Now, you are probably thinking, “Does he really think that is the way to spell rassling?” And the answer is, “Yes”.
There is a bona fide word called wrestling and you will find it in dictionaries and other places spelled that way. And, you can see kids in high school on mats doing something called wrestling and it continues on into college as an athletic activity. A somewhat dignified contest with certain rules and holds and specified boundaries. Even an Olympic sport. But that’s not rassling.
Rassling has been done by men of great skill and athleticism and, more importantly, knowledge of the entertainment industry for many years. They have had names like Antonio “Argentina” Rocca. A great showman in the ring.
George Raymond ( Gorgeous George ) Wagner, George Burrell “Tim” Woodin known as Mr. Wrestling or Tim Woods. And, there was a Mr. Wrestling #2, John Francis “Johnny” Walker.
There was a man named Virgil Riley Runnels. You probably never heard of him. He died this past year. He was better known as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. He was known at times as The Midnight Rider or Uvalde Slim. He was anything but slim!
Ric Flair was one of the more colorful wrestlers and highly successful. Known as “The Nature Boy” and his real name was Richard Morgan Fliehr.
Then there was Abdullah the Butcher! A Man you loved to hate! Actually from Canada, his real name is Lawrence. (Lawrence Robert Shreve.) He practiced self mutilation as a way to make money at casinos and that gave him a daunting appearance. He is a Grand Master at karate.
There were the Assassins, Moon Dog, Liam and Spells, The Bastien Brothers, The Beckers, and The Blond Bombers. Nick Bockwinkel, Yukon Erik, and a number of Japanese wrestlers. These were the “Rasslers” and they put on quite a show! Andre the Giant and Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan came along and these guys made millions “Rassling”. and, of course, some real feuds developed between these guys.
In the 50’s, as TV was coming along and needed programming, there was “Live Atlanta Wrestling” on Channel 11 on Friday nights. Later, Ted Turner and Channel 17 became the home of Rassling and that grew into a multi million dollar enterprise.
These guys came on and people sat in front of their TV’s pulling for their favorite and booing the villain. At my great Aunt Ann’s house the living room would be full of people watching on Frida y night because she could get Channel 11 down in Sandy Point, 100 miles away. There would be people sitting on the floor watching “real rassling”. Men jumping on one another, beating each other on the head with folding chairs, choking and bending the arms back on their opponent. They were locked in near death duels. Little did we know that they had driven to the arena together in a Buick Roadmaster and went home the same way, stopping for dinner along the route home and talking about their hard day at the office.
The promoters, like Fred Ward in Macon, decided before hand who would win and lose. But don’t dare try and convince my friend Henry, my Uncle Ray, my Uncle Jimmy, or thousands of other rassling fans that there was anything fake about it! The promotors and rasslers had done their jobs well!
In Macon, Tuesday nights was championship rassling at the Macon City Auditorium. There were also events in Columbus, Augusta, and other cities. My friend Henry and his wife went just about every Tuesday night. My Uncle Ray and his wife went a lot until someone stole his almost new Ford pickup one night while he was inside and he lost interest after that.
My Uncle Jimmy was a hard working man who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. He would do anything for anybody anytime. But on Saturday afternoons, he watched rassling. He would sit in a squatting position, his butt almost touching the floor, for hours drinking cold coffee. Not a very easy thing to do, especially when you are about 6′ 2″ tall.
My suspicion is there were a lot of people who watched rassling but did not own up to it. They watched it with the curtains drawn. They knew a half nelson from a full nelson or a Nelson Riddle. They knew a hammer lock from a door lock.
But, none were more into it than Henry. He would get there to the Macon City Auditorium early to get good seats as close to the ring as possible. He would sometimes have rasslers right in front of him when they got out of the ring to attack one another. In his early years, I would imagine Henry could have been a tough customer. He was over 6′, muscular and very nice looking. Over the years, fused spines, hard work and other back problems took their toll. But he kept up his attendance at the City Auditorium.
But, one night the rasslers were hard at it. They ended up on the floor in front of Henry and his favorite was getting walloped. As he told me the story, he said he just couldn’t take it any more and finally he reached down and came up with an uppercut that landed squarely on the other rassler’s jaw. The police did not take kindly to a member of the audience getting involved and knocking the daylights out of one of the rasslers and the rasslers probably didn’t care too much for it either.
Henry got hauled into City Court in Macon and had to pay a fine. He said the fine was painful, but what really hurt him the most was he was banned from ever attending another rassling match at the Macon City Auditorium.
Some people may not realize it, but we got Fred Ward Promotions to help with a fund raising event at the old Crawford County School Gym up on Highway 341. We set up a Rassling Event and some Rasslers came out for the evening.
I don’t remember whether there was any money made or not, but I do remember that they guys all showed up in two Buick Roadmasters, put on their show, and left the same way. They were good entertainers. Back then, it was a bunch of guys working several nights a week in a low tech business bringing entertainment to a wide audience. Today, its millions of dollars and building a persona like a rock star. Big business and, still a big following, I guess. I wish Henry could be there.