The History of Continental Championship Wrestling, part 1

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) — Wrestling entertainment has become a multi-million dollar business, and has made wrestlers international superstars.

It's come a long way since the 1970s when there were wrestling territories all over the country, and wrestling entertainment only got air-time on local TV.

One of the biggest territories was right here in the tri state area, home to Continental Championship Wrestling, and you could watch it every Saturday night on WTVY.

Ron Fuller says, "Probably the best small wrestling territory in the world."

With over a half a century of history, wrestling in the Wiregrass goes back, way back to the 1950s.

Dennis Gale says, "This stuff that’s on TV now, it's not wrestling."

"Cowboy” Dennis Gale says the WWE up north was more about entertainment, but the southern crowds wanted real wrestling.

Gale says, "I can put a wrestling hold on you, and you tell me if wrestling's fake."

And that's what he and other wrestlers gave them.

Ron Fuller known in the wrestling world as “The Tennessee Stud” bought Southeastern Wrestling in 1978, his dad owned Gulf Coast Wrestling. The two were combined, creating Continental Championship Wrestling, CCW.

Life was good, business was booming, especially in Dothan, Alabama where a Wiregrass TV personality got his start, Charlie Platt.

Platt says, "Dothan had a magic about it."

Fuller says, "It was an extremely enthusiastic fan base. You could tell that this was a great wrestling city and it wasn't uncommon to work 8 days a week, literally like the old Beatles song."

Platt added, "Birmingham on Monday, Mobile on Tuesday, Thursday was Panama City, Friday was Mississippi, Saturday was Dothan, Sunday we would wrestle in Pensacola. You didn't let the fans down because the fans were the most important aspect of the business and the guys knew that."

Television came along in the 60s, and helped CCW gain popularity all over the tri-state area.

Platt says, "Dothan was kind of an entity all its own because of the influence of a heavy TV station, WTVY. They covered a big area, parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida."

CCW aired every Saturday night on Your Hometown Newsleader.

Platt says, "In the 60s and 70s, 5pm came, you were in front of the TV."

Gale says, "You're talking about filling this farm center up, every cotton picking Saturday night."

The Houston County Farm Center.

Platt says, "We had 5000 people, 4 times a month. We were drawing just as many people as they were in the big cities."

Fuller says, "I used to get goosebumps in the ring, and I'd get them in this building. You'd have thought the fans were going to shake the roof off."

Platt says, “On any given Saturday night, you had a better chance of getting a good pay off in Dothan, then you did in some of the major cities.”

And they packed them in, week after week.

Platt says, "It was fun, wouldn't change a thing"

They thought it would never end.

Thursday we'll have the story of how CCW came to an end and how wrestling is making a comeback in the Wiregrass area.

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