Monday, November 17, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
|Ric McCord, Wendi Weaver, and Rich Landrum|
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
WGHP Studios in High Point, NC
Charlie Harville interviews Johnny Weaver and Art Nelson
Charlie Harville: This is Johnny Weaver and Art Nelson standing behind a seven foot chain link, steel fence like the one which they will be wrestling inside of at the Winston-Salem Coliseum on Tuesday Dec.26, a big holiday card there the day after Christmas. They will meet the (Royal) Kangaroos inside the chain link, steel fence, seven feet high, that will completely surround the ring and keep anybody from getting out of the ring, anybody from running. Johnny, what’s the purpose?
Johnny Weaver: Well Charlie, after the last match we had in Winston- Salem with them, a lot of the fans, they wanted us to get them behind a fence where they can’t run away from us. Well, we went a little better than that with a first in the Winston-Salem area. We’re gonna have a Death Match behind this fence. We have a piece of the fence right here. It’s a real strong fence. It’s gonna be one of the pieces they’re gonna put up around the ring. It’ll be seven feet high and go all the way around the ring. We will be inside the fence and then the fence will be sealed. There’s no getting around it, they’re sure not gonna go under it and they’re not gonna go over the top of it. There are little jagged edges on the top. If they try to go over that, they’re gonna get cut up. The last time we were there, we got cut up. One of the Kangaroos brought something in the ring, they busted both of us open. Before the match was over though we got it away from them and we found out that Royal blood that flows in their veins, it’s the same color as the Yanks blood we got over here. It’s red just like ours and went all over the ring until they ran to the dressing room. With a fence around the ring, a Texas Death Match means that falls don’t count, you can just continue to whip them until they can’t stand up. I think that’s what all the fans want and I know that’s what Art and I want because we’re fed up with these guys coming over here knocking the Yanks and talking about the Yank people and we’re gonna find out just how much more Royal blood they got in their veins.
Charlie Harville: All right, don’t forget that Texas Death Match too, that does mean that you just keep beating up them Art, as long as you want to?
Art Nelson: That’s right. An important thing involved too, there is a $3,000 dollar minimum purse to the winning team. Plus there is $100 for each fall that the winning team wins. Therefore the more falls that we win, the more money we’re gonna make. You know this is the match that… I’m in the business mostly for money like I’ve said many, many times but also this match is for prestige and being proud to be an American. Now this is a match I’ve been in many, many times. America is about the only place that we’ve had it. I’ve been in Australia five years. I never have seen a match like this there. But we’re gonna show these two Aussies how two Yanks can fight and how the better team will leave this ring and this gonna be Johnny and myself. When we get through with them, I think they’re gonna have a lot more respect for the Americans than they have been lately on television and everywhere else.
Charlie Harville: That’s right. Well, that will be in Winston-Salem the day after Christmas on Tuesday December 26. Now you’ve got a big match coming up also in the Greensboro Coliseum a couple of days later on Thursday, December 28. Johnny and Art will be meeting Ole Anderson and the Menace and I know you’ve tangled with Ole Anderson on several occasions.
Art Nelson: That’s right. The Anderson brothers are one of the best wrestling brother’s teams, I think, in the country. This masked man, the Menace, they seem to be going out there and coaching him and he seems to be out watching the matches and sometimes even around ringside and we don’t know if he’s a relative or brother or what. But he’s also close to them and they’ve been grooming him and leading him and he’s doing real good. I would say that we’re not going to underestimate this man. Ole is in there with the Menace because I think they are related to each other and if Ole could get a win over us, this would be a feather in his hat and the Menace, it would be a feather in his hat too. So we’re gonna have to be careful. It’s gonna be right after the tough match we have in Winston-Salem so that’s gonna be extra double tough for us.
Johnny Weaver: Getting back to Winston-Salem for just a minute if I may Charlie. After the last match over there, a Kangaroo went out of there with 14 stitches in his head. We hope we’re gonna put a lot more in both their heads this time.
Charlie Harville: Okay, we’ll find out. That’s in Winston-Salem on the 26th and Greensboro on the 28th.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Transcription of original TV interview by Carroll Hall. Clipping from the collection of Mark Eastridge.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I had a great Sunday afternoon, just a couple of weeks back. I went out to Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch the International Hot Rod Association Southern Nationals. The sun was hot, I got the smell of burning rubber and nitro fuel in my nostrils, my mouth was dry, my hands itched to grab a steering wheel, and I loved it! These are the feelings of an ex-race driver. There are several in the ranks of professional wrestling.
Along with myself, the ones I know of are Johnny Walker, Johnny Weaver, Tim Woods and Mike Graham. The only one who is active now is Mike. I ran into him last winter in Atlanta and at that time, he was in the process of putting together a Corvette to run in Class C modified production at the drags. Once you have felt the power of a race car under you, then you're addicted. You'll find any one of this bunch, on any given Sunday, wide-eyed at some track around the country. Wishing it were they, not someone else, driving those cars on the track.
Johnny Weaver drove stock cars on the roundy-round tracks of the Midwest before turning to pro wrestling as a way of life. That's been over 14 years ago, but don't think for a minute he has let it slip his mind. Johnny makes four or five of the NASCAR big races every summer around the Southeast, watches the rest on television, and never misses an article in the newspaper about racing. When we both sit down in some dressing room, within five minutes the talk turns to racing.
Tim Woods hasn't handled a race car in about five years, but he had one of the fastest 442 Oldsmobiles, running the eighth mile drags in the Carolinas, and was very close to the national record in his class. A funny sideline to Tim's racing career was when he was beaten by a girl running a Chevy digger in his class in Shuffletown, North Carolina. It was a long time before the other wrestlers would let him live that one down. The story still comes up once in a while.
Johnny Walker drove stock cars for some years and was a top handler in his field. In 1969, they were holding wrestling matches at the speedway in Bowling Green, KY. John's ability was questioned by another wrestler who thought that he could outdrive him. Well, they were loaned two stock cars by local drivers and went at it for ten laps. After about three laps, Walker was so far ahead that he backed off to give the other wrestler a chance. Then finally before the finish, he lapped the surprised challenger. John hadn't lost his touch.
The first time I met Mike Graham, he was sixteen and, along with a buddy, had built a '55 Chevy to drag race. He has gone through a few cars since then and each one has excelled in its class throughout the Sunshine State of Florida. Graham's current "Vette" should be on the track by now, and I'm sure it will do well, also.
I started my drag racing at age fifteen, and during my racing days handled Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs and Plymouths. I was lucky enough to win a N.H.R.A. division title and to race several times at the National Hot Rod Association Nationals in Indianapolis. Like it's been for me in wrestling, it's been the same for me in racing. I just couldn't win that big one. I think I speak for all of the above when I say that racing was a great time in our lives and we are all still drivers at heart.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Bruce's piece captures well the spirit of the evening in general, and moments we cherish as they relate to the late Johnny Weaver and his daughter Wendi's acceptance for him that night in particular.
"For the professional wrestlers inducted into the Hall of Heroes, their families, and their friends, the banquet is a sometimes surprising reaffirmation that there are still fans who will always love and respect the wrestlers for the years of entertainment they provided. It's a time to re-unite with the travelling family they may have lost decades ago, a chance many thought they'd never have again."
Read the entire article on the Gateway by clicking here.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
For more information visit the Hall of Heroes on the web at http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/heroes.htm
Monday, August 18, 2008
Charlotte Observer, Friday August 15, 2008.
