Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fan Club Photo

This is the 8 x 10" B & W photo of Johnny Weaver and George Becker from 1968. This came from the Becker/Weaver Fan Club, Pam Daniels was the president and she was from Norfolk. Each member received this photo along with the membership card and other items. Johnny signed this for me at the first fanfest in Charlotte. - Don Holbrook

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr. October

The Mid-Atlantic Wrestling softball team was alleged to have been unbeatable in the summer and fall of 1973. That's their story and they're stickin' to it.

Actually, this photo of the team appeared in an issue of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine published that year and was taken June 10, 1973 in Mooresville NC at a benefit to raise money for medical expenses for a brave 10-year old kid named Mike Atwell. The Mid-Atlantic All-Stars battled the Mooresville Policemen and Firemen to a 23-23 tie after 8 innings!

From left to right -
Front row: Nelson Royal, Johnny Weaver, Scott Casey, Klondike Bill
Back row: Jack Reid (coach), David Royal (coach), Les Thatcher, Big Boy Brown (in back), Angelo Martinelli, Bob Roop, Jerry Brisco, Ronnie Garvin, and Sandy Scott.
Not pictured: Big Bill Ward, John Ringo and Jackie Crockett. Jack Reid worked for Nelson Royal at his ranch and Western Store in Mooresville. Photo by Gene Gordon

Some highlights from the game included "Mr. October" Johnny Weaver making what was described as a "diving, rolling, Willie Mays catch" on the foul line in left field, as well as 4 hits and several R.B.I.s. Catcher Les Thatcher had the only home run of the afternoon, and Big Bill Ward pinch-hit and scored the eventual tieing run. But there were lots of funny moments as well, and I will be printing the text of the article that accompanied the photo above which will give the complete run down of the game. That will appear in a future post; October just seemed like a good time to post this photo. -D. Bourne

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Long Journey

Johnny Weaver: 43 year old just keeps on wrestling and winning
by David Hunter, Mount Airy News, Mount Airy NC
March 26, 1979

Pilot Mountain - Swede Hanson staggers to his feet at the taunts of children surrounding the ring. “Come on Swede,’ ya big dummy,” they say. “Get out of the ring, you’ve been licked.” Gleeful shouts of “ha, ha, ha, ha! ” from children and adults alike.

Taking a moment to gain his equilibrium, the Big Swede gradually makes his way back to a locker room to recover from his ordeal.

Recover from what? Alas, the trials of a professional wrestler. The “Swede” is the latest in a long line of victims of the “sleeper” hold, compliments of Johnny Weaver. Weaver had long since left the ring in victory when Hanson was just gaining consciousness.

Yes. Johnny Weaver. The George Blanda and John Havlicek of professional wrestling.

Johnny Weaver appeared in Pilot Mountain Saturday night with some of his cohorts for a night of wrestling in Surry County.

By enduring everything from injury to just plain old age, Weaver has lasted through more than 20 grueling years of professional wrestling and is still going strong, more popular than ever with his many fans.

“I never wanted to do anything but wrestle and race stock cars” Weaver says, “ if I hadn’t wrestled, I don’t know what I would have done”

Weaver, a 6-1, 230- pound out of the basketball mad state of Indiana, raced stock cars for a living before he took up wrestling. Citing security, good benefits and an abiding love for the sport, Weaver got involved before moving to the Mid-Atlantic area in 1962 for greater opportunity.

Weaver said his wrestling travel averages nearly 100,000 miles a year in and around the Carolina’s and Virginia’s. As for his earnings? They’re somewhere near the same in numbers. Weaver did say he was a six figure man, but wouldn’t pinpoint how much exactly. “There are 14 or 15 of us who make six figures, said the 43 year old Weaver. “Of course a lot of it is inflation or I wouldn’t make that much and I wish I could save some. Then there’s income tax and that gobbles it up”.

Of course Weaver probably wouldn’t have to look far for someone willing to share his burden or trade places with him. He makes no money outside the wrestling ring. His earnings strictly come from a set fee in addition to a percentage of the gate attendance.” As long as the body stays in shape and holds up, I’ll keep wrestling”, he says determinedly. Asked if his peers view him as an old wrestler who won’t let go, Weaver said “ No, because I’m still winning. If I ever stop winning, they may start saying that. As long as I have the speed and technique, I’ll keep wrestling. I’ve got nothing but experience. My speed hasn’t really slowed down. It’s remained pretty much the same. I play an hour and a half of handball a couple of times a week and it helps keep me in shape. Strength isn’t all important, although it helps,” he says with a laugh.

Speed and technique have always been Weaver’s strong suit in a game dominated by size. Weaver began the profession as one of the bigger men around. Modern training methods, drugs and the “new breed” of younger wrestlers have made him one of the smallest. However, if he is not looked up to in size, he is in respect. “He’s a great wrestler”, says one of the younger “ kids”, Terry Sawyer. “We love him and really look up to him. If we have a problem, we talk it over with him”.

Weaver said, “I’m still learning. New holds and methods of wrestling are coming up all the time”.
Weaver’s most famous hold is probably the “sleeper,” which put out the lights of the massive Swede Saturday night. “I learned it from Mr. Moto, a Japanese wrestler years ago,” says Weaver in his simple way of speaking.

