An in-depth look at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling being taped at various
television studios in the Carolinas, including WBTV-3 in Charlotte.
The Birth of
Televised Wrestling in Charlotte
A look at the origins of TV wrestling in Charlotte at WBTV.
Link index for studio wrestling references
on the BT Memories website.
This page is part of the WBTV-3
page of Studio Wrestling
section on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
TEN POUNDS OF GOLD
A Close Look at the NWA
World Championship Belt
by Dick Bourne and Dave
I recently had had
the good fortune to have an email exchange with Mark de Castrique, an
author and Emmy winning documentary producer who many years ago directed
"Championship Wrestling" at WBTV-3 in Charlotte, NC. In this brief
interview, Mark reflects on those Wednesday nights at the television
studio with Jim Crockett and his crew, including sharing some good
memories of host "Big" Bill Ward as well. - Dick Bourne,
* * * *
Thanks for taking the time to share with us, Mark. While at WBTV, what
was your role there as it pertained to the Championship Wrestling show?
I was one of the staff
directors who regularly directed the Wednesday night tapings from June
1970 to December 1972. It was a lot of fun. "High drama."
Do you remember in which specific studio you taped wrestling?
Championship Wrestling was taped in the large studio #2. The ring was
set up by Crockett's people on Wednesday afternoon supervised by an old
retired wrestler named Wally (Dusek) and we taped in the evening.
Gateway: Realizing this was 40 years ago,
do the names of any of the wrestlers from those years stick out in your
mind? Any particular memories about any of the wrestlers or things that
happened during the tapings?
Mark: Some of the wrestlers on the shows I
directed were also ones I had watched on Channel 3 as a kid. Rip (The
Profile) Hawk & Swede Hanson, Johnny Weaver, The Great Bolo, Jerry
Brisco, The Kentuckians, Haystack Calhoun, Homer O'Dell and his
tag-team. Abe Jacobs and his patented Kiwi roll. You remember most
wrestlers had their signature hold that guaranteed victory if they could
just apply it.
Gateway: Did Jim Crockett attend any of
the pre-show production meetings? Do you have any particular memories of
dealing with him?
Big Jim attended all pre-production
meetings. We would go over the format, I'd make sure I had I.D.
slides for all wrestler introductions. We played it straight. I never
knew who was going to win or what dramatic events would unfold. After
our meeting, Big Jim would meet with the wrestlers in the dressing room.
Big Jim was nice but all business when it came to the show.
What are your memories of "Big" Bill Ward? Did you work with him on any
Mark: I only worked with Big Bill Ward on
wrestling. He was easy to get along with and I remember his stock
"action" phrases. "They're fighting like gladiators of old." "It's a
Pier Sixer" (whatever that meant). "He's lower than the belly of a snake
at the bottom of the Mariana Trench" (or bottom of the ocean). Usually
used in reference to the evil manager Homer O'Dell. And, of course, Big
Bill's signature sign off - "Hello to all the shut-ins" and "Be good
sports wherever you go!"
Gateway: Gene Birke, who shared some nice
memories about directing wrestling at WBTV on the website "BT Memories",
has written that some at WBTV didn't like the association with wrestling
and resented the high ratings it got. Would you consider yourself part
of that group?
Mark: I think any resentment toward the
program came from two fronts. WBTV Sports didn't report on the matches
because they didn't consider it a sport. Big Bill Ward referred to them
as Exhibition Matches to handle station concerns regarding their being
represented as a competitive sporting event. The second negative view
came from national advertisers. The program got great ratings, but ad
buyers from New York and other areas outside the region looked down on
it. This was before wrestling mania swept the country through
pay-for-view distribution. Unfortunately, Big Jim didn't live to see the
development of the huge national audience. I considered the production
entertainment and enjoyed watching the antics of the crowd as much as
what was happening in the ring.
What other local shows did you direct besides Championship Wrestling?
Newscasts, Betty Feezor, Pat Lee Show, Country Style Roundup with
future congressman Bill Hefner, Tommy Faile Show, Fred Kirby Show, and
various special projects.
Gateway: You are a successful author now.
How long after you left WBTV did you stay in the TV production business,
and at what other stations? Were you ever involved with directing or
producing wrestling at another station?
Mark: I am still in the TV production
business. I left WBTV at the end of 1972 and worked for over four years
as a director at the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. We didn't have
wrestling. We had Congress and Watergate. I'd prefer wrestling where the
good guys and bad guys were easier to spot. I returned to WBTV as
manager of their creative department and then program director. I left
in 1984 as a partner in a production company. In addition to writing my
mystery/thriller novels, I do documentary and corporate video
production. I feel fortunate to have been a part of local television
when the stations did a variety of programs and were a reflection of all
aspects of their communities.
* * * *
Mark de Castrique is the
author of several novels including his latest mystery/thriller "The
13th Target." He is a veteran of the broadcast and film production
business and has received an Emmy Award for his documentary film work.
He also has a pretty good memory when it comes to early 1970s
pro-wrestling, and I appreciate him sharing some of those memories with
Visit Mark's website at
8/26/12 - Mark posted a link to this
interview on his Facebook page, and there was some discussion there with
his friends, including a question about any memories of audience
regulars at the wrestling tapings, which elicited this funny response:
"Tickets were in high demand and no one came week to week. Mostly
church groups. I always thought it odd churches came to watch guys
pulverize each other."
8/27/12 - Mark
mentioned on Facebook that a secret of his past had been revealed with
the Gateway interview. But we didn't out him; Mark had earlier mentioned
his connection with pro wrestling in a 2010 interview with the Salisbury
(NC) Post. From the article: Now based in Charlotte, de
Castrique moved here in the 1970s and had a broadcast career with local
TV stations. "This was before the days of cable. Local stations did
everything. ... I once directed professional wrestling, did an
entertainment show ..."
Writer Goes from Broadcast to Books, SalisburyPress.com.
Check out these vintage
photographs of Championship Wrestling in
Studio 2 at WBTV in the 1960s.
Thanks to Mike Cline for his
assistance with this interview.
Copyright © 2012