Thursday, July 21, 2016

A few notes

Make sure to scroll down as I have updated with a newspaper story and 
a blog on FunFest Wrestling earlier today. 

My newest book is now on Amazon and Kindle through Amazon. But if you want it signed and the free DVD and CD gifts that come with the book you have to buy it through this site. I will have some book signings coming up around Kingsport very soon.

I have three books to sell and endless stories to tell. I would love to do your podcast, radio show, TV show, or print interview talking my career and/or East Tennessee Wrestling History. email me at Thanks

Speaking of which I will be The Interesting Person of The Week this coming Monday in The Bristol Herald Courier.

Here is Misty, my mother Fay, and me with Rick and Bubba. The picture below is me with Speedy and Greg from the Rick and Bubba Show. 

I spent my birthday in Birmingham Sunday so we could go to The Rick and Bubba Show on Monday. I start most mornings with these guys. If you have never heard their show check it out Rick and Bubba Website Rick Burgess is a mighty man of God. His ministry is growing and I hope to get him in East Tennessee for a ministry event.

Misty and her fellow Water Warriors will be racing again in the Dragon Boat Festival at Warrior Path State Park. The date this year is Saturday August 13.This will be their fourth year. The first three years they have made it to Cup Races. Could this be the year they win it all?

Also misty is putting together our upcoming dates and will post them on her site "Country Strong" Misty James

Kris Zellner and I finished up our look at Continental Wrestling on his podcast Exile on Badstreet. Here is the link to all 5 episode. Yes we know they are long. You will be entertained and educated on one of my favorite territories. A look at Continental on Exile

Memories of Wrestling at FunFest and how it started.

While this event was going on at Freedom Hall myself, Scott Sterling, and Jeff Lovin were in the parking lot putting fliers for WrestleFest 91 on Cars
As we are in the middle of FunFest Week here in East Tennessee I thought it would be fun to go back and look at memories of Funfest wrestling events. 

If you have not read my first book "Do Ya Wanna Be A Wrestler, Kid?" Here is the story of how Funfest Wrestling got started in Kingsport. I was only 16 when I met with Funfest Officials.

In the Spring of 1991, I ran a few events around Kingsport and somehow ended up getting a wrestling event booked during Kingsport‟s biggest event of the year:  Fun Fest.

Started in 1981, Fun Fest is a family-oriented festival that includes sporting events, children‟s activities, concerts, hot air balloons, a pet dog show, and much more.  There are more than 100 different activities for all ages in locations throughout the Kingsport area.  Fun Fest is designed to bring the community together to celebrate, as well as bring travelers to this beautiful area of Tennessee.  And somehow, at 16 years of age, I was the first promoter to get a pro wrestling card as a featured event.

I knew we needed a big card for this event.  We needed
a better ring.  And we needed to promote it like crazy.  My 
parents and I had a meeting with all the boys we were going 
to use on Wrestle Fest ‟91. My mother and I made up a mock 
program and copied it for all the boys with advertisement 
prices in them.  Many of us went out and sold sponsorships
starting in June. My mother raised some sponsorship money 
from Wal-Mart.  We then started trying to book a national 

Somehow, I got a number to a promotion out of 
Charlotte, North Carolina called South Atlantic Pro Wrestling. My mom called their office and left a message.  A day or so 
later, a man named Frank Dusek called her back.  Frank is 
probably most famous as the television commentator and 
figurehead matchmaker for World Class Championship 
Wrestling when WCCW was televised daily on ESPN.  Frank 
was instrumental behind the scenes as part of the WCCW 
booking brain trust, and was responsible for the day-to-day 
operations of the office.  He also promoted towns and worked 
in the office for Bill Watts‟ Mid-South (later UWF) promotion. 
It was in Mid-South where Frank got his first exposure as a 
television commentator.

Frank was also a championship-caliber wrestler.  He 
won the Southern Heavyweight Championship (Florida 
version) from Barry Windham, and he and Bill Irwin teamed 
to win the WCCW tag-team championship from Kerry Von 
Erich and Terry Orndorff.  In addition, he was a leading 
contender for the Texas and Pacific Northwest heavyweight 
championships.  In Japan, he challenged Atsushi Onita for the 
All-Japan International junior heavyweight championship.
Because Frank could do excellent interviews, it was 
natural for him to become a manager.  His biggest moment as 
a manager may have come April 18, 1981 when his team of the 
Grappler (Len Denton) and the Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin) 
won a huge tournament at the New Orleans Superdome for 
the Mid-South Tag-Team Championship.  They scored a 
pinfall victory over the presumed unbeatable team of Andre 
the Giant and Dusty Rhodes before beating Junkyard Dog and 
Dick Murdoch in the finals.  He also led Bill Irwin to the Texas 
State Heavyweight Championship and the Super Destroyer to 
the Louisiana title.

