Thursday, March 27, 2008

Johnny Weaver page on CWF Mid-Atlantic website

The CWF Mid-Atlantic website has a tribute page for Johnny up on their new website. The link to the page is the bottom of this post.

CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling is the group that hosts the annual Johnny Weaver Cup tournament each year, a series of matches that take place throughout the summer, with the finals being held at a special event at the Carolina Sports Arena in Burlington NC (one of the coolest places you'll ever watch wrestling.) Johnny had attended each event since its inception in 2004, and presented the Weaver Cup trophy to the winner.

In Rememberance: Johnny Weaver

Also check out these related links:
Weaver Cup page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Wide World Wrestling Reunion at the 2007 Weaver Cup

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Official Program - June 12, 1967

Championship Wrestling
Official Program - June 12, 1967

Vol. 1 No. 37
As Seen On Your Favorite TV Station
Presented by Jim Crockett
Charlotte's Park Center
Photo by Gene Gordon

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Title Chase

Johnny Weaver's Title Chase
The Biggest and Most Prestigious Singles Program of His Career
by Mike Cline

An article appeared in the sports section of the February 1, 1971 issue of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. It read, "A world championship match and a unique team bout share the spotlight on the wrestling card tonight at PARK CENTER. Dory Funk Jr. places his title on the line against Johnny Weaver. It's a two-of-three falls bout with a one hour time limit."

And with this match, in Johnny's own words, "the biggest and most prestigious singles program of my career began." . . . . . .

>> Read the full article on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Greatest Finish Man Ever

A Conversation with Blackjack Mulligan about his friend Johnny Weaver
by Dick Bourne

Blackjack Mulligan and Johnny Weaver had reunited with each other via the internet a year or so ago, and since then the two had enjoyed the exchange of memories and reminiscences, as well as the usual e-mail jokes that go around. Johnny had only recently learned to use the computer for e-mail correspondence, and was enjoying keeping up with some of the guys he had worked with over the years, including Blackjack, Rip Hawk, Ivan Koloff, Jim Nelson, and others.

Blackjack reminisced about Johnny Weaver, who passed away in February, during a recent phone conversation.

“I still can’t believe Johnny’s gone,” he told me. “We had just exchanged e-mails and we had spoken on the phone before Christmas.” Jack had invited Johnny to come spend Christmas with him and Julia and Barry at Jack’s cabin on the San Saba River, south of San Angelo, Texas. “He told me he’d have to pass, he was going to see his daughter Wendi on Christmas day.”
Jack’s nickname for Johnny was “J-Dub”, short for “JW”. The name was actually given to him by Dick Murdoch who liked the character by that name in the 1972 cowboy movie “JW Coop.”

“He called me Mully, I called him J-Dub,” he said. The two had not seen each other in over 15 years.

“We were close, we shared so much on the road.” Jack told me. “The best times were in 1978 travelling with J-Dub and Dickey Murdoch all around the Mid-Atlantic territory. We spent a lot of time and rode a lot of miles, Johnny always chewing tobacco, listening to 8-track tapes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ernest Tubb.” Those 8-tracks resulted in a slight clash of musical tastes while driving those Carolina back roads. “Over and over and over again, those tapes would play, I got so sick of Merle Haggard,” Jack laughed as he told me. “I was into the new Southern Rock, the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, and those guys, and Johnny liked that old traditional stuff. Of course, all those guys Johnny loved, those guys are all on my iPod now,” he laughed, “but wow, he used to wear those 8-track tapes out!”

Thinking about that now, it makes sense that Blackjack remembers those times with Johnny in 1978. Back in those days, the good guys and the bad guys didn’t travel together, and up until the spring of 1978, Blackjack was one of the top bad guys in the territory. But the famous “Hat and Robe” angle changed all that, Blackjack became a fan favorite, and he and Murdoch formed the M&M Boys tag team, and Jack finally had a chance to travel with Weaver, even occasionally co-hosted a TV show with Weaver, for whom had a great respect.

“Riding with Murdoch and J-Dub, you were always learning,” Jack said. “Weaver had one of the greatest wrestling minds ever, one of the most creative people I ever met in the business. Back in those days, I’m talking the 1960s here, matches were two-out-of-three falls, and were long drawn out affairs. And the finish you came up with in that third fall was designed to sell tickets to next week’s show. It wasn’t so much the TV back then, TV was very different, you didn’t have all those wild and crazy promos to sell the tickets back then. It was what you did in that third fall in that town that week, and how you left the crowd, was what sold tickets for the next show. You didn’t wait until TV to find out what the next show was and then buy your ticket. Back in those days, they wanted a big advance from the fans as they walked out the door that night. They walked right by the ticket window on the way out, and bought their tickets to next week’s show. So the psychology of the match and the finish was key to the success of that town.”

