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 - Rich Tate

Once again, let's take a look at Georgia Championship Wrestling.

I decided a good start to my second column entry would be to discuss what led Gordon Solie and many others to Atlanta.  Since it was briefly mentioned last month, I thought it might be wise to go into more detail on the rebuilding phase that Paul Jones had to endure to create the Georgia Championship Wrestling that we all came to know on the Superstation WTBS.

Ray Gunkel and Paul Jones had worked together promoting professional wrestling in Atlanta for decades.  Other key players over the years in Georgia Championship Wrestling were middle Georgia area promoter Fred Ward, and company shareholder Ed Welch (aka Buddy Fuller).

Ray Gunkel was a former amateur champion in 1947 and 1948 before turning professional and taking over a piece of the Atlanta office.  He worked as both a promoter and wrestler throughout his career, and although he headed operations in Atlanta, he traveled much of his career, working for most of the top promotions in the country.

His career was still going strong for ABC Booking in Atlanta when he suffered a heart attack during a match in Savannah against Ox Baker on August 1, 1972.  Gunkel had willed his share of the Atlanta office to his wife, Ann, who then began working with Jones and others to keep the Atlanta office thriving as a member of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Prior to Ray's death, he had been attempting to persuade the other owners into allowing Tom Renesto to buy into the group.  He was not successful, but the Gunkel family remained close with him over the months before and after Ray passed away.

Unfortunately, for Atlanta fans, the relationship between Ann, Jones, and Welch was a sour one. In November 1972, the Fullers had intentions of having the Tampa and Atlanta groups merged shortly after Gunkel's death.  Ann stayed in Atlanta, but started up a competitive office that was known as All-South Wrestling.

The decision to start All-South was a gutsy move for Ann, but when she held a private meeting with the wrestlers and managers who worked for the ABC office, she quickly learned that she had the support of almost everyone.  It was obvious that no one wanted to have the Tampa group takeover the Atlanta area, and in loyalty to the Gunkel family, they, for the most part, agreed to side with Ann's venture.  More...

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