“You cut off the arteries carrying blood to and from the brain and your opponent loses consciousness,” he explains.

Weaver has never left the Mid-Atlantic area since arriving in 1962, except for a one-year excursion to Japan and injuries that kept him from wrestling for most of 1976. “Feel that,” he says, pointing to his scalp. Lumps seemingly jump out of his hair when my hands run across them. Look closely at his forehead and what appear to be wrinkles are actually well sewn up scars.

“I’ve been hit by canes, chairs, fists and posts and have to keep wrestling four or five times a week, especially all weekend long. The people who say wrestling is fake haven’t been in the ring.”

"But there is entertainment involved, isn’t there John?"

“You’ve got your colorful wrestlers, just like Joe Namath in football. There’s people with more personality who make it more interesting,” he says in defense of the widely held notion that most if not all of professional wrestling is nothing but a big show. “Yeah, it’s been going on for a long time,” he admits of the accusation.

“But it’s been fun,” he says with a big grin. “I’ve had the chance to do a lot of things I never would have been able to do. It’s really opened doors for me. I’ve got a lot of satisfaction out of it, met a lot of people and have traveled all over. It’s a living… not a game,” he states.

And so the show (if it can rightfully be called that) must go on. Weaver was to have been in Roanoke, Virginia Sunday night, followed by an appearance in Harrisonburg, Virginia Tuesday, Richmond, Virginia Friday and all the way down to Kingsport, Tennessee this Saturday.

That’s a lot of miles for a guy who already has plenty of mileage.

Research and Transcription of Article by Carroll Hall, WrestlingMemories.com

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Guiding Hand

After publishing a feature on WGHP TV studio wrestling on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway a few years back, I received an e-mail from a fellow who, as a young man, had a life-changing encounter with Johnny Weaver. Here is that e-mail:

Dear Mid-Atlantic Gateway,

I spent many days at the TV tapings at High Point, and I got to know a lot of the guys, at least as well as a little kid that was star struck could. Two of my earliest memories are from those tapings.

I never had a dad around, and even as a very young man I was already showing signs of going down a bad road. I was fighting and telling lies. My mom saw where this kind of thing could lead. Well one day after we went to the tapings at WGHP, she went to Johnny and talked to him for a few minutes, then she called me over. I was in awe. The studio was empty other than us. Johnny was sitting on the ring near were the seats were and I was standing there next to him looking up at my hero. My mom had let him in on my acting up, and he asked me what was going on. I really don’t remember what I said, more than likely not a lot, people that have known me for a long time would be shocked that I was ever at a loss for words, but I was then. I do remember that he asked what I wanted to do with my life, and I said with out a moments thought that I wanted to be a wrestler. He smiled and said if I acted right at home and did not give my mom problems, and did good in school, that he would one day teach me how to wrestle.

Well I thought of that many times in my life after that. I ended up only being 5'8" so I never did call him on it! But I have no doubt that it changed my life. I did stop telling lies, and tried to be a good person, and I to this day try my best to live a life where I help people. In just a few minutes he became my role model, and I will never forget that.

- Michael Roach, February 2006
Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Southern Title Chase

by Carroll Hall

In May 1965, Johnny Weaver made a trip to Tampa for for a special challenge match on Championship Wrestling from Florida hosted by Gordon Solie. The show aired on May 29, 1965 there in Tampa.
Johnny faced Big Bob Orton in this special TV match. Johnny Weaver used his rolling cradle on Orton. At that point Bill Dromo jumped up on the ring apron just as Orton pushed Johnny off at the count of two. Johnny collided with Bill Dromo, then Bob Orton covered Johnny Weaver for the win.

The Florida TV was already airing in a couple of TV markets in NC but for the benefit of fans who did not receive that show, the entire match was shown on the Crockett TV shows.

After Bob Orton regained The Southern Heavyweight belt during a June tournament in Florida, he immediately brought the title to Jim Crockett Promotions where he would defend it over the next six months. Not long after arriving here Johnny Weaver challenged Big Bob Orton to match on WBTV Charlotte, NC. Johnny Weaver pinned Orton in the one fall non-title match.

Weaver and Orton would have many matches throughout the territory. Some of the matches ended in a draw with Orton winning one fall with the "Piledriver" and Johnny winning a fall with the "Sleeper." Big Bob Orton left the area still the champion in January, 1966.

* * * * *

August 27,1965 Richmond,Virginia
Weaver Gets Big Chance On Friday

Richmond - Young Johnny Weaver gets his big chance on Friday's State Fairgrounds pro wrestling card.

The popular youngster will take on Southern Heavyweight Champion Bob Orton at two-out-of three-falls with a one hour time limit.

In the semifinal, Brute Bernard and Skull Murphy go against Omar Atlas and Gory Guerrero.

Diamond Lil meets Darling Dagmar in an all girls midget match, while in the opener it will be George and Sandy Scott,former tag team champions,against The Viking and Pedro Zapata.

Action starts at 8:30 p.m.