Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Mike Norris
to another addition to Kayfabe Memories look at Lee Fields' Gulf Coast
Championship Wrestling promotion. This month we will look at 1977, which
was the final year the promotion existed.
After 19 years, Lee Fields called it quits. He had begun
negotiations with Ron Fuller (Ronald Welch) in late 1976 and had made a
commitment to sell the region to his second cousin. Fuller's dad Buddy
Fuller (Edward Welch) had actually been the original Gulf Coast promoter
from 1954 until 1959 when he sold out to Fields.
we begin I would like to offer my condolences to the families, friends and
fans of Don "Ox" Anderson and the renowned Ed "The
Sheik" Farhat. And to offer Godspeed to Pistol Pez Whatley. Let's all
pray that this year does follow in the footsteps of last year when we lost
far too many of our heroes.
to look at 1977.
Coast Wrestling had been on hiatus since early December of 1976 while Lee
Fields finalized the details of the sale of the territory to his cousin
Ron Fuller. Wrestling returned in February with many of those who ended
1976 gone from the area. The Wrestling Pro had defeated Ken Lucas for the
Gulf Coast Heavyweight Championship on the final card of 1976 on December
3, 1976 in Dothan, Alabama. Lucas left the area and ventured to Florida.
Dynamite Dick Dunn was the Alabama State Champion when 1976 ended, but Rip
Tyler was billed as the champion when 1977 began. Bobby Fields and his
nephew Ricky Fields were still the reigning Gulf Coast Tag Team Champions.
television program changed in 1977. When 1976 ended the fans in Mobile and
Pensacola saw a show that was made up of edited matches taped at the
Mobile house shows. These shows were seen on WKRG Channel 5 late Saturday
night/early Sunday morning following the late show. Dothan fans were still
seeing the studio program from WTVY Channel 4 from Dothan. In 1977, the
Dothan show was the only one shown. It was still shown on Saturday
afternoon at 4 o'clock on WTVY in Dothan. But for the Mobile/Pensacola
fans it was shown the following Saturday evening at 6 o'clock on WALA
Channel 10 in Mobile, with card run-downs and interviews edited in. John
Gauze and Al Roberts served as the play-by-play team and Charlie Platt
served as the ring announcer. By September the Mobile/Pensacola airing was
moved to Thursday night at 11:30 PM on WKRG Channel 5. Rocky McGuire
served as the "matchmaker" on air and was booking the entire
territory with the help of Rip Tyler.
was announced that Harley Race defeated Terry Funk on February 6, 1977 in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada to win the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship.
This was the second of what would become Race's eight title reigns. Oddly
enough, Race had defeated Funk's older brother Dory Funk Jr. on March 24,
1973 in Kansas City, Missouri for his first title reign.
NWA World's Jr. Heavyweight Championship had changed hands twice during
the hiatus. Ron Starr, who had competed in the Gulf Coast for quite a
while in 1975, defeated "Irish" Pat Barrett to win the title on
December 2, 1976 in New Orleans. Four days later Starr dropped the title
to Nelson Royal in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Pro faced strong competition from former champion Terry Lathan at the
beginning of the month. The two fought to a one-hour draw with both men
having one fall in their initial meeting. In the rematch, the Pro won the
first fall with his famed Suplex while Lathan won the second fall with an
inside cradle. The third fall saw lots of clean, scientific but rugged
action. Unfortunately, Lathan failed to break on the ropes quick enough
and lost the fall by disqualification. The Wrestling Pro remained the Gulf
Alabama champion Rip Tyler issued a challenge to the Pro. The two met on television and wrestled to a 15-minute draw. They met in Mobile on Mardi Gras night in a match with Tyler's title on the line. It was a rough match, but both men pretty much stuck to the rules. It ended in a thirty- minute draw; therefore Tyler remained the Alabama State champion. More...