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Gordon Solie Interview

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Jeremy Hartley: How did you become interested in wrestling and the wrestling business, were you an announcer before you broke into the business... why don't you, if you can, take us from there, the best you can.

Gordon Solie: Well, okay. My original goal of course, was to be a radio announcer, that's the way I started off. When I got out of the airforce in 1950 I took a job at a radio station in Tampa, a little independent 100 watter. They didn't have a sports show. Of course, I had always been very intersted in sports and participated, you know sandlot stuff - baseball, that sort of thing, and so I asked them if I could start a sports show on the station and they said, "Sure." So I started doing 15 minutes a night, I not only covered the line scores and that sort of thing, but I also looked around locally to see what kind of sports were involved. I knew that wrestling was held once a week, they had auto racing twice a week, we had smoker baseball - and then of course we had society tennis and society golf. The big stations, the network affilliates were very much into the society stuff. You know, I'd go out to the stock car races and there would be 3000 people out there and I'd go to a society golf match and there would be 40 people.

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Gordon Solie: And so I decided, "Well, hell, I'm going to go where the people are." I'd go to the wrestling matches and there would be five or six hundred people - so I got a hold of the promoter, Cowboy Lutrell, and I said, "Send me a couple of your wrestlers every week, the night you're going to wrestle in Tampa, and I'll interview them." Well, he flipped out, he thought that was marvelous, and so I started interviewing the wrestlers and interviewing stock car drivers...we had some damn good boxers in the area at the time too - the late Chino Alverez, Danny Nardico, Tommy Gomez, Willie Depp was living down here, so I did some interviews with them too. So I became sort of known as the guy who handled the "black leather jacket, dirt under your fingernails" sports...

Jeremy Hartley: Right (laughs)

Gordon Solie: ...then one day Cowboy Lutrell called me and told me that his ring announcer had quit, and would I be interested in ring announcing. And I said, "Well, what does it pay?" and he said, "$5.00 a night" - well, I was making 50 bucks a week as a radio announcer, so that was a 10% increase in pay - so I said, "Sure!" Of course, I was, in a sense, terrified because it's one thing to have them on your studio, when you're in control - but now it's going into their "happy hunting ground". I would rap rather timidly on the dressing room door and go in and get weights and all of that. Everybody was very cordial, but also I noticed that when I walked into the dressing room all conversation stopped, and the environment was not hostile but it was very guarded.

Jeremy Hartley: Right.

Gordon Solie: So this went on for, oh, a couple of years a a matter of fact and then I started going on the road with the Olaf Swensen Thrillcade in the summer months, which made my employment at the local radio station rather iffy because they knew that I was going to take off during the summer - so then Cowboy told me his publicity guy left and he wanted to know if I would be interested in working publicity as long as I was there doing the matches on Tuesday nights anyway, and I said, "Sure" - so I started doing that, one thing led to another and eventually he got television. When television finally came to Tampa, he immediately got it, but he didn't even think of me. He right away wanted to get a known personality...

Jeremy Hartley: And wasn't that really the norm of the wrestling matches at the time where it was more important to get a well-known personality calling the matches to try and draw the folks to the televisions, for example a game show host or something similar...

Gordon Solie: Right. In other words, it was thought that would #1 - lend credibility and viewers - and so Cowboy got a fellow by the name of Guy Bagly, who was the sports director from the only television in the Bay Area at that time, it was Channel 38. So he got Bagly to do his wrestling show. Well Bagly, he's now departed, but he did it because of the money. He was a light Colonel in the Air Force reserve, he had flown in WWII, was a hell of a pilot and a hell of a guy - a frustrated baseball player. Like I said, he agreed to do the wrestling show for Cowboy strictly because of the money. Didn't really have any real interest in the sport. Well, that didn't last too terribly long. Then they went to another fellow, Bob Jones, who did the show with Cowboy. Cowboy sat on the show with him. Cowboy learned that he better be there to get across what needed to be gotten across, because he wasn't going to get it from his announcer. You've got to remember too that this was a very close-knit organization, not like it is today...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah...there's no such thing as close-knit anymore when you consider wrestling and sports in general really...

Gordon Solie: Exactly. So he got Bob Jones - well, a funny thing happened, one day Cowboy was calling Bob Jones about something and the guy at the station said, "Just a minute, I'll get him." and he put the phone down. (laughs) And this is hearsay, since I wasn't there, but the way I got the story is that the guy said, "Hey Bob, Cowboy Lutrell's on the phone..." and Cowboy was sitting on the phone waiting and was alledged to have heard Jones say, "What does that old fart want?"

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Gordon Solie: Well, that ended Jones career. Cowboy was a very explosive man. So they finally got around to getting perhaps the most popular sports personality we've ever had in the Bay Area, "Salty" Saul Fleishmen...

Jeremy Hartley: Hmm, now talk a little bit about him, I not familiar with that name.

Gordon Solie: Well, Saul was a sportwriter and a sportscaster on radio, he made the transition to Channel 38, or Channel 13 rather and was just extremely well liked. He liked Cowboy and Cowboy liked him. So we had a big breakfast and Saul and I were introduced as the broadcast team, we had all the sportwriters and so on and so forth for this big breakfast - and we were introduced as the new broadcast team. Well, it was obvious that Saul was going to be the lead announcer, the anchor, and I was there to provide color. Saul had, I guess, high blood pressure but - things happened - the show went on for about three weeks and then something happened during the show one day, we had the Von Breuners, and of course, here they were the German storm troupers managed by a Jewish manager, Saul Weingroff, and here's Fleishman and he took umbrage that Weingroff would be managing Germans because you know WWII was really fresh in everybodies minds. So anyway, something happened and Saul disclaimed any knowledge or any responsibility or anything else on the air, he said, "I had nothing to do with this..." and he said he just couldn't do it. Cowboy said, "No, I think you're right, I think it would be better if we changed..." - so then it dawned on them, "Hey, we've got this announcer whose been doing color, and you know, has a better understanding of the business then anybody else, and he not that bad looking so I guess we can use him. I guess we can use him, see how it workd out.

Jeremy Hartley: Did Lutrell ever finally tell you why it took so long? If it were me I would have been thinking, "I've already got this guy who respected my boys enough to get them on the radio, to get them publicity, to get them this and that - why did it take so long? Or was that ever explained to you?

Gordon Solie: I never really pursued it, I was just so delighted to get the job - and Cowboy said, "We'll try you and see how it works..."and I guess, of course, the rest is history. But what I did too was something that...I don't know of any other announcers who have done it, that have never been a professional wrestler, but I got on the mat.

Jeremy Hartley: That's right! Lets see if I got this right. You were coached by John Heath and I guess Eddie Graham was also instrumental in...

Gordon Solie: Yeah and Curtis...

Jeremy Hartley: Oh, and Don Curtis?

Gordon Solie: Yeah, everytime I got on the mat with one of those guys I'd get hurt.

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Gordon Solie: Not hard, you know, not badly - but I got hurt. They were teaching me to respect the sport. I could also earn their respect - here's this little (knock wood)150 pounder willing to get on the mat with a 250 lbs. wrestler and literally put my body in their hands... But I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a side headlock - I wanted to know what a hammerlock felt like. I wanted to understand why a guy would make a particular move when he did, that where I learned the rudiments of chain wrestling. So I was sucking up knowledge like a sponge because I wanted to be able to tell the people what was happening to an individual who was in a hold. How they were going to have to figure an escape, and once they got the escape - if it was successful - then what was their next move. Would they have to come out of it and be defensive or could they come out of it and be offensive, you know, there's so much psychology behind it and, like I've said many times, "human chess" is what it's all about.

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Gordon Solie: So, gradually the guys not only grew to respect the way I never played games with them, I never put a guy down, I always tried to remain relatively objective even to the point where a lot of the guys that have wrestled for years - I don't know their real names! I didn't ever want to make the mistake of calling them by their real names...

Jeremy Hartley: Absolutely, it's good to hear you say that. There's too many people,,,I mean I do the same thing - with today's internet technology, everyone wants to put up the real names - when I speak to folks I call them by their wrestling names and I don't do anything other then that because there names are what they are - and we don't know them - we don't walk into their houses, why should we show them any disrespect? So it's great to hear you say something like that.

Gordon Solie: Well, thank you, I'm glad to hear you're pursuing the same bent on the thing because I think it's very important. You know, we don't do it with other personalities who have taken on stage names, so to speak. But anyway, that's how I got my start, then of course it was Saul Weingroff who got me thrown off the air...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, go ahead and talk about that. People have tried to sketch me a little bit of this stuff and they never seem to tell the entire story.

