Stories, Pictures,videos of my life in Pro Wrestling from the Past 25 plus years. Plus whats going on now in my career. I have traveled this country from Ocean to Ocean, The Gulf of Mexico to Canadian Border wrestling in the Biggest cities and the smallest towns. I have lived my wildest dream. Reached my goals. Had my heart broken and put back together to be broke again and again. All in the name of Pro Wrestling. Also check out my books and DVDs. Free shipping in the USA.
It is still October 29, 2017 as I start writing this but most of you won't see it till later. Today marks my 29th Anniversary as a part of the wild and crazy sport/business of Pro Wrestling. I wanted to share some memories and pictures with you of this day. The best way to do that is to just take it from my first book "Do Ya Wanna Be A Wrestler, Kid?". Which is always on sale on the right hand side of this page. below is a little bit of my first day in wrestling and how it all started. The full story is in the book but this is major highlights.
From my book
In 1988, yet another change came to pro wrestling in East Tennessee, but this change would be the one that would affect me most. By late 1987, Ron Fuller‟s Continental Championship Wrestling was in trouble. Even though the events in East Tennessee were doing well, the Alabama end of the territory was sinking into the abyss more and more each day, so Ron made the decision to sell all of the territory except from Chattanooga north.
In February of 1988, Fuller taped his first set of USA Championship Wrestling TV programs upstairs in the ballroom at the Knoxville Coliseum. The new show featured many stars who had drawn well in the area before and a few new faces to the area. My Mom was then working for Wal-Mart and was in charge of promotions and community affairs. She would do the seasonal stuff like book a Santa Claus or Easter Bunny, or set up the bake sales on the sidewalk for the schools or allow the Girl Scouts to sell cookies.
One spring day she got a call that she could not wait to tell me about. When she got home she asked me to guess who had called her. I had no idea so she told me, “Bob Polk.” She didn‟t have to tell me who Bob Polk was. He had been Ron Fuller‟s business partner not only in pro wrestling but also in a Nashville hockey team, and he was the onscreen promoter of USA Wrestling. I asked her, “What in the world would he be calling you for?” She told me that he was wanting to set up the Party Boyz for appearances in the local Wal-Marts in towns where they would be wrestling. The Party Boyz were the most popular stars on USA Wrestling. They consisted of the son of the legendary “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, Scott “Super Kick” Armstrong; and the tag team of Johnny and Davey Rich, the cousins to former NWA World Champion Tommy “Wildfire” Rich. She told me that they would be at the Greeneville, Tennessee Wal-Mart in two weeks.
me with Johnny and Davy Rich at a Wal Mart
The day of the personal appearance I was up and ready to go a couple of hours early. We arrived about 3 minutes before they were advertised to be there, but they were already there signing autographs and selling their T-shirts and pictures, and promoting the event that would be in Greeneville that Thursday night. After the crowd died down, Mom and I went up and talked to the wrestlers. She told them that she was the one who had booked them, and that she had several other stores lined up for them. They seemed happy to be set up at the front door of the busiest store in town making money selling their products. One of the wrestlers asked if they could give us some money and have us bring them some food, so we did and went back with them to the break room at the back of the store. While they ate, I couldn't wait to ask some questions.
My first question was to Davey. I asked him why he was called David Haskins in Memphis and UWF but was now known as Davey Rich. I could tell this caught him off guard. It took him a few seconds for him to tell me that he wanted to make sure he was a good wrestler before he used the family name and that he was a Haskins but his mom was a Rich. Johnny Rich asked me how I knew about Memphis and UWF. I told him that they both were on TV in the area and that I watched every wrestling show that came on. I told them how I had been going to wrestling for a few years and had met a lot of the wrestlers. For the next few minutes they asked me all kinds of questions about how Jim Crockett‟s NWA was drawing in Johnson City, Let's jump a head
The following Thursday we went to the Greeneville National Guard Armory for USA Wrestling. The place was a sellout. As we walked in, the Riches were at their tables, and they greeted us like old friends. Davey introduced us to promoter Bob Polk, who gave my mom a list of towns coming up and asked if she could help get the Party Boyz set up in the local Wal-Marts. Mom said she would make some calls.
Over the next few weeks, USA Wrestling would be in towns all around my hometown. Mom was able to get them set up in every town and we went to the matches when they were nearby. Every time we went, the Riches treated us like old friends. One night in Morristown, Tennessee, my mom told Bob Polk she had a local booster club in Kingsport wanting to do a fundraiser and she had the people from Coke donating drinks for concessions. She said she could have wrestlers at both Wal-Marts in town, and they would hand out flyers the week of the event. Bob told her that USA Wrestling was being bought out by David Woods‟ Continental Wrestling Federation in a couple of weeks, but if she could come to the matches the next week in Knoxville he would introduce us to the people she needed to talk to.