Blackjack couldn’t say enough about how good Johnny was at making that all work.

“Johnny was a master. And you had to be creative, because you ran those towns every single week. Finishes had to be different from one show to the next; the people couldn’t see the same thing happen again. Now days, they (the WWE) run Greensboro once a year, so you don’t have to even think about things like that. But then, it was key to the success of a town.”

“Weaver was a master thinker,” Jack continued. “He and his partner George Becker both had good brains. Becker booked and Weaver helped him, and then later Weaver got the book. George Scott was probably the greatest booker of all time, but Johnny Weaver was the greatest finish man ever.”

Blackjack knew of Weaver’s reputation when he first came to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1975.

“I had heard a lot about Johnny from Bronko Lubich,” Jack told me. Lubich and partner Aldo Bogni had been main opponents for Becker and Weaver in the 1960s. “I was with Lubich down in Houston. Paul Boesche and I didn’t see eye to eye, and Lubich suggested that I call George Scott, who was booking Charlotte. Lubich told me that Scott had always liked me, liked my work. But when I finally got the call from George to come to the Carolinas, I had just taken a spot with Vince Sr. in New York, Lanza and I were bringing our team there. The way the WWWF did things, you would go up there for several months and just do TV, and they would expose you that way before you ever started going to their towns. I was just getting ready to start their TV, and so I told George I could come in for a few months and do a few programs and put guys over on the way out. All I would need is two days every month to go to New York and do their TV in advance of me going there.”

Scott agreed and Blackjack burst upon the scene in the Mid-Atlantic territory. He stayed for a few months, and then as planned left for the WWWF where he and Lanza held the WWWF tag team championships. Following the Wilmington NC plane crash in October of 1975 that ended the career of the territory’s top bad guy Johnny Valentine and sidelined Ric Flair for months, booker George Scott brought Mulligan back to be his lead “heel”. He also brought back Weaver, who had left the territory early in the year after Scott had removed him from his “babyface” spot.

It was then that he met Johnny Weaver for the first time.

“Johnny and I hit it off pretty well from the minute I got there. He had quite a reputation in the territory where he had been on top for nearly 12 years, which was very hard to do.” In those days, wrestlers moved frequently from one territory to the next. This allowed promoters to keep talent fresh, and allowed talent more opportunities to work and stay on top by moving place to place. But once Weaver arrived in the Mid-Atlantic area after an early career in the Central States and Indianapolis, he basically never left except for a couple of short stints in Texas and Florida.

Following Jim Crockett Sr.’s death in 1973, the territory was in upheaval as son-in-law John Ringley took over the company, followed not long after by sons Jimmy Jr. and David. There had long been differing opinions over who should be booking the territory. George Becker was squeezed out in 1971, replaced by Weaver and Rip Hawk. Johnny mentioned in his 2007 interview with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway that Jimmy Jr. wanted him out as well, and had long pushed for the removal of the old guard. Weaver said that he felt Ringley was in his corner, but that Jimmy Jr. was adamant a change be made, and in 1973 George Scott was hired to book the territory.

“Johnny told me years later of how they fired him. Called him down late one night to meet them in the parking lot of the Coliseum on Independence. Very cold. That always hurt him, stuck with him.”

After Weaver and Mulligan independently returned to the territory following the Wilmington plane crash, they first got to know each other well during those long days of taping local promo spots to be inserted into the Mid-Atlantic and Wide World Wrestling TV shows. The wrestlers would tape these promos at WRAL TV in Raleigh NC during marathon sessions that lasted all day, and then they would tape the two one-hour television shows there as well. “There was a lot of time to spend sitting around and talking, all the guys sitting around for hours. You got to know these guys pretty well doing that,” Blackjack said.

Blackjack wrestled Johnny a few times over the years as well, including a series of matches in 1976 where he defended the US title against Weaver in several towns across the territory. Blackjack was another in what would be a long line of guys over the next few years (including Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, and Tully Blanchard) who had to get past the legendary territory stalwart to prove his metal to the fans. Blackjack reminded me during our phone call - “Johnny Weaver was the man.”

“I had not seen him in a long time,” he said after a brief silence. ”But we had enjoyed keeping in touch with each other with e-mails and phone calls over the last year.”

A couple of days after Johnny died, Blackjack sent an e-mail to Johnny’s address, telling his old friend he missed him and he wouldn’t be long behind him. “I thought no one would ever see it, but his daughter Wendi got it and sent me a nice note back. Probably thought I was nuts. I just wanted to tell Johnny goodbye.”