Gordon Solie: Well, we had the Von Breuners here, and of course they were red hot, they were absolutely red hot, and Weingroff was one of the most despised managers that you could find simply because there was the racial and religious ethnic background differences between these Arayan's and Weingroff. So one day, Weingroff...I'm doing the show and rocking along pretty well - we're having resonable success with it - so one day Weingroff comes on with an interview and we had...I forget who they were...they were the Eagles or somebody, we had a couple of other tag teams because tag team action was hot...and so we had these other tag teams and I and I asked Weingroff, "To what do you owe the success of your team?" And he said, "Well Gordon, it's very simple, now if you Americans (and he's as American as any of us) would do like we Germans do - concentrate on that we are all German, we're not Yankees and Southerners and so on and so forth and on and on and on..." Well, there was a retired judge who was a wrestling fan and heard all of this and he became livid. He wrote Channel 13 a letter, and this was not too long after they got their license, here was an ethics situation - that judge was furious! So he wrote Channel 13 a letter just raising hell. Channel 13 went to Cowboy and said they were going to take the show off the air, and of course that was disasterous, here I am part of it because I asked a question. Anyway, a compromise was reached but they had to have a fall guy - so I became the fall guy. The official word at that time from Channel 13 was, "Mr. Solie lacks control."

Jeremy Hartley: For asking, "To what do you owe the success of your team..?"

Gordon Solie: Well, that and the fact that I didn't control the answer. That I lacked control on my interviews so consequently I could stay on the program as a color commentator but they would have to use their own people to control the interviews. So, the first one they put in there was Paul Reynolds. Paul was on for a couple of weeks and was not doing extremely well because his attitude toward wrestling was a bit humorous. And then he got the mumps - so he had to come off the show. They brought in another fellow who is still alive and well and I don't want to bring up his name because I don't want to embarass him, but he was, very frankly, real solid ad he took it all very seriously and approached it, I thought, very correctly. And then he got into it with Saul, and the Von Breuners, by the way, had departed by now. So about six or eight weeks, maybe two months later they returned and this lead announcer asked Saul, during a TV taping, "Where have you been?" Saul looked at him and said. "I thought you were a sportscaster! If you were a sportscaster you'd know where I've been. I've been in the newspapers all over the country..." and he went on and on and on. It got this guy so mad that he got up and walked off the set!

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) So there goes his wrestling announcing career...

Gordon Solie: Well I thing the think about it was that Channel 13 finally realised that, "Hey wait a minute. We're either going to put up with this sort of thing and let it go..." - and I don't think this fellow was all that anxious to do it because he was pretty much of a sports purist and is to this day - a delightful guy, a really delightful person - in fact I just got a letter from him the other day, he had just learned of my wife's passing and sent me a letter of condolence, which I thought was very nice, even though it happened over a year ago - but he had just heard about it...so, anyhow, he left and Channel 13 said, "Alright, give it back to Gordon." And, of course, the heat was off by then, you know, things were back on a normal keel - so that's kind of the story on that picture.

Jeremy Hartley: Something that seems to be a common thread through these interviews, Les Thatcher commented on this as well. That was that if you were an announcers you didn't necessarily know about the inside of the business. Judging from what you're saying, if this gentlemen walks off the set, if this guy Saul said what he did to you, nobody must have really expected it. I think a lot of fans, younger fans especially, my generation, think that, "Oh, all the announcers were cued in to the business once they first got in..." - but that wasn't necessarily true, is that right?

Gordon Solie: Well that's absolutely right. In fact I got some news for you, there were a hell of a lot of wrestlers who started their career that didn't know anything about it. You'd be amazed because either so many of these fellows are still in the sport or are still around, I certainly don't want to mention any names but I know of a lot of wrestlers who stepped into the ring, that had never had a professional match before and they counldn't win to save their lives simply because they weren't good enough to win. There's an awful lot of guys that broke into this business the hard way.

Jeremy Hartley: Hmmm...you hear occasional stories, and of course a lot of them get blown out of proportion, but the common thread is that it took them to places that they have never been (laughs) to put it mildly.

Gordon Solie: Yeah...

Jeremy Hartley: Now here's a question: being only 23, I must admit I didn't really see any of the Championship Wrestling from Florida, which of course is a staple in wrestling history. You hear of a lot of these territories, I'm not going to get into naming all of them but one common thing was that Florida seemed to be a territory where people wanted to go - so what made wrestling in Florida and Championship Wrestling from Florida such an important promotion in wrestling history?

Gordon Solie: Well I think first of all...it originally began...when I first got involved with wrestling in Florida, there was no wrestling in the Summer months, it was only in the Winter months. It would start up in October, November, around in there and it would run through May, maybe June, and then it would shut down for July, August and September. This was before Florida became a Summer tourist area as well as a Winter tourist area. So in tjhe Winter time we could always count on guys like Argentina Rocca and Gorgeous George, Baron Leoni, the Roberts and...you name them...we got them all down here. Buddy Rogers, they all would come down because they wanted to spend a couple of weeks in Florida, in the Winter time and make a few bucks while they were here and they could also write it off as business. So that's how it started - the guys wanting to come to Florida - but then gradually we became the great testing ground because when Eddie (Graham) and Cowboy became partners, Eddie insisted on one thing to the guys who came down here, "Here, you will wrestle..." He didn't go for a lot of the high-flying high jinks - and he was very very careful about how people traveled, where people went after the matches. In other words, the guys that were very popular were not allowed to go to the same bar where the guys who weren't so popular went. There was a total separation. So when you were in Florida and you were wrestling, you know, you were popular or unpopular, you stayed with your group. You did not intermingle.

Jeremy Hartley: Oh how times have changed...(laughs)

Gordon Solie: Well yeah. Nowadays, after the matches on a Pay-Per-View you go to the local hotel bar where everybody is staying and they're all there partying together - it's very disappointing. It only proves a point, you know...but we became a testing and proving ground. When the television came in, of course the television show was a "one-hour commercial" - and it was all geared towards promoting next weeks matches. So because the promoters around the country, particularly if they had a young, green kid who had great potential - they would send him down here to get fine tuned. And that's exactly what we would do. We fine tuned a bunch of them.

Jeremy Hartley: Now, if you can remember some of the great matches that you were able to witness during your tenure in Florida, I'm sure you could fill volumes but if there is anything that sticks out in your mind, some of the folks who came down and you were able to watch them at their best...

Gordon Solie: Well, I'm glad you sort of re-phrased it because I've got..I guess in my lifetime, I've never stopped to figure it out but I imagine I've called over 20,000 matches in my career - so to call out the specific matches would be very difficult - I can certainly tell you some of the great matches, or great competitors that I've seen in matches. The first thought that comes to mind is Lou Thesz - Lou would come to town when he was Champion always dressed in a business suit, always was impeccably attired, was an extremely couteous, deferential champion - he, in my opinion, never overstepped his bounds. The sports editor of the Tribune, Cowboy would call Pete Norton and say, Hey Pete, Thesz is coming to town in two weeks." and Pete would say, "Fine, I'll call Palmasea golf course and get us some tee-times..." and Palmasea was the social hub of Tampa, but Thesz was immediately welcomed. But gosh, he'd get into the ring and he was such a consumate master. Then you've got Don Curtis and Mark Lewin in tag team combination - I've watched them in some fantastic matches against, if I remember correctly, the Von Breuners the Infernos and others. Lewin and Curtis were so good. Eddie Graham and the Great Malenko were some all time clasic matches, and of course, I think the all time classic classic would be the Jack Brisco - Dory Funk, Jr. matches.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, and they had quite a series between them...

Gordon Solie: They did. Just for my own research, so that I could talk about it on the air, I got Jack and Dory to weigh themselves before a match one night in St. Petersberg and after the match I went back to the dressing room and got them to weigh themselves again and Jack had lost 8 1/2 lbs. and Dory had lost 9 1/2! It was a two-out-of-three falls match and went two falls to a draw one hour...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, and that was not uncommon between those two...to go an hour...

Gordon Solie: No, they were phenomenal athletes, phenomenal competitors and every so often you get that magic you know... But I could go down the list - I mention these people and I am leaving out dozens and dozens of other great competitors. Jacob Grove, Hans Mortier was his name - he was one of the few that I got to know his real name. I did not socialize much with many of the competitors, I didn't feel it was good to mix...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, that's the question I was about ready to ask was did you have some kind of a camraderie with any of the guys.

