This interview, which is the one most eagerly anticipated by yours truely, was conducted in late September by telephone. It is of considerable length and so will be broken up into several segments over the next few months.
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 the 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 then 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 is a longtime friend of Solie's and a regular contributer to the newsletter. His "EYE on Wrestling" columns can be found in the "Articles" section of the web site. His previous interviews with Bob Blackburn, Lou Thesz, Bob Ryder and Buddy Landel are currently to be found in the "Interviews" section. You can also hear any of these interviews in RealAudio by visiting Jeremy's web site, Up Close Wrestling
We get the opening montage right from the top of the show then some Nitro Grrrrrls - Nitro is live from Chatanooga, Tennessee. Tony starts out by mentioning Hogan's retirement and his run for the Presidency. Mike Tenay is missing tonight, said to be ill. Legendary Larry doesn't care - they talk about the contract signing for the World Title match at Starrcade. They show the tape of Hogan retiring - they cut out all of Leno's digs - so far it's a work... they switch to the parking lot where we are waiting to hear from the remains of the nWo (everyone but Hogan apparently) then go to commercial.
As we return, Hogan is giving a heartfelt retirement speech - there isn't a dry eye in the house. Suddenly Goldberg runs in and spears him ...oh...uh sorry...day dreaming again...
The white limos pull up and start disgorging thugs. The entire nWo black and white arrives and makes their way into the arena. Scott Steiner leads the march but who knows what that means... Eric Bischoff appears in the middle of the gang and then takes the mic to introduce Steiner as the heir apparent. Steiner calls for a moment of silence in "memory" of Hollywood Hogan but tells us that he is watching the show and that Hogan himself appointed Steiner as his successor. He points to his biceps and says he is the natural one to inherit the 24 inch pythons. Legendary Larry drawls "Well, he certainly has the charisma of Hogan..." Steiner challenges Scot Hall, telling him he can't leave the nWo and that he better find a partner to face "Big Poppa Pump" and Horace in a tag team match later tonight. So far - that's the main event...oh no, I forgot about Hart/DDP. Look for the beginnings of a power struggle tonight 'cause Steiner isn't up to this role. Maybe this is how they will tempt the Giant to stay iin the fold. Cut to commercial.
Nitro Grrrrrls dancin in gold lamme...while Tony expounds on Nitro parties.
Konnan vs. Chris Jericho (w/Ralphus) - Television Title match - Konnan does his usual schtick and gets some good reactions. Jericho comes with Ralphus and looks mildly under-quaffed. Konnan exhibits his wrestling superiority right from the get go. Jericho could lose his belt to this guy and it wouldn't be a great surprise. Konnan goes to a rougher fighting mode and continues to dominate until Jericho tosses him onto the top rope, throat first. Konnan flops out of the ring and is rising to his feet as Jericho splashes him then runs him into the ring steps. Back in the ring, Jericho attempts a cavelier cover and fails. He puts the boots to the rising Konnan re-asserts his advantage. A scoop slam, then the TV Champ climbs to the top and spends an eternity blowing kisses before flinging himself onto an upraised boot. Konnan turns the tables but then Jericho turns it right back with a flurry ending in a Lionsault. The match see-saws, both guys are exhausted. Jericho gets the Liontamer but is in the ropes. He gets up thinking he has won but he hasn't. Konnan hits him low and rolls him up. Konnan is the new TV Champ!! The Wolf Pack streams in to congratulate him as he celebrates wit his fans. We are told that his video is being put up and then...there it is. It's not bad as far as rap goes (sorry, I like jazz and blues...) Great shots of the cars bouncing around... It looks like the guy who really sings the song is fighting to get his face on the video occasionally throughout the song...
Mean Gene invites the Nature Boy to the ring and to comment about his feud with Eric Bischoff. Flair is somewhat subdued but his tone is challenging - he reminds Bischoff (and us) that he beat everybody in the world then goes on to call Bischoff out in the most convincing terms for a match tonight! Referring to himself as an "old man" and saying to Bischoff that he's going to look pretty silly if he doesn't accept the challenge of a "has been" wrestler like Flair. Cut to commercial.
Nitro Party video segues into another round of commercials.
Replay of the celebration in the ring after Konnan's win. Then Scott Hall saunters to the ring to make his response to Steiner I suppose. He seems to agree to a handicap match then Kevin Nash appears on the platform and offers to do the honors. This could be the set-up for putting Hall back in the nWo driver's seat...
