We brought him in during 1975-76, and he was right in the middle and they never beat him,” says Matysik. “But by the same token, Sam (Muchnick) didn’t think he’d get over. We were drawing, and Sam simply didn’t need to take the chance.”
Fred Blassie, another Top 50 selection, also never worked a main event in St. Louis.
“As heel, he belongs there (Top 50). But Sam didn’t like his act at all. He brought him in for one or two TV’s when he came home to visit family. He said they had a great time together, they’d go out and eat together, they’d shake hands and hug, and he’d go his way and Sam would go his way. He just didn’t fit the style Sam had here. But I put him in the Top 50 because he belongs there.”
Some, like Cowboy Bob Ellis, deserve even more attention.
“I look back through it now, and I wonder why Cowboy Bob Ellis doesn’t get more credit. He was in the main event everywhere. He was a great babyface. He wasn’t a shooter, but he was a great athlete and terrific performer.”
Ultimately, says Matysik, this exercise of coming up with a Top 50 is all about having a little bit of fun, sparking some conversation and learning some things you might not have known.
“There’s a story to be told here. It’s the guts of the business. It’s more than just the history.”
And, Matysik adds, he means no disrespect toward the current generation of wrestling stars.
“I don’t mean to put down the moderns. Rock does a lot of good stuff. He’s got charisma that nobody has and that you can’t teach. Even Cena does. He has something. He belongs on the list. If a guy’s in the main event of every Monday night show for six or seven years, that’s a lot of pressure.”
Matysik admits he had a “crisis of confidence” early in the project, feeling he didn’t have enough to talk about, but soon found out that he had more than 400 pages worth.
And every one of them is worth the read.
“Heroes and Icons”
And finally, I would be remiss not to mention a book that I feel will stand the test of time, and one I collaborated on with the polished writing duo of Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson.
“Heroes and Icons” (ECW Press, $22.95) is the latest in a “Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame” series, and it could very well be the best of a strong collection that includes “The Heels” and “The Tag Teams.”
“Heroes and Icons” is exactly what it implies — a list of pro wrestling’s greatest good guys.
This book, however, delves deeper than just merely taking a superficial look at the top babyfaces. It’s a comprehensive examination of the memorable characters who inspired fans, providing insight into what makes a great hero.
With a foreword by Hall of Fame manager J.J. Dillon, the nearly 550-page, four-pound book is broken down into several sections, including Top Twenty, The Next Five, Pre-World War II, African-Americans, Post-War Territorial Era, Ethnic Heroes, Hometown Heroes, Cowboys & Indians, National Era and Anti-Heroes.
There’s also a Top 20 list that will surely stir some passionate debate.
Compiled using firsthand interviews with hundreds of wrestlers, managers, promoters and historians, the book includes more than just wrestling’s household names. This book digs a little deeper and tells the story of forgotten heroes and regional stars, like Tiger Jeet Singh, who has an elementary school named after him, and Whitey Caldwell, whose gravesite still sees flowers from fans 40 years after his passing.
Their stories are told in rich detail, accompanied by many never-before-published photos.
Johnson notes that his research helped debunk one of pro wrestling’s cherished dogmas that the “good guys” are self-absorbed prima donnas in real life, and the “bad guys” are actually more likable, friendly and engaging. It was a phenomenon why so many wrestlers let the crowd cheers go to their heads and become insufferable egomaniacs.
While Johnson concedes there is more than a kernel of truth to that assumption, in writing the book he concluded that it was unfair to paint the babyface world with such a broad brush.
“In the book, we talked about the civic and community work of Ilio DiPaolo, Dory Funk Sr. or, going way back, Everette Marshall. Ultimately, I realized wrestlers are no different than ministers, lawyers, Tour de France champions, and sportswriters — an imperfect mixture of good and bad, with the volume perhaps turned up a few notches.”
Covering the 1930s through the present day, the book explores pro wrestling’s simplest concept: good vs. evil. Heroes are an important part of every sport, but nowhere more so than in professional wrestling. Pro wrestling’s heroes have home in many shapes, sizes and colors, but they all share one thing in common. And that’s the ability to evoke emotional investment from the fans.
From Rufus R. Jones and The Mighty Igor to Hulk Hogan and The Rock, “Heroes and Icons” offers readers a ringside seat to the core of a morality play that is professional wrestling.
