Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LES THATCHER'S BURNING ISSUES - Part Four

PART FOUR - LES GETS SATISFACTION

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.

ROGER KIRBY
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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.
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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.
click on image to enlarge
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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.

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