I received some interesting e-mails from Rob Kell who is an exploration geologist working in Chile, South America. Rob grew up watching Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in Richmond and sent me some great memories from his days in the 1960s and early 1970s going to matches at Strawberry Hill. Here are some excepts from a couple of those e-mails. - Dick Bourne
Well, it would be tough to top what I have read in your column of memories. I was raised in Richmond, Virginia, and during the 1960's was able to go to wrestling events at Strawberry Hill (the State Fairgrounds) on numerous occasions.
Several times my buddies and I went to see Johnny Weaver. Clearly, I remember Johnny taking on Dory Funk, Jr. for the NWA championship belt. The match went the distance (i.e. best of 3 falls) with Funk retaining his title. But I am talking about being enthralled for an hour with back and forth incredible wrestling and Johnny on the verge of taking the title.
Of course, I remember Johnny and George Becker's tag team battles, but especially against the Bolos (never written about) and of course Rip Hawk and Rock Hunter or later with Swede Hansen.
The last time I saw Johnny in person was at Parker Field in Richmond, Virginia where he paired with Sailor Art Thomas to beat Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard. It was unusual because it was outdoors and on a Sunday, plus thunderstorms threatened the entire evening. This did not stop an exciting main event match.
However, as kids, we all tried to apply that sleeper hold and would always be sure on Saturdays to watch All-Star Wrestling with Bob Caudle and often were rewarded with a match of Becker and Weaver against a lesser opponent (i.e. Prince Omar and Pedro Zapata or Jack Vansky) to wet our intrigue with an upcoming match against the Great Bolos, Bronco Lubich and Aldo Bogni, Doc and Mike Gallagher, etc.
When I was kid - I was raised in a middle class neighborhood (all GI homes) and with lots of buddies my age - so, we'd get a parent to take us out to Strawberry Hill to watch the wrestling and another parent would pick us up at the end of the matches. We could not get out every Friday night - but usually maybe once or twice a month. So, I got to see some great professional wrestling - which has long ago disappeared.
Most people today look at the wrestling entertainment today - and although apparently immensely popular - lacks so much of what once was (i.e. actual wrestling).
I can still remember some matches - once - Bronco Lubich and Johnny "Rubberman" Walker wrestled to a 45-minute draw - it was Bronco Lubich's first introduction to Richmond and there was some promotion about this for the week ahead of the match. How the two wrestlers pulled that off - I don't know but incredible holds and escapes or reversals with neither being able to gain an advantage. Of course, a week or two later Bronco Lubich shows up again but with big/mean Aldo Bogni - and boy - saw them plenty of times in excellent matches - against Scott Brothers and once against the Infernos with Bronco Lubich getting his face burned up by that incendiary device Infernos used (not the loaded boot this time).
I saw the Gallagher Brothers many times and you don't read about them - but they were as formidable and won often with that "blinder hold" and the elbow smash off the corner top ropes - saw them put away George Becker and Billy Two-Rivers once - also they took apart the Scott Brothers as well. There were the numerous battles between the The Bolos and Kentuckians - and once match where Johnny Weaver had twisted the mask around so that one of the Bolos could not see - and still somehow the Bolos pulled off a win (in confusion Bolos pulled a switch and loaded head butt to George Becker ended that match as I remember).
The list goes on and on - Texas Death Match (remember those) - one was Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson versus Brute Benard and Skull Murphy - pretty bloody and horrific.
But many matches were quite cleverly thought out - Bronco Lubich and Aldo Bogni with Homer O'dell manager against Scott Brothers - toward heated end of the 2 of 3 fall match - Homer O'Dell hung his cane in one of the corners and Bronco Lubich irish-whipped George Scott into that corner - down he went and was pinned for controversial end to the match. There was a grudge re-match scheduled the very next week - so, we had to go see that - and this time again even at a fall apiece - I think they trade sleeper holds to win those falls (i.e. Lubich had his cobra wrap George Scott with sleeper on Bogni) - anyway the third fall - was again heated and you could not tell who was going to pull it off - again O'Dell snuck over hung the cane in the corner and together Lubich and Bogni together irish-whipped George Scott to that corner but Sandy Scott ran over - and jumped up to lay as a bridge across the corner to block and protect his brother from slamming into the cane - and the Scotts now had the cane and they used it - bloodying Lubich terribly and again lost the match - this time by disqualification - of course, the fans were going crazy.
Just tremendous times - who today would sit through an hour long 2 out 3 falls tag team or singles match today?
Anyway, I was very sad to hear that Johnny had passed away several years ago now. Difficult to believe.
- Rob Kell