January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
There will never be another like you, Gordon. Rest in peace, my friend.
When Gordon Solie interviewed the stars the sessions were straight-faced and dramatic, as if he was questioning a president. Tribune file photos (1975) TAMPA - Gordon Solie's signature line was delivered with a wink and a salute to his viewing audience. So long from the Sunshine State. That's how he closed "Championship Wrestling From Florida," a homespun precursor for today's slickly produced wrestling shows. Sometimes, those productions look the same, complete with pyrotechnics, outlandish costumes and dangerous stunts. But in his era, alongside timeless characters inside dingy arenas, there was Gordon Solie. The voice of wrestling. One of a kind.
Solie, who had been battling throat cancer, died quietly Thursday at his home in New Port Richey. He was 71.
"There will never, ever be another like him," said wrestler B. Brian Blair. "He was the dean of wrestling for an entire generation. He made a bad match sound good. He made a dull match sound interesting. He was the greatest."
For the last year, Solie was forced to communicate through the vibrations of a voice box. His raspy delivery had been robbed, although he never lost his sense of humor or the love for regular lunches with close friends. But in recent weeks, Solie learned the cancer was spreading. A large party in his honor had been planned for early August. A few weeks ago, Solie told friends to cancel it.
Solie is survived by four children - Pam, Eric, Ginard and Greg. Funeral arrangements are pending.
"He was the man - the absolute best to ever call a match," said former professional wrestler Dusty Rhodes. "Back in the '70s, the announcer wasn't in on everything that was going on in the ring and behind the curtain, so Gordon had to call it like he saw it."
Solie's interviews were straight-faced and dramatic, much like he was questioning the president. His descriptive phrases were widely known - and widely imitated.
"It's a Pier-6 brawl," Solie deadpanned before adding, "we'll be back as soon as order is restored." When a wrestler bled, "his face was a crimson mask," Solie said urgently. When a sleeper hold was applied, Solie instructed his audience that "the hold is pinching the carotid artery, limiting blood flow to the brain."
"Gordon Solie absolutely led the way," said "Mean" Gene Okerland, the announcer for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). "He showed so much dedication and respect for wrestling. He leaves a lot of good friends in this business. What greater tribute could there be for him?"
Solie, originally from Minneapolis, came to Tampa in 1950 after a stint in the Air Force. He began as a disc jockey for an Ybor City radio station, then branched into announcing and promotions for auto racing and professional wrestling.
He attracted a loyal and growing audience with "Championship Wrestling From Florida," which was syndicated throughout the state. The familiar venues were the Sportatorium and Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. The big names were Jack and Jerry Brisco, Duke Keomuka, Hiro Matsuda, The Great Malenko, Cowboy Luttral, Pak Song, Buddy Colt, Dory Funk Jr., and Rhodes. Solie became nationally known when WTBS began broadcasting wrestling cards.
After his retirement from the sport in 1995, he sometimes lamented the sport's direction. "It's getting too suggestive ... the themes are in poor taste and usually outright disgraceful," he said in a 1999 interview. "They don't know a wristwatch from a wristlock. Whatever happened to wrestling?" Solie fell into despair when his wife Eileen - known to friends as "Smokey" - died of cancer in 1997. Solie's four-pack-a-day smoking habit led to some of his health problems, but he maintained a brave face publicly. He told some friends he knew the end was near.
"He had a pillow in his home that said, `Screw the golden years,' " Blair said. "He had it rough. We grieve for ourselves now because we miss him, but I can almost see him now, dancing with his wife in the clouds.
"And I can see the wrestlers who have passed, all up there with him. There's Gordon with his microphone, describing the action as always. He's gone home. We'll never see another one like him."
For my own part, I am simply overwhelmed with sadness.
Mr. Solie was not a friend of mine, we only corresponded a few times, and that came about right around the time his beloved wife passed away, and so the correspondence abruptly stopped.
I was incredibly proud of the fact that he later told an interviewer that mine was the only web site he visited on a regular basis, and that he very much approved of what I was doing here in his name. He had told me as much himself during our brief correspondence, which he had initiated after NWA President, Howard Brody had told him about the site.
I did feel that I knew Mr. Solie - I always felt that way and I believe it was a testament to his great skill as a broadcaster that a lot of people felt the same way I did. I can't tell you how many times I received email addressed, "Dear Gordon,". On each of these occasions I would write back and politely explain that I was not Gordon Solie, but only a fan who dedicated my web site to the greatest announcer in the game. In some instances I would go so far as to suggest to these correspondents that perhaps they might consider addressing Solie as "Mr. Solie".
I now realize that I was in error. Those people called him "Gordon" because they felt they had that right, because he was someone they knew, and I am sure that he would have wanted it that way.
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute andis 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 2000 - Jump City Productions