Placed by Wendi Weaver on the six month anniversary of her father's death and on the day of his induction into the Hall of Heroes Class of 2008 at the NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Featured in this photo, taken Monday November 23, 1981 are Jay Youngblood, Johnny Weaver, and local radio and television personality Bill Connell. The person on the far right is David Rogers, a member of the China Grove Parade Committee presenting plaques to Youngblood and Weaver.
Bill Connell did local TV promo inserts for Jim Crockett Promotions in the late 1970s and later served as play-by-play man for Nelson Royal's "Atlantic Coast Wrestling". He also did broadcasting work for NASCAR*.
Later that very same week, on Friday November 27, Johnny and Jay would win the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championships from Chris Markoff and Nicolia Volkoff.
Photo credit unknown -From the collection of Johnny Weaver.
Thanks to Mike Cline for South Rowan/China Grove information.
*NASCAR/Nelson Royal info from WrestlingClasscis.com message board.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Losing a parent is hard enough on anyone. Losing them both within such a short period is nearly intolerable. Our thoughts, prayers, and love are with Wendi during this difficult time, and our condolences also go to the entire Kostecki and Weaver families, and to the friends and colleagues of the lovely and gracious Penny Banner.
- Dick Bourne
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Around the corner I had a best friend,
in this great country of busy men.
I didn't see him very often, but knew he was near,
and that if I needed him, he'd be right here.
He was a champion, worked hard
and always strived for more.
You couldn't help but notice
the wonderful smile he wore.
He had great concern
for the needs of men,
and how he would give
'til the very end.
And now that he's in heaven
called to the Great Beyond,
my awesome memories of him
will always be fond.
But one thing I'll remember
Until the very end:
That around the corner,
I had a best friend.
Written by Don Kernodle for my Best Friend Johnny Weaver.
Presented at Johnny's Funeral, 2/20/08, Pineville, NC
Thursday, March 27, 2008
CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling is the group that hosts the annual Johnny Weaver Cup tournament each year, a series of matches that take place throughout the summer, with the finals being held at a special event at the Carolina Sports Arena in Burlington NC (one of the coolest places you'll ever watch wrestling.) Johnny had attended each event since its inception in 2004, and presented the Weaver Cup trophy to the winner.
In Rememberance: Johnny Weaver
Also check out these related links:
Weaver Cup page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Wide World Wrestling Reunion at the 2007 Weaver Cup
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The Biggest and Most Prestigious Singles Program of His Career
by Mike Cline
An article appeared in the sports section of the February 1, 1971 issue of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. It read, "A world championship match and a unique team bout share the spotlight on the wrestling card tonight at PARK CENTER. Dory Funk Jr. places his title on the line against Johnny Weaver. It's a two-of-three falls bout with a one hour time limit."
And with this match, in Johnny's own words, "the biggest and most prestigious singles program of my career began." . . . . . .
>> Read the full article on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
by Dick Bourne
Blackjack Mulligan and Johnny Weaver had reunited with each other via the internet a year or so ago, and since then the two had enjoyed the exchange of memories and reminiscences, as well as the usual e-mail jokes that go around. Johnny had only recently learned to use the computer for e-mail correspondence, and was enjoying keeping up with some of the guys he had worked with over the years, including Blackjack, Rip Hawk, Ivan Koloff, Jim Nelson, and others.
Blackjack reminisced about Johnny Weaver, who passed away in February, during a recent phone conversation.
“I still can’t believe Johnny’s gone,” he told me. “We had just exchanged e-mails and we had spoken on the phone before Christmas.” Jack had invited Johnny to come spend Christmas with him and Julia and Barry at Jack’s cabin on the San Saba River, south of San Angelo, Texas. “He told me he’d have to pass, he was going to see his daughter Wendi on Christmas day.”
Jack’s nickname for Johnny was “J-Dub”, short for “JW”. The name was actually given to him by Dick Murdoch who liked the character by that name in the 1972 cowboy movie “JW Coop.”
“He called me Mully, I called him J-Dub,” he said. The two had not seen each other in over 15 years.
“We were close, we shared so much on the road.” Jack told me. “The best times were in 1978 travelling with J-Dub and Dickey Murdoch all around the Mid-Atlantic territory. We spent a lot of time and rode a lot of miles, Johnny always chewing tobacco, listening to 8-track tapes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ernest Tubb.” Those 8-tracks resulted in a slight clash of musical tastes while driving those Carolina back roads. “Over and over and over again, those tapes would play, I got so sick of Merle Haggard,” Jack laughed as he told me. “I was into the new Southern Rock, the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, and those guys, and Johnny liked that old traditional stuff. Of course, all those guys Johnny loved, those guys are all on my iPod now,” he laughed, “but wow, he used to wear those 8-track tapes out!”
Thinking about that now, it makes sense that Blackjack remembers those times with Johnny in 1978. Back in those days, the good guys and the bad guys didn’t travel together, and up until the spring of 1978, Blackjack was one of the top bad guys in the territory. But the famous “Hat and Robe” angle changed all that, Blackjack became a fan favorite, and he and Murdoch formed the M&M Boys tag team, and Jack finally had a chance to travel with Weaver, even occasionally co-hosted a TV show with Weaver, for whom had a great respect.
“Riding with Murdoch and J-Dub, you were always learning,” Jack said. “Weaver had one of the greatest wrestling minds ever, one of the most creative people I ever met in the business. Back in those days, I’m talking the 1960s here, matches were two-out-of-three falls, and were long drawn out affairs. And the finish you came up with in that third fall was designed to sell tickets to next week’s show. It wasn’t so much the TV back then, TV was very different, you didn’t have all those wild and crazy promos to sell the tickets back then. It was what you did in that third fall in that town that week, and how you left the crowd, was what sold tickets for the next show. You didn’t wait until TV to find out what the next show was and then buy your ticket. Back in those days, they wanted a big advance from the fans as they walked out the door that night. They walked right by the ticket window on the way out, and bought their tickets to next week’s show. So the psychology of the match and the finish was key to the success of that town.”
Blackjack couldn’t say enough about how good Johnny was at making that all work.
“Johnny was a master. And you had to be creative, because you ran those towns every single week. Finishes had to be different from one show to the next; the people couldn’t see the same thing happen again. Now days, they (the WWE) run Greensboro once a year, so you don’t have to even think about things like that. But then, it was key to the success of a town.”
“Weaver was a master thinker,” Jack continued. “He and his partner George Becker both had good brains. Becker booked and Weaver helped him, and then later Weaver got the book. George Scott was probably the greatest booker of all time, but Johnny Weaver was the greatest finish man ever.”
Blackjack knew of Weaver’s reputation when he first came to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1975.
“I had heard a lot about Johnny from Bronko Lubich,” Jack told me. Lubich and partner Aldo Bogni had been main opponents for Becker and Weaver in the 1960s. “I was with Lubich down in Houston. Paul Boesche and I didn’t see eye to eye, and Lubich suggested that I call George Scott, who was booking Charlotte. Lubich told me that Scott had always liked me, liked my work. But when I finally got the call from George to come to the Carolinas, I had just taken a spot with Vince Sr. in New York, Lanza and I were bringing our team there. The way the WWWF did things, you would go up there for several months and just do TV, and they would expose you that way before you ever started going to their towns. I was just getting ready to start their TV, and so I told George I could come in for a few months and do a few programs and put guys over on the way out. All I would need is two days every month to go to New York and do their TV in advance of me going there.”
