Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
This interview, which is the one most eagerly anticipated by yours truely, was conducted earlier this month by telephone. It is of considerable length and so will be broken up into several segments over the next few months.
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 worked out.
To be continued...
In "exclusive" after Nitro footage, Booker T is punked once again... Stevie Ray is back on the broadcast team and comments on his brother's tribulation. In the back the Misfits improvise their way through a really bad comedy routine. Where are Lenny and Lodi when you need them..?
IM Smooth (didn't this guy used to be Ice Train?) consults with Skip Loader (or whatever) and suggests he gets a better name (duh...) - they walk out of camera range discussing the situation.
In the ring, Miss H rants while David Flair stalks around the ring behind her. His opponent is the former Wall, Sgt. A-WALL. This quickly degenerates into a table match - with Flair as the victim. You gotta admit, the kid is paying his dues. Backstage, Siren's boyfriend starts into a jealous range until Shane Douglas walks up and leads him away. Skip Over (that's it!) is presenting his new name to Terry Taylor. It is written on a piece of paper.
Whats this? Jeff Jarrett and Vampiro is conference..? Jarrett wants Vamp on his team but the dead guy is non-committal.
Kidman is still trying to find a way to overcome his peewee size but he doesn't need it in this match against the "Prime Time Player" (Elix Skipper's new moniker). Naturally Douglas and Torrie come out to watch - then suddenly the big bruiser that harrassed Siren earlier runs in and gives Prime Time his first major win. Mike Awesome confronts the Cat over a title shot or something.
Judy Bagwell encounters Shane Douglas in a hallway and gets called a dirty name. Buff Bagwell attacks...not his mother...Douglas I mean. This leads to the ring and Jindrak and O'Hare waiting for one of the former Tag Title chumps, Sean Stasiak vs. Sean O'Hare. Chuck Palumbo joins the braodcasters and is not funny... In the ring, Stasiak shows us how he grew up in the wrestling business as opposed to his rookie opponent. The younger man barely gets any offense until just before then end. He hits a DDT and then is too out of it to follow up immediately. Stasiak starts a come back but O'Hare suddenly displays a martial arts expertise not heretofore seen. Palumbo comes out of his seat and is immediately struck down by his broadcast companion, Stevie Ray. In the ring, Stasiak makes his comeback and delivers his gig guns but the kid kicks out! Stasiak is so surprised he lays down and accepts a pinfall...
Mean Gene is wearing a neck brace but not actually showing any ill effects from his phony bump the other night. Judy Bagwell is really getting obnoxious...even when she's in Shane Douglas' face.
In his second title defense of the evening, The Canadian Kid puts his Hardcore Title on the line against a former several time Hardcore Champ. Norman Smiley is able to go back to the scientific wrestling style in an ironic twist. It doesn't help him in this squash match but he does get to do his swinging power slam - I love that move.
I can't decide which is more offensive, the "Frachise" or Judy Bagwell... Her son is up next - bringing her to the ring again, of course. If he is so worried about her welfare...why doesn't he leve her home??? Please!!! Leave her home!!!! Bagwell dominates the action at first, but as the match progresses, Douglas is the better grappler and it shows. His Pittsburgh plunge is not effective this time and then Kidman runs in behind the referee's back and punks Douglas. Bagwell gets the BlockBuster and the pin. As the winner is leaving the ring, his mom and Torrie get into a cat fight. Douglas gets involved and brings Bagwell back to rescue his mom - WHO SHOULDN'T BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! By this time, Kanyon has gotten involved - he drags Bagwell into the ring and Diamond Cuts him across the back of a chair. Bagwell is out and Mike Awesome has to rescue them. There is speculation about a re-injury to Bagwell's bad neck...yatta, yatta...
During the break, the Buff and Judy Show has moved out to an ambulance where Buff doesn't look quite so much like the stuff. Awesome promises to avenge them later in the show. Meanwhile the World Champ is consulting with Sting, who tells him "...you don't have to do this..." Booker insists that he does. The people demand it.
Mike Awesome brings out one of his large women and compliments her before throwing out his challenge to Kanyon on behalf of the "lovely" Judy Bagwell. Its funny how Kanyon's real hair doesn't actually look any different then the rug he was wearing... The Innovator of Offense seems a bit at sea against the flying big man. He manages to subdue his opponent, but then he hauls off and decks the referee before taking out a couple of cameramen and a grip and a photographer with his Kanyon Kutter before Judy runs in with her loaded purse and ends Kanyons reign of terror. Backstage, Lance Storm rinses his head from the water cooler as the Cat advances toward the arena for his US Title shot.