This article is also archived on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in Smoke Filled Rooms.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Goodbye to Mr. Mid-Atlantic

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

My real interest in professional wrestling started in the late 1960s and continued unabated through to the late 1980s when Jim Crockett Promotions ceased operations. During that two decade period there was one performer that was a constant that you could count on every week, and that wrestler’s name was Johnny Weaver.

Johnny was part of my very earliest wrestling memories. I don’t remember a lot of those Saturdays in front of my black and white TV in the 60s, or even how I wandered onto Channel 6 in Richmond at 5:00 for All-Star Wrestling. I do remember that my Dad used to watch the World Series of Golf from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio with me at 4:00 on those Saturday afternoons way back when. And I remember when that show ended, All-Star Wrestling came on. While I don’t remember much about that time, I do remember one wrestler, and his name was Johnny Weaver.
Johnny was the consummate good guy. He and his partner at the time, George Becker, would do battle with some real villains. I mean, villains that scared me at the time as a young child, to the point that I would turn the TV off. It was amazing to me that Johnny could stand up to the likes of outlaws such as Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson. But he somehow did, and I think that’s what kept me watching wrestling…I was drawn to that weekly confrontation between good and evil. And Johnny was there every week, representing good.

As the 1970s arrived, my interest in professional wrestling became an obsession! And Johnny was right there with me nearly every Saturday. Not only every Saturday, but a lot of Friday’s as well, as I started going to live matches in Richmond. Regardless of where Johnny was on the card, his match was always one I looked forward to seeing. Particularly if he was in a tag team match, I looked forward to joining in Johnny’s foot/ stomp and hand/clap when he was on the ring apron.
After his late 1973/early 1974 program with the Super Destroyer, Johnny was no longer a main event performer for Jim Crockett Promotions, and in fact was absent from the Mid-Atlantic area for the first three-quarters of 1975. But in the aftermath of the terrible plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina in October of 1975, there was a bit of good news…Johnny Weaver returned! I remember how glad I was to see Johnny back in the ring on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, and in his first reappearance, he also showed his versatility by doing color commentary with Bob Caudle, subbing for David Crockett who was recovering from injuries sustained in the plane crash.

During the mid/late 70s, and on into the early 1980s, Johnny morphed from a main eventer, to the respected veteran who the top level bad guys had to overcome to earn that spot. Main event villains Greg Valentine in 1976/1977, Roddy Piper in 1980, and Tully Blanchard in 1984 all had to earn their stripes by getting by Johnny. And without a doubt, Johnny put them all through their paces!

In addition to the programs with Valentine, Piper and Blanchard, Johnny’s in-ring activity from the mid-70s to the mid-80s saw his memorable Claw versus Sleeper feud in 1978 with Baron Von Raschke, where Johnny also captured the NWA TV Title. Johnny battled Ken Patera over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title in late 1978/early 1979. In 1981, Johnny was one-half of the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions with both Dewey Robertson and Jay Youngblood. A memorable feud in 1982 saw Johnny battle Lord Alfred Hayes and the Russians. And in 1984, Johnny took the mask off of the Assassin, and wore it himself as the "Ultimate Assassin." As late as 1987, Johnny taught the "Weaverlock" to Dusty Rhodes, and appeared in Dusty Rhodes’ corner against Lex Luger in Starrcade 1987. And speaking of Starrcade, Johnny wrestled in the inaugural Starrcade in 1983.

While Johnny would properly be classified a "mid-card" wrestler from 1975-1985, he was much more than that. He won the majority of his arena matches, often giving the fans a good feeling going home, even when the bad guys may have won the main event match later in the evening. And Johnny would still get a main event match here and there even as the years wore on. My favorite memory in that sphere was from a card in Richmond in August of 1976, where Johnny headlined against Blackjack Mulligan for Mulligan’s U.S. Title. In the promos leading up to that match, Blackjack said there was gonna be a hanging…he was gonna throw a rope over the rafters in the Richmond Arena and hang ol’ Johnny Weaver, and have a good laugh! While Johnny didn’t win the U.S. belt that night, fortunately, he wasn’t hung from the rafters either!

But into the 1980s, most fans associated Johnny with his television announcing. When the World Wide Wrestling TV show came into the Richmond market in March of 1979, one of the first shows that aired had Johnny doing guest commentary with host Rich Landrum. Johnny would soon thereafter become Rich’s regular co-host, and the two meshed together wonderfully. Rich nicknamed Johnny "The Dean of Professional Wrestling," and Johnny would sing "Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over" to signal the end of a match. Johnny also announced with David Crockett, and later with Bob Caudle on NWA Pro Wrestling.