Gordon Solie: Yeah, Don Curtis, Eddie Graham, Hans Mortier, the Great Malenko, Jack and Jerry Brisco, of course, the Funk brothers, Dory and Terry, Charlie Leigh...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, I'm sure it was something that many announcers can't really say and I think it was because, as we touched upon earlier, you had respected what they did and respected their craft - I watched some old Georgia Championship Wrestling lately and the common thread through it was, "Let me tell you something Gordon Solie..." It seemed like they would go in and beat somebodies brains out and then sit down and have a conversation with you (laughs) - they seem to really trust you on the air, and I guess from what you're saying, off the air as well.

Gordon Solie: Well, I don't think I ever deceived any of them. I think they respected me as a broadcaster as much as they knew I respected them as athletes. I think that was very important to them because there were a lot of people back when I first got into the business that really didn't respect these people as athletes, they respected them as big, rough brawler-type guys but they didn't understand the beautiful intricacies of the sport. I had a promoter who came out from California, was watching the matches - came up to me after the TV show was over and said, "Boy, you do a tremendous job." and I said, "Thank you very much". "However," he said, "it would never go over in California." And I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, you're talking above everybody's head." Well, of course, he was appealing to a certain ethnic group in California - but when you're on television you're appealing to all groups. And coinsequently...when I first got into radio, one thing I was told by a seasoned professional, "Please remember that when you go on the air, your audience mentality is age 14 - not physical age but mental age."

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah...

Gordon Solie: And I thought, "Well isn't that strange..?" That can create a real elitist attitude. Then of course, with the advent of television, I knew that everybody was watching TV, I might have college professors, I might have doctors - these aren't mental age 14 people - so let's not talk down to them to anybody, let's talk too them, and let's not be afraid to stretch them a little bit. If they are not terribly educated, throw a word in there occasionally that might cause them to say, "What the hell did he say?" and pick up a dictionary and look it up. So I felt that it was an opportunity, and this is sounding very self-aggrandizing but, I felt it was an opportunity to entertain and to, very frankly, educate - and I don't mean that to sound elitist, I realized from talking to the fans and all of that here was an area that I wasn't covering, and they were questioning - and I would go about trying to figure out a way to cover it so that there would be a logical explaination for what was going on.

Jeremy Hartley: Right.

Gordon Solie: The first time that I was doing a show, a guy took a swing, and I forget who they were, couple of prelimninary guys, and it was a very awkward roundhouse right and missed this guys chin by, I'm going to say eighteen inches, and the guy was going backwards and fell on his back. I said, "Wow! He missed with that hard-swinging right hand" I said, "Thank God he did - that would have torn his head off, but did you notice this guy was in such a hurry trying to back away that he fell backwards..?" Well, Cowboy raised hell with me. He said, "What the hell are you doing?" And I said, "What do you mean?" And he brought up the incident, you know. I said, "Well, did you see it?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Did he miss?" He said, "Yes." I said, "And don't you think everybody at home saw him miss too?" He stopped, and he said, "Yeah, you're right." And from that point on they never questioned me. If something happened and I saw it, then don't insult the audience by telling them, "Whoa - what a savage right hand..."

Jeremy Hartley: Well, and I think too, we were talking about educating the fans and sort of telling the story as the story is being unfolded. You were fortunate because there were talented enough workers, wrestlers, whatever you want to call them, performers, athletes, that were there. Uh, now adays I don't know if a young announcer coming up through the ranks, I don't even want to use the term "ranks' because there is no such thing, there's no ranks in wrestling anymore - but a young announcer starting out, I don't think he has the same opportunity that you did woith the folks that are in the matches right now.

Gordon Solie: No, well you don't because, first of all you have to go back to the philosophy of the business...

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Gordon Solie: ...and the philosophy is totally different now. Young kids come up to me and some guys that aren't so young, and want to get in the business. And the first thing they tell me is, "Boy, you ought to see the gimmick I've got..." "Well, really? What have you got..?" "Well, I come out as this, and I want to come out and this kind of a robe on, and so on and so forth..." and they go all through this intricate detail about the gimmick. And then I ask them a simple question, "Yeah, but have you ever wrestled?" "Well, no..." "Did you ever wrestle in high school?" "Well, uh..." Then some of them come along, "Well, of course I did but that was all different..." And I always say, "Well, no the basics are the same...a take down is a take down, the only difference is going beyond 90 degrees and being able to grip your hand..." and so forth. "Well, yeah...but I tell you this gimmick will work..."

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs)

Gordon Solie: So there's a whole different philosophy today, its gimmickry and not the basic premise of the name of the game is "wrestling". So, the average announcer today doesn't have an opportunity...you've got precious few that really know the sport. Jim Ross, I think is one of the best. Lance Russel certainly was, Larry Zbyszco of course because he wrestles, so Larry knows what's going on in the ring. Dusty Rhodes is good.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, you can almost sense the frustration between Rhodes and Zbyszco anytime they're calling a match because they are not, I think, given anymore the freedom to expand upon what they know. I got in a conversation with, I believ it was Les (Thatcher) about this where he says, "You know, too many people ae now changing their names, changing their characters..." - I'll bring up a name, Michael Hayes, who has years and years of stories to tell about the Freebirds and about his matches with Ted Dibiasi, etc., etc. Well, he goes up north, he changed his name and he has no more history. And unfortunately we're seeing that with Rhodes, and Zybszco as well...of course their names are the same but its almost as if they're being muzzled now, its almost as if we were talking about the mentality issue. I'd like to sort of get a survey to find out what the big wigs think of the mentality right now. Maybe its dropped a few years, I don't know (laughs).

Gordon Solie: Well, that's because of audience selection. That's not because of mentality. The targeted audience - Vince, Jr. did that, he targeted the young audience, the 4, 5, 6 - 8 years olds. And that is still carrying on to a degree. Les Thatcher, by the way, is a guy who is still on the air and is still doing it, in my opinion, in the right way, which is the old fashioned way. He's not one of these "new and improved" individuals. He gets out there and reports a solid match, in my opinion, the way a match should be called. No, they target the audience today, so consequently when you target your audience to an 8 year old, or a 10 year old, or a 12 year old mentality...but then they are much sharper today ten they were thirty years ago. You no, good lord, they sit down at the computer and they have access to information around the world at their fingertips, these kids are growing up very quickly mentally, I don't know how emotionally well they are doing...but that's another subject...

Jeremy Hartley: So, you had all of this talent...when did you start working in Georgia?

Gordon Solie: Oh gosh, I think that was in uh...(pause)...probably 1970, I think. I'll tell you what, look it up, whenever Ray Gunkel died, I started about three weeks after that.

Jeremy Hartley: Oh, okay...

Gordon Solie: When Gunkel died a war broke out, Georgia Wrestling split into two factions...Gunkel's wife split off and Paul Jones hung in and Ed Caprel, the announcer for Paul, went with the Gunkel group. That left Paul without anybody. And so I was called in to help Paul Jones out, who was the original promoter. Caprel had been with Paul I guess for seventeen or eighteen years and Left him. I had a sort of a strange sense of loyalty but when they called Eddie and said, "Can you send Gordon up here to do the show?" He said, "Sure..." So I started working for them as well as Florida.

Jeremy Hartley: Ah, so you were doing two shifts...

Gordon Solie: Yeah, I was flying up once a week doing the show in Atlanta and then...of course this was all very exciting...I mean, my God, hopping on a plane every week and flying to Atlanta and coming back...and like I said, I wish they had been giving out Frequent Flyer miles then, because, even though I racked up plenty of them over the years, I was several years flying with just, "Thanks a lot for being with us."

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) I remember hearing that a lot of the shows were done live, some were taped as far as on television...when you were working both territories, what was an average week like for you?

Gordon Solie: Well, at that time I think we were doing our TV show in Tampa on Wednesdays, and so, of course I worked full time at that point. I was handling all of the publicity and all of that, for the State of Florida. I did all the newspaper ads, all of the radio advertising and all. We would do the show on Wednesdays, then, if I remember correctly, we'd do the interviews on Thursday then Friday the tape would be shipped out around the State. So then on Saturdays I would fly to Atlanta and do the show up there Saturday morning and then fly back Saturday afternoon. Well then that finally got to a point where (Ron) Fuller wanted me to do the show in Alabama, so for a while I was flying up to Atlanta twice a week, and then they backed up to one...it eventually ended up with me doing the show in Tampa on Wednesday, flying to Atlanta on Friday night, because I blew a show one day when weather suddenly blocked in Atlanta on a Saturday morning and I couldn't get in and ended up in Minneapolis! And I had to call them and tell them that I wouldn't make it for the show. They had a backup, of course, Freddy Miller, and anyway...then they started saying, "You come in Friday night..." so I started coming in Friday nights. Then I started doing the Alabama show on Saturday afternoons, So what I would do is get through the show in Atlanta Saturday morning, I was catching a 2 o'clock flight out of Atlanta to Dothen, Alabama and do the show there Saturday afternoon then I'd catch a flight out of Dothen back to Atlanta, then back into Tampa. So I'd usually get home Saturday night around midnight or so. Well, then they did some other switching around and "Pro-Wrestling This Week" came along. So then I would do the show Wednesday in Tampa, fly to Atlanta on Friday, do the show Saturday in Atlanta, then I would fly to Birmingham, if I remember correctly...anyway, I'd fly into Alabama and do a show there, and then fly into...no, they started doing the show on Monday nights there. Then I would fly out of there back to Atlanta, do "Pro-Wrestling This Week" with Joe Pedicino on Tuesday, then I'd fly back to Tampa on Tuesday afternoon late. Editor's note: Gordon has skipped way ahead at this point, "PWTW" was in the mid-eighties as I recall - unless there was an earlier version I am not aware of)

Jeremy Hartley: Now was "Pro-Wrestling This Week" more of as talk show? Was it sort os a recap of the week? What exactly was that?

