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Former wrestling announcer's life chronicled by family

POSTED: October 15, 2009 8:56 a.m.
By Gene Gordon/For The Times

Gordon Solie and Tommy Rich on the set of Georgia Championship Wrestling

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Standing in between World Championship Wrestling stars Tony Atlas and Ric Flair, wrestling announcer Gordon Solie listened.

He knew what was about to happen, but you’d never know it.

After Atlas struck Flair in the face, starting another of the WCW’s staged fracases, Solie pleaded with Flair, “Please Mr. Flair, let’s not have anymore,” before shoving the microphone back in the wrestler’s face to let him continue ranting; ramping up the upcoming match with Atlas.

With subtlety and professionalism, Solie, who came to be known as the “Dean” of wrestling announcers, did nothing short of make the staged mayhem that was professional wrestling seem like a legitimate athletic competition.

“Other announcers at the time treated wrestling like a comedy act,” Solie said during his final media interview before passing away from cancer in 2000. “When I got the job, I went to (my boss) Cowboy Luttrall and asked him how he wanted me to handle it. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘It’s like your paycheck. Treat it very seriously.’ That’s what I did ever since.”

And now, Solie’s life has been chronicled in a book written by his son-in-law and Clermont resident Robert Allyn and co-written by his daughter, Pamela Solie Allyn, and Scott Teal entitled “The Solie Chronicles.”

“When Gordon became ill, he left all of his writings to Pam,” Robert Allyn said. “(The book was written) because of my promise to a dying man, but also because talking to people, one of the statements that hit us early was that his story was one that needed to be told.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1929, Solie broke into the wrestling business as a ring announcer in Tampa in 1950. Ten years later, he started announcing the Championship Wrestling from Florida television show that aired in the state every Saturday from 1960-87.

According to Robert Allyn, at the peak of popularity in 1976, Solie had 5,000,000 people a week watching him on Championship Wrestling from Florida and by the early 1980s, 10,000,000 people a week saw Solie on the two combined WTBS programs; Georgia Championship Wrestling on Saturday night and The Best of Championship Wrestling on Sundays.

Solie called the matches of wrestlers such as Jack Brisco, The Great Malenko, Handsome Harley Race and Nature Boy Ric Flair. When Championship Wrestling from Florida folded in 1987, he went to work two years later for Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling until 1993.

In the mid-90s, he announced matches via satellite, his commentary translated into six languages and beamed out to Europe, India, Africa and Japan by Eurosport, Europe’s counterpart to ESPN.

Over the course of his illustrious career, which included numerous awards such as an induction into the WCW Hall of Fame in 1995 and posthumous inductions into the National Wrestling Alliance (2005) and Professional Wrestling (2004) hall of fames, Solie took notes in the hopes of one day writing a book.

On napkins and torn pieces of paper, Solie wrote stories about his life in wrestling. He kept newspaper articles and even went so far as to outline what he wanted to be an autobiography.

“When we started this project eight years ago, all we had were files,” Pamela Solie Allyn said. “It was like stepping into a puzzle that, somehow, we had to piece back together.”

What came of putting the puzzle back together was that Solie was as great an announcer as he was because he was an even better salesman.

According to Robert, Jody Hamilton — better known in the wrestling world as “The Assasin” — once said that Solie was the best announcer, “because he knew more about his product than anyone around.”

Solie loved words and took great pride in using those words to convey his product, which at the time was professional wrestling.
When a wrestler was bleeding, Solie said that his face was, “becoming a crimson mask.”

When a wrestler was stealthy, Solie would describe him saying, “he’s not fast, he’s sudden.”

The announcer chose his words and descriptions carefully because he was trying to reach out to the mainstream. He wanted golf fans, tennis fans, football fans and basketball fans to be wrestling fans.

“Everything he said, everything he did was on purpose,” Pamela said.

And when he described to viewers the pain being inflicted from wrestler to wrestler, it was because he ensured that exact pain was inflicted on him in an effort to paint a true-to-life picture.

“He jumped in the ring with Eddie Graham and asked him to show him a few of the holds,” Robert said. “Afterwards, (Solie) said, ‘That was a very painful experience.’”

“You can’t sell a product unless you know it,” Pamela said. “It was his job to sell wrestling so he made sure he knew it inside and out.”

As a result, Solie not only became what some consider the greatest wrestling announcer ever, but in the words of 16-time wrestling champion Flair, “a great ambassador for our sport.”

A great ambassador who, even in death, realized his dream of writing a book about his life in wrestling.

“We lived, breathed and ate this project,” Robert said. “(Solie) was a perfectionist and would have had it no other way.”

“It was all worth it though,” Pamela said. “Daddy would be so proud.”



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