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Bob Caudle To Host This Year's Fanfest Weekend Festivities!
Bob Caudle, the longtime television voice of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, is the latest featured guest to be announced for this summer's Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest Weekend August 1-4 in Charlotte.
Caudle's easygoing, straightforward approach at the announce desk made him one of Mid-Atlantic wrestling's most beloved figures; a staple of wrestling in the Carolinas during the '60s, '70s, and '80s and its fans who religiously tuned in each Saturday for their weekly dose of TV grappling.
For years the affable broadcaster served as lone commentator for the show that was taped on Wednesday nights at the WRAL-TV studio in Raleigh, where he also worked as an on-air personality doing the news and weather.
"I guess most old people are like me. We like to think back a lot and reminisce about when things were good. And those, to me, were really good times. They were the best," says Caudle, who will turn 83 during Fanfest weekend.
Caudle, who has missed only two Fanfest events, says he loves attending the annual reunion. "It's a wonderful event. I don't see how Greg (Price) does it each year, but he does a great job."
An inaugural inductee into the Hall of Heroes in 2007, Caudle says he is amazed - and humbled - by the response he receives at the event. "Even older people will come up to me at Fanfest and say they grew up watching me. A lot of younger people also come up and ask for an autograph. It's amazing to me since they're so young."
The biggest kick, he says, is reuniting with many of the performers whose matches he called those many years ago. "I really love seeing the guys again. If it wasn't for (Fanfest), I might never see any of them again. I think about all the guys I saw and how glad I was to see them. I saw Rip Hawk and talked about old times. And then I think about guys like Johnny Weaver and Sandy Scott and Gene Anderson and all the guys that I miss."
Caudle says he even talks to Ole Anderson. "I talk to Ole every now and then. Ole calls me once in a while. We just talk about old times. Ole doesn't care about anything going on nowadays. But that's another thing. When you think back to 1960, many of these guys are up in age as well. I'm seeing these older guys, and we go back so many years. It just brings back many fond memories."
Caudle began announcing for Crockett Promotions in 1960 when they began taping matches in Raleigh. "We taped two shows simultaneously using different audio. Nick Pond did the one that ran on Raleigh TV. The Murnicks asked me if I'd try it, and I did the one they sort of bicycled around the territory. That's the way we first started out doing it. We did that for a long time."
Caudle continued to do TV for the Crocketts when they moved production to WPCQ in Charlotte and then took the production out to the arenas. "Eventually the Crocketts got their own mobile truck, and we started taping at different arenas," says Caudle.
Caudle worked with a number of announcers during his career. "I worked with so many different people. There are so many of them." Those include David Crockett, Johnny Weaver, Les Thatcher, Big Bill Ward, Sandy Scott, Tony Schiavone, Lance Russell, Gordon Solie and Jim Ross.
One of his favorite co-hosts was an announcer he worked with in Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion in the early '90s. "Dirty Dutch Mantel was more fun to work with than you can imagine," says Caudle. "That was just a lark. I enjoyed that so much. We worked together for two or three years. But I never got to work with him in Mid-Atlantic."
Most of the individuals he worked with during his Crockett/Mid-Atlantic days played it straight down the middle. "It was just a lot different back then. I worked with David Crockett for a long time. He was the most excitable of the group," laughs Caudle.
Caudle, who was born in Charlotte, began his broadcasting career in 1954 in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he did a popular talk show with a dog puppet named Hester. "Bob and Hester" was a "minor take-off" on "Captain Kangaroo," says Caudle, who also did sports at the small, one-camera operation.
Several years later he moved to Savannah, Georgia. "They were trying to open up the Savannah market. We put up a ring at the station there and I did about three or four shows with an old-time wrestler named Bibber McCoy. Not many people remember him, but he was an Irishman out of the Boston area."
Caudle soon left for Raleigh and a job at WRAL where he worked from 1960-80. He did the news and weather in addition to the wrestling. He continued to do wrestling after leaving the station.
In 1986 the Mid-Atlantic show changed its named to "NWA Pro Wrestling." WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross joined Caudle at the announce desk in 1988.
Caudle continued to work for the promotion after it was sold to Ted Turner in late 1988, working several live "Clash of the Champions" telecasts on Superstation WTBS along with several pay-per-view events. But as the promotion departed from its NWA roots and morphed into WCW, Caudle left the company in 1991.
