Knoxville Intro Page #2
The program, in its earliest days was taped at another local station, but eventually, it came to be taped in the WBIR Channel 10 studios in Knoxville every Saturday morning and aired that same afternoon. Les originally came up with the 5-minute segment, "Personality Profile" feature, where a wrestler was interviewed outside of the ring and discussed topics relating to both wrestling and non-wrestling matters. Other territories eventually adopted similar segments as it was very well received. His educated match commentary was first rate as well, adding a professional dimension to pro wrestling while lending credibility to it being a legitimate sport.
Les is currently running the Heartland Wrestling promotion in Cincinnati, Ohio along with his wrestling Training school. His school had been featured on MTV and 20/20 programming in the last year. He is also the promoter that spearheads the Brian Pillman Memorial Show every year. His past and present contributions to the sport are to be commended. He was an integral part of the success of SECW.
With a top notch TV program you had better not drop the ball when booking the arena show. Well SECW didn’t drop the ball. They used a perfect mechanism of not giving away too much on TV, while enticing you to come out to the arena for the big payoff. The payoffs were big. The arena shows were another important piece in making SECW such a great promotion.
The venues of choice in Knoxville early on were Chilhowee Park. During the summers months the Homer Hamilton Theatre was utilized. In poor weather conditions and winter months the Jacobs Building was used. These venues were relatively small and it didn’t take SECW long to out grow them. An agreement was reached with the Knoxville Civic Coliseum and the rest is history as they say. From Mid 1977 to early 1980, the Coliseum, a capacity of approximately 6000, was packed every Friday night. Sellouts were also routine in the surrounding cites that were covered during the week. East Tennessee fans couldn’t get enough of SECW.
Knoxville had a rich history of promotions even after this one was sold in 1980, but none of them including the heralded Smokey Mountain promotion, nor bookings by WCW or the WWF, would ever record larger crowds than what SECW achieved. The crowds were as hot as the late 70 and mid 80 crowds of the Carolinas. Angles would carry on for months at a time and the matches would routinely last an average of 20 minutes with many 60 minute broadways achieved in the upper card matches, all by some of the best workers in the world.
Some of the regular wrestlers that competed in SECW from 1974-1980 were: Ron & Robert Fuller, Bob Armstrong, Ron Garvin, Bob Orton Jr., Mongolian Stomper, Ron & Don Wright, Kevin Sullivan, Dick Slater, The Assassins, Don Carson, Joe Leduc, Jimmy Golden, Ricky & Robert Gibson, Toru Tanaka, Boris Malenko, The Great Mephisto, Bob Roop, Tony Charles, Crusher Blackwell, Roy Welch, Dennis Condrey, Phil Hickerson, Thunderbolt Patterson, Gorgeous George Jr., Charlie Cook, Ron Slinker, Ken Lucas, Dick Steinborn, Tommy Seigler, Sputnik Monroe, Kurt & Karl Von Steiger, Tommy Rich, Bill Dundee, Mike Stallings, Rip Smith, Eddie Mansfield, David Shultz, Pat Barrett, Jerry Stubbs, Norvell Austin, and Butch Malone among others. Several part time visitors such as Jerry Lawler, Andre The Giant, Sterling Golden (later known to the world as Hulk Hogan) and NWA Junior Champ Nelson Royal also made their way in. NWA title defenses from Jack Brisco, Terry Funk, and Harley Race were quite common as well.
Ron Fuller continued running the promotion until he sold it in 1980 to the Georgia group. He had started running a "Southern" division of SECW in the Gulf Coast area sometime in 1978, and by 1980 wanted to dedicate his time into developing that territory as he had in Knoxville. At the time of the sale many wrestlers were disgruntled with the decision to pull out and chose to not continue with the new owners. They formed a rival promotion called All-Star Wrestling that was affiliated with Angelo Poffo’s ICW promotion. Among the notable wrestlers that joined were Ron Garvin, Bob Orton Jr., and Bob Roop. That promotion, although very talented in its own right, was short- lived closing after a year run. Georgia began running shows in Knoxville sending in Austin Idol, Tommy Rich, & Mr. Wrestling II to compete on SECW billed cards.
Sometime in late 1980 the Georgia group sold the promotion to a Carolina interest that included a joint partnership between Blackjack Mulligan and Ric Flair. Mulligan used the promotion to hone the skills of his son Barry Windham who was known at the time as Blackjack Mulligan Jr. When this ended in 1982, Ole Anderson's Georgia group ran in the summer of 1983. The East Tennessee fans however, longing for their old favorites, would never accept the new product as it had in the past so much of the bigger wrestling promotions stopped running, with only smaller independent promotions running the city until 1986 when Fuller returned with his Golf Coast product known as Continental Championship Wrestling.
In the months to come we will take a closer look at SECW and its incredible angles and matches. We will also take a look at the titles recognized and who held them, along with several profiles of the wrestlers that made this territory great.
We will take a look at the greatest heel in the history of East Tennessee, Ron Wright. Known as the #1 Hillbilly but most fans would tell you that he is best known as "Motor Mouth". Until next month…
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