Wrestling Radio – The Early Years | Origins

Pro Wrestling Radio, or at least terrestrial radio shows dedicated primarily to wrestling, appears to have begun in the very early ’70s. They all seemed to emanate from the great New York City area with that massive WWWF Bruno and Pedro fanbase. It was either Potshot Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz’ show or that of Bill Apter. We’re talking 1971, mid-1972, with both of these unrelated shows that tried to give an intelligent fan’s view of the wrestling scene. Both shows touched at times on wrestling in other areas like the AWA, WWA, LA, San Francisco circuits, Detroit, Florida, etc. 

Some times they looked back at history like discussing Eddie and Dr. Jerry Graham, Lewin and Curtis, the Bastien Brothers, Skull Murphy, and Brute Bernard, the Tolos Brothers, etc. Around 1974’ish, two guys who sadly didn’t have the cred or the chops to do actual, listenable radio in Jimmy Mack and Jay Rosen started their “wise guy” wrestling radio show, also out of NYC. 

When I got cassette tapes from friends living there of the show, the hosts sounded smug at times, but mostly as uneducated marks. Not criticizing them because not that many were smart then, certainly not knowing terms like heat, going over, under, jobbing, highspots, and anything having to do with Carny. At times, even critical and condescending of the WWWF tv and shows they were lucky enough to get to see.

The Early Years

Another is doing a serious & great job in trying to cover wrestling starting also in 1974 was Alan Kaminsky. He claimed to have a seven-state reach at the 50,000 Watt station that broadcast his weekly show. I think it was during my second summer staying at John Arezzi’s West Babylon, Long Island home with him and his family graciously putting me up. John and I came into cohost a show or two with Alan in 1975. John and I were traveling around photographing any shows we could for the magazines. I got to talk about the good and bad going on in my home Los Angeles territory. 

Our top face, Fred Blassie, was long gone. He was upset that he didn’t get the proper payday from promoter Mike Lebell after his outdoor record-setting Los Angeles Coliseum main event super card against a years-long rival in John Tolos. Or the additional closed-circuit theater revenue cut. I believe we were the first to do closed-circuit “pay” events when our main venue, the Olympic Auditorium, was packed. 

There had been Lebell shows earlier that summer in 1971 that did well with that additional closed-circuit revenue stream. A few after the huge August 1971 Coliseum card, the LA Rams, UCLA Bruins, and USC Trojans played football. The Coliseum was decades old, and I forget if it was created circa 1932 for the summer Olympic Games. They were held in LA The Olympic Auditorium. However, it was built for the Olympics that year as that Olympic’s boxing and wrestling arena. 

Still off-topic, but on that LA Coliseum outdoor record show in August 1971, Blassie beat Tolos in the main, with the crowd of over a reported 29,000. I bring this up also because we finally had paid ads on local LA radio for the show. Blassie doing local SoCal radio and tv shows to promote it. We also had one of the few times paid ad spots in the LA Times and rival LA Herald-Examiner newspapers. People like ABC Radio’s Michael Jackson (not the singer) were even talking on-air about the upcoming Coliseum pro wrestling show like it was a mega-happening. Which it was and I talked about it on Alan K’s wrestling radio show amongst many topics.

George Cannon Wrestling Radio 

70’s Sheik Detroit office worker/photographer/program writer Dave Burzynski added that George “Crybaby” Cannon had a radio show out of Windsor, Ontario Canada in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He was most famous for wrestling in LA in the ’60s as Crybaby Cannon. He then wrestled later as the “I Am Right!” manager for The 70’s Fabulous Kangaroos version of Al Costello and Bulldog Don Kent, who replaced legit Aussie Roy Heffernan) wrestling primarily in Detroit, Ohio plus in Toronto for the original/real Tunney at Maple Leaf. And guessing George’s show promoted house shows in/around Ontario, Canada.

 Ric Carter, Pro Wrestling Hotline Radio

There appears to be an early-to-mid 80’s lapse in wrestling radio. This is until “Hotline” Ric Carter began doing a wrestling radio show in Las Vegas first on a small station, then a 50,000-water on Saturdays. It was years later where he’d be introduced as one of his lead cohosts Mike Tenay, who was best known as a longtime LA fan and years away from WCW employ. Tenay stood out on the show, which lasted until the early ’90s. 

