This past weekend, long-time fan Chris Kovachis headed down to Charlotte, NC for a totally unique experience — hanging out with Ole Anderson on a road trip and being part of a ring crew at an indy show. In short, he had a great time, and filed his report for SLAM! Wrestling.
The promoter of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew Road trip, George South (a former Mid-Atlantic area wrestler) and two of his students arrived at around 1:30 p.m. at the Days Inn on W. Sugar Creek, Charlotte, NC to pick myself, and five other fans up (from Virginia), as well as Ole Anderson, who had come in earlier that morning. We started off by 2 pm as scheduled, pulling a trailer with a ring in it that would be used in the show in Wentworth, NC.
Ole Anderson’s somewhat sarcastic side immediately came out blurting out, “So you guys are paying your money to listen to me talk all day, *#(@^^%# bunch of idiots.”
Immediately I knew Ole was “old-time, old-school” and you really had to take his side comments with a grain of salt. His stories were full of intrigue and would basically start out on one wrestler before ending 20 minutes later on a totally different topic or event.
He told stories of his entry into the sport with legends Verne Gagne, and Danny Hodge as well as his early training with Gene and Lars Anderson and how they basically brought him in slowly like they did years later with Ric Flair. He talked about the days he was booking the Georgia, and Mid-Atlantic areas making $3,000 per week, his conflicts with Jim Barnett, Jim Crockett Sr., and even “that lowest form of scumbag *#(@^^%#” Eric Bischoff.
I was very impressed that he was so candid and open, especially when it came to the topic of drugs and who he thought and knew did them citing many memories of him having to fire stars in his area that missed shows and worked poorly because of them–guys like Tommy Rich, Roddy Piper, Buzz Sawyer, etc.
He talked about Tommy Rich, and how he built him up having him lose week after week until he actually beat the top guy, characterizing him as the kid with “heart” in the matches. Then Ole said because Barnett liked Rich, eventually he had him wear the NWA World belt.
Ole mentioned the angle when Gene “sacrificed” his head to win the NWA World Tag belts from Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel, the Road Warriors, Thunderbolt Patterson, as well as his vehement opposition to keeping Ric Flair around in his Mid-Atlantic territory because “He was the *#(@^^%#. I recommended that we put the NWA title on him so I could get him out of the territory … His matches were all the same, and I was afraid he would kill the town and the people would stop coming … that’s why he became NWA Champ … he loved to be on the road, going from one town to the next, doing the same carbon copy match in Columbus on Monday, Macon on Tuesday, Atlanta, Japan, then back to Greensboro, NC … he could have the same sequence of moves and not think in the ring …”
He was very outspoken about the guys he didn’t think to highly of, like Lex Luger, Randy Savage, and the Briscos and how they “sold out” to Vince McMahon by selling their shares in Georgia Championship Wrestling.
Ole then signed copies of his book and other photos, magazines, and memorabilia that the fans had brought as well as George South passing out our “VIP Backstage” pass and photos of the Andersons that was part of our $40 package.
Arriving at the National Guard Armory at approximately 4:30 p.m. we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant was already set up. We all got pictures and had him sign our “stuff” and chatted briefly. Boy, I remember The Boogie Woogie Man headlining Maple Leaf Gardens on many an occasion in Russian chain matches with Ivan Koloff, The Cadillac Tournament, the feud with Kabuki, Sir Oliver Humperdink–he definitely was a Toronto favorite!
Shortly thereafter, I escaped with George’s two students for a bite at a nearby Wendy’s. We were surprised when Ole Anderson and the ref for the evening showed up next!! I got to spend over an hour talking with a legend from the good ol’ Mid-Atlantic days! Hell, HE was the booker during those days! HE made up the Boogie Woogie Man “Gimmick”! Here I was sitting in a Wendy’s in some small town in North Carolina, and Ole Anderson is telling ME about Angelo Mosca and took the time to sign a message on an old “Pro Wrestling Canada” program to “Big Nasty” as I told him I should be seeing Angie in September at the PWHF dinner in Toronto.
Ole told us to never, ever touching steroids, drugs–hell, he didn’t even drink! His breakfast of three dozen eggs, with a half jar of peanut butter in a blender with orange juice or milk. His time stationed in Germany just before Vietnam and how he volunteered to be a clerk so he could eat and maintain his weight.
Needless to say we could have stayed there for hours as Ole would have just gone on and on. He asked me if I had read the book and put me on the spot when he asked “What did my grandmother say about me?” I didn’t know. He responded, “she said that I always talked too much!”
Returning to the Armory at around 6:30pm, The Masked Superstar, Bill Eadie had arrived (one of my all time favourites) and was doing the autographs and chatting. He actually brought his 10-year-old son with him.
Being able to go backstage while the wrestling show was on was great as the matches were not very good and the place was an oven. Backstage was air conditioned and the wrestlers could workout, lounge on a couch and watch videos, limber up, etc.
As somewhat of a belt mark myself now, thanks to Griff Henderson, I grabbed a few great shots of George’s Millican-made U.S. Heavyweight belt (circa 1983 Roddy Piper) as well as the association’s heavyweight title.
The third match of the evening was the one that stole the show and killed the remaining two. It was a tag team match with George South & The Boogie Woogie Man against The Masked Superstar & The Assassin. Boogie and South won the match which garnered basically the only emotion for the night.
After the cage came down in the finale and the wrestlers were all packing, Scotty Matthews, a combatant in the main event, came over to Ole and asked him what he thought. Oh boy, did Ole rip into the match and the performance.
He said, “let me ask you if you drop a cement block on a guy, then hit him with a sledge hammer, and blow him up with bomb, why would you then put a head lock on him??” Not only that but the cage match went to a time limit draw which is not the reason you would even use a cage.
I couldn’t believe Ole actually continued all the way home until we were back at the Days Inn at 2:30 a.m. We said our goodbyes and exchanged some e-mail addresses and bid adieu to Ole who had to get George to put some kind of hydro-cortisone cream on his back for itching. As I thanked George for putting on such a great trip, I wondered if Ole would be so bitter about some things if he was in the WWE now. I sensed that some relationships that were strained hurt him such as with Arn Anderson. I also sensed that if WWE had him it might be a better product. Because to Ole, it was always about the business, and making money. Not the other way around. His way gave something back to the next generation. Vince’s way has destroyed the next generation.
As I walked back to my room, I realized that I had just experienced something not many individuals do other than maybe the editors and writers that interview and get information from old-time greats for their biographies. It amazed me that Ole could tell his stories almost word for word out of his book. But it wasn’t Ole recounting out of his book. It was Scott Teal who recounted exactly what Ole had done for us.
He actually shared his closest and fondest memories that have molded him these past 40 years in this business and it was the most satisfying experience in my 29 years as a wrestling fan. It was interactive and I actually think he will remember me–for a bit of time anyway.
I ran into Ole the next morning across the street at a Shoney’s where I went for breakfast and he was already finished and heading out at 9:30 a.m. He immediately recognized me and actually said hi! He told me that he’s got this “big old house in Georgia and has his girlfriend coming up Monday to visit … In between however, it’s just me alone in this big ole house.” I think Ole Anderson had a good ol’ time too! They have a saying–“too bad we gotta get old.” Too bad is right, Ole. Too bad.
Thanks Ole, for the memories of July 24th, 2004 and thank you George South for still caring about these old time greats to set this up !!
Your buddy up here in Toronto, CANADA !!