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 CarsAs 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 solater, 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
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
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 hadturned 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
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 Village Fest in Kingsport
2016 a Double Header Day
Post a Comment