Scott agreed and Blackjack burst upon the scene in the Mid-Atlantic territory. He stayed for a few months, and then as planned left for the WWWF where he and Lanza held the WWWF tag team championships. Following the Wilmington NC plane crash in October of 1975 that ended the career of the territory’s top bad guy Johnny Valentine and sidelined Ric Flair for months, booker George Scott brought Mulligan back to be his lead “heel”. He also brought back Weaver, who had left the territory early in the year after Scott had removed him from his “babyface” spot.
It was then that he met Johnny Weaver for the first time.
“Johnny and I hit it off pretty well from the minute I got there. He had quite a reputation in the territory where he had been on top for nearly 12 years, which was very hard to do.” In those days, wrestlers moved frequently from one territory to the next. This allowed promoters to keep talent fresh, and allowed talent more opportunities to work and stay on top by moving place to place. But once Weaver arrived in the Mid-Atlantic area after an early career in the Central States and Indianapolis, he basically never left except for a couple of short stints in Texas and Florida.
Following Jim Crockett Sr.’s death in 1973, the territory was in upheaval as son-in-law John Ringley took over the company, followed not long after by sons Jimmy Jr. and David. There had long been differing opinions over who should be booking the territory. George Becker was squeezed out in 1971, replaced by Weaver and Rip Hawk. Johnny mentioned in his 2007 interview with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway that Jimmy Jr. wanted him out as well, and had long pushed for the removal of the old guard. Weaver said that he felt Ringley was in his corner, but that Jimmy Jr. was adamant a change be made, and in 1973 George Scott was hired to book the territory.
“Johnny told me years later of how they fired him. Called him down late one night to meet them in the parking lot of the Coliseum on Independence. Very cold. That always hurt him, stuck with him.”
After Weaver and Mulligan independently returned to the territory following the Wilmington plane crash, they first got to know each other well during those long days of taping local promo spots to be inserted into the Mid-Atlantic and Wide World Wrestling TV shows. The wrestlers would tape these promos at WRAL TV in Raleigh NC during marathon sessions that lasted all day, and then they would tape the two one-hour television shows there as well. “There was a lot of time to spend sitting around and talking, all the guys sitting around for hours. You got to know these guys pretty well doing that,” Blackjack said.
Blackjack wrestled Johnny a few times over the years as well, including a series of matches in 1976 where he defended the US title against Weaver in several towns across the territory. Blackjack was another in what would be a long line of guys over the next few years (including Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, and Tully Blanchard) who had to get past the legendary territory stalwart to prove his metal to the fans. Blackjack reminded me during our phone call - “Johnny Weaver was the man.”
“I had not seen him in a long time,” he said after a brief silence. ”But we had enjoyed keeping in touch with each other with e-mails and phone calls over the last year.”
A couple of days after Johnny died, Blackjack sent an e-mail to Johnny’s address, telling his old friend he missed him and he wouldn’t be long behind him. “I thought no one would ever see it, but his daughter Wendi got it and sent me a nice note back. Probably thought I was nuts. I just wanted to tell Johnny goodbye.”
This article is also archived on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in Smoke Filled Rooms.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Johnny was part of my very earliest wrestling memories. I don’t remember a lot of those Saturdays in front of my black and white TV in the 60s, or even how I wandered onto Channel 6 in Richmond at 5:00 for All-Star Wrestling. I do remember that my Dad used to watch the World Series of Golf from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio with me at 4:00 on those Saturday afternoons way back when. And I remember when that show ended, All-Star Wrestling came on. While I don’t remember much about that time, I do remember one wrestler, and his name was Johnny Weaver.
As the 1970s arrived, my interest in professional wrestling became an obsession! And Johnny was right there with me nearly every Saturday. Not only every Saturday, but a lot of Friday’s as well, as I started going to live matches in Richmond. Regardless of where Johnny was on the card, his match was always one I looked forward to seeing. Particularly if he was in a tag team match, I looked forward to joining in Johnny’s foot/ stomp and hand/clap when he was on the ring apron.
During the mid/late 70s, and on into the early 1980s, Johnny morphed from a main eventer, to the respected veteran who the top level bad guys had to overcome to earn that spot. Main event villains Greg Valentine in 1976/1977, Roddy Piper in 1980, and Tully Blanchard in 1984 all had to earn their stripes by getting by Johnny. And without a doubt, Johnny put them all through their paces!
In addition to the programs with Valentine, Piper and Blanchard, Johnny’s in-ring activity from the mid-70s to the mid-80s saw his memorable Claw versus Sleeper feud in 1978 with Baron Von Raschke, where Johnny also captured the NWA TV Title. Johnny battled Ken Patera over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title in late 1978/early 1979. In 1981, Johnny was one-half of the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions with both Dewey Robertson and Jay Youngblood. A memorable feud in 1982 saw Johnny battle Lord Alfred Hayes and the Russians. And in 1984, Johnny took the mask off of the Assassin, and wore it himself as the "Ultimate Assassin." As late as 1987, Johnny taught the "Weaverlock" to Dusty Rhodes, and appeared in Dusty Rhodes’ corner against Lex Luger in Starrcade 1987. And speaking of Starrcade, Johnny wrestled in the inaugural Starrcade in 1983.
While Johnny would properly be classified a "mid-card" wrestler from 1975-1985, he was much more than that. He won the majority of his arena matches, often giving the fans a good feeling going home, even when the bad guys may have won the main event match later in the evening. And Johnny would still get a main event match here and there even as the years wore on. My favorite memory in that sphere was from a card in Richmond in August of 1976, where Johnny headlined against Blackjack Mulligan for Mulligan’s U.S. Title. In the promos leading up to that match, Blackjack said there was gonna be a hanging…he was gonna throw a rope over the rafters in the Richmond Arena and hang ol’ Johnny Weaver, and have a good laugh! While Johnny didn’t win the U.S. belt that night, fortunately, he wasn’t hung from the rafters either!
But into the 1980s, most fans associated Johnny with his television announcing. When the World Wide Wrestling TV show came into the Richmond market in March of 1979, one of the first shows that aired had Johnny doing guest commentary with host Rich Landrum. Johnny would soon thereafter become Rich’s regular co-host, and the two meshed together wonderfully. Rich nicknamed Johnny "The Dean of Professional Wrestling," and Johnny would sing "Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over" to signal the end of a match. Johnny also announced with David Crockett, and later with Bob Caudle on NWA Pro Wrestling.
What a lot of wrestling fans didn’t know about Johnny was that he worked for years with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department near Charlotte after his wrestling career was over, transporting prisoners. Being a prosecutor for many years, I know that inmates are not often at their best going to and coming from Court. Transporting them is not an easy job, and is often thankless and always dangerous. But it is oh so important for everybody that works in the criminal justice system. From all accounts, Johnny was as reliable in his job as a Deputy Sheriff as he was working for Jim Crockett Promotions. I know, many times in trying to set events up for Johnny, we had to work around his schedule with the Sheriff’s Department! And his schedule there was brutal, much like it was as a wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic area. But somehow, I don’t think Johnny would have wanted it any other way.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I had known Johnny for 30+ years. I was a front row "regular" at the matches in upstate South Carolina. I went to wrestling matches three to four times a week – every week - during the decade of the 70's and early part of the 80s and I was fortunate to be able to make lasting friendships with my wrestling heroes. Johnny was one of the first wrestlers I ever talked to and soon became not only my hero, but also my friend. I saw him every week, sometimes several times a week, and he'd always give me a hug and ask how things were going for me, and would ask about my Mom and Grandmother, who also attended the matches with me. He was just a sweet, kind person who was so easy to talk to and was always so available to the fans. He'd stand out in the arena and pose for pictures and sign autographs until it was time for him to wrestle. He always took time for the fans. That's why so many loved him, and why so many are mourning his passing. When you can make a connection with your hero, you never forget it.