Gordon Solie: We had excerpts from matches all around the country and so we'd do the "wrap-around" - and that was a lot of fun. Then, of course, Ron (Fuller) sitched to Tennessee, and for a while I was flying either to Birmingham or to Dothen, Atlanta, and Knoxville, plus Tampa. It was getting crazy!

Jeremy Hartley: Now, stylistically, I think one of the unique things was that you were able to announce different matches in several different territories where you had different minds in the business - did you notice a lot of crossover, or were there certain subtleties that made each territory so special?

Gordon Solie: No, each one had a different philosophy. I didn't change my philosophy, certain things remained constant. You still had the basics of good vs. evil. You still had the situation of who was the best athlete. In some cases there was no contest, and those times I would say, "It's not a question of whether or not he'll beat this guy, it's a question of when."And that used to get some people a little warm but I said, "Hey, if you put a 280 lbs. superstar against a 220 lbs. kid they've never seen before, which way are you going to go with this?"

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, and the interesting thing was that a lot of those kids that nobody ad ever seen before turned out to be somebody but it would take years and years of "cutting teeth" as I like to say, in the territories...

Gordon Solie: Of course. Exactly, you don't get a Center College beating Notre Dame except, you know, once every hundred years. But it was fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And we could have a certain amount of crossover of talent, which I liked because I was able to call upon my past personal knowledge of who this guy could beat and be able to offer commentary about the past performances, so that was very helpful.

Jeremy Hartley: Right. Before the matches would take place, for example on a television taping, before you would broadcast your matches, what would you do to prepare for these matches? Would you care to get into that a little bit?

Gordon Solie: Well, of course a lot of it I relied upon my memories of individuals, competitors, I also instituted, and I guess I was the first one to do it in pro-wrestling, but I was the one who made up sheets on the guys, had them fill it out with their background so that I knew what schools they went to, where they participated in sports, what sports did they participate in. You know, a lot of that. I'd have a general overall background knowledge on the competitor. A lot of thre guys I would just talk to, particularly if I was going to interview them. I would talk to them, not specifically to find out what they were going to talk about, I was more interested in just getting to know them to see how reluctant they might be to speak. And if they had any trepidations about coming on the air. If a kid was particularly...if he was fairly new and green and all of that, and was saying, "Well, boy I don't know if I can go...we've got a three minute interview, and I don't know if I can go three minutes..." And I would say, "Hey listen, don't worry about that, that's my job..." and I said, "...if I ask you a question and all you want to say in 'yes' or 'no', just say 'yes' or 'no', and I'll ask you another question." I would have a general idea of, you know, "Next week you're going to be facing so and so..." and I could lead into a question like that. But then I always, as you do, and I admire this, I always listened to what they had to say because many times then, they would say something in their answer that would springboard into my next question. Instead of, "You're going to wrestle Joe Bonofotski next week..." "Yeah, that's right." "Well, how do you feel about that?" "Well, I feel pretty good about it, of course my left arm's been bothering me a little bit..." "Oh really? So what's wrong with your left arm?" In other words, it gave you a springboard if you listened to what they're saying. I've heard too many people doing interviews, not only in wrestling, but in other sports, saying, "You're going to be wrestling so and so." "Yeah and my arm is bothering me..." "That's nice. Now, lets talk about where your going to be wrestling..." And I would say, "Wait a minute, you're missing the point here..." We've got a commercial that will tell them where they're going to be wrestling. And of course that's the other problem today is that everything is bottom line to the point where they're not interested in anything but their particular storyline and where and when and how much. And that's too bad.

Jeremy Hartley: Well, I think too, I've noticed in interviews that not much research seems to go on. There are a lot of people who don't seem too confident about what they're doing in general quite often, they don't try to research, try to look back because, you know everyone's got a history - and some times their hands are tied with the promotion, with the Big Wigs up in the Towers...but quite often they could really learn how to tell stories. The folks being interviewed coud learn how to tell stories - I can remember listening to some folks, Ole Anderson comes to mind, of course Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk...uh Arn Anderson...great inteviewees, they could tell a story, open a book and basically tell the story as if they were reading it and I think that's something that's lost, and I think that trickles to the announcers as well.

Gordon Solie: Well sure it does. A classic example, and it's not really all the announcer's fault, its one of the reasons I left Turner. I left Turner for a series of reasons, but Dusty and I and Larry (Zbyszco) were doing the Saturday morning show one day, and we had a pay-per-view coming up, so we're rocking along doing the match, and it happened to be a pretty darn good match, the names are unimportant, but it was a good match - so we got into the spirit of the match - a lot of good counters and what have you, and we dutifully mentioned this upcoming PPV once or twice, I think twice during that period. We got through with it and...meaning no disrespect to your age, but this kid about 24 years old who was the "producer" opened the door to our announce booth and said, "Hey guys, great job, we're going to have to do it again..." "So why do we have to do it again?" "Well, you didn't mention the PPV often enough." Not, "...hey you blew this or you blew that..." but "...you didn't mention the PPV enough..." He said, "We gotta talk about the Pay-Per-View."

Jeremy Hartley: As if they haven't heard it already...

Gordon Solie: Yeah, you don't hear something like that during a football game..."Well the Bears will be at this place next week...oh and by the way - there was a touchdown..."

Jeremy Hartley: This brings up a point. This is why I mentioned the fact that it was so important to conduct an interview with you because you are one of three announcers, in my opinion that has the ability to paint the picture of the match while it is going on and to be able to describe the match to someone who cannot see it. Too often in today's Monday programs, I don't know what the heck's going on (laughs). You hear guys spend too much time talking about this gentleman from Mexico's background and then the PPV the following week, then 30 seconds go by and "...don't forget about the Pay-Per-View." nd it gets very very frustrating for me, who has followed the sport for many many years and likes to delve into the historical part of it, and who just likes to enjoy a good match - I never know when a good match is going on anymore...(laugh)

Gordon Solie: Well, bless your heart and thank you for the compliment. Let me tell you the history behind that. It was the greatest compliment I ever had in my life in professional wrestling. I'm sure you are familiar with the late legendary Leroy McGurk. As you may know, Leroy suffered from the vision problem as well, and...and talk about great matches, here was one that stands out in my mind forever and that's the match between Danny Hodges and Hiro Matsuda in Tampa at the Tampa Sportatorium, the World Junior Heavyweight Championship on the line. Hodge was the Champion and Matsuda was the challenger. We were putting it on television which was unheard of in those days, absolutely unheard of that you would take this match and put it on TV...you could draw sell-out crowds with a match like that. Matsuda was rd-hot, I think he was the greatest ever to come out of Japan. McGurk came down with Hodge to the television show, and here he is with tremendous visual impairment - in fact I think he might have been totally sightless, I'm not entirely sure...but anyway, I threw my heart and soul into that match because I realized how important it was, I also realized that if a guy like Leroy McGurk were coming down here that it had to have added importance. When I got done with the matches and Matsuda won after about 40 some odd minutes, we broke away for commercials...and I guess I'm the one who invented the line, "We're breaking away for a commercial but the cameras will keep rolling so if anything should happen while we're away we'll bring it too you..." Now it's standard - in those days it wasn't. We got through with the matches and came back into the offices and Cowboy, Eddie and Leroy were all there in the office. And McGurk put out his hand and he said "Gordon?" and I said, "Yes..." as I shook hands with him, he said, "I felt like I could see the match." And that rocked me, it really did...and I thought, "Now this is a segment of the audience that I will never forget again..." So, if a guy shoots in for a leg dive I try to explain to people, "He's shooting in for a leg dive..." and you can see that image in your mind...

