S.S.W. 33rd Anniversary

S.S.W. 33rd Anniversary

Sunday, October 29, 2017

29 Years Ago tonight in Kingsport, TN Ron Wright and Ron Fuller return and My Journey Began

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!!!!

Beau James
Sinner Saved By Grace, Pro Wrestler

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