But as lives go on in different directions, sometimes even the best of friends can lose touch. And during the late 80s and 90s, when the wrestling I loved so much began to change and Weave started working at the Sheriff's Department, that's what happened with me and Johnny. We lost touch for a few years.
But a few years ago, some friends of mine gave me a surprise 50th birthday party at a local hotel in Greenville. I have to hand it to them – I never suspected a thing. I walked into that room to a multitude of friends and family, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite a while. But can you imagine my surprise when I turn around and who do I see? Johnny Weaver! After so many years, Johnny took the time to drive to Greenville that Saturday afternoon to surprise me and help me celebrate my milestone birthday! And he even parked in back of the hotel because he was afraid I'd see the SLPERMAN tag and suspect something. I was just thrilled to see him again. And after that event, we stayed in close touch after that.
Since that time, I have been blessed with many opportunities to spend time with Johnny. My friends, Rochelle, Clay, Eddie and I have made many trips with Johnny to Myrtle Beach, where we joined up with Gentleman Jim Holliday at the local karaoke bar and I got to enjoy (and laugh – and sometimes cringe!) at hearing Weave sing every Willie Nelson song Jimmy had the music for. Johnny loved to sing that karaoke, and he always had such a good time there! And the first year we went to the beach, to my surprise, when he went swimming, guess what? He didn't wear swimming trunks – he wore those old, old red wrestling tights! Yep – 20 years later and they still fit him to a tee! That was a funny moment.
I was also fortunate enough to be invited to Johnny's house many times for cookouts and just to visit, not to mention getting to ride with him to various wrestling events that he attended. I was able to introduce him to a whole new group of fans of his – Dick, David, Carroll, Mike – all of whom grew up watching Johnny on TV, but never had the opportunity to actually meet him. He was amazed at the wrestling knowledge these guys had – he said they knew more about his career than he did! He really enjoyed getting to know them and talking to them about his early career in MACW. And they were all on his email list, too!!
When Johnny finally got a computer, we emailed each other almost every day. Because I didn't know what shift he was on each week, I didn't call him often because if I woke him up, he'd have trouble falling back asleep. But whenever he got up, he'd get on that computer and we'd "chat" with each other about college football, racing, baseball, and various other things. He always wrote in all caps with little or no punctuation. Sometimes it could take a while to figure out what he was saying. It was one of the little quirks of his that I will miss. I got a very sweet Valentine's Day e-card from him the day before he died. I will treasure that forever.
The things about Johnny that are my most treasured memories are: In the mornings, after he'd eat his breakfast (usually toast), he would work the crossword puzzle in the newspaper – and he was good at it, too. Nine times out of ten, he'd finish the whole puzzle. I also remember his little hand-held solitaire game – he LOVED playing that little game. He was always saying, "See if you can beat that," talking about his high score. And I couldn't! I also think about how he loved to mow his lawn. He had a large backyard and a riding lawnmower and he just loved to get out there and mow grass. And chase the rabbits out of his small garden area. And kill any snakes that happened to be lurking around his house. And let's now forget that red 1999 SLPERMAN Cadillac of his which today has only about 35,000 original miles on it. He drove his pickup truck all the time – only got the Caddy out for special events. Sometimes the Caddy's battery would be run down because it hadn't been cranked in so long and he'd have to push it out of the garage and jump off the battery. These are just a few little things that now mean so much to me and will stay fixed in my memories forever.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but looking back at the last six or so months of his life, I know that the Lord had a hand in the events that happened in Johnny's life of which I was a part. Last August in Charlotte, Johnny had a wonderful reunion and dinner with his old friend Rip Hawk. Later that month in Burlington, he had surprise reunion with Rich Landrum, Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson. It had been 25 years since he had seen Landrum, and the look on his face when Rich knocked on his hotel room door, and Johnny opened it, was priceless – What did he say? He looked at me and said, "Well, I'll be damned! You really got me!"
Then in November in Rocky Mount, VA, there was a second "reunion" with Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson, and most importantly, Johnny finally agreed to do an interview with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and now his life story can be preserved as part of wrestling history. What a time we had – listening to Johnny tell his life story and looking at the clippings and photos in his scrapbook. And this didn't come across in his interview, but we all loved his impersonation of Brute Bernard!
In Rocky Mount, being as Johnny's 72nd birthday was only two weeks away, we decided to give him a surprise birthday party, as others on this blog have talked about. We turned the lights off (no pun intended) and had the candles on the cake lit. Johnny opened the door to the conference room and we immediately hit the light switch and all yelled out "Happy Birthday!" He was so thrilled and grinning like a cheshire cat! And what did he say to me? "Peggy, you got me again!" and gave me a big hug. Johnny was like a kid in a candy store – he was so happy to be there with his friends – both old familiar friends like me, Clay, the Kernodles, Sandy Scott, Rick McCord and Jim Nelson, and his "new" friends (Dick, David, Mike, Carroll, Kyle and Tonya), who he also loved dearly. Birthday cake, candles, birthday balloons, birthday banners, a gift of a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. calendar from the Rossers – we went all out for his surprise party. And I'm so glad I have that memory because little did we know, that was the last time we would ever see him.
Johnny always thought no one would remember him – but how wrong he was. He was an icon in this area – a true hero to many people. And he was loved by everyone. No one can talk about Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling without mentioning his name. He was MACW!
I will truly miss Johnny. Even now, it's unbelievable that he's gone. But he definitely is not forgotten. He will always occupy a place in my heart. And I will always remember just how happy he was the last few months of his life! And that gives me comfort and closure.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Goodbye my friend. I’ll miss you.
I’m sure there are some who may have wondered why I had not posted anything sooner about Johnny’s death. Simply, it was just too emotionally difficult.
I had known Johnny, since the mid 70’s, when I started doing the ring announcing in Richmond. Which was a time when tag team wrestling was the major draw for JCP. And he was George Becker’s partner. By 1978, I was doing the World Wide Wrestling show and Johnny joined me as my co-host. If you’ve read my interview on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, you know I dubbed him the “Dean of Professional Wrestling." But, little did either of us know, that moniker would stay with him the rest of his life. After that, Johnny would call me ”The Voice.”
After we both left wrestling, we lost touch with each other until several years ago and that reconnection was as if we just picked right back up to where we are at this point.
That Friday morning, I learned of his death quite by accident, as there was a one line post on a wrestling website that he had died that morning. I remember my reaction, as I said to myself, “No way! I just got an email from this morning. How sick can someone be to post something like that?” I then started contacting others (Ivan & Renae Koloff, Peggy Lathan, Dick Bourne and others) to confirm or deny if it was true. The first telephone response I received, said “No, it’s not true”, that they had spoken to him that morning and he sounded fine. Later, that Friday morning more replies confirmed his death. I was totally stunned and deeply saddened. My colleague and friend of 30 years, was gone. As the funeral arrangements were made public, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be there to say “Good Bye” to my best buddy.