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Gordon Solie: And then if I say, "...he's going for the back leg..." Rather then the "extended leg' and then you can see that picture in your mind. I might not say "...the right or the left leg" but I can say "...the forward extended leg..." Of course a good wrestler always goes for the back leg, because that's the one that the guy can't move - he cannot retreat - he has to pull the other leg back first - and so consequently you've got that added advantage of him being momentarily motionless. But I really appreciate you're making that comment because I've always prided myself on trying to paint a word picture and that's something that's lost these days...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, not only in wrestling or sports, but in TV in general these days...in everything...

Gordon Solie: Of course, all my early heroes were people like Bill Stearn, and Red Barber and others. All they had was radio, and I broke my eye teeth on radio where you had to paint the word picture.

Jeremy Hartley: I remember reading a book that Red Barber authored and he talked about reporting what was going on and not necessarily...and this is something that I noticed about you, you're a reporter in the match. You showed excitement when excitement needed to be shown, you did not overblow anything, you did not try to take sides. I though it was kind of funny, we were litening to a few things that you were doing and someone would say something incredibly outlandish...I'm thinking for some reason right now of Austin Idol - and he would say something outlandish as he always would and you'd dismiss it as "Well, whatever you say sir..." and you could sense it in your voice, but again you didn't express any contempt, you did not get excited, or when you did get excited there was a reason.

Gordon Solie: Yeah , well you know I got that from golf...

Jeremy Hartley: From golf..??

Gordon Solie: I did these sort of things instinctually, I don't ever think I sat down and said "this is what I'm going to do..." but you know you'd watch a golf ame on television and the guy is up he's going to tee off... "Alright, he's on the third tee, now this is a par 4 it's 415 yard with a dogleg right..." and these guys are just talking right on. "Now he's down, he's now 12 feet away from the cup, if he makes this one he'll be two under par..." or whatever and suddenly his voice is down because he doesn't want it to carry over and to spoil the concentration of the player. I got to thinking, you know it makes sense, if there is nothing happening in the ring, the guys got a side-headlock and he's holding him there, what have I got to scream about? I mean I could say, "Oh look, he's got a side headlock!!" but yeah, he's got a side headlock and now of course, the man is trying to figure out how do I escape from this and what's the next move and all and I'd go into a chain-wrestling reaction or whatever, then if he breaks out, then you can say, "Oh he broke free..." and you can jump with it a little...

Jeremy Hartley: Right... I just happened to think of this sort of out of order, but as far as wrestling announcers, when you broke in of course there were there were a couple of other folks that were doing other sports, but also seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and a guy who comes to mind, I don't know a whole lot about and I'm wondering if you do, is Jack Brickhouse who just passed away not too long ago. Did you ever hear his work, did you learn from him - or did he perhaps learn from you? Or was there any kind of parallel?

Gordon Solie: He certainly didn't learn from me and I never reall heard Jack. I worked with Jack , when we started specializing a show for Chicago - we got on the station in Chicago - they would fly Jack in once a week, and he would do some very personal Chicago wrap-arounds and that was of course in the twilight of his career - we respected each other, he had heard of me and I had hear of him - however I must say this, that I really didn't pattern myself after anyone. I think I took a little bit of my delivery style from Bill Stearns and from Red, from some of the other old play-by-play announcers on radio, but as far as modern day television play-by-play people, no, I never did...I certainly never did take anything from like Nat James or some of those guys who made fun of the business. I'll never forget, and this is a story I've told a million times. When I first was going to do the show, Bagly had done it and Jones had done it and others had done it, so when it was my turn, I went to Cowboy, because I had heard some of his comments about how different announcers had treated the business. So I went to him just to make sure I had things straight, and I asked him, "How do you want me to treat this program." And he said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Well, how do you want me to treat the show? Do you want it sort of light hearted or how..?" He said, "Gordon, I want you to treat the program the same way you treat your paycheck. Very seriously..." And I never forgot that. Gordon and Jeremy were talking about how he developed his demeanor in a period when a lot of wrestling commentators poked fun at the wrestlers and their craft, Gordon was told to treat it "...seriously as his paycheck"!

Jeremy Hartley: Right...

Gordon Solie: I was admonished to do that and that's the way I maintained it ever after...I never found anything particularly humourous about doing this sport, it was very serious business and he was right - I worked for that paycheck every week...

Jeremy Hartley: Right, that's serious business (laughs)

Gordon Solie: Although at that time, the money was not...

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) right...now you were saying that Cowboy and Eddie Graham were partners for a while, you don't hear a lot about Cowboy, you hear about Eddie Graham - a big mind in the business - but I guess you could say that Graham was Cowboy's protege..? Did he groom Eddie to become the new owner...uh once he "passed" etc., etc.

Gordon Solie: Too a degree, yes, but Eddie was one of the great, great minds in the sport...Doc Scarpolos comes to mind as another great mind. Eddie brough a sophistication to the sport that had never been seen before. Eddie would tell the wrestlers that when they came into our area the rules and regulations for wrestling in Florida, and one of his admonishments everytime was, "...and there's one thing you don't do...you don't touch the announcer. You leave him alone. He's not going to insult you, he's not going to mess with you...so don't mess with him." A lot of these guys were used to being in a territory where they could push the announcer aside or grab the mic out of his hand, you know, and treat them basically like a piece of dirt. These guys obviously didn't respect the announcer, and didn't expect the announcer to respect them. And Eddie would always close it out too by saying, "You know..." If anybody questioned him on it, he'd say, "...do you plan on drawing any money with him?"...and that pretty well put everybody in their place.

Jeremy Hartley: yeah...

Gordon Solie: You put a 270lbs. super hero in wrestling, and he's standing next to a 5 foot eight and a half, 160lbs. announcer. The announcer's having to hold the microphone up over his own head just to get the words from the wrestler - what sort of a contest would that be in the ring...it would be nothing at all. The wrestlers were all told never to touch me - a couple of them did...and I can remember in one case, a guy - he was about 6 foot 7 and he forgot where he was - and all he did was ruffle my hair, just reached down and ruffled my hair. He was gone in two weeks...

Jeremy Hartley: Wow..!

Gordon Solie: Eddie was very adament about that. Well, it makes sense, you don't see NFL football players jumping on the announcer - you don't see it in any other sport, so why should it happen in wrestling??

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, most definitely. Talking about "don't touch the announcer..." and one thing that comes to mind, for me at least is a young man named Roddy Piper and Don Murrocco at the time, and I'm sure you remember (laughs) - what I'm talking about...if you wouldn't mind, tell the fans about that incident because I think it helped shape Roddy Piper and helped give Roddy Piper a little bit of credibility. It kind of helped him out a little bit because he helped you out...

Gordon Solie: Well, yeah - I think it marked sort of a chnge in Roddy's career. I know Murrocco himself was a wild man, but he got caught up in the heat of the moment and of course, the very sane, decent side of Piper came out. He was always such a hyper guy, but I think he had an inate sense of fair play about him and I think that kind of got too him...

Jeremy Hartley: Of course he was doing the show alongside you - he was doing the color...and he had done that for quite some time...

Gordon Solie: Oh yeah...he was one of the best. Ole Anderson was another guy...he would come along and talk on the sidelines. Of course Ole and I were on the same wave-length...you know we both wanted to protect the integrity of the sport and to guard the logic of the sport. Buddy Colt was another great one that I had - I guess the greatest I ever had was Coach John Heath because I loved it when he'd come on the show with me. Because I got a virtual education...there was an article in our Tampa Tribune recently where they asked what things are missed most these days and which are missed least in the Tampa, Florida area and Championship Wrestling and myself were mentioned. And I don't remember hhow they phrased it but they said, "...we miss his vast physicological knowledge..." - but I got all of that from Coach John Heath, because John would sit down with me and we'd start doing a show amd he would start talking about the deltoids or the trapezius muscle or the latisimus dorsii - you know and he's the one who got me into the anatomy aspect. And then I begun to do a little study on the anatomy - learning about the quadriceps fimorus muscle and the curciate ligiments and all of this - the places where injuries were most likely to occur and - again is a good thing when you think about it...now, today is pretty commonplace because we are so much better educated now. But, when I was doing it, it was really sort of a pioneering effort - the body builders knew about it, physicians knew about it. I'll never forget I got corrected by a Med student at the University of Georgia. I mentioned one day about the thirty-three vertabre - I guess it was a piledriver or something and mentioned the "effect that could have on all 33 vertabrea..." I got a nice letter from this kid and he said, "I watch your show every week and enjoy it.." and so on. Your knowledge about anatomy and all but I would like to remind you that there are only 26 movable vertabrea, the last 7 of them are fused..." And so I went on the air the next week and commented that I got a letter and I stand corrected that, yes there are 33 vertabrea but 7 of them are fused and immovable from the standpoint of independent action. So that's another point - why not admit my mistake? Not quite like the apology that (President) Clinton gave the other night.

