Pro wrestling has a storied history in Houston thanks to legendary promoter Paul Boesch. “Houston Wrestling” started in the mid 1920’s under the Sigel family but was bought by Boesch after Morris Sigel died in late 1966. I remember heading to the old Sam Houston Coliseum as a kid during the mid-80’s with a handful of friends in my parent’s station wagon to see such ‘wrastlers’ as “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “Hacksaw” Butch Reed, Ted Dibiase, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Terry Taylor, The Freebirds, “Maddog” Buzz Sawyer, “Mr. Unpredictable” Dick Slater and my personal favorite, “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdock.
Since Coogfans.com covers the University of Houston football program, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the Cougars own and his contributions made to the sport, Kerry Gene Adkisson, or better known by his wrestling name; “The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich. Attending UH on a track scholarship, Adkisson broke a Southwest Conference record in the discus and was primed to represent the US in the Olympics if not for the 1980 boycot. Von Erich would later go on to make a name for himself while wrestling for his father’s promotion in Dallas, World Class Championship Wrestling, and then later the World Wrestling Federation, before tragically taking his life in 1993 due to depression.
There was also a time when professional wrestling was hot in north Georgia, back in the days when the National Wrestling Alliance, or the NWA which would later become World Championship Wrestling or WCW, ruled the area in the sport. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) was under the auspice of the NWA, in which the local “territory” which would put on house shows throughout the week and weekly television tapings all throughout the state.
On Saturday June the 4th at the Barrow County Leisure Services Center in Winder (175 Second Street, 30680), ‘Stranglehold Wrestling’ relives those glory years for present day wrestling fans with its “Royal Blood: A Night of Extreme Wrestling,” seven match card. Doors open at 7pm with an 8pm bell time. Earlier in the day there will be a meet-and-greet at ‘Praise the Lard BBQ’ (1350 Buford Hwy NE 30518) in Buford at 11am. General admission is ten dollars with floor seats being $15.
WWE Hall-of-Famer, ‘Mr. USA’ Tony Atlas, will be featured in a Coal Miner’s Glove match versus Leatherface. Other performers and matches includes; “Xtreme Phenom” vs Austin Bradley in a street fight who will open the show with a hard hitting no disqualification match. Next up will be an ‘Afghan Torture’ match between two long standing rivals, Billy the Kid and Prince Rhumma of Afghanistan, which should be brutal to say the least. Third match is a ladies match; “Simply Intoxicating” Brandy Scotch Baker takes on “The Party Princess" Kayla Lynn. The fourth match will be a ‘First Blood’ match between “Dangerous” Danny Horne and “Insane Lane” (expect blood to flow like a river in this match). The fifth match on the card will be a Tornado Tag Team Deathmatch between “The Deathmatch Junkies” (Terry Houston and Colt 45) and “The Hounds of Hell” (Belton Creedmore and “The White Trash Maniac” Ron Mathis). The semi-main event will be the Legends match, “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas takes on local legend, Leatherface. The main event will be “Mad Man” Pondo vs Iceberg in a ‘Four Corners of Pain’ match that should make history between the heated rivals.
Owner and promoter Eric Nelson recently told me that Atlas has a genuine love for the sport and still makes appearances for a living (even at 62 years old), “he likes working Georgia because GCW was his fondest of memories working in the business.” Atlas’s career has spanned over 20 years which, which has included stints with the WWF. Atlas even took part in a GCW revival show in Macon on July 23, 2011.
After the WWF, led under Vince McMahon Jr, killed the territory system in the late 80s, the only promotion left to battle the Connecticut based promotion was WCW, owned by Ted Turner. After years of money mismanagement, WCW faced the same slow death other regional wrestling promotions faced and was bought out by McMahon and the WWE in the early 2000’s.
In today’s wrestling world, if one isn’t interested in the “PG era” of the WWE, then the Indy scene is where it’s at. Indy wrestling is exactly what it sounds like; wrestling cards put together by local promoters, which lead us to back to ‘Stranglehold Wrestling’ under Nelson. Just retired after a 23 year career with the US Navy, Nelson (who had worked in various promotions across the Eastern seaboard over the past 13 years) decided to start his own promotion because, “I got tired of making other people money and lining everyone else’s pockets.” And ‘Stranglehold Wrestling’ was born. It’s predominately a hardcore style of wrestling in its infancy stage (just two years old), but they do offer a lot of technical wrestling as well for the ‘old school’ enthusiasts who think the sport is more than just spilling blood.
Nelson’s promotion puts on monthly shows all over the state but as he stated, “We’ll go wherever the price is right. Hell I’d go to Cleveland if somebody put the right dollar amount in front of me.” He’s also done shows in the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic, before starting Stranglehold. While the money is important as his wrestlers put their lives on the line every card and they have families to worry about, money is not the prime reason these young men and women do this. It’s a dangerous sport which leads to life altering injuries and even death. Nelson told me “the men and women of Stranglehold have no fear of injury or death and enjoy putting it all on the line for their fans.”
Nelson’s belief that Stranglehold will do well into the future because of what he delivers; fast paced action with good story lines. The wrestlers are independent contractors meaning they’ll wrestler wherever they can make the most money as Nelson estimates there are 13 independent promotions in Georgia alone that he knows of. But he also says, “I don’t use the same guys everyone else in the state uses, pretty much goes for everywhere I travel. I’ve had people try to compete with me by putting on a free show but they often use substandard talent.” Nelson has also handed out over 4000 flyers promoting his cards as he relies on word-of-mouth and social media such as Facebook for advertising.
They even live in a world of ‘Kayfabe,’ which is an industry term used to describe the scripted card as real or true. Outside of the ring however they are normal men and women just trying to make a living to feed their families. Nelson wouldn’t give me the real names of the wrestlers for this reason. He also said there were ‘security issues’ as sometimes fans can take things too far or “be a little too eccentric” as he put it, but that’s what a good wrestler will do. A ‘heel’ (or a bad guy) will make you hate him while a ‘face’ will make you want to cheer him. That’s what wrestling is about, telling a believable story line combined with athleticism in the ring. Nelson would tell me that Leatherface is local to the Winder area as is Brandy Scotch Baker but you wouldn’t know them if you saw them on the street.
Nelson himself however is ‘Joe Public’ as he doesn’t mind if fans come up to him during his shows. So if you’re in the Winder area Saturday, stop by for some top notch ‘wrastling’ and strike up a conversation as ‘Stranglehold Wrestling’ invades North Georgia.