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EDITOR’S NOTE:This is the second installment of a four-part series featuring Bob Caudle, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling’s legendary announcer.
Although pro wrestling would become a big part of Bob Caudle’s career, the beloved “Voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling” doesn’t remember ever thinking that one day that would be part of his journey. He recalled as a child attending wrestling shows in Charlotte.
“Back then they were doing Monday night matches at what they called the old Armory in Charlotte. Every now and then I would go over there and watch them,” he recalled. “I kind of looked forward to it, but I never thought about being involved in it in any way. I was just a teenager then.”
Crockett Promotions was founded by Caudle in 1960. The Charlotte-based wrestling team had started taping matches at Raleigh’s WRAL TV studio.
The studio was converted into a wrestling arena with bleachers filled to the brim with screaming fans, occupying the same space where the station’s news anchors brought viewers the news each night.
“We taped two shows simultaneously using different audio,” Caudle explains. “Nick Pond did the one that ran on Raleigh TV. The Murnicks asked me if I’d try it, and I did the one they sort of bicycled around the territory. That’s the way we first started out doing it. We did that for a long time.”
The Caudle-announced programs were broadcast on TV in Crockett-run territories, which included Virginia and the Carolinas.
Crockett Promotions combined all of its TV production in one central studio taping in 1974. Up until then, weekly wrestling shows were taped in three locations: WRAL, WBTV, and WGHP in High Point. It was decided to consolidate all of it to Raleigh.
Caudle would continue to work for the Crocketts on TV when they moved production production to WPCQ, Charlotte, a station owned once by Ted Turner. They then took the production out into the arenas.
“The fellow that owned WRAL, Mr. A.J. Fletcher, had passed away and left the station to his grandson,”Recalls Caudle “They brought in new officials, and they wanted to do away with the wrestling. We had been taping it in the studio, but they moved it to a little station in Charlotte.
“The room that we did it in was hardly big enough for wrestling. You could barely get a ring in there. In the meantime, the Crocketts were building a remote truck. Then after they built it, we started taping matches at different arenas in towns like Spartanburg, Greenville and Winston-Salem. They were taping all over the place.”
Caudle had been working at Raleigh station for over 20 years in various news, sports, and weather capacities. He left WRAL in 80 to become a full-time legislative assistant to U.S. senator Jesse Helms. Helms had previously worked at WRAL before Helms ran to the Senate in 1972. He would continue working for Helms until 1996 when he officially retired.
A conservative firebrand, Helms moved to the executive offices of Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent of WRAL, in 1960 and had developed a strong following across eastern North Carolina over the next decade by appearing in editorials that ran at the end of each night’s evening newscast.
“Jesse had hired me at the TV station. He did an awful lot for me, and we became very good friends,”Caudle.
Helms, who was 86 years old, died in 2008 after he retired from the U.S. Senate in 2003. He had served five terms.
Caudle also continued to serve as Jim Crockett Jr.’s lead play-by-play announcer for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling until the Crockett family business was sold to the Ted Turner broadcasting empire in Atlanta in late 1988. He moved to Turner Broadcasting, where he hosted NWA Pro Wrestling until 1992. He was also co-host of several Turner/WCW Pay-Per-View events and Clash of Champions specials, both on WTBS.
Caudle, now 92 years old, worked with a “who’s who”Over the years, there have been many wrestling commentators.
This lengthy list includes luminaries like Johnny Weaver and Les Thatcher, Big Bill Ward, Big Bill Ward and Big Bill Ward, George and Sandy Scott and even Roddy Piper.
“It was just a lot different back then,”Caudle. “I worked with David Crockett for a long time. David was very enthusiastic and very easy to work with. He brought a lot of excitement to the table and I enjoyed working with him.
“Another guy who was easy to work with, and I worked with him for a long time, more than I thought I would, was Johnny Weaver,”Adds Caudle. “He did a very good job. When I first started out, he was teaming with George Becker. They were a great team.”
