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1977 - 1980: The Lost Years

 - Mike Calloway

Why this particular title for this month's installment you ask? Just wait, as you too will be scratching the top of your head after reading.

It all started in 1977. Gulf Coast Wrestling had folded up shop, and there was no local TV wrestling nor house shows happening at the Farm Center. Things, however, were about to change. A new wrestling promotion was set to air on WTVY, the home of TV wrestling for many years in Dothan. Southeastern Championship Wrestling from Knoxville, Tennessee hit the airwaves. This promotion wasn't exactly new though, as it had been running since 1974 in the East Tennessee area. Les Thatcher was the host of the program, and the stars of the promotion were the likes not seen in Dothan in a long time. Ron Fuller, Bob Armstrong, Mongolian Stomper w/ Gorgeous George Jr., Jerry Blackwell, Bob Orton Jr., Bob Roop, Ron Garvin, David Shultz, Eddie Mansfield, Mike Stallings, the Masked Assassins w/ Rip Tyler were just a few of the names. After a few weeks of TV to hype things up, Southeastern finally invaded the Houston Co. Farm Center by the fall of '77.

I hope you're still with me so far… this is where it gets very interesting. With a few successful house shows under their belt, it came time to crown a champion. The TV was still being done in Knoxville, with tape delay in Dothan on Saturday afternoon for the Friday night Farm Center shows. Slowly, highlights from the Dothan Farm Center began appearing on the Knoxville TV, with Les Thatcher calling Dothan the Southeastern Southern Division, and Knoxville the Southeastern Northern Division. Bob Armstrong was the first Southeastern Southern Division Heavyweight Champion, winning in a tournament final over David Shultz. Finally, after a couple of months of TV and house shows, the inevitable happened and Dothan TV began being filmed at the studios of WTVY, former home of Gulf Coast. Mr. Thatcher and Gordon Solie were brought in as the host for the program. So now, Southeastern had two completely different TV shows, one for the Tennessee area, one for the Dothan - Mobile - Pensacola area, each with its own set of champions, belts, and feuds, but workers who would bounce back and forth between the two separate divisions. Once the Dothan TV tapings began, no mention was made again of the Knoxville end of the territory, with Fuller finally being out of the Knoxville scene by 1980 as that end went through several ownership changes and some name changes by that same year.  More...

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