Normally, funerals don’t have a lasting impact on me, as I rarely show my emotions. However, Johnny’s funeral has impacted me to this day and at times when I read stories about him or watch videos of him, I still get teary eyed. When my wife finds old pictures of Johnny and I on the World Wide Wrestling TV set, I just stare at them and fondly remember the time we had together.
The Sunday after his funeral, some friends at my church asked about the funeral. And I related to them, the visitation that Tuesday night and how many from the wrestling world had come to the funeral home to offer their condolences to Johnny’s daughter Wendi and other members of Johnny's family. And, how it also gave us a chance to see each other after many years and reminisce about the good old days, when wrestling was “wrasslin”. I also explained, that what they saw of us on TV or in the ring, was quite different from what it was like outside the ring. That, for the most part it was like one big extended family. We all looked out for each other and it was no different at Johnny’s funeral. We were there to pay our respects and say “Good Bye” the Dean and to support his family.
I’m happy that I had the opportunity to surprise Johnny in August of last year at what has become known as the “World Wide Wrestling Reunion” in Burlington, NC. It was the last time I saw him alive. And he couldn’t have been happier.
I shed a lot of tears that Wednesday at Johnny’s funeral and will probably shed a few more each time I see something about him. But, I rejoice in that I know he’s now in Heaven and probably working with Gene Anderson to promote some matches.
The lights may be turned out, but your memory still glows in my heart and mind.
- Rich Landrum
Saturday, March 1, 2008
BY CAPTAIN MICHAEL SMITH
* * * * *
These remarks were made by Johnny Weaver's supervisor, Captain Michael Smith, of the Mecklenburg Country Sherriff's Department. They were made at Johnny's funeral in Pineville NC on February 20, 2008. They are posted with Captain Smith's permission and the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny's daughter. My personal thanks to both Wendi and Mike for allowing them to be shared here. -D. Bourne
* * * * *
I was hoping this moment would never come. As Johnny’s supervisor for many years I am proud to say we lost one of the preeminent hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic, fanatical, focused, dependable, reliable, entertaining, pleasurable, compelling, witty, loyal, truthful, steadfast, professional, employee and friend that we will never be able to replace.
I guess a prodigy is a good place to start as I am about to take many people to places and events in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office never before seen heard of or even believed by many. I have had the distinct pleasure of working directly with Johnny for about 10 year’s out of the 19. I will cherish my experience forever. I guess the one thing I can pat myself on my back for today is I finally have Johnny dressed the way I wanted to see him dressed for years and he doesn’t have a dip in his mouth and I don’t have to worry about how I would handle the complaint for him using tobacco products while on duty. We as command officers are continuously reminded to treat all our staff fair and equally. Favorites are not the way we do business but I must confess I have only had one favorite in 21 years and it was Johnny, so I guess I will never have another.
I am going to take you back to this last Friday February 15. It started out as any other day we all spend together except we couldn’t find Johnny. We all knew Johnny did not just not come to work or call, that was not the Johnny we all knew. Judges and juries don’t think we as officers have instincts but trust me, we do. I think we all new something was wrong and we need to go check on Sleeperman. As the first unit arrived he called out on the radio for others with a tone in the voice describing a sense of urgency telling us something was not right and Johnny needed help quick. Medical staff were summoned and so where his co-workers who just went on their own because the tone in the voice told it all. My instincts told me this was going to be the part of this job I have been trying to avoid with Johnny for many years. I turned on my lights and siren and began my journey to go get my friend and do what I could do to help. I was in the downtown area and as everyone knows sometimes traffic just doesn’t move too good then if you add the little blue lights and a siren you better hold on to your seat because it is show time.
So as I am proceeding to Johnny’s house under the sound of the siren and the minute of focus and decision making for some odd reason I heard a Rolling Stones song on my car radio. I leaned over turned up the volume and thought to myself as the adrenilin increased wow I wonder if this is what they listened to as they all road together in Johnny’s Cadillac from show to show. Now the siren was gone it was just me and the Rolling Stones and Johnny on the road. It made me really think because Johnny told me some of the stuff all you wrestlers did and if I stopped that Cadillac today, somebody would be going to jail, unless of course Johnny was driving and then it just might be your lucky day. So I say to you look around and take a good look at all these co-workers in uniform and realize one thing. We are well aware of what fun you all have had in the past in that Cadillac telling them lies and cherishing those moments as friends do. I asked Johnny one day how long it took to get from one place to the other and he said it depended who was in the car but usually two cases a beer and a bottle would get us there. Yep Johnny told on all of you. As I pulled up to Johnny’s house I saw the co-workers the expressions on there face and it confirmed what I already knew and it was not good. The second thing I saw was that old Cadillac still sitting in the driveway holding all the good times to it's self and then I said to myself, “well Johnny what do you think about that ride we just took that was some pretty good driving on my part”.
I guess I should have known and I actually do know now what Johnny was going to be like to work with and be around. Our first conversation was pretty short. I said "Hey Johnny what’s up?" He said "The price of beer," and kept walking and I said to myself this is going to be alright. Our companionship was off to a good start.
Johnny probably has not changed much over the years. He was still Johnny, strong as an ox, still a wrestler and loved life. We even used some of the skills he had to help us. One day Johnny just like many other days was moving a prisoner from one location to another and when they arrived at the final destination and went to open up the van door, out comes the prisoner without the leg shackles on he had when the trip started. Johnny took that devastating swing and the situation was well under control and as his co-worker said, “I am glad he didn’t hit me because something would have broke”.
Many people just don’t understand everybody young and old knows Johnny Weaver and as generations pass through our spinning wheels of justice there is still the case when somebody says "hey my dad wants to know if Johnny Weaver still works here" and the answer would certainly always be "well of course." I think on many occasions he probably still wishes he was back in the ring so he could most assuredly reduce any tension if it still did exist.
He told of one trip on the way to Raleigh how one unsatisfied customer asked him eight times to pull over because he wanted to wrestle Johnny to see it he still had it. I believe they may have stopped I just hope the one that started it finally made it to prison safe and sound. I guess the Dean of Wrestling took that one to school or at least I hope he made it to the prison.
As one of Johnny’s supervisors, I will always say he was a person who was a team player and cared more about everybody else than himself. Back when he was battling his prostate cancer a number of years ago he came in one day and said "hey Boss, if you don’t mind I need to run over there to Presbyterian Hospital real quick and get my dose of chemo and I will be back." I begged him to take the day off and as Johnny always said "no I got too much to do, I will be back." I told him "look Johnny just go home play in the garden do something, we won’t dock your pay, just go." He still would not do it but at least we were able to get him employee of the month shortly after this. Who else could deserve it more but a man who was older than all of us, had cancer surgery, treatment, and hardly missed a day of work, who could possibly be more worthy?
We idolize Johnny Weaver for the person he was and not being the wrestler that everybody grew up watching. Late last year it was time for our bi-yearly physical assessment, well we thought that it would be a good idea for us as A shift to do it all together so we could encourage each other as what everybody thought was going to be the worst day in our life. Johnny came to me and said he didn’t like doing this and it really stressed him out because he couldn’t pass all the requirements. Now when I say he could not pass all the requirements, trust me he passed most of them but that was not good enough for Johnny. I told Johnny he did not have to pass all of them everybody was already impressed what he did and many who were 30 years younger than Johnny could not even come close to achieving the level of physical fitness he did. I said "Johnny, you have nothing to prove to anybody. Don’t hurt yourself do the best you can and we are here for you. And if medic has to come and get you, don’t let them leave until I am done and we can go together." Well as we were getting ready to run our mile and half I looked at Johnny and I told him "you know, this run is nothing if I passed it last time you can pass it, but let’s do this. I will do it with you so it ain’t no big deal as long as you are ok. So if we fail the run we will fail it together." "No Boss go ahead" he said "I will be alright." I said "No Johnny, if you go down I am going with you." I did remind him next year we are going to get $300 if we pass everything. I said so next year you might have to get another running partner. We looked at each other and laughed.