Later, Caudle had the opportunity to team up with Lance Russell. “Voice of Memphis Wrestling,”Russell was working as a WCW employee for Turner. They were able to meet up briefly on NWA Pro Wrestling.
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“He was also one of my favorite guys,”Caudle spoke of Russell, who died at the age 91 in 2017. “I loved working with Lance. We had a lot of fun together, and I was just crazy about him.”
“Bob and Lance Russell were the everyman of announcers. Hearing them was like talking to a friend,”Chuck Green, a longtime fan from Ladson, was remembered.
Caudle’s last wrestling announcing job was in the early ‘90s ,with Jim Cornette’The Smoky Mountain Wrestling Promotion was a popular but short-lived promotion. Dirty Dutch Mantell was one his announce partners.
“Dutch was more fun to work with than you can imagine,”Caudle. “I enjoyed that so much. We worked together for two or three years.”
“Bob was a great person and fun to be around,”Cornette. “He’s the most personable guy you’ve ever met. He and Dutch Mantell were classic.”
A complementary tandem behind the announce table, Caudle was often the unwitting straight man to Mantell’s jokes and pranks.
“Bob was a great straight commentator. I think what made us work is that we never bickered, never argued. I love Bob Caudle. He was one of the easiest guys in the world to work with. Nothing fazed him,”Mantell said that the “Booking the Territories” podcast. “Even when I was growing up and listening to him in Mid-Atlantic, he was the perfect announcer. He didn’t get overly excited. He just called the action.”
“Bob was such a professional and such a nice man also,”Bobby Blaze, a former Smoky Mountain Wrestling wrestler, echoed this sentiment. “Bob always treated myself, along with all the talent that I saw coming and going through Smoky Mountain, with such respect. His voice was so respected throughout the South … He had a great interview style too. Really easy to talk to.”
For WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross, who teamed with Caudle for WCW’s Clash of the Champions XI in 1990 in Charleston, it was an honor sharing the announce desk with his senior partner.
“I’ve had so many partners over the years, famous people, Hall of Fame people, great announcers, great broadcasters and so forth. But with Bob, there was never one issue,” Ross said. “There was never any political BS, there was never any egocentric crap. Bob Caudle was the consummate professional and the voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling forever. It was one of my great pleasures in my professional life to be able to work with Bob.”
“I have a lot of fond memories when you think about it,”Caudle. “I really miss those days. I don’t know that I’d want to relive everything I’ve lived, but I miss those days. They were special times.”
NEXT WEEKBob Caudle shares his memories of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyhamAnd on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His latest book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com
Did you know …
WWE star The Miz began his TV career as a cast member on MTV’s “The Real World: Back to New York,”This series aired its first episode in 2001. It was followed by Real World/Road Rules Challenge.
The 42-year-old Ohio native, whose real name is Mike Mizanin, once said that while he doesn’t re-watch his old Real World tapes, he credits the show for helping him get to where he is today.
“The Real World is the reason that I became a WWE superstar. If it wasn’t for “The Real World,” I’d probably be working at my dad’s Mr. Hero flipping burgers. It made it clear to me that I could do anything I wanted. I said, ‘What do I wanna do? I wanna be a WWE superstar.’ Everyone laughed at me.”
There is no more laughter.
On this date …
This date is December 18, 1964, fifty-eight year ago. “Stone Cold”Steve Austin, undoubtedly the most famous star of the decade ‘90s and the one performer most responsible for the WWE’Dramatic turnaround in the late ‘90s, was born in Austin, Texas.
The birth of Austin’Austin was the one who came up with the idea for the moniker. “Stone Cold” moniker. Austin’s new nickname was inspired by a cup of tea after his ex-wife, Jeannie Clark, noticed Austin wasn’t drinking his tea and replied, “You’d better drink your tea before it gets stone cold.”
These words became a legend in the business.
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