Eddie Marlin, who passed away on Aug. 15, just two days after his 89th birthday, meant so many things to so many wrestling fans over the years.
In his home base of Memphis, Marlin was one of the territory’s top babyfaces during the 1970s. He also was a promoter and general manager, an office fixture who at times would even drive the ring truck from town to town.
But more than anything, Marlin was a beloved family man who juggled a wrestling career with a home life, remaining loyal to both.
To his son-in-law, legendary Tennessee-based wrestler and promoter Jerry Jarrett, Marlin was like a father. To his grandson, former NWA and WCW world champion Jeff Jarrett, he was the man who taught the future star his work ethic.
“Grandfathers and grandsons often work together, but in professional wrestling it’s rare to actually have a match where your partner is your grandfather. I was 19 and Pops was 56 when we tagged at the Fairgrounds! Love ya Pops!” Jeff tweeted.
Jerry Jarrett also expressed his love and respect for the Memphis family patriarch in a post on social media. Marlin was much more than a father-in-law and a great wrestler, wrote Jarrett.
“Eddie Marlin had so many fans and friends who loved him and admired the hours of entertainment he gave them as a wrestler over so many years.”
Jarrett, who grew up without a father, said Marlin was the only father he ever had.
“I’ve been sitting here all morning reflecting over the good times we had and the many gifts he gave me. In addition to Eddie being the only father I had, he gave the greatest gift I could ever receive. He taught me by his example what true love really is.
“We all in our marriage vows say the words, ‘I take you as my wife in sickness and in health, til death do us part.’ All too often these are hollow words, but not so with Eddie. His wife Norma was bedridden for the last 10 years of her life. Eddie was her caretaker for those 10 years and so much more than just taking care of her personal needs and moving her from the bed to a wheelchair, he slept in a chair by her bed and comforted her all 10 years. After Norma’s death, Eddie continued to spend his nights in a chair unable to go back to sleeping in a bed.
“The gift Eddie gave was to know and understand true love, til death do us part. Eddie was a great wrestler, a loving father, a loyal friend and a good man. I’ve sat here feeling a loss and emptiness I’ve never known, but I’m comforted by the example of his life. I want all of his many fans to get a little glimpse of Eddie beyond being a great wrestler.”
One fan took to Twitter to share a favorite line of the late Memphis announcer Lance Russell, one that he used many times when chaos would break out on the television wrestling set and he would summon figurehead promoter Marlin.
“Lance Russell asked one last time, ‘Can we get Eddie Marlin out here?’ and heaven listened.”
Link to the past
Eddie Marlin just might have been the greatest authority figure in the history of territorial wrestling. None played the role better.
One of the last links to the golden era of Memphis wrestling, Marlin was a true Southern gentleman who gave his life to the wrestling industry.
Breaking into the business in the late 1940s, Marlin wasn’t physically imposing at 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds, nor was he particularly flashy. But during a period of wrestling when neither attribute was a prerequisite for stardom, the Nashville native connected to his blue-collar fan base by being one of them. For nearly 13 years, Marlin worked by day at a rubber factory while wrestling in the evenings.
After getting a break from promoter Nick Gulas, who had been urged by Memphis legend Jackie Fargo to give Marlin a shot, Marlin eventually rose to the top of the card. With partner and close friend Tommy Gilbert (father of Eddie and Doug), the two would claim the Southern tag-team title four times along with three runs as Mid-America tag champs, enjoying red-hot programs with such teams as Jackie and Roughhouse Fargo, Jerry Lawler and Jim White, Bobby Hart and Lorenzo Parente, and The Masked Interns. Marlin would win the Southern tag title once more, this time with Tojo Yamamoto as his partner, and the NWA world tag title with Jackie Fargo.
Retiring as a full-time performer in the late ‘70s, Marlin would assume his role as a figurehead promoter and authority figure, donning the tights occasionally for special matches. His last recorded bout was in 1993.
Fight to the end
Marlin was not only tough in the ring, but tough in character, said Jerry Jarrett, who related how Marlin had faithfully stood by his ailing, bedridden wife for 10 years until her passing five years ago. It took a lot out of the man, Jarrett said.
Marlin, who had been ill for some time, also had been battling advanced COPD for several years. While in hospice the week before his passing, and with his major organs failing, Marlin was still able to surprise doctors several times by rebounding.
Jim Cornette related the story on his podcast how the doctor told Marlin that he was the toughest human being he had ever encountered in all of his years of practicing medicine.
“Every time they tried to write him off over the last six weeks, he made a comeback and he left the hospital and he’d go back to his rehab center,” said Cornette.
But at the very end, Marlin knew when it was time to go home. His battling nature, said Jarrett, displayed just how tough the man was.