Kanyon/Raven vs. Scott/Steve Armstrong - Raven seems to fall asleep in the corner as the ring fills up. Kanyon foregoes his silly survey. The bell sounds and Raven just sits there like a lump. He takes a mic and whines his usual rant - until Kanyon cuts him short and starts ranting at him saying "Nobody loves you..." The Armstrongs decide to start the match and battle two on one with Kanyon who still slumps in the corner. He finally gets up, looks around and splits! Kanyon continues the match against Scott and gets the Flatliner on him. He then walks over to watch Raven go. Scott rolls him up and pins him. Cut to commercial.
Mean Gene intervies Bret Hart. Hart accuses Page of spreading cash around to get him taken out. He sites a groin injury and tries to beg off from tonight's US Title match. He tells us about the "doctors in back" who won't let him wrestle. Diamond Dallas Page makes his way through the crowd and confronts the Hitman. He reminds us that Hart had said that he would put the hit on everybody until Page agreed to face him for the Title, and now he is begging off? He calls him a "damn liar" and then says he intends to hold him to the contract. Hart agrees to the match but demands a no-DQ stip and gets it. The announcers blab some then we go to an extended clip from last week's show featuring Hart and Page.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Kidman - Cruiserweight Title match - oh boy! This is a return match from the one over the weekend wherein Eddie got a pinfall in a non-title match. Guerrero seems to undestimate his opponent much to his peril. Kidman dominates until he gets knocked outside and pummeled with the ring steps. Back in the ring, Guerrero has the advantage. He gets a shoulder breaker then cinches up on an inverted arm bar. Kidman struggles and Eddie switches to a hammerlock and is struggling to hold Kidman down as we cut to commercial.
Guerrero is still in control as we return, then he takes too much time climbing to the top and gets caught. Kidman crawls up with him but slips off and injures himself. Kidman is down for a moment but keeps coming back and soon has Eddie backing up. He gets a powerbomb but misses the pin. He is trying to maneuver Guerrero but is overwhelmed again and the match continues to see-saw. Kidman gradually takes charge but then he spins Eddie around and knocks the referee out of the ring. Juventud Guerrera bounds onto the apron and gets kicked in the teeth. Rey Misterio arrives and plants Eddie Guerrero with a drop-kick to the back then helps the rferee back into the ring. Kidman retains with an assist. Cut to commercial.
Bischoff comes to the ring with Barry Windham as we are shown Bam Bam Bigalow sitting ringside. Eric rants about America needing another hero...and he's going to bring him out right now. It's Dean Malenko he wants to talk to. Malenko shows up on the platform with the Horsemen in tow. He waves rest of them back after Eric teases him about needing some help then goes to the ring alone. He proposes that Malenko wrestle Windham, if he can beat him - then Bischoff will face Flair - oh...and the special referee for the first match will be...Dusty Rhodes. Dusty waddles down to the ring and says the "justice will be swift and the call will be right down the middle..." He grins conspiritorially at Bischoff. Cut to commercial.
Wrath vs. the latest victim - this match is not unlike every Wrath match against a jobber. Bobby Blaze blazes out... Bam Bam says he bought a ticket to be here.
Ernest Miller (w/Sonny Oono) vs. intelligent storylines... he came to whup somebody, bring somebody from the back...yatta, yatta... uh oh - it's Saturn. Miller offers to leave the ring but Saturn stops him. Miller decides to throw Oono to the wolf. Saturn makes short work of Sonny and has the pin, except that Miller drags the referee out of the ring. Meanwhile, Glacier comes in, brains Saturn and lays Oono over him. Saturn kicks out, Miller tosses Oono a chain, Saturn then gets the Death Valley Driver and the pin. The referee finds the discarded chain and accuses Saturn of dropping it. He reverses the decision even though he never saw Saturn with the weapon...Cut to commercial.
Another white limo appears and out jumps Goldberg. Time for the contract signing. He enters to his theme music but without fireworks. Terry Tailor stands in the ring with Mean Gene Okerlund. Gene introduces Kevin Nash. Nash appears with Luger and Konnan. Taylor puts the contract on the table between the two competitors. Nash signs both copies and Gene announces that Goldberg will not defend the title again before Starrcade. Goldberg signs the contract and Bigalow erupts at ringside and is immediately subdued and hauled away by a massive security phalanx. They throw him out of the building. Cut to commercial.