Frank told my mother that for only $900, he would 
bring to our event himself, former WWF World Champion 
Ivan Koloff, international TV stars The Fantastics (Bobby and Jackie Fulton), Paul Jones, who was a legend in our area, and a young Indian wrestler named Chris Chavis, who would 
become the WWF/E‟s Tatanka in a few months.  It was like it 
was too good to be true.

Now that we had a good list of national names, Al Bass tossed in the idea to book Kingsport‟s biggest names, Ron and Don Wright. The Wright Brothers‟ feud with Whitey Caldwell in the 1960s and early 70s still holds attendance records in East Tennessee that will NEVER be broken. They were the men people loved to hate for nearly 3 decades.

The first of July we hit the streets with nice bright pink 
posters and handbills.  We covered not only Kingsport but 
every town and community within 20 miles of there. The 
Kingsport Times-News did a lengthy write-up on this upstart 
promotion. Bob Haywood from Channel 19 News called and 
asked if he could do the sports at 6 and 11 from the event.  It 
was like a dream.

There is an old saying – “too good to be true” – and I 
was about to learn this lesson and a few others.  Three weeks 
from the event, Frank Dusek called my house and asked that I 
send him the $900 via Western Union immediately.  I told him 
that I couldn‟t do that. One of the first things Al told me was 
never send wrestlers money upfront.  If they were true 
professionals, they would be there to do their job and you 
would pay them that night.  Funny how times have changed; 
you just about have to get at least half your money upfront 

About three days after the call from Dusek, I got 
another phone call from one of the wrestlers we had booked 
on the WrestleFest card.  He told me that he was in a town 
over the weekend with Ivan Koloff and he didn‟t have any 
idea about being booked in Kingsport.  He then gave me Ivan‟s number.  We called Ivan that evening and he explained 
to us that he had no idea about the booking.  We told him 
about the deal we had with Dusek, and he said that he could 
not come for what we would be paying.  He then told us that 
Bobby Fulton was overseas and would not be back until midAugust.  Ivan told us he was available that night if we could 
pay him what he was asking.  He also gave us Paul Jones‟ 
number and we called him and it was the same story with him 
that Ivan had just told us.

We went into panic mode very fast.  This was SSW‟s 
breakout event.  It had been advertised like no other event in 
the area, and now our main draws were not coming.  About 
an hour after we had talked to Ivan, he called back.  He said 
that he had talked to Paul Jones and Jackie Fulton, and that 
Jackie could come with him. If we had another young blonde 
guy we could put him with Jackie and call them The 
Fantastics.  We worked out a price for the two of them.
I was in no way, shape, or form ready for the amount of 
headaches and lessons I would learn the night of Wrestle Fest 

The day of the event we had some of the boys set up at 
the Wal-Marts like we did back in the days of Continental.
During the appearance at Wal-Mart, two of the PWA guys 
walked in.  They went around giving that stupid handshake 
that some so-called wrestlers think is a secret shake.  They 
made their way to me and said, “Hey, who are we wrestling 
tonight?”  I told them I had no idea because I was not sure 
where they were booked.  One of them said, “Here, for you.” 
I said, “Not for me, but we do have tickets for sale if you 
would like them,” which resulted in them cussing me out and 
stomping off. 

I went to the building at 4 p.m. to meet the ring.  When 
I pulled up, I was shocked.  There was a line of people down 
the sidewalk buying tickets.  I made my way in and started 
helping Jim Bell set up.  Jim brought the ring and two match up from Knoxville. As we were setting up, a tall, skinny,
nasty-looking guy came walking in the door.  I knew him the 
second I saw him.  He was the guy who had reffed the UWA 
card in 1986.  He went right to Rick Connors.  I walked over 
and Rick said that this guy wanted to ref.  The guy 
introduced himself as Junior Gibson.  I said, “Well, I have 
myself, Jimmy McKeeian, and Jim Bell.  No need for a 4

The guy kept on and on, begging me to let him ref one match. 
“I told everyone I was on this event,” he said, “My family 
bought tickets.”  I said no and walked off.  Rick Connors 
followed me and said to give the guy a chance.  Rick knew 
him from UWA cards. He said he knew the guy was awful, 
but to just let him do the opening match.  I broke down and 

After we set up, I made my way to the dressing room. 
There were several wrestlers in there who were not booked.  I 
tossed them out of the dressing room.  I made my way over to 
the other dressing room – same deal.  As I was cleaning the 
unwanted out the dressing room, I heard longtime Kingsport
wrestler Tony Peters ask, “Who is that kid?” and Wayne 
Rogers replied, “The Boss.” Tony said, “I don‟t know about
that, but he does have balls.”

