FAQ: Television and Video


How much Dallas-Fort Worth wrestling footage (from WCCW or earlier periods) still exists?

Answering this question in detail requires a bit of historical background, which was provided by wrestling historian Kit Bauman in a thread at Wrestling Classics. Bauman relates a story, told by Lou Thesz, of an exceedingly rare instance of wrestlers banding together to protect their interests:

...It was in late 1952, in Texas, and it had to do with getting paid for appearing in matches that were televised on "Texas Rasslin," Dallas promoter Ed McLemore's TV show, which ran in the Dallas market the state and was also syndicated nationally. The thinking among the wrestlers was that TV was hurting gate receipts, and, by extension, their payoffs; if their matches were going to be televised, they wanted extra money. McLemore and Morris Sigel, who ran the Houston office and provided the talent for the Texas circuit, refused.

In November, some of the wrestlers who were booked on a card in San Antonio refused to enter the ring unless the TV cameras were turned off. The promoter, Frank Brown, relented after a call to Sigel and the show went on. A couple of weeks later, 11 wrestlers -- Wild Red Berry, Billy Varga, Ellis Bashara, Cyclone Anaya, Otto Kuss, Danny McShain, Ray Gunkel, Gory Guerrero, Duke Keomuka, Ricki Starr, and Jack O'Reilly -- wrote to Sigel and McLemore to say they would not appear in matches that were televised or filmed unless they were compensated beyond their regular payoffs. The matter went to the state labor commission (which "regulated" wrestling and boxing in the state) for a public hearing, during which Sigel and McLemore relented. They agreed to pay wrestlers who appeared in matches that were televised or filmed the sum of $5 extra apiece for their participation.

In mid-December, eight wrestlers -- Varga, Gunkel, Starr, Berry, Anaya, McShain, Guerrero, and Dory Funk -- filed suit in Dallas, saying McLemore was violating a clause in their agreement that prohibited the matches from being shown in Texas. Before the case could come to trial, however, McLemore broke away from the Houston office in late December and refused to use talent that Sigel sent him. Sigel retaliated by announcing that his office would run opposition to McLemore, and that's exactly what he did. (The Texas wrestling war was a brutal, scorched-earth -- no levity intended -- one in which McLemore's building, the Sportatorium, was burned to the ground on May 1, 1953, by arsonists. The Houston office was never directly implicated; one of the men eventually arrested and charged in the arson testified at his trial that his instructions (he never said who had given him his orders) had been to be sure that the fire destroyed the "Texas Rasslin" films, which were kept in the Sportatorium's upstairs office, and that's where the fire started.)

According to Tim Hornbaker's book National Wrestling Alliance, McLemore's films were not actually stored at the Sportatorium at the time of the fire.  However, they appear to have been moved there sometime afterward (possibly after McLemore's death), and some of this footage may have been lost in later years due to neglect.  From a late 2006 post on our message board (now offline) by former Big Time Wrestling referee/announcer Steve Harms:

Lots has been written regarding the sale of the WCCW tape library to Vince McMahon. There was a time when all the Dallas wrestling was done on film. In the old Sportatorium on the main floor behind the offices used by Gary Hart, Bronko Lubich etc, there was an area caged in with chicken wire. Inside were racks and racks of cans containing film footage from the beginning of Dallas wrestling through the advent of video tape. One day Dave VE [David Von Erich] and I decided to break into the film cage. I say "break in" because no one knew where the key to the door's padlock was. As you know, old film stock had a short shelf life it it wasn't preserved at certain humidity and certain temperatures. Well, the Sportatorium was either stifling hot or freezing cold. Needless to say, when we started opening the cans, the films were starting to deteriorate...as I remember the sprocket holes on the films we looked at had deteriorated. At the time...no one thought about history...we were mostly just curious.

...Can you imagine the priceless Dallas wrestling history on those films? Really too bad. I have no idea whatever happened to them......Kevin may have taken them, but I can't believe there was much salvageable.
It's recently become evident that at least part of the film library Steve refers to was the McLemore series, and that at least some of it was indeed salvageable; we now know that the surviving Texas Rasslin' footage was sold to WWE by Kevin Adkisson, along with the WCCW videotape library.  One match from the series, a two-out-of-three falls bout pitting Duke Keomuka against Ricki Starr, is included as a bonus feature on WWE's Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling DVD.