After Jim Crockett Promotions bit the dust in the late 1980’s, Mid-Atlantic fans like me were left to our memories, and often wondering what ever happened to our heroes. When Dick Bourne and I started the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in 2000, we hoped to sharpen our collective memories of the Mid-Atlantic years by doing a website. One of the wonderful results, and really unintended, was actually making contact with many of our Mid-Atlantic heroes from the past. With the help of Peggy Lathan, one of those was with "Mr. Mid-Atlantic," Johnny Weaver. It was a wonderful feeling to have a small part in reuniting Johnny and his former adversary, Rip Hawk, for two recent get-togethers in Charlotte. Likewise, it was wonderful to be a part of a surprise birthday party thrown for Johnny in Rocky Mount Virginia this past November. Little did I know, Johnny would pass away in a scant three month hence.

I received an email from Johnny just two days before he died. I still find it hard to believe that I was a regular on Johnny’s email list! I’m proud that the Gateway was able to get information out to Johnny’s fans about his illustrious career. There would have been so much more, had Johnny lived longer, and that is so sad. But one thing that I’m happy about, is that through the Gateway, Johnny truly realized how many fans still remembered him and his career, and the extent to which he touched so many lives. I have no question that when he passed away, Johnny knew without a doubt that he was still the "Dean of Wrestling" to so many wrestling fans, and not merely a forgotten ghost of wrestling’s past.

What a lot of wrestling fans didn’t know about Johnny was that he worked for years with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department near Charlotte after his wrestling career was over, transporting prisoners. Being a prosecutor for many years, I know that inmates are not often at their best going to and coming from Court. Transporting them is not an easy job, and is often thankless and always dangerous. But it is oh so important for everybody that works in the criminal justice system. From all accounts, Johnny was as reliable in his job as a Deputy Sheriff as he was working for Jim Crockett Promotions. I know, many times in trying to set events up for Johnny, we had to work around his schedule with the Sheriff’s Department! And his schedule there was brutal, much like it was as a wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic area. But somehow, I don’t think Johnny would have wanted it any other way.

Whether it was wrestling, announcing, booking (yes, Johnny booked matches as well!), or transporting prisoners, Johnny Weaver was a constant, and rock solid at whatever he did. Unassuming, and never one to try to draw attention to himself, Johnny’s abilities did that for him. When I think of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Johnny holds my earliest memories, and he was that person that you always were going to see in some capacity every week. And somebody you needed to see for your wrestling week to be complete! To me, Johnny Weaver was and always will be, "Mr. Mid-Atlantic." The consummate good guy in the ring and on TV during the Mid-Atlantic years, I was blessed to get to know him as a good guy outside of the ring and when the glare of the TV lights were off… at the end of his full and eventful life.

Goodbye Mr. Mid-Atlantic…you have left a lifetime of wrestling memories for the many wrestling fans you’ve left behind.

David Chappell
March 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hard To Handle

by Peggy Lathan

Oh my goodness, where do I begin? The death of a friend is always hard to handle. I have mourned many of my wrestler friends in the past – Gene Anderson, Dick Murdock, Wahoo McDaniel, Ben Alexander, just to name a few. But I don't think I have ever been more shocked to hear of a wrestler's passing than I was the day I read about Johnny Weaver. Yep – I read about it on a wrestling message board and I couldn't believe my eyes. I immediately started calling people hoping against hope that it wasn't true. After all, Johnny couldn't be dead! It had to be a mistake. But, unfortunately, it was soon confirmed and I was totally stunned. I just couldn't believe it.

I had known Johnny for 30+ years. I was a front row "regular" at the matches in upstate South Carolina. I went to wrestling matches three to four times a week – every week - during the decade of the 70's and early part of the 80s and I was fortunate to be able to make lasting friendships with my wrestling heroes. Johnny was one of the first wrestlers I ever talked to and soon became not only my hero, but also my friend. I saw him every week, sometimes several times a week, and he'd always give me a hug and ask how things were going for me, and would ask about my Mom and Grandmother, who also attended the matches with me. He was just a sweet, kind person who was so easy to talk to and was always so available to the fans. He'd stand out in the arena and pose for pictures and sign autographs until it was time for him to wrestle. He always took time for the fans. That's why so many loved him, and why so many are mourning his passing. When you can make a connection with your hero, you never forget it.

But as lives go on in different directions, sometimes even the best of friends can lose touch. And during the late 80s and 90s, when the wrestling I loved so much began to change and Weave started working at the Sheriff's Department, that's what happened with me and Johnny. We lost touch for a few years.

