AS I SEE IT - 7/27/2000
by: Bob Magee
This week, some news on two of the real-life good people in wrestling who need to be kept in your thoughts.
Steve Keirn told the wrestling world on Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer radio show on Eyada.com news that we definitely did not want to hear.
Gordon Solie's throat cancer, which required the removal of his voice box and the silencing of his legendary voice in late 1999, has spread to his brain.
"The Dean" and legendary wrestling announcer that was the voice of Championship Wrestling from Florida with talent like the Grahams, the Freebirds, Kevin Sullivan, Mark Lewin; and Georgia Championship Wrestling on WTBS with Roddy Piper, Don Muraco, The Freebirds, Ted DiBiase, Junkyard Dog, Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer, Bruiser Brody, and Austin Idol; needs the thoughts and prayers of the entire wrestling community as he is facing a spread of cancer that may well take his life.
Solie was scheduled to work the ill-fated "Heroes Of Wrestling" pay-per-view in October 1999, but fell ill. He subsequently underwent surgery for throat cancer and had his voice box removed in an attempt to save his life. Solie had also recently been working behind the scenes in Florida to help the NWA reestablish itself in the Sunshine State.
On May 11th, Solie resigned from his position as President of NWA Florida, due to citing he wanted to spend more quality time with his family. In the announcement, Solie said: "...Right now in my life, my family takes priority... I still love the wrestling business and I will always be there for Howard [Brody] when needed, but I need to spend more quality time with my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I've been in this business 50 years; the time has come for me to say goodbye to wrestling."
Unfortunately, Solie's stated reason was only partly true. In fact, Solie's resignation was due to rapidly deteriorating health.
On July 23rd, NWA President and NWA-Florida promoter Howard Brody sent out a press release stating:
"...In light of the recent internet reports concerning the health of Gordon Solie, I have been instructed by Gordon to confirm publicly that the rumors are in fact true. With this said, Gordon is currently drafting a statement that he wishes to make public within the next 72 hours.
For those of us who have been aware of Gordon's deteriorating condition since April, such as B. Brian Blair, Steve Keirn, Don Curtis, Jack Brisco, Lou Thesz, Wade Boggs and a handful of other selected individuals, we have protected this information from being publicly disseminated at Gordon's specific request.
However, in light of Steve Keirn's faux pas on Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer audio show made in a passing comment, there are certain issues that Gordon now wants to address publicly and has thus asked me to distribute this communiqué on his behalf.
On a personal level, Gordon Solie, who along with Hiro Matsuda, had been one of my mentors in the wrestling business. I am proud to say that he has been a very close friend of mine for the past 18 years and until May 11th, had been my business partner in NWA Florida, working behind the scenes to help our group lay the groundwork to revitalize the Florida territory.
Although we would never want to infringe on Gordon's personal life, in a way I am glad this information has accidentally been made public, as it gives Gordon's friends, colleagues and fans an opportunity to step forward and say 'goodbye....'."
I can tell you that I was fortunate enough to briefly meet Gordon Solie at the NWA 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1998. He had recently lost his wife, and one could hear the hoarseness in his voice that turned out to be the throat cancer that was to take away the most memorable voice of any wrestling commentator in my lifetime. Even with all that, the "Walter Cronkite of professional wrestling" was still incredibly gracious and didn't mind sharing a few stories and some memories of the old days.
But Pro Wrestling Daily webmaster and pro wrestling manager Shannon Rose tells a far more involved and touching story about the first time he met Solie:
".....I would like to now tell you a story about a 'frail' handicapped 13 year old. This young man was a mark like no other. He had posters all over his room of everyone from Hulk Hogan to Ric Flair. This story starts back in 1989 in Tampa, FL at a taping of Florida Championship Wrestling.
This young man walked into the studios unaware of who he would meet as in the past he watched mostly the WWF and some NWA. As he walked into the studios to be interviewed by reporters and whatnot from local TV stations, he walked past such names as a very young Scott Hall, the Nasty Boys, and others.
He walked past them to meet the one man that he heard so much about. It was the young man’s wish to meet this man who he respected, Gordon Solie. This young man had always wanted to meet a legend that he wanted to be one day....
The cameras flashed and the reporters asked questions. One thing that even a camera cannot capture was the caring that came from Gordon Solie and this was the first meeting between the two. Gordon walked over to the young man and gave him a hug as at the same time a tear rolled down his cheek.
This young man attended every taping after that even at the times that he was very ill. Gordon at times made mention of him on the shows and during promos. This continued till the young man got a chance to be part of the sport that he loved so much. It was at the famed Tampa Sportatorium where Gordon Solie asked him to write a weekly column for the program where he would even get paid.
This young man went onto the sport that he only dreamed of being a part of, as he was given the chance by Gordon Solie. This young man is now 25 year old Shannon Rose and I still have the first payday I have ever made in wrestling by Gordon Solie framed in my home."
Pro Wrestling Daily will be paying tribute to Gordon Solie soon. Howard Brody has also indicated that he will establish an e-mail address to send Solie the thoughts of wrestling fans. Currently, Pro Wrestling Daily has an email address set up for fans to share memories of Gordon Solie at email@example.com. Webmaster Shannon Rose will post those thoughts on his site in the coming days.
