(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine #12, Fall 1999)
In this installment of Strange and Exotic Dayton, I delve into the world of professional wrestling. Believe it or not, Dayton, Ohio has it’s very own professional wrestling organization, Unified Championship Wrestling. So, move over “Stone Cold” Austin, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and all you other pussies who do more talking than wrestling and make way for Willy F., The Atomic Rhino, Sabo, and The Giant Bobo.The UCW (along with the Extreme Championship Wrestling organization) is true wrestling. So join me as I talk to Les Palmerville, a fellow who helps produce the local UCW cable show and who has been involved in wrestling longer than I’ve been alive.
MR – Tell me how you got started in professional wrestling.
Les – I actually got started in the Navy. The Navy relief society was putting on a benefit wrestling show on the pier where my ship was docked back in 1966. That was Jim Crocket Sr. and his Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Association. They asked for volunteers and since I was a radioman in the Navy, I was helping to set up audio and everything for them. I was invited to the show and it so happened that the announcer that was supposed to show up that evening didn’t make it. Jim happened to remember me and he asked me to do the show. I did the show and made 50 bucks on it.
In 1968, I ran into a gentleman who was doing one of those sideshows that they did here and there. We got to talking and he said, “Oh you know Jim Crocket?” and I said yeah, I did a show for him blah, blah, blah. One thing led to another and that’s how I got my start in big time wrestling. I was working spot shows doing ringside announcing. I stayed with Big Time Wrestling from 1968 until they pulled out around 1979.
From there, I went to work with Dick the Bruiser. I did some announcing over in Indiana for another couple of years until another local spot show opened up here [Dayton] in the early 80′s. And I worked with them until Vince McMan came in 1985 and kind of just whipped everybody completely out as far as these independent organizations go. So from about 1985 until 1990, I was pretty much doing nothing. Once in a while an independent show would come up and they had my number and would call me.
I kind of got my big break back in 1988 when Preston Mustard worked at the Dayton Fairgrounds and he brought the original Sheik in to the fair. I did the announcing for them and a couple of guys were there who were putting on shows in the Cincinnati area. I worked for them until the early 90′s until another organization opened up under the name of Global Championship Wrestling, which was headed by Al Stow.
It was Al who brought me and a fellow name Dale Grow here today. Dale and I went up to Lima and we taped matches. Dale did the play by play and I worked the camera. In fact, it was Al who got Pee Wee Moore into the business full-time with ECW and also brought in some of the other wrestlers, the Blue Meanie, Brian St. John, etc. So I stayed with them for awhile.
UCW started last year. It actually started two years ago in May, 1998. I started doing ring announcing and then we started doing TV late last year in which I did the play-by-play. And then “Can the Man” Collins came around. Can started doing the announcing and I kind of went into the back doing the production of the TV show. And that’s where it’s all led to now. I’ve spent 32 years in the business.
MR – What is it about wrestling that appeals to You?
Les – I wrestled in high school as an amateur, so that’s why I like it, and that’s why I want to get back into it. In fact, I wrestled a couple of times. I wrestled the Sheik once. It was one of those matches where I was the announcer and he didn’t like the way I was doing things. It was put down that the Bull Courier and Ernie “the Cat” were wrestling and if Bull won everything was fine, but if he lost I had to go 5-minutes with the Sheik. Well, you know what happened, and that’s where I got this scar up here (points at forehead) from. I got thrown out of the ring and hit the edge of my spine and that kind of took up my ‘in the ring’ wrestling career.
As far as today’s wrestling goes, I have to appeal to what we’re doing here at UCW. We are doing wrestling the way it used to be. In fact, the way I think it should be. That’s what the UCW’s all about, it’s the best. Our last show we had 400 people. It’s theindependents that are coming back. If you watch WCW, the first hour you’re lucky to have one match. It’s just Yap, yap yap yap yap. I mean we’re out there to give the fans what they’ve come to see, professional wrestling. They don’t want to see people out there for a whole hour, yappin’ back and forth “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, I want you,” and all that.
MR – How does one become a wrestler?
Les – First off if you’ve had high school wrestling, that’s a start. Number two, you have to be athletic. I’ll tell you one person really right now who never had any wrestling high school whatsoever, Mark Bloom and he had moves and athletic ability. That’s how he got his start way back in the old days and everything. Athletic ability, able to do summersaults, tumbles, things like that, amateur wrestling, stamina, and you’re 50-75% on your way.
MR – What percentage is acting?
Les – Okay. A lot of people come out fake, fake, fake, fake, fake. Well you’ve seen wrestlers with broken legs, broken arms. Steve Austin right now is wrestling with a clause in his contract that he is not holding WWF or any wrestler responsible, because one wrong move and he’s paralyzed. Things do happen. Yes, there’s showmanship involved. People come out wearing jackets, robes, taunting fans, things like that. Vince says they’re entertainers. We don’t consider our wrestlers entertainers. We consider them athletes. We are out there to entertain the fans, but we go beyond that. We go out there and show them what wrestling is all about.
As far as it being fake, I’ll just say this. Every wrestler is guaranteed X amount of dollars to wrestle, plus if they do win, they get a percentage of the take for winning their match. Take a top wrestler, for instance Brian St. John, who’s been in the business a few years. Along comes this guy who may be 50 pounds heavier, a little more experience. The guy needs the money. They’ll get together and say well, I’ll let you go over and you know give me 20% more of your purse.
Sometimes they do plan the matches, they work out a format and things like that. But things might have changed in the ring at the last minute. The Sabo thing last week was not in any way, shape or form planned. They got pissed at each other and they went at it. They went at it backstage because I went in the back and there were security guards trying to separate them. Actually, they are not going to wrestle in the back unless they are upset with each other.
MR – As far as professional wrestling goes, why Dayton?
Les – Easy. You’re too young for this. There was an old network that was the originator of professional wrestling when it came back to TV. It was fed into the Dayton area and actually one guy who started it, Neil, was in Dayton and is now up in Cleveland. He’s still working up there. They wrestled up there for quite a while. And then for some reason, I don’t know why, they brought wrestling to Dayton at the old Barn. Channel 2, Omar Williams, and Neil teamed up and they beamed it coast to coast. So actually it got started on regular TV down here and for quite a while Dayton was named the Wrestling Capitol of the World and it kind of stuck there.
That’s why Dayton is sort of in the middle of the whole thing, because they would actually go and do TV in Indianapolis, rush back to Dayton and do TV here, or rush to Cincinnati or Columbus. They were actually headquartered out of Dayton. There are also a lot of second generation wrestlers out there who’s dads have either refereed or wrestled or are back in the business now too. Dayton’s always been a good wrestling territory. Always has been.
MR -What is the ultimate goal of the UCW?
Les – To be better than WCW and WWF. We’re in a small arena right now. We plan on going big with ECW coming on and joining us. We are also hoping to be broadcasting to the entire Southwestern Ohio area.
MR -Thanks for your time Les. Do you have anything you would like to add?
Les – We will be wrestling about twice a month starting in October. Our next biggest show will be at the fairgrounds Saturday, September 4. You’re going to see UCW wrestling like you’ve never seen it before. I would also like to thank two people who have helped out, Dale Grow and Patrick Hughes, without them UCW would not be on TV today.
For more information on Unified Championship Wrestling call the UCW hotline at 640-1921. You can also catch the UCW show every Friday at 5:00 P.M. on DATV, cable channel 20 or Media One, cable channel 23.