But a few years ago, some friends of mine gave me a surprise 50th birthday party at a local hotel in Greenville. I have to hand it to them – I never suspected a thing. I walked into that room to a multitude of friends and family, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite a while. But can you imagine my surprise when I turn around and who do I see? Johnny Weaver! After so many years, Johnny took the time to drive to Greenville that Saturday afternoon to surprise me and help me celebrate my milestone birthday! And he even parked in back of the hotel because he was afraid I'd see the SLPERMAN tag and suspect something. I was just thrilled to see him again. And after that event, we stayed in close touch after that.

Since that time, I have been blessed with many opportunities to spend time with Johnny. My friends, Rochelle, Clay, Eddie and I have made many trips with Johnny to Myrtle Beach, where we joined up with Gentleman Jim Holliday at the local karaoke bar and I got to enjoy (and laugh – and sometimes cringe!) at hearing Weave sing every Willie Nelson song Jimmy had the music for. Johnny loved to sing that karaoke, and he always had such a good time there! And the first year we went to the beach, to my surprise, when he went swimming, guess what? He didn't wear swimming trunks – he wore those old, old red wrestling tights! Yep – 20 years later and they still fit him to a tee! That was a funny moment.

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to Johnny's house many times for cookouts and just to visit, not to mention getting to ride with him to various wrestling events that he attended. I was able to introduce him to a whole new group of fans of his – Dick, David, Carroll, Mike – all of whom grew up watching Johnny on TV, but never had the opportunity to actually meet him. He was amazed at the wrestling knowledge these guys had – he said they knew more about his career than he did! He really enjoyed getting to know them and talking to them about his early career in MACW. And they were all on his email list, too!!

When Johnny finally got a computer, we emailed each other almost every day. Because I didn't know what shift he was on each week, I didn't call him often because if I woke him up, he'd have trouble falling back asleep. But whenever he got up, he'd get on that computer and we'd "chat" with each other about college football, racing, baseball, and various other things. He always wrote in all caps with little or no punctuation. Sometimes it could take a while to figure out what he was saying. It was one of the little quirks of his that I will miss. I got a very sweet Valentine's Day e-card from him the day before he died. I will treasure that forever.

The things about Johnny that are my most treasured memories are: In the mornings, after he'd eat his breakfast (usually toast), he would work the crossword puzzle in the newspaper – and he was good at it, too. Nine times out of ten, he'd finish the whole puzzle. I also remember his little hand-held solitaire game – he LOVED playing that little game. He was always saying, "See if you can beat that," talking about his high score. And I couldn't! I also think about how he loved to mow his lawn. He had a large backyard and a riding lawnmower and he just loved to get out there and mow grass. And chase the rabbits out of his small garden area. And kill any snakes that happened to be lurking around his house. And let's now forget that red 1999 SLPERMAN Cadillac of his which today has only about 35,000 original miles on it. He drove his pickup truck all the time – only got the Caddy out for special events. Sometimes the Caddy's battery would be run down because it hadn't been cranked in so long and he'd have to push it out of the garage and jump off the battery. These are just a few little things that now mean so much to me and will stay fixed in my memories forever.

I know hindsight is 20/20, but looking back at the last six or so months of his life, I know that the Lord had a hand in the events that happened in Johnny's life of which I was a part. Last August in Charlotte, Johnny had a wonderful reunion and dinner with his old friend Rip Hawk. Later that month in Burlington, he had surprise reunion with Rich Landrum, Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson. It had been 25 years since he had seen Landrum, and the look on his face when Rich knocked on his hotel room door, and Johnny opened it, was priceless – What did he say? He looked at me and said, "Well, I'll be damned! You really got me!"

Then in November in Rocky Mount, VA, there was a second "reunion" with Sandy Scott and Jim Nelson, and most importantly, Johnny finally agreed to do an interview with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and now his life story can be preserved as part of wrestling history. What a time we had – listening to Johnny tell his life story and looking at the clippings and photos in his scrapbook. And this didn't come across in his interview, but we all loved his impersonation of Brute Bernard!

In Rocky Mount, being as Johnny's 72nd birthday was only two weeks away, we decided to give him a surprise birthday party, as others on this blog have talked about. We turned the lights off (no pun intended) and had the candles on the cake lit. Johnny opened the door to the conference room and we immediately hit the light switch and all yelled out "Happy Birthday!" He was so thrilled and grinning like a cheshire cat! And what did he say to me? "Peggy, you got me again!" and gave me a big hug. Johnny was like a kid in a candy store – he was so happy to be there with his friends – both old familiar friends like me, Clay, the Kernodles, Sandy Scott, Rick McCord and Jim Nelson, and his "new" friends (Dick, David, Mike, Carroll, Kyle and Tonya), who he also loved dearly. Birthday cake, candles, birthday balloons, birthday banners, a gift of a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. calendar from the Rossers – we went all out for his surprise party. And I'm so glad I have that memory because little did we know, that was the last time we would ever see him.

