My almost lifelong love affair with the scripted world of professional wrestling began on a black and white television at 605 North Main in Sidney back in the late 1950’s and into the next decade.
My late Saturday afternoons included 90 minutes of Studio Wrestling on Dayton’s channel two with sports director Omar Williams calling the action. The marketing angle was to increase attendance for the “live” matches at Troy’s Hobart Arena just a few hours later. That’s how it’s done in the wrestling business, with pay-per-view added years later.
The shows were enhanced by the woman always at ringside who continually pounded on the mat while encouraging the triumph of good versus evil in the “squared circle.” She was known as “Bouncin’ Beulah” and her antics were often featured during the presentation.
Omar was especially adept with the promotional interviews that are such a huge part of pro wrestling. Williams would often confront the “bad guys” about their cheating, to which many would respond, “We know the rules, Omar.” When a grappler would be thrown over the top rope, Williams would caution the ringside partisans to “look out.”
Omar was the first of what would become a trio of my favorite blow-by-blow announcers. After that Dayton/Troy promotion lost momentum, pro wrestling was not very visible in the Miami Valley into the mid-1960’s. Then we got matches from Detroit with commentary by Lord Layton, a large Canadian with a British accent who also wrestled in big arena shows. Lord’s delivery was quite prim and proper. My parents would cringe when I told them that Lord brought dignity to the ring.
Layton’s use of the English language still resonates with me. He’d refer to biting as “sinking the molars.” He said Killer Brooks had a “crude approach” with “despicable” behavior. Lord mentioned the debate about the name of one journeyman contestant but dismissed same by offering, “What’s in a name if the chap can’t wrestle?”
Later in the 1970’s, Ted Turner’s first cable channel delivered Georgia Championship Wrestling along with my favorite announcer, Gordon Solie, who was incredibly serious with every comment and interview. He’d relay exaggerated credentials for overmatched “jobber” opponents of established stars. One guy with a weak physique was supposedly “all-state in football and active in athletics and coaching.”
Solie’s analysis and insights were priceless including his assertion that a wrestler thrown into the ropes may rebound at “up to 25 miles per hour.” My favorite was his annual August warning to youthful viewers that they should not try the “sleeper hold” on their friends during recess when school resumes.
In my opinion, Gordon Solie’s finest moments came when an analyst worked with him, provided that the analyst was noted villain wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. That pair was awesome together with Gordon playing the straight man for the animated Piper. Roddy bragged when comparing himself with those he was analyzing while referring to his partner as “Mr. Solie.”
“There was a beautiful move Mr. Solie, but he couldn’t do that to me,” I remember Piper proclaiming on one telecast. “I have a counter move for that.”
Omar, Lord, and Mr. Solie… I enjoyed them all.