Bob Caudle, the longtime “Voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling,” is the latest guest to be announced for the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest to be held Aug. 1-4 in Charlotte.
Caudle’s easygoing, straightforward approach at the announce desk made him one of Mid-Atlantic wrestling’s most beloved figures.
Caudle was a staple of wrestling in the Carolinas during the ‘60s and ‘70s and its fans who religiously tuned in each Saturday afternoon for their weekly dose of TV grappling.
For years the affable broadcaster served as lone commentator for the show that was taped on Wednesday nights at the WRAL-TV studio in Raleigh where he also worked as an on-air personality doing the news and weather.
“I guess most old people are like me. We like to think back a lot and reminisce about when things were good. And those, to me, were really good times. They were the best,” says Caudle, who will turn 83 during Fanfest weekend.
Caudle, who has missed only two Fanfest events, says he loves attending the annual reunion.
“It’s a wonderful event. I don’t see how Greg (Price) does it each year, but he does a great job.”
An inaugural inductee into the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Hall of Heroes in 2007, Caudle says he is amazed — and humbled — by the response he receives at the event.
“Even older people will come up to me at Fanfest and say they grew up watching me. A lot of younger people also come up and ask for an autograph. It’s amazing to me since they’re so young. They have to be seeing what we did back then somewhere.”
The biggest kick, he says, is reuniting with many of the performers whose matches he called those many years ago.
“I really love seeing the guys again. If it wasn’t for this (Fanfest), I might never see any of them again. I think about all the guys I saw and how glad I was to see them. I saw Rip Hawk and talked about old times. And then I think about guys like Johnny Weaver and Sandy Scott and Gene Anderson and all the guys that I miss.”
Caudle says he even talks to Ole Anderson.
“I talk to Ole every now and then. Ole calls me once in a while. We just talk about old times. Ole doesn’t care about anything going on nowadays. But that’s another thing. When you think back to 1960, many of these guys are up in age as well. I’m seeing these older guys, and we go back so many years. It just brings back many fond memories.”
Caudle began announcing for Crockett Promotions in 1960 when they began taping matches at the WRAL-TV studio in Raleigh.
“We taped two shows simultaneously using different audio. Nick Pond did the one that ran on Raleigh TV. The Murnicks asked me if I’d try it, and I did the one they sort of bicycled around the territory. That’s the way we first started out doing it. We did that for a long time.”
Caudle continued to do TV for the Crocketts when they moved production to WPCQ in Charlotte and then took the production out to the arenas.
“Eventually the Crocketts got their own mobile truck, and we started taping at different arenas,” says Caudle.
Caudle worked with a number of announcers during his career.
“I worked with so many different people. There are so many of them.”
Those names include David Crockett, Johnny Weaver, Les Thatcher, Big Bill Ward, Sandy Scott, Tony Schiavone, Lance Russell, Gordon Solie and Jim Ross.
One of his favorite co-hosts was an announcer he worked with in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion in the early ‘90s.
“Dirty Dutch Mantel was more fun to work with than you can imagine,” says Caudle. “That was just a lark. I enjoyed that so much. We worked together for two or three years. But I never got to work with him in Mid-Atlantic.”
Most of the individuals he worked with during his Crockett/Mid-Atlantic days played it straight down the middle.
“It was just a lot different back then. I worked with David Crockett for a long time. He was the most excitable of the group,” laughs Caudle.
Caudle, who was born in Charlotte, began his broadcasting career in 1954 in Wilmington, N.C., where he did a popular talk show with a dog puppet named Hester.
“Bob and Hester” was a “minor take-off” on “Captain Kangaroo,” says Caudle, who also did sports at the small, one-camera operation.
Several years later he moved to Savannah, Ga.
“They were trying to open up the Savannah market. We put up a ring at the station there and I did about three or four shows with an old-time wrestler named Bibber McCoy. Not many people remember him, but he was an Irishman out of the Boston area.”
Caudle soon left for Raleigh and a job at WRAL where he worked from 1960-80. He did the news and weather in addition to the wrestling. He continued to do wrestling after leaving the station.
In 1986 the Mid-Atlantic show changed its named to “NWA Pro Wrestling.” WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross joined Caudle at the announce desk in 1988.
Caudle continued to work for the promotion after it was sold to Ted Turner in late 1988, working several live “Clash of the Champions” telecasts on Superstation WTBS along with several pay-per-view events.
