I laugh when I read today about how currently popular wrestling is. It's for sure a bigger business today, but it is no where near as popular today as it was years ago. Just witness the 52% share that wrestling got on WCBD-2 in Charleston. Les Thatcher has told us about similar shares his Mid-Altlantic wrestling show got in the mid-1970s on WLOS-13 in Asheville, NC. Jim Crockett Promotions programming was pullings amazing ratings and shares back then and had been for years. Similar stories could be found in other promotions across the country as well.
So kudos to Bob Gillespie for helping educate the unknowing general public about that in 1978.
Gillespie does a great job in getting his facts straight about Crockett Promotions at the time, something most sports writers or TV-writers covering wrestling would never bother with.
Some nice information here includes:
(1) Mentions of local promoter Henry Marcus and the local venue County Hall.
(2) The main promoter Jim Crockett Promotions and their local promoter in Roanoke VA Sandy Scott
(3) TV originating form the studios of WRAL in Raleigh, NC
(4) The barter relationship between the local TV stations and JCP
(5) A mention of Sandy Scott promoting Greenville SC before Roanoke
(6) The first TV stations to carry wrestling for Jim Crockett - WDBJ-7 in Roanoke, VA and WFBC-4 in Greenville, SC.
Thanks to Carroll Hall for forwarding this article to me, and to Peggy Lathan for transcribing it for us. Here is the text of the article (emphasis within the text is mine.) Enjoy!
Wresting Audience Greatly Expanded by TV
By Bob Gillespie
Charleston, SC - September 23, 1978
For several months now, I’ve followed this TV sports column and I have yet to see anything written on what has to be one of the tube’s most successful enterprises in the realm of sports. I shall now try to correct this omission.
What am I talking about? Football? Basketball? Women’s Field Hockey? Tournament-level Tiddlywinks? “No” to all of the above.
Try professional wrestling.
Wrestling? you ask, looking down your cultured nose with disdain. That Roman gladiator spectacle of the masses, with costumed clowns flying through the air like so many comic book characters? TV wrestling – a success story? Surely I jest, you say. And you probably laugh.
GO AHEAD. LAUGH. That’s just what both the pro wrestling promoters and local television stations are doing, all the way to the proverbial bank.
The fact is, wrestling, especially on television, has been growing in popularity over the last few years – by leaps and bounds greater than any you’ll see in the ring. And no one realizes – and appreciates – that fact more than Charleston area television management.