Johnny Weaver

Class of 2008






Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2008




Accepting induction for her father:



Inducting Johnny Weaver into the Class of 2008:


Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2007

Wendy, in her own speech, was understandably overcome with emotion as she shared her memories of her life growing up as the daughter of the top wrestler, and top women's wrestler, of the territory . The wrestlers who came to the family home to start the long rides, the ones who babysat her, the fans who loved her parents, and the father who would have finally known, had he lived to be there tonight, that he was still remembered and what that would have meant to him, it all came rushing out with the kind of eloquence that only comes from a wrestling lifetime.

"My father would have loved this night."

- Bruce Mitchell

Excerpt from a PWTorch VIP Exclusive


Wendi Weaver, accepting the induction for her father Johnny Weaver, perhaps the most popular wrestler in the history of the Carolinas, who died in February:

"This is my home," she said. "Everybody here is family. Whether you be a fan who came up and asked for my dad's autograph, and he gave it to you, or you were a wrestler who came to our house ... he would be so humbled."

Rip Hawk recalled how he first met Weaver in 1957 and saw how he patterned himself after the legendary Sonny Myers, a fixture in the Kansas-Missouri area.

"He always had talent but he was just hidden," Hawk said. "When he got here, he found his home."

 Steve Johnson

Excerpt from "Legends Abound at Charlotte Fanfest"

Canoe SLAM! Wrestling


It’s not enough to say that Johnny Weaver was the biggest wrestling hero who ever passed through the Carolinas. If you’re going to truly understand how much Weaver meant to wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic during the heyday of Jim Crockett Promotions, his daughter Wendi Weaver, who will accept his induction into the Hall of Heroes, puts it in perspective with a tale that tells all. Long after Weaver hung up his boots, his second career with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department required him to pick up a singularly violent prisoner at a state prison. Weaver’s superiors warned him: “This guy is really bad. He’s lashing out at all the other sheriffs up there. Make sure he’s secure.” Down the hall walked Weaver to take custody of the dangerous inmate. Suddenly, the prisoner stopped cussing and fighting his handlers. “You’re Johnny Weaver! You’re Johnny Weaver! Oh my God! Man I used to watch you with my grandma in front of the TV.” As Wendi recounted, “That guy turned. It was a childhood memory. He wasn’t mean any more; he wasn’t lashing out.” No wonder journalist Mike Mooneyham said Weaver “was to wrestling fans in the Carolinas what Mickey Mantle was to baseball and Johnny Unitas was to football. He wasn’t particularly flashy, but that was part of his appeal.”

Kenneth Eugene Weaver was a man with a people’s touch, and it was reflected in the way he thought his life might turn out. “I never wanted to do anything but wrestle and race stock cars,” he said in a 1979 interview. “If I hadn’t wrestled, I don’t know what I would have done.” Born in East St. Louis, Ill., Weaver first came to note in the Midwest right around his 21st birthday after serving as a referee and roustabout for famed St. Joseph, Mo., promoter Gust Karras. Billed for the early part of his career as “Johnny Ace,” a “lanky” lad from St. Louis, he also worked for Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle around Indianapolis for a couple years; in one May 1959 match he beat Bronko Lubich in Anderson, Ind., a future adversary in the Carolinas.

Rip Hawk played a major role in bringing Weaver to the Mid-Atlantic in 1962, and he stayed there for most of his career, holding titles such as the Southern heavyweight singles and tag championship on about two dozen occasions. At first, he was understudy to veteran George Becker, a tag team combo that stayed on top of the cards for years. As Hawk recalled: “He was a good guy, a hard wrestler and produced when he got in the ring.” Les Thatcher credited Weaver and Becker with giving him his first break as a part of six-man tag matches and recalled Weaver as one of the most detail-oriented people he ever met. “He kept a book in his bag and I remember the first time I ever worked as a partner with those guys,” he said. “And this book told me if they had been on top in Spartanburg a year ago. Johnny kept a record of who they worked with, what the finish was and what the house drew. That’s how detailed he was with stuff.” And Don Kernodle, who cites Weaver as the inspiration for his own career, offers a clue to his enduring territorial appeal. “We didn’t have baseball or football in the Carolinas back then. But the wrestling came to your town or your high school gym every week and you could actually reach out and meet Johnny Weaver and talk to him,” Kernodle said. “Johnny wasn’t a character. He was a person.”

Already ready to slip on his version of the sleeper hold, Weaver remained a top hero in the area even when he switched over to the broadcast booth with Rich Landrum. After leaving wrestling in 1989, he worked for the sheriff’s department, where his knowledge of the back roads, and the quickest way to transport prisoners, was legendary from his wrestling travels. Weaver died in February at 72, just a few months before his retirement. He’s not forgotten, though, and won’t be as long as there’s wrestling in the Carolinas.

“To see all those people come who were fans, coming up to me and telling me all these stories, I’ll never forget it,” Wendi said.

- Steve Johnson

 Wendi Weaver photo by Dick Bourne  •  Rip Hawk & Wendi Weaver photo by Blake Arledge




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