S.S.W. 33rd Anniversary

S.S.W. 33rd Anniversary

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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

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