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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report: EXTRA!

"Stunning" To "Stone Cold":
The History Of Steve Austin: Part 3

by Ervin Griffin Jr.

Unprofessional Wrestler?

by Len B

Pro Wrestling's Heart and Solie

By: ANDY GOTLIEB

Volume 2, Issue 188 - June 29, 1997

Here is an interesting article written about Gordon Solie for the Tampa Tribune. The well researched piece featured comments from ``Mean'' Gene Okerlund, Mike ``Mr. Wallstreet'' Rotunda, Dave Meltzer, as well as yours truely and, of course, a lot of stuff from Solie himself.

Pro Wrestling's Heart and Solie

By: ANDY GOTLIEB

NEW PORT RICHEY - He witnessed some of the most brutal hand-to-hand combat anywhere. He watched men bleed and sweat for glory, money and pride. He saw feuds begin, end and rekindle. He chronicled betrayal, revenge, tragedy and triumph. He interviewed the colorful combatants at their most heated - all the while keeping a straight face. Is this Wolf Blitzer? Ernie Pyle? Peter Arnett? Try Gordon Solie, known as the ``dean of professional wrestling announcers.''

``I've had a chance to know some of the greatest athletes in the world,'' Solie said recently from his comfortable west Pasco County home. ``I never went to work regretting that I had to go.'' Solie's love for the squared circle hasn't diminished after nearly half a century. It's human chess at its finest,'' he says, tossing out a line fans are sure to recognize. His heyday may have passed, but Solie has left his mark.

``I don't think there's a guy behind the wrestling microphone in the world today that wasn't affected by Gordon Solie,'' says ``Mean'' Gene Okerlund, a Sarasota resident who handles interviews for World Championship Wrestling. He basically was the voice of Florida wrestling for years and years and years,'' agrees Mike ``Mr. Wallstreet'' Rotunda, a wrestler who lives near Brooksville.

Now 68, Solie isn't affiliated with either of the main mat conglomerates: World Championship Wrestling or the World Wrestling Federation. Instead, Solie's promoting an Internet venture called Ring Warriors. The Web site can be visited at http: //www.ringwarriors. com. Ring Warriors brings wrestling action to cyberspace. Gravel-voiced Solie handles play-by-play of Japanese pro wrestling, while former grappler Bruno Sammartino gives color commentary and Sir Oliver Humperdink does interviews.

With a motto of ``pride, discipline and tradition,'' Ring Warriors aims to recapture what Solie considers wrestling's glory days. He dislikes the modern era, which led to his departure from World Championship Wrestling in June 1995. `I don't care for some of the hype they're putting to it today,'' he says, pointing to story lines involving car wrecks and assaults with guns. ``It was not my style of wrestling, for one thing. All of the subtleties are gone.''

Solie got his start in 1950, back when promoters sold the steak, not the sizzle, he says. He was working at WEBK, 1590-AM, a tiny Ybor City station, and spicing up his 15-minute sports show by interviewing local athletes, including wrestlers and race car drivers. Wrestling promoter Cowboy Luttrell offered Solie a stint as a ring announcer, replacing a guy who had quit. The pay? Five bucks - cash. Solie was earning just $50 a week, so he accepted.

By 1960, Luttrell had started offering televised matches. When he couldn't find a recognizable name to handle play-by-play, he turned to Solie.

``The rest, they say, is history.''

His renowned deadpan delivery among the chaos that characterizes wrestling is legendary. He adopted his style the first time he went on air after asking Luttrell how he should announce. ``He said, `Like you treat a paycheck. Very, very seriously,' '' Solie recalls. ``I'm not the star of the show - they [the wrestlers] are. The high-wire act is just as dangerous without the drumroll. All I am is a drumroll to a wrestling match.''

The wrestlers always played up that drumroll. Every fan worth a body slam remembers grapplers starting an interview with, ``Let me tell you something, Gordon Solie.'' Even today, rare is the wrestler who doesn't begin an interview with some variation of ``Let me tell you something.'' Wrestling's known for its flamboyance, but Solie added another dimension, says Okerlund, the interviewer from Sarasota. ``When someone said something outrageous, he'd give a subtle look, then move on,'' Okerlund says.