The next Friday we were off to Knoxville. I had been to the matches many times in Knoxville because my Dad had taken me down a few times a year. The Knoxville Coliseum is much bigger than any other building we went to see wrestling in. It‟s funny how far away from home Knoxville seemed back then. It was only 80-some miles, but it seemed like a full day‟s drive. When we arrived around 5, we entered the big lobby and asked at the ticket booth for Bob Polk. They called him on a walkie-talkie radio, and a few minutes later, he came and took us down to the arena floor where they were setting up the ring. To me this was worth the drive alone as I sat there and watched them set up the ring. I had always wondered how a ring was built, and had for years heard non-fans tell me how it was built like a mattress or had huge springs under it or a foot of padding, etc.
Let me set the record straight on a few of these foolish ideas. There are a few different designs for a wrestling ring, but the one consistency is that they are all built of wood and steel. The ropes are either ½-inch cable or inch rope. Some rings do have a spring but the spring-load rings are more dangerous than the others. The spring will only go so far before it bounces back slapping your body. There is padding on a ring but not much more than what is under carpet. Now listen to me, people: everything hurts! Hitting the ropes, the corners, the mat – it all hurts. Your body stops but your organs, muscles, etc., are still moving inside you.
As we watched the men set up the ring, Bob Polk came back with Ron West. I knew Ron West as soon as I saw him. He was a long-time referee who had been on TV for years in Tennessee and Georgia, and now he was the General Manager of Continental Wrestling. Bob introduced all of us and told Ron that we wanted to do a fundraiser and what we had been doing for USA Wrestling. Ron and Mom talked for a few minutes and he took Mom‟s office number and told her he would call that week. Bob Polk came back over and gave us free ringside tickets for the evening.
We were sitting there as they finished the ring setup when Davey Rich walked into the back of the building. I went over to say hi as he was setting his T-shirts and pictures out. As we were talking, Ron West came by and Davey said, “Hey, Ronnie, give this kid a job. He is always around and loves our business.” Ronnie laughed and said, “I started about his age setting up the ring and now look at me.”
That week Ron called and worked out all the details for the fundraiser. The event was set for October 29, 1988. Ron asked about who would poster the town, and Mom told him that she would take care of that; that she had a son who would do anything that had to do with wrestling. When he asked if I would be also interested in helping set up the ring, she said I would probably jump at it!!
Ron had the posters sent to Wal-Mart about three weeks before the event. They were 200 cardboard Tribune Show Print Rainbow Posters in a big box. She brought them home and I remember looking at them and thinking, “Where are we going to put all these?” We went out a couple of afternoons after school and hung them anywhere people would let us: gas stations, video stores, restaurants, and every other locally-owned business we could find. Little did I know this was training and education for the future.
Newspaper ad signed to my Grannie
When Saturday, October 29, 1988 came, I was up bright and early waiting for everyone else to get up. How could I sleep? I was going to set up a wrestling ring that day!!! Mom got up and ready and off to Wal-Mart we went. First we went to the Colonial Heights part of Kingsport to Wal-Mart Store 599 to make sure everything was set up for the appearance of Dr. Tom Prichard and “Nightmare” Danny Davis. Then it was off to where Mom worked, Wal-Mart Store 742 in the Stone Gate Center to set up for the Riches.
The wrestlers got to the stores about noon and fans were waiting on them. Somehow the Riches ended up with Tom Prichard‟s pictures and shirts in their car. They needed someone to run them across town to him. They had a driver with them but needed someone who knew the way, so I volunteered and off we went. As we got to the other store, we saw Tom sitting on a car far away from everyone in the parking lot. We pulled over to him, and the driver gave him his stuff. He said, “I was hoping you wouldn‟t bring it. Now I have to go in here and talk to these people.” That was my first time meeting Dr. Tom Prichard. I speak to him every few days all these years later. And he is not any more cheerful now than he was then. We went back to Wal-Mart where Mom worked and I helped her for a couple of hours getting the stuff for the concession stand. Once again I had no idea it was training for my near future. At two o‟clock the autograph signing was over and we all headed to Ryan‟s to eat. That afternoon I saw just how rude wrestling fans could be for the first time, and it made me question how I had acted around the Riches over the past 6 months. Let's Jump ahead again
After the circus at Ryan‟s we headed to Sullivan South High School. As we walked in, I saw the ring truck backing up to the front door, and Bob Polk asked me if I was ready to learn how to set up a ring. Once again, this was training for my near future. When he introduced me to the man with the ring, it was none other than Bud Adams. For some reason – and this was the only time that I saw this over the last year of Continental - they had rented Bud‟s setup for the night, even though none of Bud‟s guys were on the card or even there. So it was me, Bud, and two kids who went to school there setting up.