Well go was the word, and off we went. Johnny took off, me right beside him, and he started running and I thought to myself "this may not be a good idea because at this pace I don’t know if I am going to make it." Well we continued on side by side and if Johnny wanted to jog we jogged, if Johnny wanted to walk we walked. I was the drill sergeant constantly telling him slow down, Johnny don’t hurt yourself take your time, rest if you need to. Well as we were getting closer to the finish line I told Johnny to go in front I want you to win. As we crossed the finish line and there was still some people behind us and they yelled out our time. Well Johnny missed the passing time by 13 seconds and me 15 seconds. I looked over at Johnny and said "Damn Johnny, if I knew we were going to be that close I would of left you the last 100 yards." Johnny was gasping for air, put his hand up on my shoulder and said "Thanks boss." I looked at him and said "See Johnny, you need to let that competitive spirit of yours from the Senior Olympics rest because you are going to kill me."
In August of 2007, we sent Johnny down to the Broad River Maximum Security Prison in South Carolina. He came back to Charlotte and called me on the phone and said "Boss I need to see you, I got a problem." Well this here is getting ready to be a first because in my 19 years with Johnny, this has never occurred. I immediately thought the worst. He decided we would meet behind HQ and I hurried to get over there. On the way over many things went through my head and not to many of them good. Well when I get there, Johnny is livid and I have never seen this way before. He starts to tell me when he was at the prison they lost his ID and some of his equipment he had. I looked at him, paused and said "Is that what you are worried about?" and he said "Yes I am. You got to do something about this." And I said "Johnny that ID ain’t nothing, it can be replaced." "I know," he said "but Boss, they lost it, not me." I said "no problem don’t worry about it." He said "Well you should see what they made me do. They made me stand away from them, hold my keys out, drop them, turn around walk through detectors, I kept setting them off. I told him, "Well Johnny, they just had some people escape down there a couple of months ago and I think they were in there for murder." He said "Well they never made me do this before. They made me keep going through the detectors, take my pins off do it again, take my shirt off do it again, take my vest off they took my badge from me. They wanted me to take my holster off, I told them I couldn’t it was secured on my belt with bolts. They made me take my shoes off and then he said they were going to make me take my pants off." I said "Stop Johnny. I know what it is, you didn’t have any underwear on and you got scared didn’t you?" Well he went back into his story still wide open and I again said to Johnny "Is this all because you did not have any underwear on?" Well to this day he still has not told me if had underwear on or not and I guess I will never know now, but boy was he mad.
Well as I told everybody Friday night as we met, I told everybody that things are going to change, we are going to have to work harder, go places we have never been, but pull together to get the job done. I told them Johnny can never be replaced and it will take at least two people if not more to do what he did as well as what he stood for and the way he worked. We are going to have to pull together, work harder, depend on each other, and carry out tasks we have not done for years. We are also going to have to by maps for the entire state of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida and many others.
Johnny said he only wanted to work just a little longer because he wanted those medical benefits, but boy doesn’t he look sharp today. The nice shinny badge, gold pens, award and service pins, tie and tie tack, shined shoes and well rested.
Johnny’s trade mark after many of his matches I guess he would sing, “Turn out the lights”. Well Johnny the lights are out but there will always be a memory of what you have done for this agency and many of the people who have graced your friendship. Sleeperman, it’s your time to go to sleep.
- Captain Mike Smith
Mecklenburg County Sherriff's Department
* * * * *
This post was made with the permission of Capt. Mike Smith and with the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny Weaver's daughter.
Friday, February 29, 2008
by Jim Nelson
It is so hard to believe that it has been two weeks now since I heard of Johnny Weaver's passing. I was headed home from Tennessee in my big rig that I drive for Sunbelt Transport out of Jacksonville Fl. I had to find a place to pull over and sit for a few hours before I could continue on.
Johnny had been a hero to me, he always put the match first. He once told me,"Kid, You are only as good as the guy you are workin with." I never did forget that. He was so right too.
I called my friend Dick Bourne back, hoping he was wrong on his message. I managed to get a hold of my longtime friends Don Kernodle and Mike Weddle. I was just devestated, but finally managed to get rollin again and make it on home. Johnny had and always will have a special place in my heart.
When I first came to Charlotte in 1980, Johnny just went out his way to help teach me in that wrestling ring. I grew up watching him and and just thought he was the best. He always had us wrestling fans in the palm of his hand. I was a fan first and not afraid to admit it. I learned so much from him and finally got to be his tag team partner. I left Charlotte and Mid Atlantic Wrestling in May 1983.
I got to go this past year down to Burlington NC and see him at a CWF event. We talked and I told him what a great honor it would be if he could come to one of our ACW events in Rocky Mount Va. He told me it would be hard with his schedule, but he came up with a date. Saturday Nov. 3 2007,he said he could make that one so we made it happen for sure. We had Johnny there along with Sandy Scott, Don and Rocky Kernodle and Ric MCcord. Thanks so much to Dick Bourne, Peggy Lathan, Carroll Hall and David Chappell we had the best time ever. I got to be in the ring again with my hero and great friend and see that famous sleeper hold one more time. It had been 24 years since the last time, half my life ago.
We had the pleasure of throwing Johnny a suprise birthday party. We just never realized at the time how special this night would be. So glad we got all the pictures and video we did that night.
It has been a long tough two weeks for me, as I just know it has been for so many of us. I just cannot imagine how hard this must be on Johnny's family. I am still teary eyed today, but know that "A Man is not Dead until he is Forgotten." So as long as we remember Johnny, he will always be with us in our hearts. It has just been too hard for me to say goodbye, so I will just say -"So Long-Johnny!
- Jim Nelson
* * * * *
Photo 1: Johnny Weaver applies the sleeper hold to Jim Nelson in the WPCQ TV studios in Charlotte, September 1981.
Photo 2: Johnny Weaver applies the sleeper hold on Eclipso in Rocky Mount VA on 11/3/07. It would be the last time Johnny would apply his famous hold in a wrestling ring. Behind them, Jim Nelson applies the Cobra Clutch on Eclipso's manager Douglas Wentworth.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
by Mark Wineka (Salisbury Post, Publication date: Feb. 24, 2008)
The wrestling fraternity referred to the good guys as baby faces. Bad guys were heels.
Johnny Weaver was one of the all-time baby faces.
His signature move was the Sleeper hold. His muscled left forearm would come from behind, snake under the chin, link to the right forearm and encase his adversary's head in a human vise.
You were doomed to pass out in the Sleeper hold and could only beg Weaver not to snap your head off.
Mike Cline knows Weaver was too nice of a guy to ever do that. Growing up in Statesville, Cline reserved many of his Saturday afternoons for watching WBTV's Championship Wrestling. It was on his family's television that Cline first saw Weaver and felt the charisma pouring through the 21-inch, black-and-white screen. He liked the way Weaver conducted himself in interviews with Big Bill Ward and, later, Charlie Harville on Channel 8. When the Statesville Jaycees sponsored a wrestling event every summer at the old semi-pro ballpark, Cline was there and never disappointed. In person, Weaver gladly signed autographs and talked with his wrestling fans.
