KNOXVILLE, TN – Now, I know what you’re already thinking: “Doesn’t the Carolinian already have a column devoted to the sports-entertainment phenomenon called professional wrestling?” And the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
The artist known to the valley as Servo has been covering the professional ranks of wrestling for the paper for two fun-filled years.
This isn’t a recap of action or a scoop of what’s going down in the squared circle. Rather, this is a commentary on two separate, yet similar, wrestling events.
So, as the “Costa Rican Assassin” is known to say, “Ring the Bell!”
Monday, March 12 – 4:44 p.m.
I received an instant message from a friend whom I consider an expert on the history of wrestling. This guy, along with his roommate, can tell you just about anything about any wrestler that has ever climbed between the ropes for the bell.
“Wanna go to Knoxville?”“Why?”“Wrestling. Nitro is in Knoxville.”“Ok. Let me grab my coat.”
And so it was set, a spur-of-the-moment road trip to witness World Championship Wrestling’s show, “Monday Nitro,” and the taping of “Thunder.”
Monday, March 12 – 5:17 p.m.
It was a move that NASCAR drivers everywhere would have been proud of. Fox Sports commentator Darrell Waltrip would have talked for days about the save. On the road to Cherokee in the rain, the maroon and silver Ford Taurus broke loose as it attempted to pass two cars on its right.
We don’t know if the cars on the side took air off the non-existent spoiler, or if the wet roads were to blame for the spin, but regardless, the car was sideways.
The driver attempted to correct it the way driver’s ed. teachers across America would instruct—turn your wheel the way the rear-end is sliding. That had no affect on the seemingly out-of-control auto.
So, wittingly, the driver slid the wheel to the far left, spinning the car sideways, across the median and into the southbound lanes. Luckily, there was no oncoming traffic with which to contend.
A quick U-turn, a check of the tires, picking up of the third member of the party, and it was Knoxville-bound with all eyes focused on wrestling.
Monday, March 12 – 7:24 p.m.
Dodging the dozens of scalpers who were so desperate to get rid of their tickets they were offering the $20 tickets for $10 apiece, we made it into the Knoxville Civic Coliseum for WCW.
It was quite entertaining. Pretty good wrestling, intermingled with cheesy in-ring displays for the camera and pyrotechnics that almost blew the roof off of the aging facility were worth the trip.
After the two-hour taped delay showing of Nitro, a program that used to pride itself on “Coming to you LIVE,” the WCW crew changed the set and prepared for the taping of its Wednesday night program, “Thunder.”
As the flame-decorated mat was removed and the week was fast-forwarded to Wednesday, many fans took the opportunity to head for the exits, content to catch the show when it aired on Wednesday.
We did not. We did, however, switch seats to gain another perspective on the spectacle. And boy, I am glad that we did.
We moved amongst approximately 15 fans who would fight you if you said a bad word about Diamond Dallas Page or tried to explain that wrestling was staged. They too were devout wrestling fans, but they followed it as if it were a true sport. The stereotyped-wrestling fan personified.
Tuesday, March 13 – 12:07 p.m.
It’s hard to find an eating establishment that is open past the 11:00 hour. Aside from the truck stops or “house” chains, the only other option seems to be Perkins.
Just inside of the Tennessee-North Carolina border along Interstate 40 lies one particular restaurant with a waitress who is well versed in the history of the great sport of professional wrestling.
She shared her stories of following the Cowboy Bill Watts-run Universal Wrestling Federation and the VonEriks-run World Class Championship Wrestling across the plains of Texas as she delivered lemonade and sweet tea.
Needless to say, she received a nice tip for the service, as well as the entertainment.
Wednesday, March 14 – 9:15 p.m.
Curious to see how what we had witnessed live looked on television, I tuned into the program. I was not surprised with what I saw on the screen. What did surprise me, however, was what I heard.
Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay, the commentators of Thunder, said, “Live from ringside…” Only problem was that there were NO commentators ringside throughout the entire taping.
The next surprise came during several of the matches, especially the jobber matches where no big talent was involved. From the sounds of it, the crowd was very involved. However, I hate to burst any bubbles–it was NEVER that loud.
Television tape-delay is a great invention.
Friday, March 16 – 5:45 p.m.
Another call, another spur of the moment trip, more wrestling. This time, the destination was the National Guard Armory in Sylva. The program was Carolina Professional Wrestling, an Indy wrestling organization based in Franklin.
Friday, March 16 – 7:14 p.m.
Almost a quarter hour past the set bell time, the wrestling started. From one extreme to another. They didn’t have the pyrotechnics or booming music and elaborate lighted entrances. Instead, they used a pole lamp for spotlights and a CD player on top of a stereo to send the tunes out of a subwoofer that looked like it had just been ripped from someone’s hatchback.
They didn’t even have a ring announcer who knew the night’s card. Every time he hit the ring something would go awry…technical difficulties, they claimed. We figured it was a mere lack of respect.
They didn’t waste a lot of time on the mike or in the backstage areas. If they had, the crowd of approximately 25 would have been left out in the cold. The wrestling, although a little crude at times, was decent and was at least absent from the show or “pop” that modern wrestling programs have succumbed to.
So, from the “popped” world of WCW, to the makeshift independent ranks of the CPW, one thing did remain constant; entertaining crowds and displays of acrobatics and gymnastics accompanied by a little trash talking and show.
But, in any rank, it is so much fun to pull for the bad guys (heels) and watch the confusion spread over their faces as they try to figure it out.