Davy Rich and his birthday cake my Mom gave him at Wal-Mart
After we got the ring set up, then it was time to set up the ringside seats. As we were setting up the seats, over comes Bob Polk and he asked me how good of a salesman I was. I said that I had no idea, but he said he needed someone to sell the programs. I said, “Oh I can do that” and he said he‟d give me ten percent of what I sold. Wow! What a day! Setting up a ring and now I was going to get paid something for being involved with pro wrestling.
"Nightmare" Danny Davis at his merchandise table before the doors opened
Willie B. Hert (Pez Whatley) at his table as the doors opened
Davy slams Pvt. Pyle (Mark Young)
Johnny Rich vs. Kokina - Kokina would go onto be WWF Champion as Yokozuna
That night was an All-Star card from the opening match of Prichard vs. The Grappler to the main event of Ron Fuller vs. Moondog Spot with manager Ron Wright. I watched the matches as I walked around selling programs. As the main event started, Bob Polk waved me over to the merchandise tables. When he took the money and counted it, I had sold 116 programs. He said “Good job” and handed me some money. I went over and sat down to watch the main event. As I was walking to a seat I was counting in my head. I should have $11.60 but when I sat down I had $XX (amount is in the book). That‟s right – my first day and I got a bonus!
Once the matches were over, it was time to tear down the ring and chairs. People from the boosters and Wal-Mart started on the chairs while I went to the ring. Guess what? The other two kids had left. So now it was me and Bud to tear down. Once again, it was training for my near future.
The match of the night on October 29 1988 was no doubt Danny Davis vs. Ken Wayne
As always thanks for reading. If you want the full story you can read it in my first book. Also I want to say a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me, supported me, booked me, bought a ticket to see me, or followed my career the last 29 years. I'm working on something BIG for my 30 Anniversary next year in Kingsport! The Lord has blessed me to live my dreams and make it through this world as a wrestler. I'm not done yet my goal is 40 years in the ring. The a lifer some how involved with wrestling. I'll see you at the matches!!!!
Picture of Whitey Caldwell taken shortly before his death.
This past Saturday Oct. 7 marked the 45th anniversary of the untimely death of a East Tennessee Legend Whitey "Dynamite" Caldwell. Long before he was a pro wrestler, Whitey Caldwell's name was well known in Kingsport. I never met Whitey, but I have known many people who knew him. Not once have I ever heard anyone say anything bad about him. In fact, when his name comes up to those who knew him, they seem to light up. They all have stories about what a great athlete he was and more importantly what a wonderful man he was.
Many have told me he could run faster, hit a baseball farther, throw a ball faster and longer, and out-wrestle and out-fight anyone else. At his widow Nancy's funeral, the preacher doing the service said, "Everyone wanted to be Whitey. Even when he was a teenage high school sports star, grown men wanted to be Whitey."
Before Bristol was "Bristol Baby" with NASCAR, before The University of Tennessee was drawing 100,000 people for home football games, and before NCAA and pro sports filled the air waves, the local sports heroes and TV celebrities were pro wrestlers. Whitey was not just a star; he was THE star.
Whitey started wrestling as a teenager at the Kingsport Boys Club. In 1956, a local boxing promoter and independent (outlaw) wrestling promoter named Buddy Russell ran a card at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. The event drew a large crowd, not for the boxing, but to see two young kids and future legends from the Boys Club take their first steps into a ring. It was not long before the two were working for Mickey's established office out of Kingsport. It has been legend that Whitey was not interested in becoming a full-time pro wrestler. He told Baarnes that the only way he would turn pro is if Baarnes let his childhood friend Ron Wright start also.
Don Wright, Whitey Caldwell, and Ron Wright Kingsport Boys Club 1950s
Like Ron, Whitey is remembered mostly for their Legendary Feud, but there is much more to this man. There are very few pictures of Whitey because he was too shy and too modest to sell them at the matches. The one that was finally sold at the matches was not for Whitey's gain. The proceeds were used to pay for a young Morristown girl's kidney operation. That was Whitey, always thinking of others.
