Tuesday, January 31, 2017



There was no wrestling in CHARLOTTE, N.C. on December 18th, 1967 as JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS was on its CHRISTMAS break.

Therefore, the WBTV-CHARLOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING TV program which aired on Saturday, December 16th included the announcement of the annual WRESTLING card which would be held at the CHARLOTTE COLISEUM on CHRISTMAS night. This holiday card was always one of the top shows of the year and brought attention to the CHARLOTTE NEWS EMPTY STOCKING FUND, a charity to provide for the needy during the holidays. (The CHARLOTTE NEWS was, at the time, the evening newspaper of the Queen City, the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER was and still is the morning paper.)

Headlining the big holiday card was the match many had been hoping for...and none more than young LES THATCHER. The match would feature LES teaming with GEORGE BECKER and JOHNNY WEAVER opposing THE INFERNOS and, in the ring as a participant, manager J.C. DYKES in SIX MAN action.

LES went home to Ohio for a few days during his holiday break. Returning back to CHARLOTTE the day of the match, he was picked up at the airport by his good friend and wrestling 'cousin', ROGER KIRBY.

During the drive to his apartment, LES confided to KIRBY that he was nervous about the upcoming match, now just hours away. Nervous not because of his participation in the match, but rather because he feared if the crowd wasn't a good one, he would be blamed for the lower-than-expected attendance. THATCHER had worked main events while in Florida, but never in a building as large as the CHARLOTTE COLISEUM. And not on a wrestling card of this magnitude.

As it turned out, he need not have worried. Before the show started, while in the dressing room, JCP employee GEORGE HARBEN came in and said, "They're really pouring in."

At the end of the evening, the card had drawn the largest CHRISTMAS house for WRESTLING in CHARLOTTE to that time.

THE INFERNOS and DYKES await BECKER, WEAVER and THATCHER's ring entrance.
Finally, a chance for LES to even the score with the men who had injured him so badly. And here he was...teaming with the company's top twosome against a 'heel' team that drew big money wherever they worked.

Things went well for the 'good guys' that CHRISTMAS night. After splitting the first two falls, BECKERWEAVER and THATCHER had DYKES a bloody mess when his men decided it was way too hot, even for INFERNOS. They grabbed their bludgeoned leader and headed for their dressing room, but before their getaway, one of the hooded 'heels' lost a most precious possession...his mask. Although his identity was concealed, this was the only instance I am aware that one of THE INFERNOS was unmasked while in the MID-ATLANTIC territory.

Referee SAM 'LUCKY' ROBERTS raises the hands of BECKER, WEAVER and THATCHER after DYKES and THE INFERNOS deserted the ring. Look closely at THATCHER's right hand and you'll see a just-removed INFERNO mask, quite a holiday stocking stuffer.

Article which appeared in the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, December 26th.

The LIKE AND DISLIKES column which appeared in the CHARLOTTE PARK CENTER wrestling program the week after the CHRISTMAS night match.
click on image to enlarge

And LES THATCHER's response in the same program.
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A four-month program came to a close CHRISTMAS night of 1967. This 'feud' was a great example of how to create, build and sell a program to the fans that was both believable as well as entertaining (something sorely lacking in today's product).

And as LES has said, "It was one of the highlights of my entire career."

My thanks to my very good friends DICK BOURNE of the MID-ATLANTIC GATEWAY and CARROLL HALL for their research assistance and to a true gentleman, LES THATCHER, for sharing his personal reflections on this wonderful look back to some great days of the wrestling business.

Illustrations from wrestling programs courtesy of DICK BOURNE.

Photographs of LES THATCHER from his personal collection and used with his permission.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Safely back in his apartment, LES THATCHER kept a low profile for several days.

He did his own facial make-up to show the effects of the 'burning'. LES shaved off his left eyebrow, then used a coarse Turkish towel to rub up the skin around his eye to give it an irritated look. He applied what is known as 'New Skin' to the area to give his injured area a wrinkled effect, then painted the area with merbromin (household name: mercurochrome) and tinted Vicks Vapor Rub which gave an oozing appearance.

