The wrestling world suffered another major loss as Gordon Solie, the ‘Dean of Professional Wrestling’, succumbed to the ravages of throat cancer.
Solie passed away last night at his home in New Port Richey, Florida. He was 71.
Often called the “Walter Cronkite” and the “Howard Cosell” of professional wrestling, Solie set the standard for today’s wrestling commentators and was respected by those in the industry and the fans alike as a living encyclopedia on the sport. Solie has been battling cancer for quite some time. In November of 1999, he underwent surgery to stop the cancer from spreading in his throat. His voice box had to be removed. It was a blow to Solie, a man who voice was as memorable as his quick wit.
Sadly, Solie’s wife, Eileen, whom he affectionately called “Smokey”, also died of cancer passing away in 1997.
In a press release before Solie’s death, NWA President Howard T. Brody, wrote “On a personal level, Gordon Solie, who along with Hiro Matsuda, had been one of my mentors in the wrestling business. I am proud to say that he has been a very close friend of mine for the past 18 years and until May 11th, had been my business partner in NWA Florida, working behind the scenes to help our group lay the groundwork to revitalize the Florida territory”.
Solie’s remarkable broadcasting career began in the 50’s as he took a job as radio sports announcer in Florida after leaving the Air Force. Covering many minor league events, Solie was known as the guy who would report on the lesser-known, grittier sports such as stock car racing, boxing and…pro wrestling.
At $5.00 a night, he took a job as a ring announcer for Cowboy Lutrell’s promotion. Solie approached this position with as much seriousness and professionalism as he did his other ventures in journalism. His ringside interviews with the grapplers revolutionized the way wrestling shows were done. As the company grew, Solie also took over the publicity chores.
From 1960 to 1987, Solie hosted Championship Wrestling from Florida, one of the most revered wrestling shows in the 80s. His work on the show led to him being picked as the host of Georgia Championship Wrestling on Ted Turner’s TBS station, one of the most watched wrestling shows on cable ever, from 1974 to 1985.
Solie, who lived in Florida, would travel to the TBS studios in Atlanta every week do broadcast the show where the likes of Roddy Piper, The Freebirds, Tommy Rich, The Road Warriors and Don Muraco first became national stars. At one time he was also the host of Continental Wrestling, the NWA’s office based out of Alabama.
He joined World Championship Wrestling in 1989 where he did play-by-play on several of their syndicated programs and offered colour analysis alongside Jim Ross on their nationally broadcast programs on TBS.
He stayed with WCW until 1995 before he quit, but not before he was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame at the Slamboree pay-per-view event in his home state of Florida.
Solie had earned the reputation of being the most credible and respected broadcaster ever in pro wrestling. His ringside interviews were done in a probing and inquisitive manner that brought a great deal of legitimacy to wrestling. He paved the way for today’s announcers, including Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone who have both cited Solie as major influences on their respective careers.
At press time, there is no word on where funeral arrangements will be held.
— with files from John Molinaro