[This FAQ entry previously included a listing of 1980s WCCW syndicated episodes that were allegedly damaged and unusable due to being poorly stored over the years. Now that some of the shows listed have since been uploaded to WWE Network -- although videotape damage can indeed be seen in a few episodes -- we have removed that paragraph as either WWE has been able to do some restoration, or else the source for that info was less than reliable to begin with.]

It's also unknown how much footage from KTVT has survived, though bits and pieces of footage from Saturday Night Wrestling/Championship Sports have turned up through the years.  In addition to the Fritz Von Erich matches mentioned above, some short clips from around 1979-80 were used in Brian Harrison's Heroes of World Class.  The six-man tag match pitting the Von Erichs against Wild Bill Irwin, Frank Dusek and Ten Gu, included as a bonus match on WWE's The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling DVD, also originally aired on KTVT.

A question that has been asked more than once on wrestling message boards is whether some of the old tapes might still be lurking in vaults other than WWE's.  ESPN's Legends series presumably still exists in their vaults (and could conceivably air again someday on the channel, which has also aired old AWA shows -- the master tapes of which are also currently owned by WWE).  Less likely, though, is the possibility of KTVT retaining any of its old footage, mainly due to the fact that the station, an independent channel owned by Gaylord Broadcasting during the WCCW era, became a CBS owned-and-operated affiliate in 1995.  In all probability, everything that survived from Channel 11 now sits on a shelf at Titan Tower in Stamford, CT.



Why wasn't Kerry Von Erich's NWA title win over Ric Flair at Texas Stadium included as a bonus feature on The Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW?

Some websites, prior to the release of Triumph and Tragedy, reported that the 5/6/84 Parade of Champions main event would be one of the bouts on disc 2 of the set.  Unfortunately, when the match aired for the first time on WWE 24/7, it was noted by a number of viewers that the master recording appeared to have suffered damage, as a dropout line was running through the middle of the picture during portions of the match.  This technical flaw is the most likely reason for the omission, although it must be stated that the Kerry-Flair match which is included -- the Christmas 1982 cage bout at Reunion Arena that ignited the Von Erichs-Freebirds feud -- is not only far better, but is arguably more historically significant, being THE match that kicked off WCCW's most successful period.  Despite the outpouring of emotion when Kerry finally pinned the Nature Boy after being repeatedly screwed out of the belt, the fact that the Modern Day Warrior would only be given a token three-week reign as champion greatly diminishes the Texas Stadium match's long-term importance.


Which WWE DVDs other than
Triumph and Tragedy include Von Erichs/WCCW footage as extras?

Here's the list as of July 2013:
  • The Most Powerful Families in Wrestling 
     Kevin/David/Kerry vs Wild Bill Irwin/Frank Dusek/Ten Gu, Christmas Star Wars '81.
  • The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA
     Kerry vs Jerry Lawler, SuperClash III (also included in The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the '80s, minus the post-match interviews).
  • Allied Powers: The World's Greatest Tag Teams
    Kevin/Kerry vs Michael Hayes/Terry Gordy, country whipping match from 11/4/83.
  • WWE Legends of Wrestling: Jerry "The King" Lawler/Junkyard Dog
    Kerry and Michael Hayes are the heels in a USWA Memphis tag bout from 1/22/89, squaring off against Lawler and Jimmy "Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant.   This disc was also released as part of the WWE Legends of Wrestling three-disc box set.
  • The Shawn Michaels Story: Heartbreak & Triumph
    Michaels vs Billy Jack Haynes, January '85.
  • Shawn Michaels: My Journey
    Shawn's other squash match from the same early '85 taping, in which he's thoroughly annihilated by the One Man Gang.
     
  • Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection
    Flair vs Kerry, Reunion Arena 8/15/82 (not 8/24 as the DVD says; also included in The Greatest Cage Matches of All Time).
     
