Tribute To Henry Marcus

Charleston Post and Courier – May 24, 1998
By Mike Mooneyham

Downtown Charleston may be filled with the sights and sounds of Spoleto, but next weekend at 1000 King Street, professional wrestling will be the order of the day.

The King Street Palace, site of the former County Hall, will be the stage for the biggest pro wrestling reunion ever held in this area. “The Night the Legends Return: A Tribute to Henry Marcus” will be a long-overdue tip of the hat to one of the sport’s great promoters, along with a recognition of the past stars of the Mid-Atlantic area.

Sponsored by Low Country Wrestling, the weekend events will feature a “meet and greet” session with the legends from 1-4 p.m. and an awards show beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Several matches will be included on the evening program, but they will simply provide a backdrop for a ceremony honoring some of the sport’s legendary performers.

Adding a special touch to the weekend is that the two major activities will be held at the King Street Palace – the building once known as County Hall where thousands of fans made their weekly pilgrimage every Friday night. Wrestling is one of the most colorful of all professions, and many of its legendary characters have graced the hallowed hall at which some of those same performers from the past will gather to relive memories of a tradition-rich sport that, like a fine wine, only grows better with age.

For nostalgia lovers and followers of the glory days of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, it’s a must-see event. And even for fans who believe wrestling started with the Hulk Hogan era, it will provide a refreshing look at the past and the stars who paved the way and laid the groundwork for the Hulk Hogans, Steve Austins and Stings of today.

The event holds even greater significance for many of the honorees themselves. Many who traveled the road together and teamed up have not seen each other in years.

Two decades have passed since Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, one of the greatest teams in wrestling history, have been together in the same ring. George and Sandy Scott, a team which Hawk and Hanson encountered in many a bloodbath during the ’60s and ’70s, will join their old rivals in that same ring on Saturday.

It’s been even longer since the paths of Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny “The Champ” Valentine have crossed, but the memories of their torrid feud remains fresh in the minds of many longtime wrestling fans. Some of the greats of the Mid-Atlantic era have since passed on. The list includes names like Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard, Aldo Bogni, Homer O’Dell, Haystacks Calhoun, Gene Anderson, Rufus R. Jones, Billy and Jimmy Hines (The Masked Red Demons), Luther Lindsay, J.C. Dykes, Jimmy “Rocky” Smith (The Inferno), Larry “Missouri Mauler” Hamilton, Boris “The Great” Malenko, Luke “Big Boy” Brown, Dick Murdoch and, sadly, others too numerous to mention. Many stars shaped their careers here.

George Scott, who was booking the Carolinas for the late Jim Crockett Sr., brought in two youngsters fresh out of Verne’s Gagne’s Minnesota wrestling camp during the early ’70s – Richard Fliehr and Richard Blood. Blood, an amateur standout out of Tampa, would be billed as Ricky Steamboat – “nephew” of Sam Steamboat, an area favorite who at the time teamed with Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods). Fliehr was brought in as “nephew” and protege of Rip Hawk and was billed as “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, a ’70s version of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers.

Shortly thereafter Flair would join with the infamous “Minnesota Wrecking Crew” (Gene, Lars and Ole Anderson) as their cousin from Minnesota, setting the stage for the ’80s formation of the original Four Horsemen – Flair, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard.

The rest, as they say, is history. And much of it was shaped right here in Charleston, under the Jim Crockett territorial banner and the local promotion of Henry Marcus.

A little-known fact is that Arn Anderson, some years before before the formation of the Horsemen, enjoyed some of his fondest memories as young Marty Lunde growing up in Rome, Ga., hurling insults and objects at those same Anderson Brothers at the local wrestling shows. A number of surprise guests also have made plans to attend the festivities and pay tribute to a man who promoted wrestling for nearly half a century.

LEGEND NOTES

Promoter Henry Marcus turned 87 last Thursday…Referees for the evening matches will range from Tommy Young, longtime NWA senior official who presided over some of Ric Flair’s greatest matches during the ’70s and ’80s, and Ron West, a popular NWA official in the Carolinas, Georgia and Mid-South area, to present-day refs Charles Robinson and Mark Curtis (Brian Hildebrand)…Commemorative T-shirts will be available at the afternoon event…Radio station 98 Rock, which will be airing updates on the show throughout the week, will do a live remote from the King Street Palace noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday.

One of the honorees, Burrhead Jones, is a Moncks Corner native whose infamous TV angle with Black Jack Mulligan in the mid-’70s ranks as one of the most memorable in Mid-Atlantic history. Burrhead, cousin of the late Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones, suffered a lopsided thrashing at the hands of Mulligan that led to Rufus’ crown (he billed himself as the “king of wrestling” after being presented a crown by Greensboro fans) being stomped to pieces at the hands of Gene and Ole Anderson, Flair and Mulligan.

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