By Mike Mooneyham

Oct. 31, 2004

It’s been a long time since a Flair and a Steamboat have graced the same ring. It’s been even longer since a pro wrestling event was held at the Spindale House. But on Friday night, Nov. 12, pro wrestling will make its first appearance in 23 years at the storied North Carolina building when David Flair, oldest son of pro wrestling’s legendary performer, squares off with longtime “Nature Boy” rival and partner Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in the main event of a New Generation Wrestling show. Ricky Steamboat, with whom the elder Flair engaged in one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the business, will be special referee.

To top off the evening, Tully Blanchard, one of the original Four Horsemen, will make a special appearance. Veteran Les Thatcher, whose 40-year career has spanned nearly every facet of the wrestling business, will serve as master of ceremonies.

“Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez, a headliner in the Mid-Atlantic area during the mid-’80s, will work with George South in a featured match on the seven-bout card. Fernandez has battled liver cancer in recent years and needs a transplant, according to promoter Matt Holder.

Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat

Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat

“He’s OK right now, but they want him to get a transplant,” said Holder. “He’s totally against the transplant because he says there’s a kid out there who deserves it more. Manny’s got his own ideas on it, but he’s really become a changed man.”

Holder also has been impressed with the 50-year-old, now gray-haired Blanchard, who has worked in prison ministry for the past decade in addition to occasional wrestling stints.

“He’s going to dye his hair, he’s been in a tanning bed and he’s been hitting the gym hard every day,” said Holder. “He really is in great shape.”

The Spindale House, which was built in the early 1900s, was a regular stop for Jim Crockett Promotions during the ’60s and ’70s. Although a small venue in comparison to other Mid-Atlantic mainstays like Greenville Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, Charlotte’s Park Center and the Richmond Coliseum, it was nonetheless a staple of the wrestling-rich territory.

“The Spindale House was a hot spot for wrestling. I remember wrestling there in that smoke-filled building when it was standing room only,” recalled Thatcher.

The building’s last wrestling show was June 5, 1981. A riot during the main event between Paul Jones and Roddy Piper that night permanently closed the venue to wrestling.

“By the time the main event rolled around and Piper came out, some of the diehard fans had had enough of the loud-mouthed Piper. In fact, they were ready to lynch him,” recalled Holder. “Tempers began to flare and Piper couldn’t control his tongue, and the next thing you know, the Spindale House was home to its first full-blown riot.”

According to Holder, a couple officers were badly injured during the melee. The son of a former sheriff later took over the building and refused to allow wrestling back in, said Holder.

“It was a history-making moment for wrestling, but also a sad moment for the town of Spindale. For that night was the last night most fans in attendance would ever see real professional wrestling in their town again. It was truly an unfortunate end to a great wrestling era.”

Holder hopes to change that and even has plans of running regularly in nearby Shelby.

The Shelby Rec Center, another former stop on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, was built in 1941 and is currently undergoing a facelift. A show there on Dec. 11, pending completion of renovations, will feature The Anderson Brothers Classic that includes such teams as The Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie) and The Super Destroyer, Bob and Brad Armstrong, George South and David Flair, Cruel Connection No. 1 and Thunderfoot No. 2, and Exodus Wrestling Alliance tag-team champs Jason Jones and Mike Lee. Ole Anderson and Mrs. Gene Anderson will present a trophy to the winning team. Brad Armstrong, Gene’s son, will represent his father during the dedication ceremonies. Bob Caudle, the legendary voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, will serve as MC.

Blanchard will join Steamboat and Thatcher of Elite Pro Wrestling Training for a three-day training camp Nov. 12-14 in Spindale. The staff will train athletes in two rings all three days. The camp, also sponsored by New Generation Wrestling, is open to beginners through experienced independent wrestlers.

For more information on the Spindale show or the training seminar, call (828) 286-4319 or e-mail [email protected]

Proceeds from the Spindale House event will go to The Exodus Foundation, a charitable organization that provides assistance to drug and alcohol addicts and their families with a focus on spiritual help, practical assistance, love, and care to the participants and families. Officers of the Rutherfordton-based foundation are Joe Blanchard, chairman and chief executive officer; Tully Blanchard, founder and president; Matt and Andrea Holder, co-directors.

– The Smackdown event that was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 27, at the North Charleston Coliseum has been moved to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28. All tickets purchased for the Nov. 27 show will be honored on the new date.

