By: Chris Bridges
The tradition of Saturday night Atlanta wrestling
It was around the spring of 1986 when I first became a die-hard fan of pro wrestling (or ‘rasslin’ if you will).
Much to the dismay of my parents, I became hooked on the grunt-and-groan business during a time when pro wrestling was a different game completely from today’s version. There was so much televised wrestling on Atlanta television stations during this time that it was a pro wrestling fan’s dream come true. Pro wrestling had been airing on WTBS since the early 1970s and was one of the most successful programs for Ted Turner during his pre-CNN days. Once WTBS went on the satellite, pro wrestling fans across the country, and even the world, could watch Gordon Solie calling the action on Saturday nights beginning at 6:05 p.m. (Remember when WTBS staggered the starting times for its programs until 6:05, 6:35, 7:05, etc.?)
Solie was the dean of pro wrestling broadcasters having already become a legend in Florida when he was brought to Atlanta to begin airing what was then known as Georgia Championship Wrestling. No pro wrestling announcer has, or will ever, be on equal footing as Solie who brought an air of professionalism to broadcasting a sport which was, and is, definitely over the top.
In 1986, I also began taking notice of a block of pro grappling shows on Channel 36 each Saturday night. Host Joe Pedicino correctly predicted showing several different wrestling shows from across the country in a block format would work. Positioning itself as the follow-up to wrestling on WTBS, Pedicino’s Superstars of Wrestling show became a huge ratings bonanza for WATL, which at the time was an independent station and, as a result, needed blocks of programming to fill its airtime.
Pro wrestling was still in its territorial phase during 1986 and fans in the Atlanta area were able to watch promotions from Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Minnesota and even Puerto Rico. Pedicino later developed a weekly show called “Pro Wrestling This Week” which featured highlights from even more promotions across the country. As a teenager during this time, I could sit and watch wrestling on Saturday nights for more than eight hours. After two hours on WTBS as a warm-up, I would be glued to Pedicino’s show until 2:30 Sunday morning. As I said, it was a teenage pro wrestling fan’s dream come true (even if my parents did not neccesarily approve.)
Turning the clock ahead to 2007, I am not a fan of today’s pro wrestling. While not wanting to sound like someone who simply longs for the “good old days,” today’s version bares little resemblance to what I used to enjoy. The mystique surrounding pro wrestling is gone and while I appreciate the fact that some wrestlers from 1986 are still in the ring today, I simply can’t bring myself to be a follower today.
Still, there is a large network of pro wrestling fans who exchange footage from the “good old days” and I enjoy watching those shows from time to time. The WWE in fact has developed a 24-hour station which airs classic cards and shows so Vince McMahon and company realize today’s wrestling is not for everyone. It’s been years now, but I still have great memories of watching Saturday night wrestlings and following what has been called a “soap opera for men.” Compared to today’s version, give me yesterday’s pro wrestling anytime.