  • The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History
    The Von Erichs-Freebirds feud (ranked #6) is represented by a February 1988 Badstreet Rules match pitting Kevin and Kerry against Gordy and Roberts; also included is a July 1987 Bruiser Brody-Abdullah the Butcher brawl (#22) from Mesquite Rodeo Arena.  And the number one rivalry, according to WWE?  Believe it or not, it's Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon. 
Disc 1 of The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection (WWE's first Flair set) also includes a segment taped by KTVT for Jim Crockett Promotions, in which David Manning interviews then-NWA World champ Harley Race regarding his upcoming Starrcade '83 title defense against Flair (in an amusing flub, commentator Gordon Solie claims -- as does an onscreen graphic -- that this is airing "via satellite" from Kansas City, even though Manning clearly states that it's from Will Rogers Coliseum).  To see this interview, go to the chapter on Race, click on "NWA Press Conference" and fast forward to about the 4:00 mark.


When did the Duke Keomuka-Ricki Starr match from
The Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW take place?

The date is November 18, 1952. As Ves Box, the commentator for Ed McLemore's early 1950s telecasts from the Sportatorium, states at the beginning of the bout, Keomuka was to have defended the Texas Heavyweight title against Starr that evening, but had dropped the belt to Cyclone Anaya four nights earlier in Houston. The victory earned Starr a title shot against Anaya; it's unclear whether that match ever took place, as both Starr and Anaya were among the wrestlers who filed suit shortly thereafter against McLemore and KRLD-TV in a contractual dispute. Both men would wrestle for rival promoter Norman Clark at
Pappy's Showland, a dance hall on West Commerce Street, after leaving McLemore's group. (Thanks to Tim Hornbaker at Legacy of Wrestling for this info.)


What matches are included on
Best of the Von Erichs?
The DVD, which was released by VCI Entertainment on August 31, 2004 and is now out of print, contains seven matches,

all from WCCW's peak period of 1983-84:

Kevin & David & Iceman King Parsons vs Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts. Sportatorium, 5/18/83.

Kevin vs Chris Adams. Cotton Bowl, 10/27/84 (includes the post-match attack by Adams and most of the aftermath), and the rematch at Reunion Arena, 11/22/84.

Kerry vs Gordy. Sportatorium, 8/17/84. Lumberjack match, with Gordy subbing for Michael Hayes.

Kerry vs Gino Hernandez. Sportatorium, probably 7/20/84.

Kevin, David & Kerry vs Hayes, Gordy & Roberts. Sportatorium, 8/12/83. The Freebirds win the Six-Man Tag titles.

Kerry vs Hayes. Sportatorium, late May/early June '83.

For unknown reasons, all but the last two matches are included without the original commentary by Bill Mercer. The DVD is hosted by Kevin and former WCCW referee David Manning (who also provide bonus commentary tracks for the matches), in segments taped at Kevin's ranch, and includes several music videos from the syndicated show accompanied by new music (though, oddly enough, the actual match footage includes the original entrance songs). Other bonus features include outtakes, reminiscences by Kevin and Manning and a segment featuring Kevin's son Ross.


Were there any commercial video releases of WCCW matches prior to
Best of the Von Erichs?


Yes.  Several VHS tapes, each containing two full-length World Class syndicated telecasts, were issued by Complete Entertainment in 1991.  Unfortunately, the quality of these releases (particularly the audio) was uneven and much of the footage was from the forgettable 1986-87 period.  Here's a rundown of the matches which were included and the dates on which they were taped:

WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 1:

1/10/82 (commentary by Gene Goodson & Al Madril):  Tom Shaft vs Larry Higgins / Bugsy McGraw vs Big Daddy Bundy / Kevin & Kerry Von Erich vs Arman Hussein & Kabuki / Ivan Putski vs Carlos Zapata / Andre the Giant vs Bill Irwin