Then it was on to his bookings. For the time being, most would be in the general CHARLOTTE TV area as this was the target area for the 'burn' program. LES didn't wrestle for a couple of weeks, but instead appeared in all of his scheduled cities going into the ring, showing his burned face and explaining how the injury had occurred. (Before each appearance, 'BIG' JIM CROCKETT personally instructed LES to what degree he was to reduce the size of the 'burn', giving the illusion that the injury was heeling.)

After a week or two, every wrestling fan in the area was aware of the heated battle that had been touched off.

LES then appeared on the WBTV-CHARLOTTE CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING program hosted by BIG BILL WARD. During his interview with WARD (the interviews were always conducted in front of the ring apron), THE INFERNOS and DYKES were in the ring awaiting their match. At some point, while he was being questioned, LES was assaulted by one of the masked men (LES believes FRANKIE CAIN), who ripped at his injured face, causing THATCHER extreme pain and discomfort, thus (and pardon the pun) adding fuel to the fire. GEORGE BECKER and JOHNNY WEAVER came rushing to LES' aid, preventing even more damage.

click on image to enlarge
During their tenure with JCPJ.C. DYKES often wrote a column in the weekly CHARLOTTE wrestling program which was handed out (or sold--- I can't recall which) entitled LIKES AND DISLIKES BY J.C. DYKES. During the time frame after LES was burned, a number of the DYKES articles were directed at young THATCHER for concocting such a ridiculous "lie" that J.C. had hit him with a fireball.

Later in the mid-70s, LES wrote an editorial in each issue of MID-ATLANTIC WRESTLING MAGAZINE entitled WRESTLER'S EYE VIEWLES still uses that trademark to this day. But even before his editorials of the 1970s, LES originated that banner during this INFERNOS program. In a later-to-come 60 MINUTES POINT / COUNTERPOINT style, LES was given a rebuttal column in the programs giving his side of the 'burning" incident. (One will appear in tomorrow's wrap-up entry of this story.)

LES chases one of THE INFERNOS during a CHARLOTTE PARK CENTER encounter.

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Friday, January 27, 2017



LES THATCHER related to me that those participating in the CHARLOTTE COLISEUM main event of September 4, 1967 met at the CROCKETT office on Morehead Street that same morning.

 Those present included LESGEORGE BECKER (also the booker at the time), JOHNNY WEAVERJ.C. DYKES, both of THE INFERNOS (FRANKIE CAIN and ROCKY SMITH), GEORGE HARBEN, and 'BIG' JIM CROCKETT himself.

'BIG' JIM instructed HARBEN to make sure that by the time the main event started that evening, that all referees working the show (except ANGELO MARTINELLI, who was assigned the main event) were to be out of the building. This way no one would spot any other refs hanging around, thus spoiling credibility to HARBEN's ringside plea for LES to come to the ring to officiate the remainder of the match.

CROCKETT told LES to wear his very best suit and to be visible at the back of the COLISEUM arena, so word would reach LES to come to the ring when HARBEN called for him. "If your clothes get damaged or ruined during the match, I'll pay to replace them", CROCKETT would say.

Near the end of the first fall, referee MARTINELLI would be knocked down, injured, but able to count to three in favor of THE INFERNOS.

HARBEN would go to ANGELO's aid. Determining that the official could not continue, MARTINELLI would be helped to the dressing room. With no other ref available, HARBEN (without the use of a microphone) would call out for LES to come to the ring. The fans would actually become involved in the proceedings by relaying the message back to THATCHER, who then went to the ring and received instructions from HARBEN.

THATCHER would referee the second and third falls of the match, amidst the protests of DYKES and his two men. GEORGE and JOHNNY would even the match, winning the second fall. WEAVER would 'schoolboy' one of THE INFERNOS for the third fall victory. LES would raise GEORGE and JOHNNY's hands, who would then leave the ring and start for the dressing room.