The road to the tag-team wrestling championship in those days had to go through Weaver and his veteran partner George Becker. Cline watched in a trance as they took on opponents such as the Masked Red Demons, the Alaskan and the Beast and the toughest heels of all, Rip "The Profile" Hawk and Swede Hanson. Cline figured out sometime in the 1960s that the wrestling matches were scripted, but he also realized it didn't matter to him. Spending those Saturday afternoons with Jim Crockett Promotions' Championship Wrestling was like watching old western movies. It was easy to figure out the good guys and bad guys, and Cline appreciated even then that he was watching some pretty good athletes.
In 1971, about the time George Becker was retiring, Johnny Weaver set off on an individual quest to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dory Funk Jr. The wrestling storyline that year -- the most prestigious program of Weaver's career -- was like a soap opera, always fresh with new twists and turns. Funk's father offered a bounty to any wrestler who could put Weaver out of commission in the ring. And leading up to the big Labor Day match at the Charlotte Coliseum, media reports showed Weaver running up and down Independence Boulevard as part of his training, and playing handball at the YMCA with race car driver Bobby Isaac.
He was Rocky before there was "Rocky." Cline was there for the big Labor Day match, but the script's last twist didn't turn out in Weaver's favor.
Cline was writing a feature for Mid-Atlantic Gateway on that 1971 program when he learned of Weaver's death last Friday in Charlotte.
Incredibly, Weaver had wrestled from 1955 to 1988. When he was 52, he became one of the oldest men ever to take the basic law enforcement test and was hired as a Mecklenburg County sheriff's deputy. He spent many of the next 19 years transporting prisoners for the department.
During one trip, a prisoner had managed to free himself of his handcuffs and leg braces. When Weaver reached his destination and moved to the back of the van, the prisoner broke through the doors toward him and attempted to escape. Weaver knocked him out.
Three years ago, Cline finally met Weaver and his longtime nemesis Rip Hawk over breakfast. Some mutual friends arranged it at the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Fanfest in Charlotte. Cline almost cried when he saw Weaver and Hawk give each other a bear hug in the Bob Evans parking lot. The men then kept Cline spellbound with fabulous stories about all the wrestlers Cline had loved and hated as a kid -- guys such as the Great Bolo, Brute Bernard, the Missouri Mauler and Haystacks Calhoun.
Cline learned that a wrestler named Sonny Myers in St. Louis, where Weaver was from, had taught him the Sleeper hold. Weaver's car still had a personalized license plate that said, "SLPERMAN."
After that, Weaver sent Christmas cards to Cline, and they met again later over dinner. They traveled together last November to an independent wrestling event in Rocky Mount, Va., where Weaver was being honored. It was on that trip that friends held a surprise 72nd birthday party for Weaver, who was less than a year away from logging his 20 years with the Sheriff's Department and retiring. When Weaver had to be recertified as a deputy last summer, he passed all the requirements, including a mile-and-a-half run.
Cline sat at the funeral Wednesday next to famed wrestler Ivan Koloff, the "Russian Bear." The day was overwhelming for Cline and just reinforced everything he had believed about Weaver since he was young. At least 75 deputies were in the audience. The Charlotte Observer's obituary guest book for Weaver went on for 18 pages.
"Somebody at the funeral said that people from 3 to 103 liked Johnny," Cline said. It seems he had a hold on everyone.
* * * * *
Thanks to Mark Wineka for providing the text of this article, which was published in the print version of the Salisbury Post, but not online. We are proud to publish it here.
© Salisbury Post. Used with permission. You may contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka @salisburypost.com.
Editor's note: We will, of course, update information here regarding Mike Cline's article for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website on the 1971 title chase between Johnny Weaver and Dory Funk, Jr. We will provide a link when it is publsihed.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Memories Of Johnny Weaver And Saturday Afternoons
By Mike Mooneyham
Feb. 24, 2008
"Turn out the lights, the party's over, they say that all good things must end." - Willie Nelson
Whenever I think about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions, my mind invariably takes me back to the days when County Hall was the place to be on Friday nights and the black-and-white Saturday afternoon wrestling show emanated from a small TV studio in Raleigh.
From Charleston to Norfolk and all points in between, it was a territory that thrived on unique characters who could make people believe and have them coming back each week for more. Many of those names from that bygone era are gone now, leaving behind memories that will last a lifetime for those who were lucky enough to be around that special time.
No name was bigger, and no wrestler was more beloved, than Johnny Weaver.. >>
Read the entire article on MikeMooneyham.com.
Originally published in the Charleston Post & Courier.
(E-mail to Greg Price at NWALegends.com)
Johnny Weaver was a great human being. He helped break me in the business and I will always be thankful for that.
One funny story that Sgt. Slaughter and I laughed about many times is when I was wrestling Johnny Weaver in Fayetteville N.C. Johnny was very popular, and me being so very green at the time, I came back to the dressing room talking to Sarge and Don Kernodle saying "there is no way they will believe that Johnny Weaver can put me to sleep."
Well the rib was on me when I was throwing Johnny around. In the middle of this, Johnny put his arm up in the air and just moved two of the fingers on his had to the crowd like he was saying "Come on, come with me. Help me beat up this muscle head." And the crowd went nuts and I was amazed and I respected Johnny from that day on, and I had hoped some day I could have that kind of control. Sarge and Kernodle laughed as they already knew.
God Bless you Johnny and take care of the boys who left us way too early!
- Road Warrior Animal Joe Laurinaitis
(Part of an e-mail exchange with Greg Price, Feb. 2008. Visit NWALegends.com)
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Johnny Weaver was buried yesterday in Forest Lawn East Cemetery in Mathews NC. Ironically, he was buried less than 15 yards from where another legend of wrestling was laid to rest 16 years ago, his friend Gene Anderson.
I had never been in a funeral procession for someone in law enforcement before. One of the lasting memories I will have of that day was topping each hill on the way to graveside and seeing stretched out before me a line of seemingly endless patrol cars with blue lights flashing, slowing winding through Mecklenburg County, on their way to see Johnny laid to rest. It was a jolting reminder that a brotherhood of officers had lost one of their own. And they were there in force to say goodbye.
Many in the wrestling community had come to say goodbye to Johnny as well, great names in the business spanning generations, much like Johnny’s long career had touched so many generations of wrestling fans. Those that were there either at the family visitation or the funeral included wrestlers Ivan Koloff, Abe Jacobs, Sandy Scott, Don and Wally Kernodle, Rene Goulet, Nikita Koloff, Tony Romano, Bill White, Jim Nelson, Belle Starr, Jim Holiday, Rick McCord, George South, and Mike Weddle. Also present were wrestling broadcasters Bob Caudle and Rich Landrum, referees Tommy Young and Stu Schwartz, and a member of the family that ran wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic territory for over 50 years, Jackie Crockett. There were certainly others who I didn’t know or did not recognize or I may have forgotten. I apologize to them for not including them here. And of course, one of the biggest names ever in the business was there, supporting her daughter and her family, the gracious Penny Banner.