About thirty minutes before bell time, I posted the 
lineup and started giving instructions.  Ivan Koloff, who I had 
just met 30 minutes prior, asked, “Who is this kid?” and Tony 
Peters replied, “The Boss.”  Stan Lee walked over and asked
me about the house. I told him it was the biggest I had ever 
been in front of (till that point) and they were still coming in. 

The card started, the crowd was hot, and the event was 
rolling right along.  No headaches or hassles from the boys. 
The sound crew and announcers kept things moving with no 
dead time.  The people were into all the matches.  We made a 
few changes in the card due to not having Dusek, Jones or 
Chavis.  Krunch was moved to wrestle Koloff.  Al and Krunch 
had split up the previous month, so Al was managing Uncle 

I was a nervous wreck.  I was reffing that match.  I had 
turned 17 two weeks before, and here I was in front of a 
packed middle school gym with local TV news taping it. A 
true legend and former world champion were in the match, 
and I was still learning the ropes.  Right before I went to the 
ring, Wayne Rogers came over and said, “Don‟t be afraid. 
Don‟t do anything different than you do with everyone else. 
He is just a man.”  I went to the ring and did the match to the 
best of my ability.  As Krunch was making a big comeback, I 
got knocked down. Al tossed the Russian chain to Ivan.  Ivan 
swung the chain and Krunch rolled him up.  As soon as Ivan 
hit the mat, the ref from the first match jumped in the ring and 
counted a fast three count.  I heard the bell ring and sat up to 

see what happened.  I heard Ivan cussing like a sailor.  I 
looked at Krunch and said, “What happened?”  Krunch said 
he was not sure.  I said, “Let‟s get the heck out of here,” and 
Krunch and I left.  As I got to the dressing room, I looked and 
saw Ivan slap the goof.  This idiot had reffed the first match 
then went and sat ringside.  We later found out he had told 
everyone he was reffing the “Big Names.”  He had sat there 
and waited on a moment.  Ivan thought it was a setup.  It took 
Rick Connors, The Wrights, and Wayne Rogers talking to Ivan 
to get him to understand.

Other than dealing with idiots, Wrestle Fest was a 
success.  We were on the front page of the Times-News the 
next day and on the Channel 19 news, and wrestling is now an
annual event during Fun Fest week in Kingsport.  Three 
weeks after the event, I got Junior‟s number and called him 
up.  I told him in many small words around four letters what I 
thought of him.  He told me he would kick my butt the next 
time I saw him, and I asked where he wanted to meet.  I have 
heard that he has passed on.  I never saw him after that day 
and never talked to him again after that phone call.

6 Man Tag from WrestleFest 91

We continued on with Funfest as an 
Official Event through 1993

Wild Samoan w/ L.E. Ward vs Skyfire WrestleFest 92

A Look at 1993 WrestleFest on sale now left hand side of the page

The Death Riders vs The Christian Brothers WrestleFest 1993

G.Q. Strattus vs. Wayne Rogers Wrestlefest 1993

In 1995 we started a three year run as apart of the Lynn Garden Block Party an official FunFest event

In 2002 we returned as an official Funfest Event. Selling out the Kingsport Civic Auditorium in 2002 ad 03

Beau James and Brian Overbay vs. The Duke's Dynasty 2002 WrestleFest

Sheri Martell vs Brandi Alexander WrestleFest 2002

Jimmy Golden vs. Jessie Taylor WrestleFest 2002

Larry Zbyszko Profile for his Kingsport Debut

2003 Jr Heavy Weight Rumble

Beau James vs. Bunkhouse Buck Loser Leave Town

From 2004 to 2009 other events were ran both as official and unofficial events during FunFest by other area promoters.

In 2010 we started running an Event during 
FunFest Week but not as an official event.