Gordon, to paraphrase your trademark line that you ended each and every Championship Wrestling from Florida show with...from all of us who love this unique form of entertainment called professional wrestling "So long, Gordon, from the Sunshine State of Florida...from the United States, and from those of us all over the world."
Then there is the somewhat happier story (at least for the moment) of 18 year old US independent wrestler, Jeff Peterson, who has been fighting a serious battle with lymphoma, a serious form of cancer.
Peterson works for his uncle Jim Kettner, promoter of the Delaware-based East Coast Wrestling Alliance, Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling, IPW-Hardcore Wrestling in Florida, and California's All-Pro Wrestling. He is a two time former IPW lightheavyweight champion.
He was trained by Lance "Simon" Diamond and Too Cold Scorpio at the ECWA Wrestletech wrestling school. Peterson wrestled two years in a row in the ECWA "Super Eight" tournament that many call US independent wrestling's version of the Super J-Cup, losing this year to archrival Jet Jaguar, but neither could continue after both suffered serious concussions.
Peterson has worked with such other independent mainstays as Reckless Youth, Christopher Daniels, Jimi V, Chan Hill, as well as Florida's OG Scarface and Frankie Capone.
Back in the April 21st AS I SEE IT, I told a story about Jeff:
"...My favorite thought on Jeff Peterson comes from one night last year at an ECWA show down at their homebase of St. Matthew's in Newport, Delaware. It was at the end of another of the traditional heel-babyface matches Kettner favors. As the end of this tag team match approached, my younger brother and I played armchair booker and tried to guess the finish. Then, one heel stood on the apron holding one of the babyfaces with his arms pinned waiting for the inevitable punch; so we said out loud 'rollup, or...'.
Immediately behind us, chirped this voice (in a carny stage whisper) 'sk-iz-ool-biz-oy', with a grin on his face. It was Peterson, who was back in the crowd being a fan, after he'd already worked earlier in the evening."
Jeff has been receiving chemotherapy for his lymphoma since April, and has had a difficult time of it. He was unable to make the Jeff Peterson Benefit Show organized by IPW-Hardcore Wrestling down in Florida on June 10th with talent appearing from IPW, Combat Zone Wrestling and other independents, as well as from World Championship Wrestling; due to feeling under the weather because of his chemotherapy.
Peterson's health did improve enough to allow him to make a surprise visit to the IPW locker room on July 15th, which then leads to the events of last week at the July 22nd ECWA house show at St. Matthew's in Wilmington, DE.
The ECWA has had a storyline over the last two shows with longtime promotion babyface Cheetah Master "expressing displeasure" toward ECWA promoter Jim Kettner involving another babyface in the promotion. But in the July 22nd show, Cheetah Master went after Kettner, claiming Kettner is "more interested in chasing his dream of working for the WWF (Kettner played the part of a autograph-seeking security guard on last Thursday's Smackdown) than keeping a relationship with his Delaware fans."
In the storyline, Cheetah Master calls for Kettner to move to a "higher level" to a bigger building, such as the Bob Carpenter Center (known locally as "the Bob") in Newark, DE, which has housed RAW tapings in the past. Kettner repeatedly refuses Cheetah Master's request to do this.
After the July 22nd main event, Cheetah Master renewed his call for the fans at St. Matthew's to demand that Jim bring ECWA to the larger Carpenter Center in November. The locker room emptied with the heels and face wrestlers and managers surrounding the ring and join in the chants of "To the Bob! To the Bob!"
Cheetah told Kettner that he was turning his back on the wrestlers and the fans by refusing their wishes to schedule a show at the Bob. "But," he continued, "there is one person that you wouldn't dare say 'no' to."
Then out came Jeff Peterson, who hadn't worked or even attended an ECWA show since his cancer diagnosis due to his health. Earlier in the week, Peterson decided that he felt well enough between treatments to come up from Florida to see the show.
The fans at St. Matthew's went absolutely wild, erupting in a prolonged chant of "Jeff! Jeff! Jeff!"
The dialogue (from the ECWA website at www.ecwaprowrestling.com) went as follows:
"CHEETAH: Will you take the wrestlers to the Bob in November?
CHEETAH: Will you take the fans to the Bob in November?
CHEETAH: Will you take Jeff Peterson to the Bob in November?
Peterson then took the mike, with a loud prolonged chant still going on for him...
"JEFF: Ever since I got into the business two years ago, my dream has been to walk the aisles at the Bob Carpenter Center.
KETTNER: Jeff, you *will* walk the aisles of the Bob Carpenter Center in November."
Needless to say, the crowd went nuts...
The ECWA website (http://www.ecwaprowrestling.com) lists a show at the Bob Carpenter Center on Saturday, November 25. One can reasonably assume that this show is being done with the World Wrestling Federation, given that Kevin Kelly has been working with the ECWA for the last several months in storyline as a heel manager "from the WWF" and behind the scenes to observe potential talent for the WWF developmental system in Ohio Valley Wrestling and Memphis Championship Wrestling.
I'll provide details on this November 25th show as I receive them.
Please keep Jeff in your prayers and thoughts as well. Hopefully, he's beaten cancer...and can have his dream of walking the aisle at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, DE.
And please don't forget Gordon...
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)