One of his favorite sidekicks during that period was longtime Memphis announcer Lance Russell. "Lance Russell is one of my favorite guys. We had a lot of fun together, and I'm just crazy about Lance."
During the second half of his announcing career, Caudle worked as a legislative assistant for then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and remained in that position until 1996 when Caudle retired. "It was fun. I really enjoyed it," Caudle says of the 16 years he spent working for the lawmaker, whom he had previously worked with at WRAL.
Caudle says he has many fond memories of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, noting that it was a favorite territory for many of that era's top stars. "Mid-Atlantic was one of the best territories in the country. We had outstanding guys. Even the guys who'd come in and stay for 8, 10, 15 weeks and leave, they'd always come back. So many came in and stayed ... guys like Ric Flair."
"Flair was a really flamboyant guy with that long hair. He was a good-looking guy and had a good body at that time. I always thought Flair was very good and knew he would do very well."
Caudle says he also had fun with Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson. "Hawk and Hanson were both great guys. I always told everybody that if I was ever in a dark alley and got caught by a couple of guys, I'd want Swede Hanson to be on my side. He and Rip were really a fun couple. Rip was a real jokester and liked to pull ribs on people." Like the time Raleigh sportscaster Nick Pond was in the studio doing the six o'clock report, and Hawk snuck around him on all fours, out of camera view, trying to set his copy on fire.
Caudle laments the fact that so many of those legends have passed on. "One guy I really miss is Sir Oliver Humperdink. I've got a picture of him on my computer's screen saver. My wife and I both loved him. He was such a great guy to be around."
Caudle had more than his share of memorable moments during his announcing days. He recalls one such occasion when one of the area's top heel teams of the '60s, Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard, were doing an interview. "Brute would get out there in front of the desk and go around and around. I was standing behind the desk with Skull. Nobody knew about it or thought about it at the time, but the desk was on rollers. I said something to Skull, and Brute made out like he got mad and came charging in and hit that desk. That desk rammed right into us. And later, in a low voice, Brute mumbled, 'Sorry about that.' I never will forget that."
So many memories, says Caudle, and so many unique, colorful characters.
Caudle rattles off names of performers that were once part of his weekly routine. Names like George Becker and Johnny Weaver, the Scott Brothers, the Andersons. "We had all the great tag teams. It was just unbelievable. I really think we were the tag-team territory then."
Caudle particularly enjoyed performers who could work in the ring. "Tim Woods could really wrestle. I loved to watch Tim in the ring. He was one of my very favorites. And Tim left us too soon as well."
"And of course Ole (Anderson) wouldn't like it," Caudle laughs, "but Flair was one of my favorites. But Ole and Gene were two of my favorites as far as tag teams go."
"I have a lot of fond memories when you think about it," says Caudle, "I really miss those days. I don't know that I'd want to relive everything I've lived, but I miss those days. They were special times. It was great."
Caudle lives in Raleigh where he has been for most of the past 50 years. He moved briefly to a lakehouse on the North Carolina-Virginia border, but for health concerns returned to the Raleigh area in 2004. "We bought a townhouse. I don't have to do any yard work anymore," he chuckles.
Caudle, who suffered a series of heart attacks in 2007, says he's doing well physically and takes daily medication. "I haven't had any more heart problems since the doctor put the stint in," he says.
He and wife Jackie have been married for 64 years. "That's pretty good for an old guy," says Caudle.
Caudle says he could never have imagined that so many fans would still remember Mid-Atlantic wrestling so many years later. Unfortunately, says Caudle, he didn't save any memorabilia from that period. "I didn't save anything. I don't have any memorabilia at all. Just think what I could have had ... had I just kept all the formats for all those shows we taped. But I had no idea at the time. I wished I had saved it, but I didn't."
To Caudle, and his many of his contemporaries during those days, it was just another job. "I never thought we were doing anything that special. It was like we had just gotten by another week." But for a generation of Mid-Atlantic wrestling fans, they were memories that will last a lifetime.
And in closing, Caudle has a message for all those fans. It's one, he jokes, that his wife is going to put on his gravestone. "Fans, that`s all the time that we have for now, see you next week and so long for now."
-Mike Mooneyham, a writer and editor with Charleston's The Post and Courier since 1979, is one of the nation's foremost authorities on professional wrestling, and his weekly wrestling column has been in continuous publication longer than any other in the country.
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