LES was to drop back a bit, so before he could leave the ring, he would be accosted by the sore losers. A little scuffle would ensue climaxing with DYKES igniting THATCHER's face with a fireballLES would hit the mat, screaming in pain, and BECKER and WEAVER would jump back into the ring. GEORGE was to run off the 'heels' (their dastardly deed fulfilled), and WEAVER (who had conveniently worn a towel around his neck for the match) would wrap it around the burnt younster's face and help him back to the dressing room.

Once inside the dressing room, LES wouldn't even take the time to change his clothes. He would cover his head and slip out the back of the COLISEUM, where RUDY KAY would be waiting in his automobile. LES would slouch down on the floorboard of the back seat, and RUDY was to quickly drive LES home to the THATCHER apartment.

One more detail to cover---the hired ambulance drivers who would be at the COLISEUM in case they would really be needed during the evening. WEAVER was assigned the task of telling the ambulance guys that THATCHER had a 'phobia' with ambulances, and that GEORGE and JOHNNY would take LES to the hospital themselves, thus relieving the medics of participating. The medical personnel could not be involved, in order to 'protect the business'.

"That's how meticulous the program was laid out...every detail was taken care of," LES said.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017



"It was one of the highlights of my entire career."
GEORGE BECKER and JOHNNY WEAVER were the top 'babyface' team in JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS for most of the 1960s.

J.C. DYKES and THE INFERNOS, on the flipside, were one of the top 'heel' teams during the late1960s.

And, somehow, not by sheer happenings or fate, a twenty-seven year-old wrestler, who had recently been named the ROOKIE OF THE YEAR while working in the NWA Florida territory, found himself in the middle of a top JCP wrestling program that stretched over a nearly four month time frame.

This young man was LES THATCHER.

The year was 1967. It was the annual LABOR DAY WRESTLING card in CHARLOTTE, N.C., one of but a handful of shows held each year at the original CHARLOTTE COLISEUM on Independence Boulevard.


The main event that night featured BECKER and WEAVER going against THE INFERNOS, managed by J.C. DYKES. These two teams had a violent history, so the fans expected this match to be something special.

Folks who remember this bitter rivalry will recall that a central issue with THE INFERNOS was the 'loaded boot' that one of them wore. Time after time, the boot would come into play in their matches with the end result often being their opponents being kicked into oblivion, giving the masked men many victories.

BECKER and WEAVER had vowed to remedy this problem, themselves being previous victims of the boot. And, indeed, they did take action. On the night of July 1, 1967, in WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (and maybe in other towns as well), GEORGE and JOHNNY were successful in removing the boot from the foot of THE INFERNO who wore it. Each subsequent time the heroes had faced DYKES and his men, BECKER had worn the boot himself as an equalizer.

The CHARLOTTE match started out as the fans had expected, which each team taking it to the other. Near the end of the first fall, referee ANGELO MARTINELLI was knocked down and shaken up, but able to make the count on the 'good guys', giving THE INFERNOS a one fall advantage.

ANGELO called for assistance. He couldn't continue. JCP employee GEORGE HARBEN went to the ring and rendered assistance to the injured MARTINELLI. After calling to the back for a replacement official, HARBEN learned that the other referees who had worked the card had already left the building.

LES THATCHER had already wrestled his match earlier and had already showered and changed to his street clothes. Seeing LES standing near the back of the arena, HARBEN signaled for THATCHER to come to the ring. After a brief discussion, LES removed his suit jacket and took over as the official for the remainder of the match.

Naturally, DYKES and THE INFERNOS protested, "He's a friend of BECKER and WEAVER. There's no way we will get a fair shake." The rantings and ravings fell on unsympathetic ears. THATCHER signaled for the bell, and the second fall began.

GEORGE and JOHNNY took fall number two, squaring the match.

The deciding fall immediately became hot and heavy. The end came quickly when one of the hooded heavies gave LES a shove. THATCHER got in the masked man's face, reminding him he was an official and was not to be touched. At this point, WEAVER 'schoolboyed' THE INFERNOLES counted to three, and the match was over.