After the break, the Cat dances in the ring in his leapord skin pajamas. Storm has his Canadian Flag covered US Title (I don't care what he calls it...) Storm is all over him from the get go. The Cat is always able to pull himself together so it is a see-saw battle. The Cat almost gets the pinfall then tosses Storm to the floor. Storm reverses a ringside whip and turns the tables with a standing side kick to the face. Back in the ring he hits a big springboard missle drop-kick but somehow Miller comes back. Suddenly the Great Muta runs in. He and Miller spar for a moment, then Muta hits a legwhip. The Cat is taken out of the fight by that and Storm gets an easy victory with a series of attacks on his opponent's bum wheel.
Mean Gene's head bobs up an down, side to side, as usual, despite his neck brace. Booker and his back-up (Sting and Kronic) pledge to kick butt. Poor Sting - in a feud with...Demon..?
Booker's team takes on Vampiro, Demon, Muta (the Dark Carnival?) and Jeff Jarrett..?? Whaaaaaaat..? How did Jarrett get himself associated with this bunch of freakazoids? The World Champ is given his own grand entrance as we return from the break. Followed by Sting's slightly less colorful spectacle and Kronics' awsome display. The Freaks come out together then their "babysitter" shows up. Jarrett signals them to attack the ring - and the fight is on. This is an 8 man elimination match. Muta is eliminated within the a few minutes. He encounters the Cat on the ramp and is dragged away by a black karate belt around his neck. Back in the ring, Kronic get impatient and toss the referee through a table. They are DQ'd. Now it has smoothed out to a true tag team situation but is three on two against Booker's team. Sting takes on Vampiro and they clothesline each other to the mat. Booker is tagged in and cleans house. In the middle of all this, Jarrett splits, leaving a two-on-two match with Sting and Booker easily vanquishing Demon and the woozy Vampiro.
HHH is loitering out back still. Stephanie arrives and doesn't want to talk to him. She breezes right past him and heads inside where she meets Kurt Angle, who is trying to ingratiate himself with the bosses daughter and offers his shoulder to cry on. Stephanie just wants to know where Trish Stratus is..."have you seen her?" she asks.
Outside the building, the Garden Tools are holding a demonstration for their cause. Inside, Shano Mac and his thugs are making an appearance. Shane reels off the names of his stable - Edge & Christian, Kurt Angle, Benoit and the Big Show and states that the balance of power has shifted in the World Wrestling Federation. He then presents his list of intended victims. The Big Show has the Undertaker in his sights and shows some of the footage of their recent attacks on the dead man. Benoit then goes through the same routine with video of his attack on Chris Jericho. Shane takes over again and shows video of Edge & Christian doing the double chair shot on Jeff Hardey last week. He announces a match pitting Benoit and the Show against Kane and the Rock. In the back, Stephanie finds Trish talking to her boys and interrupts to tell her to stay away from her husband under pain of disfigurement... Test allows how he's really glad he didn't marry that witch!
Hunter is trying again to get Steph to talk to him, but she isn't interested in talking at all tonight.
The rather strange tag team of Eddie Guerrero and Rikishi take on the equally strange tag team of Tazz and Val Venis. Chyna is on hand to uneven the odds. It was a short contest, with Rikishi devesating the opposition so that Guerrero could throw his first Frog Splash in months. Backstage, after summoning them to his office, Commissioner Foley makes a 6 man tag match with the Helmsleys and Kurt Angle against Lita and the Dudley Boyz.
Backstage, Matt Hardey tells his younger brother to stay out of the ring tonight because of his head injury. Edge and Christian are in the ring when Matt runs in and spears his opponent, Edge. He pauses in his assault to knock Christian off the apron. At the critical momen, Christian is in position to drag Hardey out to the floor again and rough him up. Back inside the ring, Matt continued to be double teamed. He is on his last legs when his brother runs out with a ladder and bowls Christian over. Then he sets the ladder up and climbs to the top...only to lose his balance and fall onto the top rope. Matt is distracted and hit with a chair, which gets Edge disqualified, but I don't think either Hardey actually cared.
The Rock tells Kevin Kelly that he can make him into Chris Benoit. He blacks one of his teeth then tells him, "...smile jabroney!" He revives his old bad impression of the Big Show.
At the top of the second hour we get the first big tag match. Benoit/Show vs. Kane and the Rock. In the early going the Rock is the clear target of both opponents. He is isolated early on, then Kane comes in and cleans house for a while - until he is suckered in and double teamed. Moments after he finally tags back in, the Rock is applying a sharpshooter on Benoit!! The Show breaks it up and that brings Kane inside for a moment of chaos which sorts itself out to the Rock getting ready to drop the People's Elbow...when he is hit with a steel chair by Shane. The two big guys brawl up to the platform where Kane allows himself to be distracted by Shane while the Show tears out one of the floor panels. The next thing we know, the giant has chokeslammed the Big Red Machine through the floor of the platform! Interestingly, in the replay angle you can see that Kane only falls a few feet (his boots are still stuck out above the platform as his back makes contact with whatever form of padding he lands on). When the camera switches to the floor underneath the stage, the padding has been whisked away and the drop looks more like 8 or 9 feet.
