I had the luck to get to know and learn a lot about the announcing business from Gordon Solie… He had a way of making you believe just about anything… Gordon was Frank Dery’s right-hand man when Golden Gate Speedway opened and he was the announcer there for several years as well as the host of TV’s Championship Wrestling from Florida… The one-hour syndicated show was used as a way to promote and “set up” the weekly NWA matches on a live circuit that included Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa (similar to how WWE’s Raw and Smackdown shows set up each of their PPV broadcasts)…
I love this photo of a very serious Gordon getting the most out of Johnny Valentine and Boris “The Great” Malenko… Valentine was a real showman and the father of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine but saw his career cut short by a 1975 plane crash that left him paralyzed… Ric Flair also broke his back in that same crash but was able to fully recover… Malenko, billed at times as the “Mad Russian” was about as Russian as Donald Trump is Muslim. His real name was Larry Simon and he was from New Jersey and, as far is I know, never set foot in Russia. He also had sons that wrestled including Dean Malenko who had a pretty fair career himself…
I can still remember watching Gordon on Championship Wrestling from Florida on Channel 9 from 2-3 on Saturday afternoon before heading to Golden Gate to see and hear him live… He became a good friend to this teenager at the time and I will always have fond memories of him…
In the days before computer generated graphics, it took a real showman like Gordon to make the unreal seem so real. As a little kid in Miami, I was glued to the TV every Saturday afternoon for the only hour of drama in my young life; Gordon Solie and Championship Wrestling from Florida.
The sleeper hold! What if the bad guy didn’t wake him up? How can the referee miss such blatant cheating? Gordon played it so straight and so seriously that he made each show a life and death struggle, when the reality was so much less.
I have his book, “Something Left Behind”, and loved the description of his years in racing at Golden Gate. I wish there was a place to teach the art of showmanship, but while keeping our sport 100% real, unrehearsed and unscripted.
I remember when I and my wife moved now from Ohio. My folks were already here and my dad always watched CWFF. I got hooked on it. If I understand it correctly Solie was at Sunshine for awhile. If that airplane crash was the one in Tampa Bay, one other wrestler was killed and Buddy Colt’s leg was injured and had to wear a brace that ended his career and started to be a wrestler manager and ended up being a nut and bolt salesman.
Buddy Colt was flying the plane that crashed while trying to land in a storm on Davis Island. Bobby Shane was killed, Colt and Playboy Gary Hart were injured.As was a fourth wrestler who’s name escapes me at the moment. Flair and Valentine crashed elsewhere.
After reading all the good posts and knowledge of older race fans who know a lot about racing in the past. They have a lot of knowledge of the old days of wrestling. Maybe this will give help us to understand what has happen to local racing. When wrestling became big time under WWE and all the different Regional Wrestling Groups are now gone due to big time wrestling, maybe that is what happen to the local tracks.
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