LES raised BECKER and WEAVER's hands in victory. GEORGE and JOHNNY left the ring, with LES closely behind them. But THATCHER was stopped by the sore losers who were claiming LES stole the match from them. A bit of a rhubard started, then suddenly THE INFERNOS grabbed the substitute referee, and J.C. DYKES incinerated THATCHER's face with a fireball.

LES hit the mat, rolling around, screaming in anguish. GEORGE and JOHNNY ran back into the ring, DYKES and THE INFERNOS ran out of the ring (their damage had been done). WEAVER wrapped a towel around THATCHER's face, and he and BECKER got LES back to the dressing room.

Only time would tell how badly LES was injured and how long he would be out of action.


(Some of the photos featuring LES THATCHER are from his personal collection and used with his permission.)

Monday, January 23, 2017


May 20, 1963

When four of the roughest and toughest wrestlers EVER to appear in the Carolinas face off against each other, there's bound to be quite a collision. Add to that a tuxedo-wearing, cane-carrying "gentleman" who provides even more dirty work while operating at ringside, and you have a rousing night's work cut out for a wrestling referee.

That will be the scenario at the CHARLOTTE COLISEUM tonight when THE GREAT BOLO and BOLO, the masked roughnecks who have kept their identities secret for so long, go against equally rugged BRONCHO LUBICH and ALDO BOGNI (accompanied by their manager HOMER O'DELL) in a two-out-of-three falls BATTLE OF THE BULLIES clash.

It's the headline bout on a seven match card which gets underway at 8:15 p.m. Tickets for this big show are now available at the COLISEUM box office and the NATIONAL HAT SHOP in downtown Charlotte.

ARGENTINA ROCCA, the man who has filled New York City's Madison Square Garden to capacity no less than fifteen times, is also on the card in a special match against ruffian FRANK VALOIS in a one-fall event.

THE KENTUCKIANS, TINY ANDERSON and BIG BOY BROWN, will also make an appearance. They will put their combined 700 pounds against another huge team in SWEDE HANSON and "CRYBABY" CANNON. This tag match is set for the best-of-three falls.

RIP (don't call me chicken) HAWK, yet another vicious character, returns to Charlotte for the first time since Christmas to meet popular Indian star BILLY TWO RIVERS in the main prelim match.

Three more single matches featuring top mat stars will round out tonight's gigantic wrestling event.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


September 30, 1967






SIX MAN tag team action headlines tonight's WRESTLING card at the LEXINGTON YMCA.

The 'FLYING SCOTTS', GEORGE and SANDY, will be joined by equally popular LUTHER LINDSAY to test the power of an arrogant brutal threesome consisting of THE MISSOURI MAULER, PAMPERO FIRPO and GEORGE 'TWO TON' HARRIS.

Another tag team battle welcomes the great Indian team of BOBBY RED CLOUD and CHIEF LITTLE EAGLE back to town to meet the ruffian duo of JIM OSBORNE and the mysterious masked man THE MUMMY.

Both tag matches will be settled under the best two-out-of-three falls stipulation.

Girl wrestles are also scheduled when popular PENNY BANNER faces long-time nemesis TAMMY JONES.

GREG PETERSON will face PANCHO VALDEZ in the 8:15 opener.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


December 10, 1966

Two tag teams plus a battle between two pretty girl grapplers give interest to tonight's LEXINGTON YMCA mat card, kicking off at 8:15.

The popular duo of KLONDIKE BILL and ABE JACOBS are rematched tonight against KURT and HENRY VON STROHEIM. The German brothers made demands for this return match after a disputed loss to BILL and ABE here last Saturday.

PAUL DEMARCO and LUTHER LINDSEY, hero winners last week, return to face top competition in the likes of RIP HAWK and SWEDE HANSON, wrestling's "BLONDE BOMBERS."

Both tag team battles are set for the best two-out-of-three falls.

PENNY BANNER, the most popular girl wrestler around these parts, faces stiff competition when she faces TAMMY JONES, a not-so-nice lady, in a special one fall event.