4/4/86: 
Mark Youngblood vs One Man Gang / Rick Rude vs Brickhouse Brown / Kerry Von Erich & Bruiser Brody vs Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 2:
5/4/86, Texas Stadium:  Kerry & Lance Von Erich & Steve Simpson vs Freebirds / Bruiser Brody vs Rick Rude / Kabuki vs Mark Youngblood, Jerry Allen, Steve Simpson & Chris Adams / Brian Adias vs Steve Regal / Chris Adams & Brickhouse Brown vs John Tatum & Grappler 
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 3:
4/18/86:  Steve Simpson vs Jerry Allen / Rick Rude vs Brian Adias / Kerry Von Erich vs Steve Regal / Bruiser Brody & Missing Link vs Terry Gordy & Kabuki

12/5/86: 
Tony Atlas vs Master Gee / Bruiser Brody vs Grappler / Dingo Warrior vs Killer Brooks / Abdullah the Butcher vs Mark Youngblood / Kevin, Mike & Lance Von Erich vs Al Madril, Black Bart & Brian Adias
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 4:
8/8/86:  Mighty Zulu vs Raul Castro / Bruiser Brody vs Abdullah the Butcher (8/4/86 Fort Worth) / Dingo Warrior vs Chris Adams / Kerry Von Erich vs Super Destroyer #1 (3/30/84) / Matt Borne & Buzz Sawyer vs Brian Adias & Mark Youngblood

3/21/86: 
Brickhouse Brown vs Steve Regal / Kerry, Kevin & Lance Von Erich vs Freebirds (3/17/86 Fort Worth) / Rick Rude vs Steve Simpson / Fantastics vs John Tatum & Grappler
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 5:

5/11/84:  Kabuki vs Kamala (5/6/84 Texas Stadium) / Jules Strongbow vs Kelly Kiniski / Freebirds & Killer Khan vs Super Destroyers, Kabuki & Missing Link / Kerry Von Erich vs Ric Flair

11/1/85: 
Rick McCord vs Billy Ash / Rick Rude vs Mike Reed / Kevin Von Erich vs Chris Adams / Kerry Von Erich vs One Man Gang
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 6:

7/11/86:  Brad & Bart Batten vs Dingo Warrior & Matt Borne / Rick Rude vs Mark Youngblood / Kevin Von Erich vs Buzz Sawyer / Bruiser Brody & Steve Simpson vs Killer Brooks & Grappler #2

3/6/87:  Dingo Warrior & Red River Jack vs Grappler & Bob Bradley / Jeep Swenson vs Dusty Wolfe & Jeff Raitz / Tony Atlas vs Black Bart / Mike & Lance Von Erich vs Killer Brooks & Brian Adias / Nord the Barbarian vs Steve Simpson

What was The Von Erichs: Front Row Ringside?


This was a VHS release from Continental Productions, which was sold via mail order only in 1987 and ran approximately 70 minutes.  It included footage of Fritz's 1982 Texas Stadium win over King Kong Bundy and key matches in his sons' careers, including David's 1979 non-title win over Harley Race on St. Louis TV, Kerry's NWA title win over Ric Flair, Mike's 1983 debut match against Skandor Akbar and more.

The tape concludes with a preview of a planned follow-up video which would have included home movie clips of the brothers during their childhood/teenage years.  For a number of reasons, including a change in production companies, Mike Von Erich's suicide shortly after the release of Front Row Ringside and Fritz's subsequent decision to sell his interest in WCCW, this second video was never issued.

You can view Front Row Ringside in its entirety below; two commercials for it can be seen on our YouTube channel.




I'm familiar with WCCW's syndicated telecasts, but not with its local show from Fort Worth.  What can you tell me about its history?

Quite possibly more than you really want to know.   :)   But here goes anyway:  the Fort Worth wrestling telecast, which first originated from the North Side Coliseum, began during either the late '50s or early '60s on Channel 11, KTVT (whose call letters prior to 1960 were KFJZ).  From old Channel 11 schedules posted by Mike Shannon at the Dallas Historical Society's message boards, we can see that there was no wrestling on the station in 1957, but by 1964 an hour-long telecast was airing at 4:00 PM on Saturday afternoons.  According to Shannon, the Saturday night show began in 1965; and by 1968 (at the latest), Main Event Wrestling -- as it was then known -- had expanded to 90 minutes and was ensconced in its familiar 10:00 PM timeslot.     

