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