TINKER TODD clashes with EL GAUCHO in the opening bout of the night. Don't look for many rules to be followed in this one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


July 23, 1966
THE MISSOURI MAULER and THE GREAT MALENKO are crying about losing last Saturday night and will be rematched against JOHNNY WEAVER and ABE JACOBS in tonight's LEXINGTON YMCA featured wrestling main event.

JOHNNY and ABE were awarded a victory on a reversed decision after wild action last week. MALENKO and the MAULER claimed they were robbed, and WEAVER and JACOBS, wanting to prove the win was no fluke, agreed to the best-of-three falls rematch, which should really get exciting.

WEAVER and the MAULER have been battling for the SOUTHERN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP as of late in singles competition. The MAULER remains the official champion, although JOHNNY has physical possession of the title belt. The champion wants his belt back.

Another tag battle this week pits the power-packed hero combo of GEORGE 'CATALINA' DRAKE and LUTHER LINDSAY against the very tough Minnesota duo of brothers LARS and GENE ANDERSON. This one is set for the best two-out-of-three falls within a forty-five minute time limit.

Two singles matches featuring top stars will open the card at 8:15.








Sunday, January 15, 2017


JUNE 4, 1966

51 Years Ago

A speedy team of popular heroes meets brutal and deliberate opponents in featured tag team wrestling at the LEXINGTON YMCA tonight starting at 8:15.

GEORGE and SANDY SCOTT, the "FLYING SCOTTS" as they are known in the wrestling business, pit their spectacular offense against the skin-headed bullies SKULL MURPHY and BRUTE BERNARD in the main event match. These two teams are long-time rivals.

The other tag battle matches the flashy RUDY KAYE and ABE JACOBS against rugged ruffians THE GREAT MALENKO and THE MISSOURI MAULER, teaming here for the first time.

Both tag encounters are set for the best two-of-three falls.

A special attraction tonight matches two top-ranked Negro girl stars, as SWEET GEORGIA BROWN takes on PRINCESS UBANGI.

Popular STEVE BOLUS meets big JOHN GUDISKI in the opening match.

Friday, January 13, 2017



He could make us love him when we were supposed to love him...

And he could make us loathe him when we were supposed to loathe him...

These ladies appear to love him.

PAUL, as he looked, when first coming to JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS in the late 1960s.

Ready for a night on the town.

Always business in the ring, whether as a babyface or heel.


In his managing days with THE ASSASSINS.

In his career with JCP, PAUL JONES did it all. He teamed regularly with the likes of NELSON ROYAL, WAHOO McDANIEL, RICKY STEAMBOAT, BARON VON RASCHKE, THE MASKED SUPERSTAR and GREG VALENTINE, and had heated feuds with all of the same (except ROYAL).

He held virtually every championship belt that MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING had to offer.

He took several NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT Champions to the limit.

His run as a heel manager was just as productive as far as ticket sales were concerned. PAUL's program involving JIMMY VALIANT lasted for several years.

Most JCP fans probably remember PAUL's turning on RICKY STEAMBOAT (although to this day, PAUL insists it was the other way around), the incredible tag battles when he teamed with WAHOO against GENE and OLE ANDERSON, and battling a much larger BLACKJACK MULLIGAN (and making it totally believeable).

And what about pinning medals of bravery (and a toupee) on BARON VON RASCHKE.

So many MID-ATLANTIC memories of PAUL JONES.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BIG versus BALD

November 28, 1964

Last week's professional wrestling main event featuring THE KENTUCKIANS versus BRUTE BERNARD and SKULL MURPHY was expected to be a wild contest, and indeed, it did turn out that way. TINY ANDERSON and BIG BOY BROWN were disqualified in the third and deciding fall.

So tonight, the two teams will go at each other again at the LEXINGTON YMCA , but this time, a NO DISQUALIFICATION stipulation has been added. Both teams agreed to the rematch to show their respective supremacy in the ring.

Fans are in for quite a treat when the two-out-of-three falls clash begins.

Fan favorite GEORGE BECKER returns to the YMCA to face rough guy MIKE VALENTINO in the evening's co-feature.