– “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, who has been battling throat cancer and underwent removal of his voice box last month, is recovering following a recent 10-hour surgery. Williams underwent the procedure to close a hole in his throat. The surgery was done in hopes that Williams would eventually be able to speak again.

Williams, who will be unable to eat solid food for about two months, was released from the hospital last week.

– Longtime wrestling announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund recently underwent a second kidney transplant and is recovering at home.

– Edge (Adam Copeland) missed last week’s Raw due to his wedding several days earlier. He previously was married to the sister of WWE performer Val Venis (Sean Morely).

– Vince McMahon also missed last week’s Raw due to surgery related to diverticulitis, an internal infection which forced him to sit out the Great American Bash in June, the first time in more than a decade he has missed a PPV. McMahon, however, was in constant contact over the phone with daughter Stephanie McMahon for Raw on Monday. Triple H was said to have basically run the show.

– Triple H (Paul Levesque) joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone at this weekend’s Mr. Olympia weekend, the so-called Super Bowl of Bodybuilding, at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Triple H, who has been featured on the covers of the world’s leading bodybuilding magazines, Muscle & Fitness and Flex, served as special guest host at the event.

– Ashley Fliehr, the youngest daughter of Ric Flair, has led her Providence High School volleyball team in Charlotte to a 30-2 record so far this season. The 5-10 senior, who has committed to Appalachian State, has sparked the 4A squad to a 95.9 winning percentage over the past three years, including a 35-2 mark in 2003 and a 34-1 record in 2002.

– Bill Diehl, Charlotte’s most recognized attorney, threw his 60th party for more than 600 of his friends, enemies and clients on a recent weekend in the Queen City. According to The Charlotte Observer, it was “one of the wildest rock ‘n’ roll parties this town has ever seen.” And, of course, it wouldn’t have been a party without the styling, profiling “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

“The review is this,” Diehl told The Observer. “I have never been to a party like that, and won’t go to a party like that again. It will be a memory bead for a lifetime.” Diehl’s rock ‘n’ roll show featured the band “World Class Rockers” with members from Toto, Journey, Steppenwolf and The Eagles.

An unnamed Charleston attorney wrote Diehl the following e-mail: “I enjoyed spending a few moments in a time warp with former hippies. Where else could I see Muggsy Bogues, Dick Harpootlian and Ric Flair in the same room?”

– Four matches are tentatively scheduled for the upcoming Survivor Series pay-per-view. They are: Booker T vs. WWE champ John Bradshaw Layfield; Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and Big Show vs. Kurt Angle, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak and a yet-to-be-named partner in an elimination match; The Undertaker vs. John Heidenreich; and a War Games-style eight-man match with Triple H, Ric Flair, Batista and Edge vs. Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Maven.

– Ric Flair and some business partners plan to open a bar/restaurant in uptown Charlotte next year.

– TNA’s Victory Road pay-per-view Nov. 7 is shaping up as follows: Jeff Hardy (with Kevin Nash) vs. NWA champ Jeff Jarrett (with Scott Hall) in a ladder match; 3 Live Kru vs. Team Canada in an NWA tag-team title match; AJ Styles vs. TNA X-Division champ Petey Williams; a 20-man, X-Division gauntlet match; Mascarita Sagrada vs. Piratita Morgan in a minis match; Raven vs. Abyss vs. Monty Brown; Christopher Daniels and Primetime vs. America’s Most Wanted in a last man standing match. Also featured will be an “In the Pit with Piper” segment with Roddy Piper. Fans will get to vote whether Vince Russo or Dusty Rhodes gets to become the Director of Authority.

– James Laurinaitis, a 6-3, 235-pound linebacker from Wayzata, Minn., and the son of (Road Warrior Animal) Joe Laurinaitis, has committed to play football at the University of Minnesota.

Laurinaitis is one of the top candidates for the Mr. Football of Minnesota award. He has been heavily recruited by Minnesota, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Ohio State among others. He has had 114 tackles, five sacks and forced five fumbles in eight regular-season games. He also plays offense and contributed a 30-yard touchdown reception in a recent victory.

– Jesse White, oldest son of Leon White (Vader), has committed to the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship. The 6-2, 295-pounder, who runs a 4.79 40-yard dash and does a 465-pound bench press, is rated as one of the top centers in the country.

White had earlier committed to UCLA. His father said the withdrawal came because UCLA does not have an undergraduate business school. Leon White was a college standout at the University of Colorado during the ’70s and played briefly for the Los Angeles Rams before an injury ended his pro career.