By Mike Mooneyham
Feb. 20, 2005
“So long from the Sunshine State.”
With that famous signoff, legendary announcer Gordon Solie bade farewell to thousands of devoted wrestling fans each week for decades. On July 27, 2000, the wrestling world said its own goodbye to the man universally regarded as that generation’s great communicator.
While the inimitable play-by-play man may no longer be with us, his legacy lives on, as evidenced by a beautifully illustrated homage affectionately compiled by his daughter and son-in-law. Titled “Gordon Solie … Something Left Behind,” the recently released volume offers a glimpse into the life of the dean of wrestling announcers.
Readers should be forewarned, though, that if they’re looking for an exhaustive biographical treatment or a tell-all on the wrestling business, this book isn’t it. But if you’re a fan of professional wrestling – especially a longtime fan who appreciates nostalgia – this book will take you on a visual journey back through the “good old days.”The 224-page hardcover volume is chock-full of quality photographs, many from Solie’s personal collection and others taken by top photographers of the day. The pictures are accompanied by never-before-published personal writings by Solie, including the beginning of a screenplay and various short stories.
The book also contains a number of revealing and provocative poems and passages penned by Solie who, quite naturally, had ambitions of writing his own book before his death at the age of 71. For authors Bob and Pamela Allyn, the undertaking was a true labor of love.
“Bob and I perused my dad’s writings, remembering that he said I would know what to do with them,” says Pam Allyn. “After reading several pieces, Bob and I looked at each other and said, ‘These are really good!’ That was the beginning of a three-year labor of love. We selected some short stories and prose to appear in the book along with over 180 images woven throughout the text.”
According to Bob Allyn, one of the main objectives of the book was to pay tribute to not only his father-in-law, but also to the athletes and fans who shared moments with the broadcaster. “By doing so, we hoped to let the world gain more insight into the dean of wrestling announcers.”
In addition to being pro wrestling’s preeminent announcer, Solie won awards for his radio broadcast editorials and was acclaimed as one of the pioneers of stock car racing on Florida’s Suncoast.
But it was wrestling and his unmistakable voice, which he once described as “sixteen pounds of gravel” (the result of a steady diet of vodka and Benson and Hedges), that endeared Gordon Solie to fans nationwide. His graphic commentary was a fixture of Florida wrestling for three decades, and he also was the voice of Georgia Championship Wrestling during its long run on the Ted Turner-owned cable Superstation WTBS.
Solie single-handedly put words and catch-phrases into the pro wrestling lexicon. In addition to lending an air of athletic legitimacy to the staged mayhem, the innovative broadcaster helped convey an up-close and personal image to television viewers. When a wrestler bled, his battered face was colorfully described as a “crimson mask.” There also were pier-six brawls, high, vertical suplexes (pronounced soo-plays) and wrestlers applying pressure to one another’s prefrontal lobes (Solie actually took courses and studied medical books to give wrestling fans a weekly anatomy lesson along with their wrestling matches).
My favorite Solie line probably went unnoticed by most fans who at the time had been turned off by a fairly unimpressive WCW product. The man who put wrestling on the map on TBS had been unceremoniously dropped by the organization after “philosophical differences” with then-WCW executive vice president Eric Bischoff. It was Solie’s last show with the company, a Saturday morning edition of WCW Pro, with colleagues Dusty Rhodes and Larry Zbyszko. No attempt was made to promote his farewell appearance, but Gordon got in the last shot.
Responding to a typically sloppy match on that final Saturday, “the dean” deadpanned to Zbyszko, “And they wonder why I’m leaving?”
Allyn doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that Solie’s enthusiasm with the rapidly changing wrestling business had waned during his final years.
“His admiration of the athletes and fans remained the constant, but he didn’t care for the new corporate roles for himself or the athletes. For years, he went to the microphone with a few notes on a wrestling program and later in his career, he was handed a script. He was concerned about the health risks the wrestlers faced with more gymnastics and spectacular feats expected of them. Although Gordon was no prude, he believed many of the sexual themes appearing on televised professional wrestling should be saved for behind closed doors.
“On the positive side, Gordon was impressed with the improvement in the production of televised wrestling, be it sound, lighting, picture quality or special effects. He was also pleased with the viewing audience when Raw and Nitro were having their famous ratings wars. Gordon realized that regardless of which show people were watching, the combined number of people viewing televised pro wrestling increased, and that was a good trend for the industry.”
“Gordon Solie … Something Left Behind”, with a retail price of $19.95, can be ordered at www.floridabookstore.com or by calling Florida Media Inc. at (407) 816-9596.
– Christy Hemme, winner of WWE’s Raw Diva Search, will be featured in Playboy’s April issue. The 23-year-old redhead also has been appearing in several infomercials for a new line of Girls Gone Wild-type videos and appears in at least one of the videos. She has appeared as a “Juggy” on “The Man Show,” an MTV video dancer, a “Harley Girl” and a member of the New York Euphoria of the Lingerie Football League.
– Vince Russo is promoting a Christian-themed wrestling show tonight at the Covenant Life Worship Center in Chickamauga, Ga. The event, titled “Glory: This Time We’re Giving It, Not Taking It,” will feature TNA stars Jeff Jarrett, Abyss, Elix Skipper, Chris Harris, Terry Taylor, Disco Inferno and others. “Sinister Minister” Jim Mitchell will appear in the role of the devil. The show is free of charge.
– John Layfield and Fox News personality and stock analyst Meredith Whitney tied the knot last weekend in Key West, Fla. The Rev. Lavelle Layfield, a minister of the Church of Christ and JBL’s father, officiated.
Whitney, 35, is an executive director of CIBC World Markets, part of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada, and works in New York, where she analyzes the stocks of financial institutions. She appears regularly on Fox News program “Cavuto on Business.”
The bride and bridegroom met in 2003 when they were panelists on “Bulls & Bears,” a Fox News program, and were seated next to each other at dinner afterward. Layfield had just published “Have More Money Now: A Common Sense Approach to Financial Management.” A week after their initial meeting, the couple went out. They enjoyed talking so much they lingered over dinner for hours.
“After that I called her about 25 times a day,” Layfield, 38, told the New York Times. “Meredith came along at a time in my life when I really needed somebody badly. She took a country boy like me and kind of refined me. I know what fork to use now at the dinner table, and I drink my beer from a glass.”