Solie's fame grew as the Championship Wrestling from Florida promotion syndicated its programs. He later worked for the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion, airing on WTBS in Atlanta. Satellites started beaming the station's signal in 1972, further expanding Solie's following.


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Californian Earl Oliver, reached by e-mail, recalls seeing Solie for the first time on WTBS around 1980. ``This guy was serious about it,'' writes Oliver, who runs a Web site, Solie's Vintage Wrestling - http: //users.aol.com/solie/ - named in the announcer's honor. ``He was calling the holds and maneuvers as fast as they happened and, at the same time, offering insights into the lives and careers of the athletes. ``It was a revelation to me and started me to seriously follow wrestling again after several years.''

Solie was known for packing plenty of information into his play-by-play. In the process, he taught generations of fans a bit of physiology. When a beefy wrestler applied, say, a sleeper hold, Solie described how the move pinched the carotid artery, limiting blood flow to the brain. He learned much of the lingo from co-host Coach John Heath, a one-time wrestler who studied premed in college. ``I did some independent study as well,'' Solie says. ``It brought sort of a new aspect to the sport.''

The medical lingo helped give fans an idea of what was going on in the ring, says Rotunda, the Hernando County wrestler. ``He kind of had his doctoral in the terminology of professional wrestling,'' Rotunda says. ``He was very adept at explaining what each and every hold did.''

Dave Meltzer, a Californian who edits the Wrestling Observer newsletter, listened to audiotapes of Solie in pre-cable days. ``For someone who couldn't see the picture, when I heard Florida wrestling, I knew exactly what was going on,'' Meltzer says. ``He definitely was one of the best.''

Aside from Solie's style, both wrestlers and fellow broadcasters knew him for his professionalism. Rotunda recalls 1984, the year he spent with Solie in working for the Championship Wrestling from Florida promotion. TV tapings were Wednesday mornings, followed by interviews and promos. They worked in a building without air conditioning. ``Everyone had to have a lighter side to them,'' Rotunda says. Solie deftly handled younger grapplers as they stumbled through interviews, and won respect for it.

``The wrestlers themselves voted Gordon into the Hall of Fame,'' Okerlund says. The feeling was mutual. Never a wrestler himself, Solie nonetheless admired how well they could perform, given the physical toll. ``For all the jokes about wrestling, I'd see these guys in a lot of pain,'' he says. ``I developed a lot of respect for their athletic ability and their ability to go out there five, six, seven times a week. ``I don't know of any wrestler that doesn't have back problems. The 26 movable vertebrae are not designed for body slams.''

While time isn't kind to wrestlers, the changing climate - regional promotions replaced by conglomerates - took its toll on Solie. A month after his induction into the WCW Hall of Fame, he left the organization that evolved from Georgia Championship Wrestling. ``I had never worked for a corporation before,'' he says. ``I am not a corporate man.'' Although largely out of the limelight these days, Solie is still stopped on the street by fans around the Bay area. In recent years, a man with his son in tow told the boy that he had just met ``the greatest wrestling announcer that ever lived.'' ``I've developed a tremendous following I didn't know was out there,'' Solie says.

While it appears unlikely now, he doesn't rule out a return before the camera given the right opportunity. ``I guess like any old war horse, I'd come out of the stable.''

Article Courtesy of WrestleNet Productions Inc. http://wresltenet.com/newscentral


Unprofessional Wrestler?

by Len B

Some people might say that Bret Hart is living in the past. His big problem with Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) is that he thinks Michaels behaves in an unprofessional manner. Michaels problem with Hart is that he thinks, "Who is Bret Hart that he gets off telling me that my behavior is wrong?" That is the question that I will address in my commentary.

Bret Hart and the whole Hart family have stood for wrestling tradition. Wrestling is the family business and the Harts try to protect pro wrestling as an industry. The Harts believe in hard work and paying your dues. When Bret started out in the WWF, he was a jobber (okay guys insert your favorite Vader joke here). He worked his way through the ranks and saw many less talented than him grab the spotlight.

So, when Bret finally made it to the top of his profession, he must have felt pretty good about what he worked for paying off. Even though pro wrestling may have predetermined outcomes of matches, Bret actually took pride in being a champion and setting a tone for the federation.