Jeremy Hartley: You know there was something that was an important milestone, not just in wrestling history but in television history and that was when wrestling was beamed on the satelite, and of course you were right in the thick of it. It must have been very exciting to be being beamed off the Earth and into space - but what did you see happening? What was that like? Did you notice any changes..?

Gordon Solie: Oh yeah, it was amazing. Ted Turner and I would talk about it - before we went on the satelite we could never break a million people, we could never break it. And this was also before the meter, this is back in the days of the old "diary" system for checking audiences. For some reason we had never been able to break a milion - we went to the meter system, we'd been on the satelite just a short time, anyway - we just couldn't break the barrier. I'd see Ted almost every Saturday because he loved wrestling and he's come down and watch the show, or come and watch part of it, what have you, and after the show we'd chat. We went on the metering system and the audience almost doubled the first time around - and the impact still hadn't hit me until my wife and I flew on a vacation out to San Francisco and then up to Seattle. We got up in the Space Needle in Seattle to have lunch, and I was sitting there with my wife and we were kibbutzing back and forth and enjoying the view and all of that. And I said, "Well, this is one nice thing - this far North and West we won't have to worry about anybody interrupting our meal..." and I hadn't said the words, "...interrupt our meal..." when a kid about 15 or 16 came over to the table and said, "Can I have your autograph please Mr. Solie?" And then it began to hit me that it wasn't Atlanta and it wasn't Florida and it wasn't the East coast - this was all over the country. And then I started getting commentary from Japan and from all over. Then of course...Turner is a genious, and although I was not working for him at that time I did end up working for him, you know, up until '95 when I retired...I said that before and I said it after - the guy has led the field in the broadcast industry, he's been 5 years ahead of himself all the way down the line. When he first bought a piece of the satelite I heard a lot of people say, "Well, he's nuts..." yeah, well he was "crazy like a fox" - he's set the standard now, you know, MSNBC, FOX and everybody else - they've all emulated him, exactly what he did. And he recognised wrestling then, because I was the lead in for his Atlanta Braves which became the "Nation's team", you know...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, that's right. They'd have the Braves games right after that. Now were those shows done live, or did you tape those programs?

Gordon Solie: No, those shows were taped at 10 in the morning and then playe back around 6 in the afternoon.

Jeremy Hartley: And that was in an actual studio at the time?

Gordon Solie: Right...

Jeremy Hartley: And how many people...because I noticed they did this in Memphis as well, those fans were vocal! I mean, they made more nopise then quite often the packed houses, I mean they loved their wrestling...

Gordon Solie: Well, they were right on top of it, and they were much easier to control. We didn't have to hold up "applause" signs or "boo" signs or what have you (laughs). These people reacted very normally and naturally and they were in very close quarters, you know we could only put...I don't know, maybe a hundred and fifty would be the most we could get into that little studio.

Jeremy Hartley: Wow! Now when you were doing your announcing did you have the sound being piped through so that eveyone could hear it or were you secluded, so to speak, I mean how was that really done?

Gordon Solie: On the studio stuff I was always basically right there at ringside, I was wide open...

Jeremy Hartley: It's amazing that more people didn't try to get involved...but once again there was a respect for the business and a respect for the announcer. We've been seeing lately the celebrities involving themselves in the wrestling business lately, I remember that there were wrestling matches involving for instance, Jack Dempsey years and years ago, Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman, whatever, did you ever see, when you were in Atlanta or in Alabama or any other place that you worked, any memorable celebrities either from other sports or Hollywood try to get involved or was it more of just the wrestling aspect?

Gordon Solie: Well, we had several...you were talking about the Dempsey thing, and the way that all came about was back in the 20's, I don't remember the exact year, but there was a classic boxer vs. wrestler and Cowboy went against Jack Dempsey in Atlanta, I believe it was, and Dempsey shattered Cowboy's jaw, blinded him in one eye. Cowboy remembers nothing from the third round on because Dempsey caught him, you know, going in and that's the secret to a boxer vs. wrestler match - if you can catch the wrestler coming in - whop him good one time and it's over. If you don't and the wrestler gets too you it's over for the boxer. But back to your question, there have always been other sports celebrities involved in one way or another with wrestling, however, now you talk about the Andy Kaufman thing, you talk about the Jay Leno thing...I have no quarrel with a Karl Malone who wants to get into the ring because - #1, he is an outstanding athlete - I have no quarrel with Rodman although I deplore his actions, but he's an athlete. I have no quarrel with a football player who wants to get into wrestling, God knows I've known a bunch of them. You know, Ernie Ladd, Wahoo McDaniel, Verne Gagne - you can go right down the line...great football players who became great wrestlers...

Jeremy Hartley: Comment if you would about how corporate America seems to be wanting to run the wrestling business these days.

Gordon Solie: Well now you've hit on a key word. See wrestling used to be run by wrestlers, now it's run by corporate entities, and that's where I finally bailed out. I finally had had enough of the corporate crap and decided to get the hell out of it.

Jeremy Hartley: Now I happened to catch a couple of shows and that was where you started doing some voice overs for I believe it was the Japan show? It was on Euro Sports I believe, Ring Warriors. And of course they had Howard Brody and those folks had a couple of shows streaming audio on the Internet and I was able to listen to those shows, but talk a little bit about, if you don't mind, the wrestling in Japan and Europe.

Gordon Solie: Well, first of all it was a much tighter form of wrestling. When we were doing those shows they were shipped in and edited. I was doing them with Sir Oliver Humperdink at first, then later they brought in Bruno Sammartino and we did several shows together. They would say, "Do you want to see these matches in advance?" and I said, "No, I dodn't want to see them in advance, I want to be able to call them as I see them..." And the thing that I found so pleasing was, that be not having seen them ahead of time, I could not tell who was going to win. The matches were so close that many times the person that I had picked in my mind as the winner didn't win. I'll never forget one kid that I was watching. I had never seen him before and he really didn't look like a wrestler he didn't have the etched muscles and all of that - he was sort of built like an early Don Curtis, long and rangy - but I was watching him in his match and instictively I began to go with this kid because he was doing a lot of things naturally that a lot of other guys really had to work at - he just seemes to have it - an lo and behold he ended up winning the Junior Heavyweight Championship over there. The matches over there are...you earn everything you get over there. You didn't see the horrible mismatches, and that really used to get to me, you watch some fine young kid grossly outdistanced by their opponent - there was no contest. For me to sit down and say, "Boy this is going to be a great contest..." I felt like I owed my viewers more honesty then that.

Jeremy Hartley: Right, now do they still do these shows? Or has that since become a thing of the past?

Gordon Solie: Well, they kind have misled us, the people that set up that production on the Internet because they said thay could get it up to 30 frames/minute and they really couldn't get it past about 24 - and that was if you have a real high-speed modem. The most I could get at home, and I had the best modem available, the best I could get was about 19 frames...and so it looked like the old time pictures. The audio would stream farely well but you couldn't get the pictures - so we're on a temporary hiatus now. I don't know what their plans are now, but as Colin Powell said when they asked him to run for President - I really don't have the "fire in my belly" for much of it. I would love to go back and do those matches because I think I could get back to announcing the kind of wrestling that I could enjoy...

Jeremy Hartley: Right, and that is very important. You should be able to do what you enjoy doing and there is just not a lot of that going on anymore. Unfortunately the Ring Warriors never really made it out here on any Television...

Gordon Solie: It was really never pursued.

Jeremy Hartley: Right. They sell the videos sometimes, every now and again I see them but a lot of people don't know about them. We can only hope that the Internet Technology gets to the point where they can really do it right. With RealAudio now you can get CD quality sound through a 28.8 modem and who knows, maybe they will get the video to work in the coming years...

Gordon Solie: Well they will, its just a question of time. And (does an "old coot" voice) as old as I'm getting sonny...(laughs)

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) Now, do you get the chance to see some of whats out there on the Internet?

Gordon Solie: Well occasionally. I don't sit down to the computer every day by any stretch. I'll get onto a site occasionally and see what Earl Oliver is putting out. (Editor's Note: GASP!!) I didn't even know that Solie's Vintage Wrestling existed until someone told me about it and I dialed it in. He is so nice about putting that little disclaimer at the bottom that I decided not to disturb him in using my name. He's doing it with respect...