Whitey and The Wrights were mentored early on by a wrestler they went to see as boys named "Wild" Bill Canney. Bill was a top star in Kingsport in the 1950s. His career was cut short when he had a heart attack at a young age. He made Whitey, Ron and Don promise that they would always have something to fall back on to feed their family because he did not. Bill would be ok thought as he worked for Baarnes as an office man and he also worked over night as a security officer. The Wrights and Whitey always kept their promise even though they made a lot more wrestling than they did at their 40 hour jobs.
My cousin Iva worked with Whitey at the AFG Glass Plant. One day she and I started talking about him. She said, "What a nice man. He was always so polite and respectful to others." I was also told by a man who also worked with Whitey that "He truly cared about people. He would always ask about your family and how you were doing. If someone at work had a death in the family, Whitey would go ask if they needed anything or if he could help in any way."
The other thing people would tell me about Whitey was the battle scars he carried proudly. His matches were very physical. He gave a 100% every night no matter who he was in the ring with or where he was at. That is just one of the many reasons he was so loved by the fans.
There was an old rule by promoters. Never push locals. If they get over and become the big star then they may break away and run on their own. The plans for Whitey was for him to be a preliminary wrestler. Maybe get a Main Event here and there in a tag match teaming with a bigger star. The plan for Ron Wright was for him to be a ref mostly and just fill in as a wrestler when needed.
Well two major events changed those plans in a big way. In 1961, Mickey Baarnes was able to work out a deal for his matches to be shown live from the new station on the air, WJHL, channel 11. The matches were live from 4 to 5 in the afternoon on Saturdays. Mickey hosted the program himself. To see what kind of viewership they were getting, they had people write in and tell them their favorite wrestler. The wrestler with the most votes would be crowned the “TV Champion.” The Wrestling office was shocked when letter after letter coming in was about Whitey and how much they loved him. Sam Steamboat, Rocky Smith, and Frankie Cain were all wrestling in the area regular and were much bigger names. They all were established stars across the Southeast. But People wrote in from all across the region, and Whitey Caldwell was named the first-ever TV Champion.
Lot of what is remembered about Ron and Whitey is more legend than fact. Many people today talk like Wright and Caldwell wrestled every week, but that is more legend than anything. As you will see in my book, Ron Wright also had major money programs with Lester Welch, Rocky Smith and World Junior Heavyweight Champion Danny Hodge, among others. They also were not on every card as people remember, as they would both take time off when they felt they were growing stale and then return when they felt it was the right time.
What is true is that Ron vs. Whitey was, is, and forever will be THE feud of this area. I'm sure many people would like to take credit for it, but it all happened by accident. They were last-minute replacements for two well known national stars. It was their time to shine. They had been wrestling and rough-housing each other for years. Now they were getting paid for it.
Ron was mostly a referee and wrestled some as a preliminary. This match put him on the map and started a decade of bloody matches, titles, and sold-out arenas. “I didn’t mean it,” said Wright about the incident that kick-started his career as a heel. “It was an accident. I threw him over the top ropes and he came down wrong. Every time I talked about that, that’d set him off. He didn’t like it when I badmouthed him. That made me do it even more. So when he got in the ring, he was already mad.”
As you may guessed, this made Ron an overnight success, even though the office did not see it yet. The first round of the feud was just two locals against each other. Ron had not become a full-fledged heel because they wanted him to go right back to being a ref. Fate had a different plan for Ol' Brother Ron.
Paper Clipping Nov 30 1961 Kingsport, TN
There are very few pictures of Whitey and even less video. Thanks to Nancy Caldwell a few minutes of film of Whitey has survived. Even better it's vs. Ron. Below is the only known footage of Whitey from a match in November. 1962. (I know video says October I've got to fix that.
Did you know that Whitey and Ron were not only Tag Team Partners in 1967 but they also were the Kingsport Version of The Southern Tag Champions? Below is a rare picture of Ron and Whitey Together in Greeneville, TN.
At one point in his career, Whitey did not wrestle in Kingsport for over two years. It was in protest to change of ownership in the Kingsport Territory. He was loyal to Mickey Baarnes and did not like the new owner Lester Welch. Whitey also missed a year with the shoulder injury. And yet, despite missing over three years of 1960s decade, he was still the most loved wrestler. His pro career was only 14 years long. Three years of that he did not even compete in the Tri-Cities. Other years he was not featured so he may only wrestled here a couple times a month. Yet he is remembered and look at as being above most all others.
Whitey was tragically killed October 7th 1972 on his way home to the Colonial Heights section of Kingsport. Where he had just built a new house for him and his family near Warriors Patch State Park. He had did Knoxville TV in that after noon. Then wrestled in Morristown TN at the famed Tally Ward Building that night.