For those old enough to remember Main Event Wrestling in the '60s and early '70s, its opening theme music was the classic march "Our Director", composed by Frederick Ellsworth Bigelow.


 
Like the rest of the show's format, its introduction changed little over the years:  "From the North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth, here's Saturday Night Main Event Wrestling...ninety minutes of ringside excitement featuring the world's greatest professional wrestlers.  And now let's go to ringside and your announcer, Dan Coates."   The close:  "From the North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth, this has been Saturday Night Main Event Wrestling...a pre-recorded wrestling exhibition featuring the world's greatest professional wrestlers.  Join us again next Saturday night for professional wrestling.  Remote costs paid for by North Side Coliseum and Kissinger Auto Stores.  This has been a KTVT remote origination."     

 A look at the schedule for that year shows KTVT's fondly-remembered Saturday evening lineup, dominated by syndicated country music programming:
  • 5:00 Gospel Singing Jubilee
  • 6:00 Wilburn Brothers
  • 6:30 Cowtown Jamboree [local country music series which aired live from Panther Hall in Fort Worth]
  • 7:30 Porter Wagoner 
  • 8:00 Buck Owens Show
  • 8:30 Bill Anderson Show 
  • 9:00 Country Music Carousel 
  • 9:30 Ernest Tubb Show
  • 10:00 Main Event Wrestling
  • 11:30 Roller Derby
In later years, reruns of vintage Western series such as The High Chaparral, The Virginian, Lancer, Laredo and Gunsmoke aired in the 60 or 90 minutes prior to Main Event Wrestling (which became known simply as Saturday Night Wrestling in 1974, at about the same time the show finally switched from black-and-white to color; at that time, KTVT was a fairly low-budget independent station).  The show had several opening/closing themes during this period, including a pop arrangement of the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and "Close Up Tight" by jazz-rock fusion pioneer Bill Chase (from his album Pure Music).




Until the early '80s, the show always consisted of the regular Monday night cards in Fort Worth, with the prelim and midcard matches usually followed by the opening minutes of the main event before time ran out. In November 1983, when WCCW's popularity was skyrocketing, the station expanded Saturday Night Wrestling to two hours and retitled it Championship Sports. Its best-remembered opening theme music was Chicago's "Street Player" (from Chicago 13).

It was also during this period that the best-of-three falls match formerly known as the semifinal event became the "TV main event". The show also added a weekly "taped feature", which was usually a main event from one or two weeks earlier (not a TV main event, but an actual main event) -- which meant that Fort Worth cards, more often than not, were now basically airing in their entirety.


In 1988, when regular weekly cards were discontinued in Fort Worth, KTVT began taping at WCCW's Friday night cards in Dallas. Upon Jerry Jarrett's takeover late that year, the promotion began free Saturday morning TV tapings at the Sportatorium. The format for this version of Championship Sports was essentially similar to that of studio wrestling shows in Memphis and other territories, consisting primarily of squash matches and advancing storylines mainly through interviews and run-ins. The show retained this format until its cancellation in 1990.



Who were the announcers for the KTVT show?


The first Channel 11 wrestling host we know of was Paul Boesch, who had previously been the announcer for WFAA-Channel 8's live telecasts from the Sportatorium in the 1950s. We don't know when Boesch began commentating on KTVT, but he left the show following the taping of the August 8, 1966 card (which aired August 13th), in the midst of the escalating promotional war between Ed McLemore and Houston promoter Morris Sigel. 
Boesch, who took over the Houston booking office following Sigel's death at the end of '66, went on to become one of wrestling's most respected and legendary promoters. He retired in 1987 and passed away on March 7, 1989.

Dan Coates
, who had handled ring announcing chores in Dallas and Fort Worth since 1954 as well as such North Texas events as the Kowbell Indoor Rodeo in Mansfield and the annual Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Fort Worth, took over as Channel 11's ringside commentator following Boesch's departure. Subbing for Dan on occasion were ring announcer Boyd Pierce and Indianapolis wrestling announcer Sam Menacker. Coates died from complications of Parkinson's disease on March 15, 1998.


While very little pre-1980s footage from Fort Worth is known to have survived, Coates can be heard calling the action in the 11/21/66 Fritz Von Erich-Joe Blanchard Texas title match (below).
  