Booker T vs. Mike Enos - Enos has nothing going for him in this one. He can't outpower this opponent and has nowhere near his wrestling talent. So naturally Booker makes him look good by taking some big shots out on the floor. Back in the ring, Enos drops on Booker once more then grabs a reverse chinlock. Booker gets to his feet so Enos whips him into the corner and then creams him with a clothesline. Once they get moving Enos is immediately out-maneuvered. Booker's talented feet walk all over his opponent and get him the pin. Meanwhile, Bigalow is making an idiot of himself out on the lawn... Cut to commercial.
Replay of Konnan's TV Title win earlier this evening segues to a scene from "Houdini" - I don't know why... Bigalow is still putting on a show for the fans outside the building. Cut to commercial.
Lex Luger vs. Brian Adams (w/Vincent) - Tony talks about the tribute to referee Mark Curtis held last night. He is going in for cancer surgery this week. Luger dominates the early going. He's all over the big Hawaiian. Adams finally cuts him off and then tosses him from the ring. Luger absorbs the punishment for a while then comes roaring back. At the end of a flurry he accidentally knocks the referee out. This is the signal for Vincent to come in and change the odds. Adams gets in a big chair shot, piledrives Luger on the chair, rouses the referee then goes for the pin but Luger kicks out. Adams tries to intimidate the referee and gets rolled up but escapes. Adams starts choking and holding the referee away. Vincent has a chair ready when Luger shoves Adams in that direction, but Adams stops short - so Luger shoves him the rest of the way then grabs him in a Torture Rack. Nitro Grrrls cavort on the ramp.
Dean Malenko vs Barry Windham - Dusty Rhodes is the special referee - if Malenko wins, then Flair gets Bischoff in the ring. Windham looks a little less whale-like since we saw him the WWF. Malenko gets the early advantage, Windham leaves the ring and is chased back in. He uses Rhodes as a screen then gets a finger to the eye to turn the tables. Rhodes doesn't even warn Windham about repeated blows in the corner. Malenko is in for it tonight. He is stood in the corner and his leg is tortured for several seconds. Suddenly changes his tune and disqualifies Windham for not letting Malenko out of the corner! He leaves the ring refusing to acknowledge Bischoff who is livid. Bischoff sends Windham after Rhodes, but Malenko blindsides Barry then the Horsemen converge and stomp a mudhole in the big Texan. Flair celebrates in the ring over the fact that Bischoff now has to face him in the ring!
Scott Steiner/Horace vs. Scott Hall/Kevin Nash - Hall is the natural leader of the nWo black and white - I can't believe he's not going to turn on Nash yet again tonight. Hall comes out looking pretty cocky about his partner, but there us a coldness there in their interaction. Steiner has his own referee for this one. Hall starts the match with Horace and dominates him right off the bat. Horace eventually throws him off then gets a few shots of his own. Tony announces that their will be a Bischoff/Flair match at Starrcade! In the ring, Steiner is in with Hall and turns the tables on him. He goes for a pin and gets a fast count - but it's not enough. Hall is still in trouble. He makes a comeback moments later when Steiner rushes in too fast and gets booted. He has the pin on him but now the referee is slow in his count. Horace and Steiner doubleteam to regain the advantage then Steiner continues the assault. They are isolating Hall. Nash is straining to get in and finally gets the tag but the referee tries to deny it -- he is shoved aside and the nWo is devastated. Hall pins Horace but the referee won't count. He is jack knifed by Nash then a real referee rolls in and makes the count. Nash leaves the ring before the decision is announced and Hall is forced to celebrate by himself. I'm telling you, eventually this whole thing will come to a head when Hall turns his back on Nash once more and then takes over the nWo. Cut to commercial.
The announcers are talking about Bischoff when the camera cuts to the back where Goldberg is running out to confront Bigalow they hold a brawl in the parking lot, running each other into cars and such until security gets between them again. The madness ebbs and then flairs again as Goldberg breaks free - cut to commercial.
Bret Hart vs. Diamond Dallas Page - US Title match - Hart sort of limp to the ring, not really pronounced. Page takes his detour through the crowd before approaching the ring. Bret allows himself to be bulled into the corner twice. The second time he turns and hits a low blow from behind. He only dominates a short time then DDP turns the tables again. He grabs Hart and drags him to the corner then figure fours him around it. The Giant runs in and catches him in this compromising position. He rolls DDP into the ring and chokeslams him. Then he picks Page up, stands him on the corner buckle then chokeslams him again. Page is out. Hart puts him in the Sharpshooter, but Page is unconscious - the referee ends the match. Page lays in the ring as Hart puts on the belt and displays it for the crowd. Cut to replay then fade to black.
I'll be back tomorrow night with the RAW Report and a new opinion column. Until then...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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. Copyright 1998 - Jump City Productions