Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Up front: Risky business

dustySo there has been much talk in the state’s economic- development community about landing the “Big One.” Megasites are being prepared and global automakers wooed to bring a plant and thousands of jobs to the Old North State. That’s well and good, but it’s also time to focus on something that was once here and taken from us, many moons ago.

Some 30 years ago as a kid in acid-washed jeans running through Charlotte’s mean streets listening to Wang Chung, I kept my eyes peeled for local celebrities. Because it was the headquarters city of Jim Crockett Promotions, it was common to see the era’s finest professional wrestlers: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair stylin’ and profilin’ with the Four Horsemen at SouthPark mall; the Evil Russian, Nikita Koloff and his Uncle Ivan praying at breakfast at Shoney’s; Chief Wahoo McDaniel buying milk and eggs at Harris Teeter. It was a golden age as the gods walked among us between performances at the old Charlotte Coliseum, Greensboro Coliseum, Raleigh’s Dorton Arena and other venues.

Alas, as with many industries, corporate takeovers swallowed up the Crocketts’ family business. Turner Broadcasting took our stars to Atlanta, then later sold to Pinehurst native Vince McMahon’s WWF empire. Now called the WWE, a once-great Southern institution sadly is now con-trolled by Yankees. It’s time to take it back. Attention Ronnie Bryant, Bob Morgan, Chris Chung and other industry recruiters: Here’s my plan to bring back the wrestling industry.

Get a professional manager, er, consultant: I’d nominate Jim Cornette, Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart or Mr. Fuji. Famed strategists, they would plan a Great North State Wrestling Alliance. If things weren’t working out, someone would get whacked in the back with a folding chair when no one was watching.

Create a facility that trains wrestlers and monster-truck drivers. Tully Blanchard, Flair and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express could teach classes including “The Dos and Don’ts of a Texas Death Match,” “Folding-Chair Bashing 101,” and “Razor-Blade-to-the-Forehead Etiquette.”

Supply chain: Suppliers would include Spandex manufacturers, auto-parts businesses, and, of course, some sort of pharmaceutical entity.

Location, location: The facility would be on the former Eastland Mall site in east Charlotte, an area ripe for redevelopment. The former home of Jeans West, Shah Safari and Spencer’s could be a thriving entertainment factory for a new generation of rednecks.

Free trade: Create an agreement to allow Mexico’s wrestlers of the Lucha Libre to work on a special visa. We’ll hire Rey Mysterio Jr. as a consultant.

A real hall of fame: Finally, we need a place to honor the sport’s true greats. First to be inducted will be the late Dusty Rhodes, the plumber’s son known as “The American Dream.” A true American success story, he famously said, “I’ve dined with kings and queens and slept in alleys … eating pork and beans.”

Let’s get started bringing back wrasslin’ to where it belongs. How about it, Governor McCrory? Don’t make me call you Governor Chicken! As Dusty would say, “It’s risky business.”

Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney is publisher of Business North Carolina magazine. You can reach him at

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