Uh oh...the God Squad is treading on thin ice, confiscating the Acolytes' beer...
Perry Saturn challenges Steve Blackman for his Hardcore Title while not having to defend his own European belt. He is on the offensive from the get go and they brawl right up the ramp, where Al Snow runs in and takes a cheap shot at the challenger to assure the Champ retains. Backstage, the Acolytes discover the sacrilage purpetrated by those damn censors...
Steven Richards arrives at the ring with his RTC squad, but before he can say much the Acolytes hit the ring and the fight is underway. During this match the Garden Tools make their way to the ring to continue their protest. Meanwhile, Richards violates his own dictum about gratuitous violence by breaking a 2x4 over the Faarooq's back.
The next match pits the Road Dog vs. Grand Master with X-Pac at the table until he got up to "tie his shoe". He basically takes care of the opposition so that the Dogg Picks up the win. Afterward, Rikishi runs out to the rescue his friends and the DX team ends up on the receiving end.
The Helmslys make their entrance and Steph again just walks off leaving her husband on the platform to follow along behind her. Their partner is Kurt Angle, who has failed still to ingratiate himself with HHH. The Dudleys and Lita are the opponents. Bubba Ray starts the match against HHH, who takes control of things then tags in Angle in a rather insulting fashion. Nonetheless, Angle holds up his end and has the Dudleys reeling until he decides to tag Stephanie in to put the boots to Devon. She gets one lick in then HHH tags himself in. Bubba is being isolated. When Devon finally gets the tag he is all over the opposition. He almost pins Helmsley, but Angle prevents it. Moments later the Dudleys reign supreme and haul a table out from under the ring. Then they spot Stephanie and we have a little pantomime as Bubba goes into his trance and Stephanie's eyes get real big. Then Steph's guys rescue her. Control completely breaks down at that point, a brawl takes place outside the ring while inside, Lita destroys Stephanie. As she is about to take the pin, HHH makes it back into the ring and put a pedegree on her. Stephanie is rolled over on Lita but is still out of it. Now Bubba is back and looking at Stephanie again. HHH runs back in yet again and clears the ring so that his wife can take the pin.
Cyrus vs. The Sandman - basically, equipped with his Singapore Cane, the Sandman just whacks the heck out of everyone in sight including Cyrus, Rhino, and even the World Champion. Justin Credible eventually turns the tables on him with a spinning tombstone then Rhino takes Dudley apart then piledrives him on the floor. Back in the ring, the Sandman is punked until Chili Willie intervenes.
Mikey Whipwreak and Little Guido had a spirited contest for several minutes while Mikey fights off all of the bad guys at once. Tony Mamaluke tries unsuccessfully to interefere throughout the contest and finally has to resort to a chairshot to get any attention, and to hand the pinfall to Guido. Mikey is up a creek without a paddle but then Tajiri runs in and makes the save. Mikey appears to have made his transition back to official babyface status tonight.
In a three-way dance we get Tajiri vs. Steve Corino vs. Jerry Lynn. This one starts out all full of chain wrestling - the crowd loves it for about 15 seconds...then after the second round of applause they have to get serious and the heavy kicks of Tajiri really make the difference at this point, ramping up the action so that the next several minutes are fast and furious. As usual, it is very hard to figure out how to get a pinfall with that third man always there to break things up. As the match starts to go against Corino, Lou E. Dangerously suddenly pulls the ref out of the ring. Corino nails Lynn in the face with Lou's cell phone setting him up for his finisher. By now Scott Anton, jack Victory, Jazz etc. are all in the ring and all the heels go after Lynn until Tommy Dreamer runs in and drives them off. This all leads to...
Tommy Dreamer vs. Scotty Anton, which starts sort of out of the leftovers from the previous match - there are about 11 guys all going at it around the ring. Dreamer secures a hold on Anton and drags him out into the audience to beat on him for a while. Back in the ring, Anton gets the barest of offensive flurries but then is plunged into deep doodoo early on in the match. After several minutes of domination, Tommy suddenly throws himself onto his own ladder set-up and the pendulum swings in the other direction for the first time in the match. Anton slaps on a sharpshooter (what is it with that move all of a sudden?) Jazz steps in and smashes Anton in the mouth with a chair and that , as they say, is that. Dreamer comes back with an elbow drop off the second rope onto a chair to take the victory.
After the match, an irate Cyrus was back the ring, this time telling Rhino and Justin Credible that they will form a tag team for the upcoming Tag Team Title tounament. Credible grumbles that he has already thrown down the Tag Titles, Rhino ends the program with a rambling, obscenity laden rant.
That's it for now folks. I'll be back on Tuesday Morning - 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 memory of the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 2000 - Jump City Productions