The small towns with their regular Professional Wrestling Roots, and Territorial visits, were a ritual that happened like clockwork in those small towns, back in every man/everyday USA…
The old days, with those deep Pro Wrestling roots, are now pretty much a thing of the past, but the memories live on, and up in Tennessee, names like Ricky Morton, Jim Cornette, “Dirty” Dutch Mantell, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, “Sweet” Stan Lane(from Page High School), “Doctor” Tom Prichard and even Herb Welch, those names still conjure up the old days, when the Territorial Wrestling Ruled the Roost…
Here’s Allen Gregory, with the Bristol Herald Courier and his look back at the days when Wrestling Ruled the Roost, in Bristol, Johnson City, Knoxville and other small Tennessee towns….
Pro wrestling once a ritual in small towns
It was a ritual in small towns and cities across far Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.
Several times a month, thousands of fans of all ages would pack high school gyms, county fairs and civic centers to witness a spectacle featuring dashing heroes and dastardly villains.
It was pro wrestling.
While the glory days of Saturday afternoon television tapings and Friday night cards at VFW centers has nearly vanished, the legacy remains.
Here’s a bit of trivia.
What current Bristol, Tennessee, resident once commanded more national and international attention than any other prep, college or pro athlete from the area?
The answer is Ricky Morton.
This consummate performer and former teen idol helped fill arenas around the United States and Japan as part of the tag team known as the Rock N’ Roll Express.
A second-generation wrestler, Morton made his debut in the squared circle in 1978. With his blond mullet and colorful television interviews, Morton was part carnival barker and part Evel Knievel. He even earned induction into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2017 with partner Robert Gibson.
At age 63, Morton continues to work his magic on the independent level while operating his own training facility and appearing on national TV and radio interviews. Kerry Morton, the 19-year-old son of Ricky, has followed his father and grandfather into the sport.
From 1991-95, Knoxville-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling entertained fans with stars such as Stan Lane, Tom Prichard and Bob Armstrong.
The SMW promotion, which had a huge following in Johnson City, was led by Jim Cornette, a kingpin in the business who has earned fame as a manager, promoter and commentator. Famed music producer Rick Rubin was one of the early financial backers.
Read much more from Allen Gregory, with the Bristol Herald Courier and see some great photographs when you