Sunday, September 16, 2007

"Stretch him, Johnny!"

By Carroll Hall

I wish that I could have talked to George Becker and Johnny Weaver when I was growing up and going to the matches, but we always got our tickets at the door on the night of the shows, so most of the time we sat in the general admission sections. There was one time in Greensboro during early March 1968 that we got close to Johnny Weaver and my youngest brother yelled out "there's Johnny!" and Johnny turned around and said something like "hey guys." Johnny beat World Champ Gene Kiniski by DQ that night.

That was the first time, and one of the rare times, we ever sat in the ringside area. We went that night with my cousin and her fiancee before they moved to Wisconsin. When she came home for a visit last year she brought this up (36 years later) and said, "I still remember George Becker and Johnny Weaver."

In the third fall of that match, Kiniski had escaped the sleeper and the roll up. I told my brothers that I wish Johnny would surprise Kiniski by using Becker's abdominal stretch. So all three of us yelled at the same time "stretch him, Johnny!" Then the crowd at ringside joined in with a chant of "stretch him, stretch him!"

Lo and behold Johnny Weaver whipped Kiniski in to the ropes and locked him in the abdominal stretch. Kiniski could not escape so the whole crowd was on it's feet. We just knew in a few more seconds that Johnny Weaver was going to be the new "Woilds Champeen" as George Becker had predicted. Then Kiniski reached up and grabbed the referee with his free hand and pulled him in to Weaver knocking all three down thus causing the immediate DQ.

Though we were sad that Johnny did not get the belt, we went home happy thinking that Kiniski knew Johnny Weaver had him beat.

Oh how I wish I could go back to that time.

- Carroll Hall, Mount Airy NC