GCW #13 Page #2
after, he realized that local professional wrestling was a huge hit with
the area fans, and approached Tampa promoter Cowboy Luttrell about doing
some interviews with some of his bigger talent.
He also began to do on air interviews with some of the local
racing and boxing heroes.
the mid-fifties, Solie was asked to replace the local wrestling ring
announcer, and reluctantly accepted the job.
He still did the radio jobs, too, but eventually wrestling became
full time as he started to travel with the group for the Olaf Swensen
Thrillcade during summer months, as well as working publicity.
television came to Tampa, and local wrestling had a new medium in which
to promote itself to build a larger following.
Luttrell brought in the local sports director from the TV
station, Guy Bagley. Bagley
had been a potential major league baseball player, but had moved onto
broadcast journalism when his career was over.
He wasn’t particularly interested in wrestling, but the money
was good, so he accepted the position and did dual duties for the
station for awhile.
Bagley left, Bob Jones was brought in as a replacement, but Luttrell
would sit in and handle co-hosting duties.
This didn’t last very long either because there was some
friction between the two men, and Jones was abruptly dismissed following
some disparaging remarks toward Luttrell.
local sportswriter Saul Fleischmann, nicknamed “Salty”, was hired to
replace Jones as the play by play man, but Luttrell decided to put
Gordon into the color commentator role with him.
After a few weeks, Fleischmann walked out because he couldn’t
agree with the fact that the Von Brauners, a German tag team, could be
realistically managed by a Jewish manager, Saul Weingeroff.
left Solie as the solo announcer for Tampa’s television matches.
And he couldn’t have been more prepared.
had already learned very much about the sport during the past few years
in other capacities, but Eddie Graham, Don Curtis, and John Heath
decided to put him in the training ring so that he could gain first hand
knowledge of what the athletes endured during a match.
He agreed to go along because he wanted to earn the respect of
the wrestlers so that he could develop a rapport with them, which would
make his interviewing and announcing segments become more
interesting thing to point out here is that Gordon wanted to learn what
it felt like to be on the defensive end of a wrestling hold or maneuver,
so that he may better explain to the audience exactly what they were
seeing. This approach would
work in growing the fan base because they would learn the sport while
watching. He also made a
point to never learn a wrestler or manager’s real name because he
wanted to avoid making the mistake of calling someone by any name other
than the persona in which they were working.
continued announcing matches solo until an incident with Weingeroff
angered a local fan. The
fan was a retired judge, who sent a letter to the station criticizing
the wrestling program for allowing Weingeroff to verbally insult
Americans, although Weingeroff was an American born citizen.
The station decided that Solie “lacked control” because he
didn’t control Weingeroff’s response to one of his interview
decided to keep Solie on, but he went back to color and worked with
several different lead announcers over the next few months. After as many changes as the drummer role in Spinal Tap, the
TV station decided that Solie should once again be a solo announcer.
It was agreed that they would not back down to a fan letter
expressing anger of something that occurred on their programs.
role would increase in 1972, when he took a second job in Atlanta as
host of Georgia Championship Wrestling for Paul Jones.
Jones had asked Graham if he could use Solie’s services because
shortly after Ray Gunkel died, Gunkel’s wife Ann parted ways with
Jones, taking long time Atlanta announcer Ed Capral, and started an
office in direct competition with him.
Graham allowed Gordon to work in Atlanta since the taping
schedules for their respective television programs did not conflict with
this time, Gordon’s schedule was such that he was taping in Tampa on
Wednesdays, doing interviews and radio spots on Thursdays, assisting
with publicity and tape distribution on Fridays, before flying to
Atlanta early Saturday morning for the tapings there.
He would take a return flight back to Tampa on Saturday
afternoons. Eventually, he
was added to Dothan as well, for the Southeastern Championship Wrestling
program, which took place on Saturday afternoons, creating another set
of flights for him to work into his schedule.
also worked with Joe Pedicino, co-hosting Pro Wrestling this Week, a
show that aired clips from matches all over the country, and did short
term stints with many different groups throughout the late eighties and
early nineties. Later, he
also became a board member with the Cauliflower Alley Club.
the span of his career, he also worked using co-hosts such as Buddy
Colt, Ole Anderson, Roddy Piper, Bobby Simmons, Dusty Rhodes, Diamond
Dallas Page, Larry Zbyszko, and even other legendary broadcasters, Lance
Russell and Les Thatcher.
the corporate entity known as the World Wrestling Federation had
narrowed job opportunities for most of the legends of the past, Gordon
decided to retire, for the most part, and spend the remainder of his
life back in Tampa with his wife Eileen.
He still did the occasional spots, but never worked again in any
capacity with professional wrestling after 1995.
passed away in 1997 after a battle with cancer, and it wasn’t too long
after, that Gordon himself, a habitual smoker, would also be diagnosed
with cancer himself. The
man often known as the “Walter Cronkite of Wrestling” died on July
his life after his retirement, Gordon rarely spoke publicly, but when he
did, he would often denounce the form that professional wrestling had
become. He felt it had
become a television show about wrestlers, which destroyed the image he
had worked so hard to portray throughout his career.
His opinion was that it had become too degrading to women,
cartoonish in nature, and something that could no longer be considered
tasteful enough for family viewing.
Solie’s efforts to understand the sport and to protect its integrity
were traits that many men used to copy into their own broadcasting
styles. Jim Ross and even
Vince McMahon have been known to say that he was a big influence on
their early announcing skills.
in today’s version of professional wrestling, the announcers could be
accused of putting themselves over, disregarding the action in the ring.
Gordon was one man who could never be accused of such
had spent his early years in wrestling trying to complement the
wrestlers as well as the action. That
announcing style is one that is sorely missing today, and one that will
forever be etched in my mind.
spent 12 years working as the voice of Georgia Championship Wrestling.
I was fortunate enough to witness many of the great moments
during that period, and consider myself very lucky for the experience.
I will cover the period after Ray Gunkel’s death, which led to a departure from the National Wrestling Alliance by his widow, Ann, whom had been named the beneficiary to receive the rights to manage the Atlanta office. In coming months, I will feature columns on the careers of such Georgia superstars as Mr. Wrestling 2, the Masked Superstar, Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich, the Andersons, and many more who helped make Georgia wrestling one of the hottest territories of it’s time.
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