Johnny always thought no one would remember him – but how wrong he was. He was an icon in this area – a true hero to many people. And he was loved by everyone. No one can talk about Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling without mentioning his name. He was MACW!

I will truly miss Johnny. Even now, it's unbelievable that he's gone. But he definitely is not forgotten. He will always occupy a place in my heart. And I will always remember just how happy he was the last few months of his life! And that gives me comfort and closure.

- Peggy Lathan

Monday, March 3, 2008

Goodbye to the Dean

by Rich Landrum

Goodbye my friend. I’ll miss you.

I’m sure there are some who may have wondered why I had not posted anything sooner about Johnny’s death. Simply, it was just too emotionally difficult.

I had known Johnny, since the mid 70’s, when I started doing the ring announcing in Richmond. Which was a time when tag team wrestling was the major draw for JCP. And he was George Becker’s partner. By 1978, I was doing the World Wide Wrestling show and Johnny joined me as my co-host. If you’ve read my interview on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, you know I dubbed him the “Dean of Professional Wrestling." But, little did either of us know, that moniker would stay with him the rest of his life. After that, Johnny would call me ”The Voice.”

After we both left wrestling, we lost touch with each other until several years ago and that reconnection was as if we just picked right back up to where we are at this point.

That Friday morning, I learned of his death quite by accident, as there was a one line post on a wrestling website that he had died that morning. I remember my reaction, as I said to myself, “No way! I just got an email from this morning. How sick can someone be to post something like that?” I then started contacting others (Ivan & Renae Koloff, Peggy Lathan, Dick Bourne and others) to confirm or deny if it was true. The first telephone response I received, said “No, it’s not true”, that they had spoken to him that morning and he sounded fine. Later, that Friday morning more replies confirmed his death. I was totally stunned and deeply saddened. My colleague and friend of 30 years, was gone. As the funeral arrangements were made public, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be there to say “Good Bye” to my best buddy.

Normally, funerals don’t have a lasting impact on me, as I rarely show my emotions. However, Johnny’s funeral has impacted me to this day and at times when I read stories about him or watch videos of him, I still get teary eyed. When my wife finds old pictures of Johnny and I on the World Wide Wrestling TV set, I just stare at them and fondly remember the time we had together.

The Sunday after his funeral, some friends at my church asked about the funeral. And I related to them, the visitation that Tuesday night and how many from the wrestling world had come to the funeral home to offer their condolences to Johnny’s daughter Wendi and other members of Johnny's family. And, how it also gave us a chance to see each other after many years and reminisce about the good old days, when wrestling was “wrasslin”. I also explained, that what they saw of us on TV or in the ring, was quite different from what it was like outside the ring. That, for the most part it was like one big extended family. We all looked out for each other and it was no different at Johnny’s funeral. We were there to pay our respects and say “Good Bye” the Dean and to support his family.

I’m happy that I had the opportunity to surprise Johnny in August of last year at what has become known as the “World Wide Wrestling Reunion” in Burlington, NC. It was the last time I saw him alive. And he couldn’t have been happier.

I shed a lot of tears that Wednesday at Johnny’s funeral and will probably shed a few more each time I see something about him. But, I rejoice in that I know he’s now in Heaven and probably working with Gene Anderson to promote some matches.

The lights may be turned out, but your memory still glows in my heart and mind.

- Rich Landrum

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Thanks Kid


* * * * *

These remarks were made by Johnny Weaver's supervisor, Captain Michael Smith, of the Mecklenburg Country Sherriff's Department. They were made at Johnny's funeral in Pineville NC on February 20, 2008. They are posted with Captain Smith's permission and the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny's daughter. My personal thanks to both Wendi and Mike for allowing them to be shared here. -D. Bourne

* * * * *

I was hoping this moment would never come. As Johnny’s supervisor for many years I am proud to say we lost one of the preeminent hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic, fanatical, focused, dependable, reliable, entertaining, pleasurable, compelling, witty, loyal, truthful, steadfast, professional, employee and friend that we will never be able to replace.