After WrestleFest 2010

A look at WrestleFest 2011 on sale left hand side of the page

WrestleFest 2012 also on sale left hand side of the page

In 2015 Southern States Wrestling became a part of the Gray Block Party an official FunFest Block Party

In 2015 we became apart of another FunFest Block Party
 in Village Fest in Kingsport

2016 a Double Header Day

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kingsport Times News Story on our Flood Relief for West Virginia

Please help West Virginia

The Lord laid it on me last week to help after seeing pictures of how bad the flood was. I have worked non stop for a week on helping my Appalachian Brothers and Sisters in West Virginia. Other than Tennessee I have spent more time there then any where. These communities need all the help they can get. Here is info and videos on what has went and what is needed.

updated list of items needed for WV as of July 2
Food - flat shovels - snow shovels - gloves - rubber boots - cleaning materials - mold buster - push brooms - sanitizer - disinfectants - mask - bug spray - stomach meds - sun screen. They can be taken to Blountville Christian Church across from the Blountville,TN VFD before 9am Tues. July 5 or let me know I'll come and get them.

If you live in West Virginia take them to The Princeton Rayz ball games till July 7th.

Anyone who might be able to go to WV and help unload we will leave 9am Tues. up , unload, and right back. Thanks email me at

WJHL News story from Monday June 27th

Updated after my first trip to the flooded area June 27

WV's Brad paisley comes in to help his home state. Support his Foundation.

Brad tours the area

my update after my 2nd trip into the area on July 1st

Any and all help will go a long way. thanks for watching God Bless You

Saturday, June 18, 2016

This Week's Southern States Wrestling Programs

Make sure you scroll down as there has been several updates the last few days.

This week on the Power Half Hour Nate Diamond vs. Liam Cross, Tributes to Gypsy Joe and John Manson, highlights of Beau James and Scott Sterling, news on July 9th and more

Southern States Wrestling Classics episode 5 Rock N Roll Express. Matches include Rock n Roll Express and Tim Horner vs. KC Thunder, Ricky Rockett and Buddy Landel, Ricky Morton vs. Stan Lee, and Rock n Roll Express vs. Scott Sterling and Frank Parker

a few SSW Classic Matches

Here is a match featuring Gypsy Joe from 2009. We lost Joe this week and he will never be forgotten by the people who knew him.

Nine years ago this week we Lost Sherri Martel. here is a match featuring Sherri in SSW from 2003

Here is another video from 2009 featuring Chase Owens who has been making an International name for him self the last couple of years.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Remembering Gypsy Joe

"Why were you trying to kill that older man?" - Misty James the first time she saw Gypsy Joe and I fight all over the building in Tullahoma, TN.  My answer "You can't hurt him" 

 I woke to some bad news this morning, the news that we have lost another wrestling great. My friend Gilberto "Pepe" Melendez better know as Gypsy Joe passed about 1am this morning in a Middle Tennessee Hospital.

 My first memories of Joe are of seeing him on Georgia Championship Wrestling and Memphis Wrestling. It did not take long watching Joe that you knew he was a rare breed of man. He would hit his opponents with his famed over hand chops and headbutts and you never doubted if they connected or hurt. Even when I started wrestling Joe years later he was still all man and a yard wide.

 Joe to some came off as a grumpy older wrestler who hated everything. He wanted you to think that too. As Ricky Morton says "Joe so grumpy he don't even like ice cream". Truth was far from the truth if you took the time to know Joe and let him know you. Joe was rough and told you like it was but he was always there to help you understand our profession. He was there to give advice about your matches. Ask any wrestler who has broke in to wrestling in the Middle Tennessee area the last three decades and they will all have a story about how Joe helped them.

 He was a wealth of knowledge and had the pedigree to back it up. Several years ago Joe was staying with me and we researched his career. He was amazed on what I could find of him online. Joe was funny about what he wanted people to know. He guarded his age like gold in Fort Knox (more on that to come). He had several personalities during his career some he liked and some he wanted to forget.

 As I googled his names he would tell me stories about each one. As each one was a phase of his life. He was Aztec Joe in the Detroit territory, Chief Tuna in Alaska, one half of the World Tag Championship Team The Blue Infernos with Frankie Martinez in the Tennessee and Alabama Territoris in 1966/67. If you go to Southern West Virginia and start talking about the old WOAY TV Saturday Night Wrestling  days the first two names that come up is Jan and Gene Madrid. Joe was Gene Madrid. They are to West Virginia what The Wrights and Whitey are to East Tennessee.