Jeremy Hartley: Absolutely, and he's now on an audio feature on my site - he's doing what we call the "Time Machine" piece where he talks about some wrestling that he witnessed, some matches that he's seen - so he's featured on my site - a straight ahead audio pro-wrestling site where I have interviews with Lou Thesz and Don Curtis and others and features from other historians. Mike Lano and Tom Burke have sent me some things - so there's no real text there, except for the pages themselves - that's where this interview is going to be going - I've had a ball putting it together and, you know, a shameless plug for Earl - he's been a big help, and Scott Teal as well...the "What Ever Happened Too..." man. He's another great person for wrestling history.

Gordon Solie: Well what is yor site?

Jeremy Hartley: My site is at www.uplclosewrestling.com, all of the interviews are there in the RealAudio. It's interesting to listen to - I have about 15 programs up there now. I started back in December and it's amazing how styles change over time. Did you ever go back and listen to some of your old stuff...or could you? Of course now, with video tapes, everything is so at the ready. You pop in a tape and you can watch or hear anything you've done. ere you ever really able to critique some of your own work? Or did you just develop your style gradually?

Gordon Solie: Oh yeah, I used to critique it on a weekly basis. I would see where I had blown something, or if I didn't feel that I had done te opponent or competitor justice... I did it on a weekly basis. I don't go back and look at it now. But for a while there I tried to watch it as a viewer would watch it - to see if I carried the action. Of course my wife used to get a kick out of me because I'd be in the livingroom watching the show and have a little "toddy" - all of a sudden whe'd hear me say, "God Damned dummy!" he'd ask, "What's the matter..?" and I'd say, "Oh, I just goofed..." Then she'd say, "Well don't watch it if it upsets you so!" But that was the only reason I did watch it, to make sure I do get upset if I see myself doing something stupid.

Jeremy Hartley: Sure, there's a lot of folks that are going to see what they want to see, they may not see some of the flaws and the imperfections. But I really believe that that is one of the things that separates the announcers of the past from the announcers of today. The guys from the past really gave a damn, the really classic ones, about what they did. You know I told this to Les (Thatcher) the first time I met him - too often these announcers they talk at you. It's as if they are just sillouettes of themselves and their just going to say what they want to say with no regard for the viewer or the listener. Yourself, Lance Russel, Les Thatcher and even Jim Ross for a time, would talk to you and with you. Red Barber used to do that, even in Pittsburg, Bob Prince - they seemed to talk with you. Did you notice that as an announcer? I know you tried to educate them but did you also try to "get them into your home" so to speak for two hours a week?

Gordon Solie: Absolutely. The fact of the matter was that any time I would break a new kid in, a wrestler I mean, I would tell them, "Now, you're going to be standing with me in front of a camera. When that red light goes on, think about that as your very best friend, or your very worst enemy represented by that red light and forget about the camera, just concentrate on the fact that is your best buddy or your worst enemy and that red light sympolizes that for you." Some kids picked up on that real quickly, others, becaudse there was still the jitters to contend with - I had a guy who is a big top draw star now, who walked out on me after about a minute and a half of a three minute interview. He said, "That's it." and walked away. And so I kept talking. The director grabbed him of course and he came back after about thirty seconds and we finished off the three minutes. But he said to me later, "Well, I'd never done a serious interview before..." So you see once again, you get that difference of the guys who figure they've got to go out there and give them all this hype and bullshit. Yet if they would just get out there and talk. That's why Arn Anderson is so good. Because he's believable, he makes sense. Les Thatcher is that way when he does a show, Lance Russel was that way, I know I was. You don't have to do all of that stuff. You don't have to scream for sixty minutes because if you don't have any "lows" then you can't have any "highs".

Jeremy Hartley: You know, the art of interviewing is lost and I think part of that is because you no longer have these traveling bands of people coming into the territories. Back in the days of the traveling NWA Champion you had...of course, nobody wanted to be over-exposed in a certain area so they would move on, new people would come in to take their place, and then if they had a good draw they would come back in - and they had to maintain this level. Quite often you couldn't stay around for too long and if you did then they shipped you out. I think now you've got these huge, huge, multi-million dollar contracts in this business, where they pay you this money and if you can't work, if you can't inreview, if you can't wrestle...as you said, Eddie Graham - if he had to deal with those people he'd ship them out. Nowadays you can't do that, you've got a lot of wasted air time and a lot of wasted ring space with people that were really never taught how to give a good interview, how to work a good match and this is one of the important reasons why I have this site up - I talk to folks that train guys - of course Les (Thatcher) trains folks in Ohio now, tries to break guys into the business the right way and it frustrates me as a young fan to sit here and watch an interview that has no bearing, no timing whatsoever...

Gordon Solie: Well, that's because everything is now "bottom line", how much money is this going to draw. The individual is not nearly as important as the size of the gate and they also stretch the imagination now beyond logic - logic is no longer a figure, it's a traveling rock & roll show with the pyrotechincs and the dancing girls - you know, stuff that would make Vince McMahon, Sr. and Eddie Graham and Cowboy Lutrell and Jim Crockett and a few others...they've got to be spinning in their graves. And if you want to "bottom line" it - if they are really interested in is the dollars, then today's guys are imminently successfull. You can't argue with it if that is your entire criteria. But if you're interested in preserving the integrity of the sport, then I think they've lost it entirely - I just think it's gone the opposite direction. And the hell of it is, guys like Cactus Jack and Arn Anderson, Terry Funk and all, are still taking their lumps out there (Editor's Note: this interview took place before Anderson retired) -their still abusing their bodies horribly. So their paying the price for some accountant or book keeper who checks the bottom line and says, "Well, this one is a success" - without any consideration as to how many careers did they shorten this past week...

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah. You know I want to touch a little bit upon the Cauliflower Alley Club which I brought that up with Lou Thesz who, of course, is the President of the club now. I was at my first club function in March (1998) and I flew out to Los Angeles, it was one of the first plane trips I took alone because I had to get out there I had to see what it was about. After talking to Lou he inspired me to go out there, and it was an incredible display of people there - to say that I was in awe would be a vast understatement - men like the Kowalskis, Pat Patterson, Verne Gagne and even people before them...and to just be this young kid just learning, learning, learning... You were honored by the club, I believe it was in '95 or '96, I'm sure you'll set me straight on that. What does the Cauliflower Alley Club mean to you? What does it mean to Gordon Solie?

Gordon Solie: Well, It means an awful lot. I'm a member of the board too. The original concept of the club was great. Mike Mazurki, Art Abrams and several others got together and...it initially started off as just a once a month lunch type gathering, and it gradually grew larger and larger and has become better and better known. Of course now we have a a lot of exciting things going on. There is going to be a Hall of Fame in Iowa, and a lot of guys have jumped in and really put a lot of life into it. Art Abrams did a fantastic job in all the years that he served. Art was a truely dedicated man to the sport and to all of the wrestlers. Lou Thesz has done a beautiful job as President. Red Bastien has been working tirelessly on it, and one of the nicest human beings you'll ever meet, there have been a whole slew of people. Ella Waldech, I'm very proud to say that I nominated her for the board and she was elected. She became the first woman board member. But we're catching up in wrestling as well as everywhere else. It's a fine organization and I am very proud to have been honored by them - they have done a lot of good for kids going into college who have been good young wrestlers and who probably couldn't have gone to college if the Cauliflower Alley Club hadn't slipped them a scholarship. I'm looking forward to being up in Philadelphia, I guess it's in October (1998) for the East Coast meeting.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, I guess they have a West Coast and an East Coast gathering every year...

Gordon Solie: Yeah, I've missed the last couple of them out in Los Angeles. My wife was first diagnosed with cancer in March and so I just couldn't go. She then passed away just four month later and last year I just didn't have the will, it was just to close...all I could think of in March is that was when she was diagnosed. But this year I plan on getting up to Philadelphia.

Jeremy Hartley: You know when I was there in Los Angeles, your name came up a couple of times, and there was nothing but respect..."I hope we get to see him next time..." and you know the whole weekend was amazing. The roast of Lou Thesz and the rest of the awards. Of course, Art Abrams had just passed away so they honored him and his widow and his son and that was very powerfull. I plan on attending again this coming year, either going again to the West Coast or maybe even going out to the East Coast to talk to some of these guys - it's really an amazing society of wrestling.

Gordon Solie: You know you made an interesting comment there, you see, that's another thing that I look upon in my career - the fact that I was "let into" that society, allowed inside the society has made me very proud and pleased with the fact that a community that was as tightly knit as they were has said, "Hey, here's a guy who is a non-wrestler but he's got our respect so bring him in..." That in itself, you see, is now gone. I mean, hell, you can walk down the street now and the average fan , and I see it all the time...I have a favorite little watering hole. and a fan will come in there and start telling me what's going to happen next week - "...whose got this gimmick going and whose got this gimmick going and next week their going to switch..." and I'm thinking, "Whoah!" That was the secret and the mystique about the sport years ago was that idea was to try and keep the fans guessing. They could try to figure it out, that's fine to try and figure it out - but never let them get there.