I guess a prodigy is a good place to start as I am about to take many people to places and events in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office never before seen heard of or even believed by many. I have had the distinct pleasure of working directly with Johnny for about 10 year’s out of the 19. I will cherish my experience forever. I guess the one thing I can pat myself on my back for today is I finally have Johnny dressed the way I wanted to see him dressed for years and he doesn’t have a dip in his mouth and I don’t have to worry about how I would handle the complaint for him using tobacco products while on duty. We as command officers are continuously reminded to treat all our staff fair and equally. Favorites are not the way we do business but I must confess I have only had one favorite in 21 years and it was Johnny, so I guess I will never have another.

I am going to take you back to this last Friday February 15. It started out as any other day we all spend together except we couldn’t find Johnny. We all knew Johnny did not just not come to work or call, that was not the Johnny we all knew. Judges and juries don’t think we as officers have instincts but trust me, we do. I think we all new something was wrong and we need to go check on Sleeperman. As the first unit arrived he called out on the radio for others with a tone in the voice describing a sense of urgency telling us something was not right and Johnny needed help quick. Medical staff were summoned and so where his co-workers who just went on their own because the tone in the voice told it all. My instincts told me this was going to be the part of this job I have been trying to avoid with Johnny for many years. I turned on my lights and siren and began my journey to go get my friend and do what I could do to help. I was in the downtown area and as everyone knows sometimes traffic just doesn’t move too good then if you add the little blue lights and a siren you better hold on to your seat because it is show time.

So as I am proceeding to Johnny’s house under the sound of the siren and the minute of focus and decision making for some odd reason I heard a Rolling Stones song on my car radio. I leaned over turned up the volume and thought to myself as the adrenilin increased wow I wonder if this is what they listened to as they all road together in Johnny’s Cadillac from show to show. Now the siren was gone it was just me and the Rolling Stones and Johnny on the road. It made me really think because Johnny told me some of the stuff all you wrestlers did and if I stopped that Cadillac today, somebody would be going to jail, unless of course Johnny was driving and then it just might be your lucky day. So I say to you look around and take a good look at all these co-workers in uniform and realize one thing. We are well aware of what fun you all have had in the past in that Cadillac telling them lies and cherishing those moments as friends do. I asked Johnny one day how long it took to get from one place to the other and he said it depended who was in the car but usually two cases a beer and a bottle would get us there. Yep Johnny told on all of you. As I pulled up to Johnny’s house I saw the co-workers the expressions on there face and it confirmed what I already knew and it was not good. The second thing I saw was that old Cadillac still sitting in the driveway holding all the good times to it's self and then I said to myself, “well Johnny what do you think about that ride we just took that was some pretty good driving on my part”.

I guess I should have known and I actually do know now what Johnny was going to be like to work with and be around. Our first conversation was pretty short. I said "Hey Johnny what’s up?" He said "The price of beer," and kept walking and I said to myself this is going to be alright. Our companionship was off to a good start.

Johnny probably has not changed much over the years. He was still Johnny, strong as an ox, still a wrestler and loved life. We even used some of the skills he had to help us. One day Johnny just like many other days was moving a prisoner from one location to another and when they arrived at the final destination and went to open up the van door, out comes the prisoner without the leg shackles on he had when the trip started. Johnny took that devastating swing and the situation was well under control and as his co-worker said, “I am glad he didn’t hit me because something would have broke”.

Many people just don’t understand everybody young and old knows Johnny Weaver and as generations pass through our spinning wheels of justice there is still the case when somebody says "hey my dad wants to know if Johnny Weaver still works here" and the answer would certainly always be "well of course." I think on many occasions he probably still wishes he was back in the ring so he could most assuredly reduce any tension if it still did exist.

He told of one trip on the way to Raleigh how one unsatisfied customer asked him eight times to pull over because he wanted to wrestle Johnny to see it he still had it. I believe they may have stopped I just hope the one that started it finally made it to prison safe and sound. I guess the Dean of Wrestling took that one to school or at least I hope he made it to the prison.

As one of Johnny’s supervisors, I will always say he was a person who was a team player and cared more about everybody else than himself. Back when he was battling his prostate cancer a number of years ago he came in one day and said "hey Boss, if you don’t mind I need to run over there to Presbyterian Hospital real quick and get my dose of chemo and I will be back." I begged him to take the day off and as Johnny always said "no I got too much to do, I will be back." I told him "look Johnny just go home play in the garden do something, we won’t dock your pay, just go." He still would not do it but at least we were able to get him employee of the month shortly after this. Who else could deserve it more but a man who was older than all of us, had cancer surgery, treatment, and hardly missed a day of work, who could possibly be more worthy?

