“They were in many notable feuds over the years, but the ones involving the Kentuckians and the team of Ray Gunkel and Buddy Fuller were arguably the most brutal.”
“Renesto and Hamilton, as The Bolos, set a number of attendance records in the Carolinas-Virginia area during the early ’60s. Six-man matches with The Missouri Mauler against The Kentuckians and Haystacks Calhoun established attendance records in such venues as the Charlotte Coliseum, Dorton Arena in Raleigh and the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. Renesto and Hamilton also set attendance marks throughout the territory for tag-team matches against The Kentuckians and Johnny Weaver and Haystacks Calhoun. Those attendance records are still unbroken at the Charlotte Coliseum and Dorton Arena.”
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legacy
The Ties That Bind
by Mike Cline
My maternal Grandfather was a bit of a wayfarer throughout his life. He would pop in to see us maybe once a year, then disappear again. But for whatever reason, during 1958 and 1961, he came and stayed, and stayed, and stayed. Besides having to share my bedroom with him in our small house (don’t get any ideas—twin beds), his being there didn’t cause me any great hardships, except for his snoring.
One really great thing to come out of this extended “visit” was his getting me hooked on “rasslin'”. Yep, every Saturday afternoon, he and I would plop down on the couch in the den and turn on our only TV set to one of our three channels and watch WBTV’s CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING with Big Bill Ward.
My earliest memories of wrestling was my Grandpa Frank screaming at the antics of The Great Bolo, The Von Brauners, and Larry “Crusher” Hamilton (later The Missouri Mauler). Then, later, when Rip “The Profile” Hawk came to Jim Crockett’s wrestling empire, even though Rip was a heel like Bolo, for some reason, Grandpa would laugh hysterically at the antics of the “Ripper”. Then, when Rip started teaming with the late Swede Hanson, Frank would laugh at him as well. Don’t get me wrong…he would also cuss out “The Blonde Bombers”, but he did it while laughing. Maybe it was because the WBTV-Charlotte wrestling show had established a policy of introducing these guys as Rip “The Profile” Hawk and Swede “Big Foot” Hansen. Instead of showing a head shot of Swede when he was introduced, the camera would show only his feet. And when Rip would step up to the camera for a close-up of his profile, the image would be turned upside down. Rip would then throw a tantrum.
Later around 1960-61, the big event promoted heavily by Mr. Crockett was a big holiday card (which holiday, I can’t recall) to be held at the “Big Dome”, the Charlotte Coliseum on Independence Boulevard. The main event was to be an “anything goes fight-to-the-finish match” between babyfaces The Kentuckians—Tiny Anderson (actually Grizzly Smith, father of Jake Roberts) and Big Boy Brown and their opponents—The Great Bolo and Bolo (Tom Renesto and Jody Hamilton). These two teams had been going at it for weeks, each trying to destroy one another, with the hillbillies, of course, trying to pull off the Bolo hoods. I remember one Saturday afternoon, promoting this big card, one of the Kentuckians had one of the Bolo masks pulled up to the guy’s nose. Big Bill is screaming, “He’s got the mask almost off. We’re going to finally see who the Bolo is! Oh no—we’re out of time. See you next Saturday.” The TV screen then went to an immediate fade. It was the equivilent of premature withdrawal during coitus. The next week, the men from the Blue Grass State were back stating that if you come to the Charlotte Coliseum this coming week, we promise that we will unmask both of the Bolos. That was enough for me—I had to go. One problem—I was in the fifth or sixth grade, and the wrestling show was on a Monday night—a school night. “No way,” said my Mom, who was backed up by my Dad. “But your Grandpa is going with his friend Glen. He can tell you what happened Tuesday morning at breakfast before you go to school.” That would have to do.
The following Tuesday morning, I rushed to the breakfast table for my wrestling report, only to learn that my Grandfather had already left the house to go do whatever. “You can talk to him at supper,” Mom said. Gosh–an already endless day at school actually got longer. But the evening meal finally arrived, and I asked Grandpa what happened? “Did they unmask the Bolos? What did they look like? Who are they?”
“You know,” he said, “the Kentuckians pulled just about every piece of clothing the Bolos had on, except their trunks AND their masks. They ripped the Bolos’ shirts off, they tore their tights, even took off one of the Bolo’s boots. And just as they were going to take off the masks, one of those ?$@^(^%* hit the Kentuckian with a hunk of metal and pinned him.”
“But George Becker won his match.”
Who cared about George Becker? I wanted to know who the Bolos were. They terrorized Carolina wrestling for what seemed like forever. They beat everybody. And they never did get unmasked. Eventually, they headed further south, down Georgia way, and changed their name to the Assassins. The only person who ever unmasked Tom Renesto was Tom Renesto, when he decided to retire as an active wrestling to keep book for, I believe, Ann Gunkel’s promotion, leaving Jody Hamilton to continue the Assassins careers with a series of different Assassin partners (including Hercules Hernandez). I don’t believe Jody was ever exposed (mask-wise anyway) in the ring.
Well…Assassin Renesto, the big Swede, and Grandpa Frank are no longer with us, and you know…in different ways, I miss them all.
I also miss the “old school” days of wrestling. I realize that things have to change, but it isn’t always a change for the better.
And when professional wrestling formally came out of the closet, it really changed everything. Next time, I’ll write about how I found out that all about wrestling wasn’t what it seemed.
– Mike Cline
© Mike Cline