An hour or so before the long procession to Mathews, a service began which both mourned the death but also celebrated the life of Johnny Weaver. Johnny’s daughter Wendi had asked Don Kernodle to speak. Don and Johnny had been friends for Don’s entire career in wrestling which began in the early 1970s, but they had been best friends in the years that followed after their wrestling careers had ended. Don gave a quiet, emotional, gut wrenching eulogy. Breaking down several times, he shared what it had meant to him to know and love Johnny Weaver almost all of his life. “Have any of you ever loved someone before you even knew them?” Kernodle asked. “That is what it was like for me with Johnny Weaver. I loved him as child growing up watching wrestling.” In those few words, Don summed up what it was like for many of us as both fans and friends. “And then getting to know and working with Johnny was cool in other ways, too. Not only was Johnny one of the greatest wrestlers ever, he was married to the greatest woman wrestler ever, Penny Banner. And their daughter was a champion at horse riding. This was a championship family.” Don spoke about what a professional Weaver was through his entire career, always on time, always dressed in coat and tie, and what an example that set to everyone.
As most of you know, Johnny’s career in the wrestling business ended about the same time Ted Turner bought the Crockett family wrestling business. Faced with a forced career change, with his priorities now on benefits and securing a pension, something the wrestling business had never provided, at 53 years of age he became the oldest ever rookie in the Mecklenburg County Sherriff’s Department. But as his Captain later told us, he was tougher, stronger, and in better shape than some officers half his age.
Captain Mike Smith spoke last about Johnny in what was one of the most moving eulogies I’ve ever heard. His words were all at once thoughtful while honest, funny and then heart –breaking. We laughed and we cried. Captain Smith was Johnny’s boss on the force. He spoke very bluntly about what the day was like for him when Johnny unexplainably hadn’t shown up for work, something that just never happened, because Johnny Weaver never missed work and was always on time. It was a gripping account that told of a difficult trip through morning rush traffic, blue lights on, and then the cold feeling in his gut when he arrived at Johnny’s house and saw the telling looks on the faces of his fellow officers. He spoke of Johnny in recent years dealing with the insecurities of aging while trying to pass the rigorous physical tests required to remain on the force, and how inspired he was to run beside him during one of those tests. He told stories of prisoners who wanted to test the legendary wrestler to see if the old guy still had it in him, and how a few that did lived to regret it. Many in the department had grown up watching Johnny wrestle and were big fans, too. One of the best moments was lamenting the loss of one of Johnny’s great skills he brought to the department, that ability of wrestlers who spent 365 days a year for decades riding the roads from town to town to know the best way to get anywhere. Johnny knew all the back roads and shortcuts, and knew the best places to eat along the way. The department, he joked, would now have to buy maps of North Carolina, South Carolina and several other surrounding states because their friend and brother that had led them along all those the back roads was now gone.
And Wendi Weaver; what a warm and gracious lady, clearly devastated by the sudden loss of her father, yet greeting everyone after the burial with heartfelt thanks and hugs and that same warm smile that was her father’s.
It was an emotional day for everyone: for the family of course; for those officers who had worked with Johnny for 19 years at the Mecklenburg County Sherriff’s Department; for the wrestlers, several of whom had wrestled with and against Johnny in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling since back in the 1960s; and for friends, some life-long and others like me that, similar to Don Kernodle had loved Johnny long before they had the privilege to call him a friend.
Back in November of last year, just a little over three months ago, Johnny and I sang “Turn Out The Lights, the Party’s Over” together at a surprise birthday party several of us had thrown for him. It is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. And just as Captain Smith had also alluded to as he said goodbye to Johnny, the lights are now dark, but the light that Johnny brought to all our lives will shine brightly forever.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
About two months after I watched my first TV episode of “Championship Wrestling” on WBTV, Johnny Weaver made his debut in Charlotte, NC for Jim Crockett Promotions. Johnny had lightning speed, great agility and personality that quickly moved him to the top of my list of favorites. For the next three years I would have to be content with seeing Johnny only on the Crockett TV shows. At first we could only receive the Charlotte, NC and Roanoke, VA shows. I was glad when the High Point, NC show debuted in 1964 as this increased the chance that Johnny would wrestle on at least one of the shows each week and if we were lucky, he appeared on all three. One of those occasions I remember is Johnny pinning Red Roberts with his roll-up on all three shows one week on 1965.
Johnny Weaver had tremendous success in singles and tag team competition. In 1963 Johnny teamed with Cowboy Bob Ellis to win the Southern Tag Team belts from Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson. For a major portion of 1964, Johnny teamed with Haystack Calhoun against the Great Bolo and Bolo.
1965 was a great year. My Dad had promised my brothers and I that if a show came to Winston-Salem or closer, he would take us. Dad always worked in retail, so it was difficult for him to get off work early enough for us to make a show. The opportunity came on Thursday May 13, 1965. We barely made it on time. The first match had already started when we finally got in the building but no matter. We got to see Johnny Weaver and George Becker win two out of three falls from Bronko Lubich and Aldo Bogni with their manager Homer O’Dell in the main event.
1966 saw Weaver and Becker swap the Southern straps with Lubich and Bogni. They also feuded with Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson and a new upcoming team of Gene and Lars Anderson.
The highlight of 1967 for me was Johnny Weaver winning the Southern Heavyweight belt from the Missouri Mauler. This match was broadcast on WBTV 3 Charlotte on Saturday Oct.28. Several months earlier, my two brothers and I had talked it over and agreed to save our money from working in tobacco to a buy color TV so we could see Johnny’s matches in color. We managed to buy a 19 inch General Electric for $ 369 which was seemed like a fortune to three kids in 1967.
In 1968 the Dobson, NC Lions Club sponsored a show there at the Surry Central High School which is about 12 miles from where I live. Johnny Weaver, George Becker and Sam Steamboat beat Bronko Lubich , Aldo Bogni and George ‘Two-Ton” Harris in the main event. We packed in there like sardines. They finally had to turn people away as there was no standing room left much less seats.
Six months later Johnny Weaver and George Becker came to the Mount Airy YMCA to defend their Southern belts against Gene and Ole Anderson. A week later we saw Weaver and Becker win the Atlantic Coast belts from Hawk and Hanson in Winston-Salem on May 1, 1969.
I have so many great memories of seeing Johnny Weaver wrestle from the sixties into the eighties. Johnny reigned as the top “good guy” from 1962 into 1974 for Jim Crockett Promotions. For me personally, it was a lot longer. I probably could write down enough memories about Johnny Weaver to fill a book. I will be sharing more of them in the future.
In August 2005 my friends Dick Bourne and Peggy Lathan arranged for me to meet my hero. This was a dream come true. I will never forget the time I was able to spend with Johnny talking about his career, especially the weekend with him this past November in Rocky Mount, VA.
When my good friend Dick Bourne called me with the news of Johnny’s passing on Friday afternoon, I was shocked and devastated. My last e-mail from Johnny was two days earlier. I could not believe he was gone.
Rest in peace my friend. I will miss you. I will cherish all the great memories.
- Carroll Hall
February 17, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Carolinas Legend Johnny Weaver Dies
By Mike Mooneyham
Feb. 16, 2008
Johnny Weaver, one of the most popular professional wrestlers to ever appear in the Carolinas, died of natural causes Friday at his home in Charlotte at the age of 72.
(READ THE ARTICLE ON THE WRESTLING GOSPEL AT MIKEMOONEYHAM.COM)
UPDATE: Look for a feature article on the life and career of Johnny Weaver this weekend in the Charleston Post Courier and on MikeMooneyham.com.