Thursday, September 6, 2007

Weaver/Landrum Reunion

by Rich Landrum

FLASHBACK

I first met Johnny Weaver in the early 70’s when I started doing the ring announcing for the Richmond shows. This was a time when tag team matches were the stalwart main event and Johnny was teamed with the ever popular George Becker. They made a good combination back then … George the older wiser wrestler and Johnny the young, take it to them, youngster. Facing such villain tags teams as Aldo Bogni and Bronco Lubich with their manager, Homer O’Dell, Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, Brute Bernard and Skull Murphy just to name a few, helped fill the seats each and every Friday night.

As years went on and we moved from the Fair Grounds to the Richmond Coliseum, I got to know Johnny a little better and came to realize that he was more than just a wrestler to JCP and as I transitioned into doing the TV announcing I realized that Johnny was the glue that held JCP together. Both as a mentor to the young up and coming wrestlers, as well advisor to the office.

Once Johnny was brought on board as my co-host to World Wide Wrestling, his longevity and knowledge of the wrestling business became more apparent to me and I gave him the moniker “The Dean of Professional Wrestling”. Those were exciting, fun times for me and I looked forward to going to work every week despite the sometimes, long hours and travel.


FLASH FORWARD

All though I hadn’t seen Johnny in 25 years, we only stayed in touch by phone and email … that is until recently, when the idea of a surprise reunion came up for the 2007 Weaver Cup Finals in Burlington, NC. With the help of Peggy Lathan, Don Kernodle and Dick Bourne the whole thing was put together and the secret was well kept. I later learned that Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson would also be making a surprise visit, which made it equally exciting for me.

After my wife and I carefully checked into the same hotel that Johnny was staying that afternoon, I got his room number from Peggy and quietly approached his door and knocked. When he opened the door I announced, “The Dean and The Voice together again!” The surprised look on Johnny’s face was worth a million dollars and the feeling of camaraderie instantly returned as Don & Rocky Kernodle, who had been patiently awaiting my surprise arrival in Johnny’s room, as was Peggy Lathan, greeted me. I never will forget what Johnny said shortly after my arrival, “How’d you do this? I just sent you and email at 2:00.” It was then 5:30.

Later that evening, Johnny received another surprise by Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson when they walked out from behind a tent, while we were waiting for the Weaver Cup Tournament to start. Johnny seemed to have a constant smile on his face that night and it got even bigger when the promoter of the tournament, who tapes the show for TV, asked if we would open it just as we did for the old JCP World Wide Wrestling TV show. With little or no planning I walked on to set and welcomed everyone “to another exciting evening of World Wide Wrestling” and brought in my co-host, the “Dean of Professional Wrestling, Johnny Weaver.” The fans erupted into applause when he came on to the set and John’s smile got even broader. The evening at that point was a total success.

Some things I learned that night that I had forgotten … True friendships had been forged 25 years ago in professional wrestling and they last a lifetime. You can’t catch up on 25 years in one evening. Sadly there are only about 25 of us left from that era of JCP. And finally, we can’t party like we used to, nor do we need to.

- Rich Landrum

For more photos of the reunion of Johnny Weaver and Rich Landrum in Burlington, including photos of Sandy Scott, Jim Nelson (Boris Zhukov), Don Kernodle, and Rocky Kernodle (Leith Larson), visit the Mid-Atlantic Gateway page on the 2007 Johnny Weaver Cup Tournament Finals.
2007 Weaver/Landrum photo by Randy Hedrick, IndyInsiders.com