Interstate 81 had not been built yet so Whitey left Kingsport and came up 11e to Greeneville and was planning on getting on highway 93 in Greeneville then up to Fall Branch and then take Fordtown Road to Colonial Heights. That was the fast way back then. Whitey's was hit head on just a mile before Geeneville at 11:10pm by a young man name Beecher G. Dunn who was driving at a high rate of speed and was trying to pass cars when he met Whitey in a curve.
The crash scene the morning after you can see skid marks and how Whitey tried to miss being hit.
Whitey was taken to a hospital in Greeneville then rushed to the Johnson City Trauma Unit where he dies at 2:15am. This was before all night news stations, the internet, or social media. Most everyone found out of Whitey's death when they saw it on the front pages of newspapers around East Tennessee.
Whitey's car the morning after the crash.
He was seen on TV just hours before his death. A packed building cheered him on in Morristown. Went home talking about him and woke to find out he had died. His death was a shock and heartbreaking to everyone who knew him or was a fan of his. The day of his funeral stores in Kingsport closed. People lined the streets to pay respect as his procession came by.
The wrestlers who knew him from who were wrestling in other areas flew in to say good bye. His most hated opponent Ron Wright shocked the towns the following week as he went out before what was to be Whitey's match and told the people he might of fought Whitey but he respected him. Then Ron took his place as a tribute.
There was a benefit wrestling event ran in Johnson City to help pay for Whitey's funeral and raise money for his family. The event was shown in full on area TV two days later.
There was also a TV special put together with wrestlers talking about Whitey and showing clips from his matches. So many people wrote in and called the TV station that the program was repeated for several weeks. The fans did not want to let go. Truth to be told neither did the wrestlers.
Years ago I was talking to Ron and Don Wright about Whitey and I realized they never got to mourn his death. They all were partners in the Kingsport operation. They were the biggest stars for John Cazana in Knoxville. They were heartbroken and sad Whitey was gone but they had to make sure that business kept running. They were in all the towns. They never stopped. They could not stop they had families, wrestlers, sponsors, and others depending on them.
I've also been told over the years that John Cazana was crushed by Whitey's death. The two were great friends and John along with everyone else's hearts were not into Wrestling like they were before Whitey passed. It's also been said John would have not sold Knoxville in 1974 to Ron Fuller if Whitey was still alive and business was as usual.
There are so many what ifs. I sure history would be very different if Whitey lived longer. How? I have no idea. Times were changing with TV and how wrestling was presented. No matter what changes that would have came. I know somethings that would have remained the same. Whitey would have always been over and seen as a Superstar here. He would still have been loved. He would still have given back to his profession and fans. He still would have been well liked and respected by the other wrestlers.
Whitey is still considered the most loved wrestler ever in this area. This is attested by the fact that to this day, 45 years after his untimely passing from injuries in a car wreck, fans still visit his grave and leave flowers. How do I know this? Because I am one of them. He is buried in The Garden of David at East Lawn Cemetery on Memorial Blyd. in Kingsport. Several of my family members are buried around him.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your Whitey stories. Also if you have any pictures of him I would love to seem them as well.
If you would like to know more about Whitey, Ron, Bill Canny, or wrestling history in this area. Check out my book and DVD on Kingsport history. You can get them on the right hand side of the page.
Sinner saved by Grace, Pro Wrestler
Like everyone who knew him or even watched him on TV hosting Memphis Wrestling. I was sad to hear the news we lost the GREATEST of ALL TIME Lance Russell this past Tues. This picture hangs in my office. It was taken in Mobile Alabama 2 years ago. Lance is holding my first book. He is one of the people that I dedicated it to. I got to tell him that day how much he meant to me. So many others in my life I didn't get that opportunity. Make sure you take the time to tell people what they mean to you.
I updated today with events coming up this week in Kentucky and West Virginia. I also posted the last two weeks of Appalachian Mountain Wrestling TV. Scroll down to check all of that out.
A few weeks ago I was given a DVD of the Last WCW Event held in Kingsport, TN August 19, 1993. The matches were at the Buck Van Huss Dome (D-B High School Gym). That is the building I saw my first live matches in and spent many Sunday afternoons there watching Mid Atlantic Wrestling. I also have wrestled there, I wrote about many events from this arena in my books.
Here is a couple of matches from that event.
I got to Church Sunday morning to see my nephew Waylon was dressed just like me. There are not enough words to explain how much I love this little boy.