D/FW sportscasting legend Bill Mercer, who had announced wrestling in the Metroplex area off and on since 1953, replaced Coates in 1975 and remained with the show until spring 1982.  Those who subbed for Mercer when he was away covering other sporting events included Boyd Pierce, KXAS sportscasters Ron Spain and Steve Harms (who also served as a referee and commentator for Sportatorium matches taped for the Amarillo market in 1979-80) and, on one occasion, Brian Blair.


When Mercer left KTVT to call the action on WCCW's syndicated series, Marc Lowrance, who had replaced Boyd Pierce as ring announcer in 1980, became the host of Saturday Night Wrestling/Championship Sports.  He was joined at various times by color commentators Doyle King, Harvey Martin, Frank Dusek and Terrence "The Beauty" Garvin.  Filling in for Marc during his occasional absences were Mercer, King, Dusek, and for one show in 1984 (the July 30th card), none other than good old J.R. -- Jim Ross, who was an announcer for Mid-South Wrestling at the time.


Jon Horton, a.k.a. Craig Johnson, took over the last few months of both the KTVT telecast and the syndicated USWA Challenge series after Lowrance left WCCW to become a minister in 1990.  He was joined by Percy Pringle on color commentary.



How were the deaths of David and Mike Von Erich, Gino Hernandez and Bruiser Brody handled on Championship Sports?

Generally, on those occasions when a major WCCW star passed away between the show's taping on Monday night and its airing on Saturday night, commentator Marc Lowrance would appear in taped inserts from the KTVT studios to announce his passing and pay tribute.  (You can view the segments dealing with the deaths of Hernandez and Brody at WCM's YouTube channel.)


The exception was the episode which aired the weekend after Mike Von Erich's suicide -- a tragedy so profoundly shocking and heartbreaking that KTVT opened the show with nothing more than a stark graphic: 

     

All references to Mike were hastily (and somewhat choppily) edited from that night's show.


On the 2/18/84 Championship Sports (taped on 2/13), referee David Manning, accompanied in the ring by the babyface wrestlers on that evening's card, opened with a brief memorial for David Von Erich including the traditional ten-bell salute, and announced that David's brothers would not be appearing on the card as scheduled.  The music video for Glen Goza's tribute song "Heaven Needed a Champion" made its debut on the following week's show.

Why was Championship Sports canceled?


In September 1990, Jerry Jarrett, after a financial dispute with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich (who had been minority owners during the USWA period) sold his 60% share of the promotion back to the brothers -- although Jarrett did retain control of the syndication network, which continued to produce weekly USWA programs taped in other cities. Kevin made an attempt to keep the promotion going at the Sportatorium, reverting back to the World Class name and bringing back Marc Lowrance and Bill Mercer as ring announcers, but was unable to afford a weekly TV production at that point.

There were also reports that frequent on-air profanity and angles involving violence against women -- including one in which John Tatum delivered a brutally stiff superkick to the head of Superstar Bill Dundee's valet, Tessa -- led KTVT to pull the plug on the show, after repeated warnings to tone down its increasingly "objectionable" content. However, this supposedly happened at virtually the same time as Jarrett's departure, which (as explained above) would have killed the show anyway due to lack of financing.

Shortly after Championship Sports went off the air, KTVT began airing programming from the WWF, which would not allow stations on which its shows aired to run advertising for competing promotions, including Kevin's. Consequently, he was only able to keep the revived WCCW going for a very short time before throwing in the towel in late November of that year. (As a Sportatorium concession stand worker stated in a newspaper interview at the time, "I think after they lost the television, a lot of people assumed it was closed...I guess the old has to give way to the new.")


Why was the theme song for WCCW's syndicated show changed in 1987?