BILLY PARKS will attempt to control and defeat THE BEAST, and NICK KOZAK will face FRANK VALOIS in the 8:15 mat opener.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Under Those INFERNOS Hoods

To my knowledge, THE INFERNOS were never fully unmasked in the ring, nor were their identities revealed to the fans.

Jim Crockett actually offered J.C. Dykes and THE INFERNOS a huge bonus to be unmasked all around his territory before they headed for other areas, but the trio refused the cash offer.

Actually, there was more than one team of THE INFERNOS, not uncommon for someone who was THAT hot (pardon the pun) in the business to have their ring personas ripped off. (Just try to imagine how many masked ASSASSIN teams there have been. Actually, there are STILL masked ASSASSINS wrestling in local indy outfits all over the country.)

But, back to THE INFERNOS, that is, the original ones.

If you have read some of my previous postings, it should be apparent that THE INFERNOS and J.C. DYKES were (and still are) at the top of my all-time 'heel' team list, and I've have been a pro wrestling fan now for over fifty-five years.

When THE INFERNOS burst upon the JIM CROCKETT PROMOTIONS wrestling scene back in the mid-1960s, they were an immediate sensation. They quickly joined BOGNI & LUBICH, HAWK & HANSON, MAULER & MALENKO and BERNARD & MURPHY as main event nasties. They immediately were causing in-ring trouble for BECKER & WEAVER, McKENZIE & ROYAL, the SCOTT brothers and all our other favorite babyfaces.

All of a sudden, J.C. DYKES was generating as much heat as a manager as his peer HOMER O'DELL (and that is saying plenty).

J.C. had his metal canteen (which he often used as a weapon) and that blasted whistle, playing it like a trumpet to signal his men during their match.

Add to that the fact that mysterious 'fireballs' appeared from time-to-time scorching the faces of some good guys (you can ask LES THATCHER about that) and, of course, that dreaded built-up wrestling boot (which many wrestlers claimed contained items varying from horseshoes to the kitchen sink).

These boys were so 'hot' in the territory that when they faced other heel teams in ring battles, the RIP & SWEDEs and the BRUTE & SKULLs drew the cheers of the crowd (at least for that one night).

THE INFERNOS took their ring gimmick to other territories besides JCP (such as Florida and Texas), and did the same blockbuster business there as well.

Over the course of their long run, some changes occurred within the group. The originals were FRANKIE CAIN and JIMMY 'ROCKY' SMITH. At one point, ROCKY had a heart attack (down in Texas, I believe) and how to bow out for a while, but returned later. FRANKIE eventually left to become wrestling's GREAT MEPHISTO and was replaced by ROCKY's brother CURTIS SMITH. Other INFERNOS included DOUG GILBERT, RON GIBSON, STAN PULASKI and KARL VON BRAUNER.

Then, of course, there were the copycats. When DYKES and his boys left Florida, Eddie Graham put two guys together and tried to pass them off as the originals. And to this day, like THE ASSASSINS, one can find masked men in indy outfits wrestling as THE INFERNOS.

FRANKIE CAIN is still with us. J.C. 'JIMMY' DYKES passed away in 1993. ROCKY SMITH is also gone.

But I still remember THE INFERNOS.

ROCKY SMITH (left) and FRANKIE CAIN (right)

A bloodied (and nearly unmasked) FRANKIE CAIN is checked out by manager J.C. DYKES.

DYKES consoles one of his men during a wild match.

Why the headgear on INFERNO ROCKY SMITH? It's because boxing champion JOE LOUIS was refereeing the match.

THE INFERNOS fall victim to GEORGE BECKER & JOHNNY WEAVER's "row your boat".

J.C. and the boys celebrate another victory.

During their Florida campaign, J.C. and ROCKY took issue with JOSE LOTHARIO's being on the wrestling program instead of THE INFERNOS.

Another bloody night in the ring.

J.C. DYKES submits to an interview, but refuses to disclose his men's identities.

A young TERRY FUNK gets an INFERNO boot to the face.