“Eddie deciding to give up the fight is because of a long, long terrible fight. Helping his wife, teaching all of us what real love was, and then fighting COPD for four years ... (That Eddie said) I don’t have any fight left was an added testimony to how tough he was.”
“Eddie loved everybody in his family,” added Jarrett, who said he was blessed to have worked in the office with Marlin, take vacations together, and share many great memories with him.
“Eddie was the sheriff of the Memphis territory,” said Jarrett. “He enjoyed life.”
Longtime Memphis wrestling personality Randy Hales credits Marlin with giving him his start in the business.
“It’s great when your hero turns into your friend,” said Hales. “And that’s what Eddie Marlin was to me from the age of 10. If there was no Eddie Marlin, there would be no Randy Hales in the wrestling business … I was blessed with the opportunity to spend every single day the last year with Eddie Marlin, and the last days of his life.”
“He was a good Christian man, a good family man,” added longtime wrestling announcer Michael St. John, who grew up watching Marlin wrestle in the Huntsville, Ala., area during the ‘60s and ‘70s. “I don’t know anyone who has ever said anything bad about Eddie Marlin, and that’s rare in the wrestling business. There wasn’t a kinder, gentler man.”
“What a tremendous Southern gentleman he was in the way that he conducted himself inside and outside of the ring, He was a class act,” said Ron Fuller.
“Directly in the ring and indirectly, he was a big part of great joy for many fans,” tweeted one longtime fan.
A Twitter account honoring the history of Memphis wrestling conveyed the strong connection that the fan base had for local legends like Eddie Marlin.
“Whether you like or don’t like Memphis wrestling, there’s one thing you can’t deny: the unique bond between the promotion and the fans that still resonates after 20 years (and it won’t happen again). That’s because of guys like Lance Russell and Eddie Marlin who were looked upon like our grandfather or uncles. It’s something you’ll never see in wrestling again, and I’m proud of that legacy.”
To Cornette, the loss of an icon like Marlin represents an even larger loss to the wrestling community.
“Eddie Marlin was a big deal for a long time to a lot of people,” said Cornette. “Even to this day, if you go to a wrestling show in Tennessee or Kentucky or anywhere in this area, and you mention the name of Eddie Marlin or Jackie Fargo or Tojo Yamamoto or Jerry Jarrett, everybody remembers, because not only did they see these people in person, but if they weren’t old enough their parents or grandparents told them about them. These guys were local icons in the town or community or whatever … we’re losing that generation, and it’s sad because that was when wrestlers were part of the fabric of the country instead of some niche high school drama class play.”
New Alvarez book
Bryan Alvarez, who co-wrote the entertaining “Death of WCW” in 2004, has a new book in his repertoire, this one dealing with WWE.
The title, “100 Things WWE Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” (Triumph Books), is straightforward and provides readers with a potpourri of things to know and do if you’re a fan of the world’s biggest wrestling company.
The volume is a great addition to any wrestling fan’s collection; it serves as a handy reference guide that provides useful information that’s easily readable and relatable to a wide spectrum of WWE followers and wrestling fans in general. While casual fans are most likely to glean new information over the course of the 336-page book, hardcore fans will also enjoy Alvarez’s take on a number of subjects.
Alvarez’s resume speaks for itself. As editor and publisher of the popular Figure Four Weekly newsletter since 1995, now part of Wrestling Observer, he has developed a loyal and passionate following over the past two decades. Adding to his widespread appeal are his podcasts and radio shows such as Wrestling Observer Live and Figure Four Daily. In addition, Alvarez has been an active pro wrestler for more than a decade.
“While the title is pretty self-explanatory, I don’t think it conveys the full extent of this book’s usefulness,” former ECW, WCW and WWE star Lance Storm writes in the foreword. “For a current WWE fan (or pro wrestling fan in general), it is both an amazing learning tool for things you need to do. The things to know will allow you to understand the history of the industry and its important figures without having to devote the majority of your life to reading 100 different biographies and history-of-wrestling books. If you take up the challenge to do all the recommended things described in this book, I guarantee you they will be the highlight of your wrestling fandom.”
RIP Jim Goolsby
The Lowcountry lost a good man with the recent passing of Jim Goolsby at the age of 62.
A longtime wrestling fan and reader and supporter of this column, Jim was smart, engaging and witty, which endeared him to his many friends around the area.
One of his favorite weekly games, he would jokingly tell me, was guessing how many paragraphs it would take before I mentioned Ric Flair in my weekly column.
Jim passed away last Sunday morning. For the record, Ric Flair was mentioned in the fourth paragraph of that Sunday column. I know Jimbo would have approved.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His newly released book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com.