The change occurred as a result of Fritz Von Erich's decision to go with a new production company. After five years with KXTX and Continental Productions (a partnership that resulted in massive national and international syndication success for the promotion), Fritz turned the show over to Lee Martin Productions, a company with ties to then-Dallas Cowboys principal owner, the late Harvey R. "Bum" Bright. Martin (a former Dallas-area sportscaster who, to our knowledge, had no previous association with wrestling) and his group decided to jazz things up -- literally -- with a piece of saxophone-driven library music which seemed far better suited for a smooth jazz radio station than a pro wrestling show. This tune was replaced after a few weeks by "Love on the Run", composed by Craig Palmer. (Another well-known Palmer composition, originally written for NFL Films, is "Battle to the Top", which was used in the early '80s as the theme for San Antonio's Southwest Championship Wrestling.



When Fritz left the sport altogether and sold World Class to Kevin, Kerry and former booker Ken Mantell later in the year, Continental Productions, which had been used by Mantell for his Wild West Wrestling promotion's show after the split from World Class, was brought back as production company for WCCW's syndicated show. Continental kept the video from Lee Martin Productions' title sequence (consisting of nighttime shots of various locations in Dallas) but restored the popular original theme music.


Was wrestling televised from the Sportatorium before the WCCW era?

You bet. In fact, both KRLD-Channel 4 (now KDFW) and KBTV-Channel 8 (which became WFAA in 1950) did simultaneous live telecasts from the Sportatorium on Tuesday nights for several years when TV was in its infancy! KRLD's original wrestling announcer in the early '50s was Ves Box, who was also at the mic for Ed McLemore's syndicated Texas Rasslin' series during the same period.
  

Bill Mercer
began doing wrestling from the "new" Sportatorium when it opened in the fall of 1953 (calling the action on KRLD radio and television at different times). WFAA's commentator, starting in 1954, was mat legend and later Houston promoter Paul Boesch.

In 1958, KRLD discontinued its Sportatorium broadcasts and began airing Studio Wrestling, which was originally hosted by Maurice Beck (who promoted Thursday night matches at the Sportatorium during the early '50s promotional war), and was later taken over by one Eddie Hallack (the time frame is unknown, although Bill Mercer is known to have returned as commentator by 1964 at the latest). Hallack, who is described by those who remember him as "quite a character", also hosted a KRLD series called So This Is Opera (!), and later operated a chain of restaurants in the Dallas area. He died of heart failure on April 9, 2005 at the age of 92.


In September 1965, however, KRLD moved its wrestling telecast from its studio back to the Sportatorium and retitled it -- appropriately enough -- Sportatorium Wrestling. Bill Mercer continued as commentator for this hour-long show, which aired on Saturday afternoons until late 1970.


There was no TV from the venue from that point until 1979-80, when Fritz Von Erich briefly took over the Amarillo territory from Bob Windham (Blackjack Mulligan) and Dick Murdoch. A show was taped at the Sportatorium specifically for the West Texas market, with interviews and commentary added from a Dallas studio. Then-KXAS sportscaster Steve Harms, who also did some refereeing for the promotion during the period, was at the mic for this series.



Didn't WCCW do some of its TV from a studio? I remember seeing the ring surrounded by just a couple of rows of seats on some shows.

What you were seeing on Championship Sports was the Will Rogers Auditorium, which was used when the Coliseum was hosting other events (usually concerts, or the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo). The ring, main camera and ringside chairs were set up on the Auditorium's stage, with the orchestra pit off to the left side of your screen.


In a clip in
Heroes of World Class, Gary Hart says, "Bill Mercer was supposed to be here today, but he's up at North Texas State matriculatin'." Huh?!?


The term matriculation is defined as "going through the formal process of being admitted into a college or university". Gary's use of the word in this clip was an inside joke, referring to a comment made many years ago in an interview that never made it on the air...and thanks to Mercer's memoir Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sports Broadcasting Insider, we now have the full story of what the longtime WCCW commentator calls his all-time favorite interview. Apparently, Mercer had incurred Hart's wrath by expressing concern for his safety due to an upcoming match in which the "Playboy" was scheduled to wrestle Fritz Von Erich. Gary objected to Mercer "thinking he was so smart" because he was a professor at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). Hart declared that he, too, had been to school, prompting Mercer to ask, "When did you matriculate?" Gary, unfamiliar with the word, paused for a moment, then broke up the entire crew by ad libbing, "Oh, two or three times a week."