The highlights of these two reminiscing about
wrestling for me? The better question is, where do I begin?! I’ll just do
a short stream of consciousness! Let’s see…Rip talking about his initially
coming to Jim Crockett Promotions, and then almost leaving and going back
to St. Louis because business was so bad here! Rip talking about his
efforts in bringing Johnny into Jim Crockett Promotions originally. Rip
and Johnny’s fond memories of big Swede Hanson. Both talking of how they
came to use their signature holds…the Piledriver for Rip and the Sleeper
for Johnny. Johnny’s crediting Sonny Meyers for his extensive use of the
Sleeper hold, and describing how the Sleeper was utilized by him the most
because unlike other holds like the Atomic Drop, you didn’t have to get
big guys like George “Two Ton” Harris off of their feet to apply it!
Rip Hawk tries to bridge out as Johnny Weaver
applies a top wrist lock in a 1974 encounter in Richmond, VA. (Photo by
Speaking of Two Ton Harris, a story about him
and one about Rip’s manager Homer O’Dell had me laughing to the point of
tears! Great road stories and recollections about a number of the Crockett
towns…including my hometown of Richmond, Virginia! It was a thrill to hear
Johnny talk about his “Sleeper versus Claw” feud with Baron von Raschke…a
favorite late 70s angle of mine. Johnny also talked about his later years
in the Mid-Atlantic area when he became a TV commentator with the
Gateway’s friend Rich Landrum. When I asked Johnny about singing the line
“Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over” after matches on the World Wide
Wrestling TV show, Johnny said fans would actually send him lyrics to the
whole song, wanting him to sing a full rendition! Johnny said he
steadfastly drew the line there!
After the check had been paid (thanks Mike!)
and the waitress asked us if we needed more coffee for about the sixth
time, we started to get the idea that maybe it was time to end this
extended breakfast and depart the restaurant. And, of course, Johnny had
to get ready for work. But the two legends didn’t seem in any hurry, which
was the best part of this get-together. Rip and Johnny truly enjoyed
seeing each other, and when parting said it wouldn’t be so long between
visits next time.
When I looked across the table that morning
and saw old adversaries Rip Hawk and Johnny Weaver sitting side by side
after so many years, laughing and smiling, I kept hearing the chorus of a
favorite song of mine from the late 70s by Peaches and Herb aptly entitled
“Reunited” run through my mind. While that song was obviously not written
about professional wrestling or professional wrestlers, the words as I
remember them nevertheless seemed to capture the emotions flowing that
special morning in Charlotte so perfectly:
Reunited and it feels so good,
Reunited cause we understood,
There’s one perfect fit,
And this one is it,
We both are so excited cause we’re
MORE RIP HAWK PHOTOS FROM FANFEST
Rip Hawk and Gary Hart
Rip Hawk and Paul Jones visit with long time
and fan Peggy Lathan.
Mike Cline with Johnny Weaver and Rip Hawk at
the reunion breakfast.
Rip Hawk and Paul Jones at Fanfest
by Mike Cline
As I write this, Christmas Day is three weeks away. However, there will be
something a little different this Holiday Season for me personally. You
see, MY "Christmas morning" was celebrated November 27th, smack-dab (NOT
Smackdown) in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Fanfest in Charlotte. And as
much as I enjoyed the FANFEST at Charlotte's University Hilton, the
highlight of my weekend occurred a few blocks away at a Bob Evans
Two professional wrestlers that I always enjoyed watching were getting
together for the first time in nearly thirty years. Long-time babyface
Johnny Weaver and long-time heel Rip "The Profile" Hawk were having
breakfast together, and I was going to be there with them.
First, I would like to point out that if this was to be my "Christmas
morning", then Santa Claus was in the guises of two wonderful
people...Peggy Lathan and David Chappell. They made it possible, not only
for Johnny and Rip to get together, but also for permitting me to tag
(team) along. I shall always be grateful to the two of them.
Actually, how I became involved was by dropping a few eaves on Friday
evening, when I overheard David talking about the possibility of the event
happening. Since I am not usually accused of being shy, I asked David if
there was ANY way I could go along---if it happened. David said yes---if
it happened. But it might be a spur-of-the-moment thing. Peggy was still
trying to line it up with Johnny. Since I commuted to-and-from the
convention for three days (I live exactly 42 miles from the hotel), I gave
David my phone number and said to call ANYTIME during the night if
Well, I hit the pillow at about one a.m. without hearing from David. I
recall looking at the clock at around six a.m. and thinking it wasn't
going to happen. Then---7:02 a.m.---the phone rang. I got it on the first
"I know it may be difficult for you, but if you can make it, we're meeting
in the hotel lobby at eight o'clock to meet Johnny at a local restaurant."
That's all I heard. I jumped out of the bed. The time--7:04 a.m. No time
to shave. I just brushed my teeth and took a 45-second shower. Threw my
clothes on as I ran to the car. The time--about 7:10 a.m. Now a 42-mile
drive to the hotel. The longest part of the trip (time-wise) is getting to
the Interstate highway from my house, taking side and back roads (about
fifteen minutes usually). The time---7:25 a.m. I hit I-85 South to
Charlotte. I may be exaggerating a bit here, but I took the I-85 signs
pretty literally. It's I-85, so I would go 85 mph. Fortunately, it was a
Saturday morning and traffic was virtually nil. Had it been a weekday,
traffic would have made the trip impossible.
As I breezed down the road, I thought to myself the many, many times I had
chosen to drive to Charlotte (as well as Greensboro, Winston-Salem, etc.)
in the past to watch Rip Hawk and/or Johnny Weaver work in the ring. Now,
many years later, I am making that drive one more time.
It seemed like every second I would glance at the clock, watching the time
frame I was alloted growing smaller. But, before I knew it, I was pulling
into the University Hilton parking lot. The time---7:50 a.m. (you do the
I walked (at a fast pace) into the lobby to find David, Peggy, and "The
Ripper". Time to go meet Johnny.
The drive was short, and we soon pulled into the Bob Evans lot. "There's
Johnny," said Peggy. David parked the car. Everyone got out. We three fans
sort of stepped back for a moment, to give the guys some space.
"Ripper---you son-of-a-gun!" They embraced, and I nearly bawled.
Once inside, we were seated, and the conversations began. Rip and Johnny
journeyed through memory land, and at a point where it felt right, Peggy,
David, and I tossed out questions for the guys.
I will point out that one has to actually see Johnny Weaver's
impersonation of Jim "Brute" Bernard to appreciate it. Others in the
restaurant seemed interested in the strange noises coming from our table
when Johnny did his "Brute" growl.
Homer O'Dell was a subject of some very interesting stories. And of
course, Johnny and Rip spoke at length about Robert "Swede" Hanson. "How I
miss that man," said Rip, of his long-time tag team partner.
If I had my way, eight days later as I write this, I would STILL be
sitting in the restaurant with the guys. But after about an
hour-and-a-half, it was time to get back to the hotel and for Johnny to
get ready for his work.
But even though the actual gathering ended, the memories of it will stay
will me the rest of my days. To Rip and to Johnny---if you happen to read
this...Thank you both so much for the moment. I can honestly say that
neither Johnny Weaver or Rip Hawk ever disappointed me when they were in
the ring. Now I can say they didn't disappoint me out of the ring either.