When Hall, Nash, Levesque, and Hickenbottom went out of character the night Hall and Nash left the WWF, Bret Hart was naturally upset. In Bret's mind, these guys were underminding the WWF. As I see it, Bret Hart is 100% right on his opinion of the unprofessional behavior of those four guys. What those four guys did that night at Madison Square Garden wreaked of unprofessionalism.

I have always thought that people should show some loyalty - at least publicly - to their employers. If an employee wants to say something after he leaves a company, that's okay. Bret's problem here is that these guys displayed this unprofessional behavior on the way out.


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In effect, these guys were being paid by McMahon that night but decided to carry on their own agendas. Well, Hall and Nash left and Bret's displeasure turned to Michaels who perceived as the ringleader anyway. What further annoyed Bret was that Michaels was supposed to carry the banner as champ for the federation.

As I am no wrestling insider, I can not tell what events that transpired during the last year (Michaels injury, the heat in exchanges between the two, and last week's incident) are staged. I'm also not going to make value judgements on whether or not it was proper for Michaels to do a layout for Playgirl. I don't even think it is important to judge whether his title reign was carried off in the best light.

My big problem with Michaels is the unprofessional manner he has done business in. As long as McMahon is signing his checks, he should show public support for the company - especially on company time. So, the answer to the question about who does Bret Hart think he is in telling Michaels his behavior is inappropriate is that he is a professional in every sense of the word. There's nothing wrong with that.


.

Stunning" To "Stone Cold": The History Of Steve Austin

by Ervin Griffin Jr.

Part 3 - The Hollywood Blonds

"It's a great day to be a blonde." - Steve Austin and Brian Pillman, on various occasions At the end of 1992, "Stunning" Steve Austin's career was in a tailspin. The Dangerous Alliance had split up and he had just lost the WCW TV title to Rick Steamboat. He wandered aimlessly between single and tag team matches. Then, in January of 1993, Austin teamed up with Brian Pillman to challenge then-WCW World Tag Team Champions Rick Steamboat and Shane Douglas at a Clash Of The Champions event. The champs retained the titles by DQ but Austin and Pillman ravaged them after the match.

Soon, this tag team would become known as the Hollywood Blondes (the second team in wrestling to take that name, if anyone knows who was the first then e-mail this info to me). Then, in either late-February or early-March, the Blondes toppled Steamboat and Douglas to win the titles. They had great success in rematches against Steamboat and Douglas as well as the team of Marcus A. Bagwell and 2 Cold Scorpio.

Then, in May of 1993, the Blondes made the mistake of calling out The Four Horsemen. Specifically, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. The incident to place on Flair's talk show, "A Flair For The Gold." This prompted Flair to come out of inactivity and team with Anderson to battle the Blondes for the WCW Tag Titles at the Clash Of The Champions in a two-out-of-three-fall match in June of 1993.

This match was an evenly fought contest which saw Flair and Anderson nearly win the titles in two straight falls!!! Off the record, I was very interested in this match simply because I wanted to see how the Blondes (particularly Austin) would hold up against Flair and Anderson. He held up quite nicely but Flair and Anderson proved that he wasn't ready for them yet.

Anyway, the match ended when Barry Windham's interference caused the Blondes to get DQ'ed. Later, that summer, The Blondes dropped the titles to Anderson and Paul Roma. Interesting, though, it was not the Blondes that they defeated but the team of Austin and Lord Steven Regal. The reason for this was that Pillman was injured and could not compete and Austin was forced to choose another partner.

Anyway, Austin started to wrestle solo again during Pillman's injury and was being wooed be Col. Robert Parker. When Pillman returned, he found that he was being snubbed by both Austin and Parker. Finally, Pillman attacked the Col. during an interview. At first, Austin stood by and watched but then he jumped in and attacked Pillman!!!

This would begin the bad blood between Austin and Pillman that still exists to this day.

Next: The US Title

If you have a question, comments, criticism or just want to talk pro wrestling, e-mail me at griffiev@hotmail.com

Ervin Griffin is Solie's resident historian and a regular contributor.


That's all for now. Until Monday Night...

Anyway, that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver,
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter


(Editor's Note: If you have found anything thats been said here to be particularly offensive please read this disclaimer).


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This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie. Solie's Reader's Forum - Join the liveliest discussion of Wrestling on the Web! Please watch your language - we have children surfing in here! Enter the Reader's Forum.

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