Below is a couple pages of my new book covering a little bit of Joe's stay in the Kingsport Territory in 1966 and 68.

 I remember one night in the dressing room about 10 years ago Bill Dundee asked Joe how long he had been wrestling. Joe said "Almost 40 years" everyone laughed as Dundee said " 40 years!?! I have been in America almost 40 years and you had already had runs on top as The Blue Inferno and other names a decade before" In Joe fashion he replied "you don't know everything".

 As I said Joe was very private about things. He guarded his age, birth name, and where he was born. When Jerry Lawler wrote in his book that as a young teenager Joe was his hero in Memphis wrestling Joe was very proud until he saw The King had listed his birth name.

 Around 2008 I started working with Joe on a book about his life. After a few days he decided he did not want to do it because he would have to open up about something he did not want to. I still have the few notes.

 Joe told me he came from Puerto Rico in his early twenties and worked his way as a farm hand from Florida to New York. He wanted to be a New York Yankee. He found work at a produce market unloading trucks. He would get a try out with the Yankees. When I asked him about it he said "all but one thing went great". He said "I could catch the ball, I could Throw the ball, but I could not hit the ball." I asked was you nervous? he Said "no it was to fast!"

 He turned his attention to learning to boxing. He started training at a local gym in New York. he said 'his trainer was always yelling at him to not let the other guy hit him. Joe was as tough as they came. One day a few well dressed men walked into the gym and everyone's attention went to them. Joe asked who they were and someone told him they are wrestlers. Joe had never seen wrestling but he liked how well dressed and the attention the wrestlers were getting.

That night Joe went to see the matches and he was hooked. The next week when the wrestlers came into the gym Joe started asking about breaking in. He would laugh when telling me how hard they made him train thinking he would quit. He said he trained for almost a year before breaking in as Pepe Figueroa in New York area.

 he had no idea that wrestling would take him around the world many times over wrestling across the North American Territories, Cuba, Korea, Japan, The Caribbean, and few other International Spots.

In the late 1960s Joe settled in West Virginia and became Gene Madrid. The brother of Jan Madrid the areas number one fan favorite. Joe also bought part of the promotion. He would spend the next few years beat West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kansas City area.

Joe also did well for him self in Japan where he was a main stay from the 1970s to 1993.  He started with the old IWE promotion where he was known for bloody matches. Joe is credited as being the first person to jump off the top rope in a cage. After IWE closed, he was as a regular for All Japan.  At the end of his days in Japan he was wrestling  for the W*ING promotion. He was known for hardcore brawling and bloody style matches. Joe had his last match in Japan in the early 2000s.

Joe told me when he came to Tennessee for Nick Gulas he was to be here for only six weeks. I asked when was that he said laughing "thirty years ago". In the 1980s Joe would wrestle for Nick Gulas, then George Gulas's UWA, and The Jarretts. His last run for Jarrett coming in 1986. He also had went back to Kansas City in 1985. He last appearance on Memphis TV would come in the summer of 1997 as the guest of Jerry Lawler talking Memphis History.

  After his years in the Territories Joe would become a pioneer of the Tennessee Independents based out of Nashville he wrestled for numerous promotions in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. Even though he was older he did have a name from years of TV and was still as tough as anyone in wrestling. He would compete several nights a week until I think 2011.

 Joe for three years in a row told me he was 77. Last year he told some people he was 84. I saw his age listed today as 82. Both Jackie and Don Fargo told me Joe was older than them. Paul Morton for years said he and Joe were the same age. Paul was just shy of his 90th birthday when he passed in December of 2010. I think only Joe and The Good Lord know his true age.

 Joe would stay with me and Misty at times for a couple weeks at a time. He loved watching ball games, drinking coffee, and telling his stories. He shared his faith with us many times. I'm going to miss him as everyone who knew him will. Joe was one of a kind.

 Joe fought  many battles his last years. He lost part of  one of his legs. The years of traveling and wrestling seemed to catch up with him. The last time I saw Joe was last year at the Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunion. Even in a wheel chair and frail he was still Joe. He was so happy to see the boys and everyone was happy to see him. A big thanks to Shane Morton for getting him there and taking care of him.

 To my amigo I say thank you for your friendship, your advice, and the memories. Thank you for all that you gave to the sport we loved. You truly gave your heart, blood, body and life to wrestling.

until we meet again
Beau James
Sinner Saved by Grace
Pro Wrestler