Jeremy Hartley: Well, and back then you had people who could weave stories. Having worked in your later career with announcers who more into just putting themselves over...was that one of the reasons why you got out of the business as well?

Gordon Solie: Well...not really. I've known a couple of them who were that way. Let me give you a little example of something. Howard Brody and Hiro Matsuda told me that they were going to get Bruno Sammartino down to be my color man and I was really concerned because here was a guy who was a real legend and I was worried about whether we would have chemistry. I know Bruno and all but not well...we knew of each other. So I sat down with Bruno before our first match and said, "Please understand - you have a free run. I'd like to explain to you my philosophy of how I announce." I said, "I've used this example before, but I am the drum roll to the high wire." I said, "The high wire is just as dangerous to the man up there on the high wire with or without the drum roll. The drum roll can add a little to the suspense but it cannot detract from the danger of what the man up there is doing as he is sixty feet above the ground with no net. That's my attitude. The name on the marquee is 'wrestling' it's not Gordon Solie so that's my philosophy about it Bruno, I just wanted you to know where I am coming from." And he looked at me and said, "Well, we're coming from the same place." That's important. We sat down at the microphone and went in cold with an hour long show We'd never worked together before, and the first match, which was about 15 minutes long, we stepped on each other a little bit, then we fell into a rhythm, into a pattern and the next 45 minutes went like colockwork. When we were done we both said, "Okay, lets redo the first fifteen minutes..." because it was a little rough. And after that we never had to recut a thing. But yeah, I've seen guys...we had a guy who started out as a ring announcer who tried his hand at announcing. And he was deplorable because all he could think of was getting himself over. You know it's so much easier to get over with people if you put what you're doing over. In other words, if I go out there and I'm watching the Bucks play football and I'm calling the game and Trent Dillfore goofs left and right. For me to sit down and start criticizing Trent Dillfore...I can say, "Well, he slipped in trying to back peddle he tripped and fell..." but for me to say, "Well, the guy is so addled he doesn';t know his left foot from his right..." is totally wrong. Why should I be the expert? I don't know what's going on in his mind. So, put over the sport, and you'll get over. And that's, I think, what a lot of these guys are forgetting about.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah...

Gordon Solie: The people aren't tuning in to see or hear a specific commentator. They're tuning in to see the participant in the sport, whatever the sport happens to be. You know, I watch auto racing - I'm an auto racing devotee - and you don't see these guys criticizing race drivers. There not trying to get themselve over, they're trying to get over the guy whose out there in that automobile risking his life.

Jeremy Hartley: You know, now that you mentioned that, because I've listened to some auto racing a time or two and I can't recall ever remembering a time when the commentating overshadowed what was going on.

Gordon Solie: No, of course not.

Jeremy Hartley: That's an interesting point, I've never thought about that but you're absolutely right.

Gordon Solie: It's the "background music" - and hopefully the "background music" will add to the suspense, like the drum roll for the high wire act will add suspense to it, but it doesn't detract from it.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, and I've talked to young broadcasters aboiut broadcasting and asked them, "Who do you listen too..?" and they say, "Well, I don't really listen to anyone." And I ask, "Don't you listen to the people who went before you, the people who blazed your path?" And they say, "Why? Times have changed..." And I say, "Well, times may have changed but the philosophies will never die, and if you can keep those philosophies alive..." I mean everything is cyclical. I don't know if you do get on line every now and then... The independent scene, for good or worse, is really starting to make a resurgence due to the Internet. You see a lot of results now of aome of the promotions. I think the resurgence of the independents may play a part in helping to bring back wrestling but you've got to have the talent there too.

Gordon Solie: Yes, that's very true. It's remarkable to see the irrepressable spirit of some of these kids who are in the independent circuits, unfortunately there is nobody there to teach them the philosophy so so much of what they are learning and so much of what they are doing is basically only partial. They might no some of the basic moves but they don't understand...well, let me give you an example. There used to be a day when wrestlers had a "patented" move - you know, Jack (Brisco) had the figure four leglock and you knew that if he got that move the match was over. Lou Thesz had the flying verticle body press... so it used to be that, and this was a restricted thing, so guys were told that if you had Jack Brisco in a a match and his favorite hold was the figure four, guys were told, "...if you have a match with Jack, you do not use the figure four." In other words, our of respect for you fellow competitor, don't steal any of his thunder that he may get later on. That is no longer the case. I watched Vader powerbomb how many people out in Las Vegas at one of the Pay-Per-Views, I guess, and he powerbombed a whole bunch of them, including Hulk Hogan, and Hogan jumed straight up on his feet like nothing had happened. Well, that's the key, you know, what the hell good was Vader's powerbomb? You know, you kill the guy and then killed his patented hold in one fell swoop.

Jeremy Hartley: Well, here's a great example - and aI just happened to see this last night, which is why it is so fresh in my memory - and it was a match you called. It was a very very young Ted Dibiasi going up against the Freebirds - and Dibiasi got caught with several Terry Gordy piledrivers. There were several weeks that went by with Ted Dibiasi recovering and so forth, and now a piledriver in useless!

Gordon Solie: Well it's because they don't understand the philosophy and they also don't realize, and I don't care what hold it is, if you take it to it's logocal conclusion there's a guy going to the hospital. So they are admitting now that, "Well, these things don't really mean anything..." Well, if they don't mean anything then why in the hell do them? But , see that's part of our societal evolution that's taken place. The "me generation" the instant gratification, nothing means anything. I had a good friend of mine who...I spent a week in New York with a buddy of mine who has a morning show up in New York City and is doing extremely well (he's much younger then I am obviously) and we went to have lunch at a favorite bistro of his up there, and he introduced me to the owner and the bartender and all. And he told them, "Gordon's the guy who taught me how to eat lunch." I looked at him and he related how back years ago, when he was a young law student, we'd have lunch together and he learned that if we were having lunch that he might as well take the afternoon off because we would sit down at noon and probably wouldn't leave the table until 2:30 - 3:00 in the afternoon, because lunch is something to be enjoyed, to be savored, so you take your time. Well, the same thing could be said about wrestling or anything else, but not on today's society. Today it must be instantaneous. We seem to have lost sight of, I guess, the more gracious way to do things.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, and now with the Pay-Per-Views, all the PPV's, there are what? Twelve a year - and that is only with one organization. It's unbelieveable. For example, the matches in the Tampa Spoirtatorium, or the Omni. Bill Watts would do this in the SuperDome. You were building toward a climax. There would be the big shows - but now, the big shows are all you see. You can't build up anything, you can't build up heat. You can create cheap heat but you cannot get the genuine things that you were able to see at these other arenas. And here's something I happened to just think of. I notice a lot of times on the Georgia shows, you would refer back to what happened the night before during the live show. For instance you had Mr. Wrestling II in the studio and you'd talk about the way he wrestled Harley Race last night and you'd have the guys comment while you showed the film two or three times - you'd get everyine in there commenting on what had happened and I though that was interesting, you didn't necessarily bring the entire card to them but you would bring the highlights, you made people want to go see matches at the Omni, and I think that's another lost art. Now, why go to the matches when you can see everything on television?

Gordon Solie: Well, you're right but you see there's more money to be made...when you talk about drawing a million people at $29.95, well, there it is...And that's what it's really boils down to..."If I can get a million people at $29.95..." and figure that out - who needs the eighty or a hundrede thousand dollar house at the Omni? The business has changed so drastically and thank god the guys who are out there busting their butts in the ring are now being rewarded for their efforts, and I guess corporate's happy. So that's where it comes from. Nowadays it's all bottom line, and the bottom line is book keeping. It's a shame that we have become that driven, I hate to get into politics, but you can look at any phase of our society and we have become calloused to anything except money. It's like the overall political scramble, nowadays they all go by polls - you know everybodies making money so all's right with the world. In the meantime we've got a guy over in Afganistan whose just declared war, and he may be a hell of lot meaner then Hitler was, we have no idea where some of these guys are going to go. A lot of Tom Clancy's writings may come true.

Jeremy Hartley: That's very true. Well I think...

Gordon Solie: I think I've run you up a national award with your phone bill...

Jeremy Hartley: (laughs) Between you and Les (Thatcher)...(laughs) But I will say this, it was more then worth it. I hope that later on, if I come up with more questions, that you will be gracious enough to grant me another segment. So do you have any closing comments to make?

Gordon Solie: So long from the Sunshine State!

Copyright 1998 - Jeremy Hartley and Jump City Productions.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission of the author.