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The Heydays Of Wrestling On TV

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This week’s blog was spurred by an appointment today with someone I have not seen in 30 years but that brought back fond memories of an era gone by.

Wrestling matches on TV go back over 50 years. KRLD-TV (now KDFW FOX 4) was one of the early ones to carry local wrestling on Saturday afternoons (long before we had the SEC On CBS and all of the PGA golf events). Bill Mercer was the announcer for local DFW wrestling shows. Nobody knew the sport better than Bill. When I returned to Dallas in 1984 to be the program director for KXTX Channel 39, they aired World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) Sunday mornings at 11am. KXTX produced it and Bill was the announcer.

Now to me, that seemed a bit odd for a station owned by a Southern Baptist preacher from Virginia Beach VA named Pat Robertson. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t he want us to be airing a church service at that time?” CBN programming standards were strange. Violence was OK but air a show like Cheers or Twilight Zone that depicted drinking of alcohol or giving time to the occult? You would be fired! But no, not with wrestling! Pat was perfectly content to allow this because for one hour of the week, KXTX had more viewers than at any other time in its weekly schedule, regularly out-rated all other stations in town, reaching over 100,000 viewers each week, and charged higher advertising rates in that time than anyone else. Jack Addkisson, known more as Fritz Von Erich, owned the show and each week his sons wrestled the bad guys of the sport and always won. At the same, Fritz had a 2-hour show on Saturday night from 10pm-12mn on KTVT when it was an independent called Championship Sports. It too was the #1 show in the time period among all stations and one of KTVT’s highest rated weekend shows.

Back in the 1980’s several stations had wrestling like WWE Wrestling and other “garden variety“ ones. But WCCW was the granddaddy of all. Nobody put on a better show than the Von Erichs. And it wasn’t just the matches, it was the drama, the soap opera effect, that was created that kept the viewers going. You knew that either David, Kevin or Kerry Von Erich would keep us safe from the bad guys!

In real life, the family suffered many tragedies. They lost a young child early on who was electrocuted. David passed away in 1984 of a rare illness that he contracted while in Japan wrestling. Kerry later passed away. And both Fritz and his wife Doris have passed on well. My late Dad knew him as they were both on the Board Of Directors of the old Republic National Bank of Dallas. Fritz was a tough negotiator when making deals. I saw that first hand in 1985 when he was dealing with ESPN to take his show there. Those ESPN program executives were no match for Fritz!

Today, wrestling is confined more to cable but its heyday on local TV was the 80’s! And DFW loved the Von Erichs!

See you next time.

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