We idolize Johnny Weaver for the person he was and not being the wrestler that everybody grew up watching. Late last year it was time for our bi-yearly physical assessment, well we thought that it would be a good idea for us as A shift to do it all together so we could encourage each other as what everybody thought was going to be the worst day in our life. Johnny came to me and said he didn’t like doing this and it really stressed him out because he couldn’t pass all the requirements. Now when I say he could not pass all the requirements, trust me he passed most of them but that was not good enough for Johnny. I told Johnny he did not have to pass all of them everybody was already impressed what he did and many who were 30 years younger than Johnny could not even come close to achieving the level of physical fitness he did. I said "Johnny, you have nothing to prove to anybody. Don’t hurt yourself do the best you can and we are here for you. And if medic has to come and get you, don’t let them leave until I am done and we can go together." Well as we were getting ready to run our mile and half I looked at Johnny and I told him "you know, this run is nothing if I passed it last time you can pass it, but let’s do this. I will do it with you so it ain’t no big deal as long as you are ok. So if we fail the run we will fail it together." "No Boss go ahead" he said "I will be alright." I said "No Johnny, if you go down I am going with you." I did remind him next year we are going to get $300 if we pass everything. I said so next year you might have to get another running partner. We looked at each other and laughed.

Well go was the word, and off we went. Johnny took off, me right beside him, and he started running and I thought to myself "this may not be a good idea because at this pace I don’t know if I am going to make it." Well we continued on side by side and if Johnny wanted to jog we jogged, if Johnny wanted to walk we walked. I was the drill sergeant constantly telling him slow down, Johnny don’t hurt yourself take your time, rest if you need to. Well as we were getting closer to the finish line I told Johnny to go in front I want you to win. As we crossed the finish line and there was still some people behind us and they yelled out our time. Well Johnny missed the passing time by 13 seconds and me 15 seconds. I looked over at Johnny and said "Damn Johnny, if I knew we were going to be that close I would of left you the last 100 yards." Johnny was gasping for air, put his hand up on my shoulder and said "Thanks boss." I looked at him and said "See Johnny, you need to let that competitive spirit of yours from the Senior Olympics rest because you are going to kill me."

In August of 2007, we sent Johnny down to the Broad River Maximum Security Prison in South Carolina. He came back to Charlotte and called me on the phone and said "Boss I need to see you, I got a problem." Well this here is getting ready to be a first because in my 19 years with Johnny, this has never occurred. I immediately thought the worst. He decided we would meet behind HQ and I hurried to get over there. On the way over many things went through my head and not to many of them good. Well when I get there, Johnny is livid and I have never seen this way before. He starts to tell me when he was at the prison they lost his ID and some of his equipment he had. I looked at him, paused and said "Is that what you are worried about?" and he said "Yes I am. You got to do something about this." And I said "Johnny that ID ain’t nothing, it can be replaced." "I know," he said "but Boss, they lost it, not me." I said "no problem don’t worry about it." He said "Well you should see what they made me do. They made me stand away from them, hold my keys out, drop them, turn around walk through detectors, I kept setting them off. I told him, "Well Johnny, they just had some people escape down there a couple of months ago and I think they were in there for murder." He said "Well they never made me do this before. They made me keep going through the detectors, take my pins off do it again, take my shirt off do it again, take my vest off they took my badge from me. They wanted me to take my holster off, I told them I couldn’t it was secured on my belt with bolts. They made me take my shoes off and then he said they were going to make me take my pants off." I said "Stop Johnny. I know what it is, you didn’t have any underwear on and you got scared didn’t you?" Well he went back into his story still wide open and I again said to Johnny "Is this all because you did not have any underwear on?" Well to this day he still has not told me if had underwear on or not and I guess I will never know now, but boy was he mad.

Well as I told everybody Friday night as we met, I told everybody that things are going to change, we are going to have to work harder, go places we have never been, but pull together to get the job done. I told them Johnny can never be replaced and it will take at least two people if not more to do what he did as well as what he stood for and the way he worked. We are going to have to pull together, work harder, depend on each other, and carry out tasks we have not done for years. We are also going to have to by maps for the entire state of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida and many others.

Johnny said he only wanted to work just a little longer because he wanted those medical benefits, but boy doesn’t he look sharp today. The nice shinny badge, gold pens, award and service pins, tie and tie tack, shined shoes and well rested.

Johnny’s trade mark after many of his matches I guess he would sing, “Turn out the lights”. Well Johnny the lights are out but there will always be a memory of what you have done for this agency and many of the people who have graced your friendship. Sleeperman, it’s your time to go to sleep.

Thanks KID!

- Captain Mike Smith
Mecklenburg County Sherriff's Department

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This post was made with the permission of Capt. Mike Smith and with the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny Weaver's daughter.