Friday, February 29, 2008

So Long, Johnny

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

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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

Weaver Had A Hold on Everyone

It was easy to figure out good guys from bad guys in wrestling.
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.

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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

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

Johnny Weaver And Saturday Afternoons

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
Originally published in the Charleston Post & Courier.

Learning Respect

by Joe Laurinaitis
(E-mail to Greg Price at

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

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Funerals are never fun to attend. But there was something uplifting about what took place at Johnny Weaver’s funeral. That was due largely to the honest and moving words delivered by two who eulogized him, and the grace of a grieving daughter still wounded by the sudden and unexpected loss of her father.

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.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
February 21, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Remembering A Legend

By Carroll Hall

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

Mooneyham on Weaver

Mike Mooneyham's news on Johnny Weaver's passing was one of the better short obituaries written in the day following Johnny's death. Mike has indicated there will be a longer article on Weaver forthcoming on his website next week.

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.

UPDATE: Look for a feature article on the life and career of Johnny Weaver this weekend in the Charleston Post Courier and on


by Johnny Blackwell

When I got the news of Johnny's passing last night, I was overwhelmed.

When I got to North Carolina from Georgia when I was six years old, my earliest memories was finding Howard's Variety Store in Spring Lake, where I could buy my comics. Right up there with that was seeing Johhny Weaver wrestle on TV for the first time. A lot of my life growing up revolved around getting those comics and seeing Johnny Weaver on Channel 5 out of Raleigh every Saturday.

I went to see a TV taping with my Royal Ambasador group and Johnny Weaver and George Becker were close enough for me to touch. I still remember what a thrill it was to see Weaver lock on that sleeper. I will always have the memory of that for the rest of my life. Later, seeing Weaver live at the Cumberland County Memorial Arena as he became a mid-carder, was both sad and wonderful at the same time.

Today, I imagine that there is one heck of a tag team making their heavenly debut as George Becker and Johnny Weaver are together again, heading the card at the St. Peter's Gate Arena.

R.I.P, my hero. Say hello to my Dad for me.

- Johnny Blackwell
Hope Mills, NC
Original Post on message board, Feb 16, 2008
Reprinted here with permission from the author.

Funeral Arrangements

The funeral will be Wednesday at 12:00 PM at McEwen Funeral Service - Pineville Chapel in Pineville NC (Charlotte).

McEwen Funeral Service Pineville Chapel
Pineville NC (Charlotte Area)
Wednesday 2/20 12:00 PM (Visitation Tuesday Night 6 PM - 9 PM)

The funeral may be listed under Johnny's real name Kenneth Eugene Weaver.

McEwen Funeral Service Pineville Chapel
10500 Park Rd
Charlotte, NC 28210
Phone: (704) 544-1412

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Charlotte Observer Obituary

Johnny E. Weaver

Johnny E. Weaver Johnny went to be with his Lord on February 15, 2008 at CMC University Hospital. Mr. Weaver, age 72, was a long time Charlotte resident.

After retiring from a 30 year career with the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, he has been employed with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Sheriff's Department for the past 19 years as a deputy. Johnny was an active member of the Fraternal Order of the Police.

Survivors include his wife, Penny and daughter, Wendi Weaver, both of Charlotte, and a son, Billy Weaver of Illinois. Also surviving are his grandchildren Scott and Christine Weaver also of Illinois. Johnny was predeceased by his parents.

A visitation will be held on Tuesday evening February 19, 2008 from 6 to 9 pm at McEwen Pineville Chapel 10500 Park Road, Charlotte, North Carolina 28210. Funeral service is Wednesday February 20, 2008 at 12 pm in the funeral home chapel. Burial will be at Forest Lawn East Cemetery in Matthews. In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to Hometown Heroes, P.O. Box 953, Monroe, North Carolina 28211-0693.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Charlotte Observer News Report

Posted on Fri, Feb. 15, 2008

Wrestler Johnny Weaver dead at 72

Johnny Weaver, a Charlotte wrestler who mastered the Sleeper hold, died Friday of natural causes. He was 72.

Weaver, who later became a Mecklenburg sheriff's deputy, was found in his home by fellow deputies after he didn't show up for work on Friday. Funeral arrangements had not been finalized by Friday night.

Weaver, who started wrestling in 1955, often fought in the old Charlotte Coliseum and in the 1960s and 1970s went up against foes like Baron von Raschke and the Missouri Mauler. He was in the ring in an era when Charlotte was a wrestling capital and performers would drive themselves to matches across the South.

"He was one of us," said George South, who was put in a Sleeper hold by him at a Spartanburg reunion a year ago. "It was nothing to run into him getting a cup of coffee at a gas station."

In his 50s, Weaver became one of the oldest people to take the basic law enforcement test and ultimately joined the sheriff's office. He spent most of his 19-year career transporting prisoners on the same back roads he'd traveled as a wrestler and promoter, colleagues say.

"Anytime we'd need to go anywhere, we'd ask Johnny," said Capt. Mike Smith. "If you needed to get from Surry County to Buncombe County, Johnny could tell you how to get there. And he could probably tell you where to eat along the way."

On the Web

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Original Link on

Sad Time

by Mike Cline

Such a sad, sad time.

At my house, Johnny Weaver WAS Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. I can think of no one who was more of a "good will ambassador" for them for twenty-five+ years. He wore many hats and wore them all well.

On a personal level, how fortunate I am. Thanks to Peggy Lathan, Dick Bourne and David Chappell, a hero of mine for forty-five years became a personal friend, and I shall treasure the times in the last three years I was able to spend with Johnny.

With help (including Johnny's), I have been working on a feature for the MID-ATLANTIC GATEWAY concerning Johnny's fantastic program with Dory Funk Jr. and his quest to win the NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP.

A little time will have to pass for now, but as soon as possible, I shall submit it to the Gateway for publication.


Mike Cline

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rest In Peace

It is with great sadness that we report that Johnny Weaver passed away Friday at his home in Charlotte NC.

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of one of the greatest ever, Johnny Weaver.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Monday, February 11, 2008

Johnny Weaver vs. Bull Ramos on WGHP

by Carroll Hall

A great ad from the "High Point Enterprise" newspaper for an October 27, 1967 Friday night broadcast of "Championship Wrestling" on WGHP-8 in High Point NC.

This one gives me great pleasure. Johnny Weaver took Bull Ramos to school on TV. A mere few months later, Bull Ramos was challenging Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Title in the main event at Madison Square Garden.

Clipping says: "Tex McKenzie and Nelson Royal vs. Aldo Bogni and Bronco Lubich. Miss Toni Rose vs. Donna Christian. Bull Ramos vs. Johnny Weaver."

Carroll Hall publishes