But as the promotion departed from its NWA roots and morphed into WCW, Caudle left the company in 1991.
One of his favorite sidekicks during that period was longtime Memphis announcer Lance Russell.
“Lance Russell is one of my favorite guys. We had a lot of fun together, and I’m just crazy about Lance.”
During the second half of his announcing career, Caudle worked as a legislative assistant for then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and remained in that position until 1996 when Caudle retired.
“It was fun. I really enjoyed it,” Caudle says of the 16 years he spent working for the lawmaker, whom he had previously worked with at WRAL.
Caudle says he has many memories of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, noting that it was a favorite territory for many of that era’s top stars.
“Mid-Atlantic was one of the best territories in the country. We had outstanding guys. Even the guys who’d come in and stay for 8, 10, 15 weeks and leave, they’d always come back. So many came in and stayed ... guys like Ric Flair.”
“Flair was a really flamboyant guy with that long hair. He was a good-looking guy and had a good body at that time. I always thought Flair was very good and knew he would do very well.”
Caudle says he also had fun with Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson.
“Hawk and Hanson were both great guys. I always told everybody that if I was ever in a dark alley and got caught by a couple of guys, I’d want Swede Hanson to be on my side. He and Rip were really a fun couple. Rip was a real jokester and liked to pull ribs on people.”
Like the time Raleigh sportscaster Nick Pond was in the studio doing the six o’clock report, and Hawk snuck around him on all fours, out of camera view, trying to set his copy on fire.
Caudle laments the fact that so many of those legends have passed on.
“One guy I really miss is Sir Oliver Humperdink. I’ve got a picture of him on my computer’s screen saver. My wife and I both loved him. He was such a great guy to be around.”
Caudle had more than his share of memorable moments during his announcing days.
He recalls one such occasion when one of the area’s top heel teams of the ‘60s, Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard, were doing an interview.
“Brute would get out there in front of the desk and go around and around. I was standing behind the desk with Skull. Nobody knew about it or thought about it at the time, but the desk was on rollers. I said something to Skull, and Brute made out like he got mad and came charging in and hit that desk. That desk rammed right into us. And later, in a low voice, Brute mumbled, ‘Sorry about that.’ I never will forget that.”
So many memories, says Caudle, and so many unique, colorful characters.
Caudle rattles off names of performers that were once part of his weekly routine. Names like George Becker and Johnny Weaver, the Scott Brothers, the Andersons.
“We had all the great tag teams. It was just unbelievable. I really think we were the tag-team territory then.”
Caudle particularly enjoyed performers who could work in the ring. “Tim Woods could really wrestle. I loved to watch Tim in the ring. He was one of my very favorites. And Tim left us too soon as well.”
“And of course Ole (Anderson) wouldn’t like it,” Caudle laughs, “but Flair was one of my favorites. But Ole and Gene were two of my favorites as far as tag teams go.”
“I have a lot of fond memories when you think about it,” says Caudle, “I really miss those days. I don’t know that I’d want to relive everything I’ve lived, but I miss those days. They were special times. It was great.”
‘So long for now’
Caudle lives in Raleigh where he has been for most of the past 50 years. He moved briefly to a lakehouse on the North Carolina-Virginia border, but for health concerns returned to the Raleigh area in 2004.
“We bought a townhouse. I don’t have to do any yard work anymore,” he chuckles.
Caudle, who suffered a series of heart attacks in 2007, says he’s doing well physically and takes daily medication.
“I haven’t had any more heart problems since the doctor put the stint in,” he says.
He and wife Jackie have been married for 64 years.
“That’s pretty good for an old guy,” says Caudle.
Caudle says he could never have imagined that so many fans would still remember Mid-Atlantic wrestling so many years later.
Unfortunately, says Caudle, he didn’t save any memorabilia from that period.
“I didn’t save anything. I don’t have any memorabilia at all. Just think what I could have had ... had I just kept all the formats for all those shows we taped. But I had no idea at the time. I wished I had saved it, but I didn’t. ”
To Caudle, and his many of his contemporaries during those days, it was just another job.
“ I never thought we were doing anything that special. It was like we had just gotten by another week.”
But for a generation of Mid-Atlantic wrestling fans, they were memories that will last a lifetime.
And in closing, Caudle has a message for all those fans. It’s one, he jokes, that his wife is going to put on his gravestone.
“Fans, that`s all the time that we have for now, see you next week and so long for now.”
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.