Eric Bischoff reportedly heard Tenay’s work once he began taking things over in Atlanta for WCW and hired him for their 900-hotline. Mike later went on to become one of several WCW announcers. Then of course as lead announcer for TNA once WCW was purchased and ended. Ric sadly died about 16 years ago when he got out of his car to help a stranded freeway passenger, and then run over by a speeding car in the process. He was a dedicated single father to his daughter Sierra who loved going with her dad to WCW shows there.

 John Arezzi – Pro Wrestling Spotlight Radio and accompanying Newsletter

John Arezzi’s Pro Wrestling Spotlight radio show took the industry by storm in the very early 1990s. He, too, started first on a smaller station in his native Long Island city of West Babylon. But soon grew listenership and moved to a more magnificent NYC station. John covered the news of the week and often had the top names in that news on as guests. They ranged from regulars like Paul Heyman, Eddie Gilbert, Jim Cornette, Mick Foley, and more. 

One of John’s oldest friends in Don Laible did this week in history and birthdates every show, a format I’d later copy and attribute to Don directly. John was brutally honest, particularly when the Federal Steroid investigation early pre-trial began through the trial against WWF. And he covered the ring boy scandal in that same 1992-93 period. He was also one of the first invited for a media WWF at Titan Towers tour. The others who attended included Dave Meltzer, Wade Keller of Pro Wrestling Torch, radio host Larry Katz, myself (who was doing the Canvas Cavity syndicated TV and radio shows), amongst others. 

Wrestling Radio
Blassie with John Arezzi the same day we did our very first radio show on Alan Kaminski’s show in NYC

It had never been done before for folks only covering wrestling full time. The day consisted of first shuttling us to WWF’s then TV production facility and temperature-controlled tape and archive storage area not far from Titan Towers. We were shown how everything was put together from interviews with Sean Mooney and Gene Okerlund. They were there, to post-production facilities, their graphics suite, etc. Then we were given a tour by Linda McMahon and admin to all four floors of Titan Towers, which was indeed state-of-the-art. 

Finally, the day ended with Vince McMahon himself giving us a talk.

We’ll never forget Wade getting gently reprimanded for innocently going off the tour a bit. This was on a Friday, and we were all given great press seats for the PPV the following Sunday. John discussed this honestly on his show. This led to John’s appearances on major TV shows of the day. Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, and wrestling-loving Morton Downey Jr. John had set a precedent for not just a shoot wrestling news show, but also one with name guests and more features. But he needed sponsors (which most everyone in radio have to find, etc.) and eventually got video store owner Vince Russo to become PWS’s primary sponsor. 

Vince was getting airtime, which grew until Vince eventually ousted John from John’s show and began putting out a PWS newsletter of his own to compete with John’s superior Pro Wrestling Spotlight newsletter. John was able to rebound and get PWS radio going again for a time. I would then ask him to review this. To add or make corrections since this is simply my recollection of that time. However, most of us feel that John was, of course, doing big-time shoot real reporting on his show. While Russo seemed to pander, putting WWF over nonstop. 

Which lead somehow to Vince becoming editor of WWF magazine and later “head” booker of the promotion. He was bringing his friend Ed Ferrara with him who’d done some voice work on Russo’s brief radio run. He was answering only to Vince McMahon Jr himself. John, of course, promoted his three mega fanfests in Weekend of Champions conventions from approximately 1992-1994, the last with a full wrestling card featuring Konnan, Sabu, and other than top international stars. John was one of the very few in wrestling who went to a significant College(Boston)specifically to get a broadcasting degree.

 Evan Ginzburg and Dr. Mike Hosting Legends Radio Show, 2007-2016

Evan Ginzburg shortly thereafter began cohosting Fred Geobold’s entertainment show on historic NYC 50,000 watter WBAI. He transformed the show to include long weekly wrestling segments. I was on many times with longtime friend Evan. We had a ton of guests on. I often referred friends on like Eddie Guerrero, who had already done my radio or little cable tv show based in California. Evan and I just discussed on his current podcast. Eddie came on this night to discuss the loss of his tag partner in Art Barr, who’d tragically just passed. 

I essentially had friends and relatives in major cities like L.A., Chicago, NYC, Atlanta, etc., to sign up to become cable access producers-of-record. In turn, they got my tv show on in all these major cities and on their top cable systems. They were forced by now non-existent laws to a lot X amount of cable access programming per week. I’d customize the closing credits for each show to reflect that particular city and who my producer was there. Not real syndication, but sort of close. And we were on-air in top cities. 

Evan certainly was, and he introduced a significant element into wrestling radio. He mixed in names from real life, politics, the arts, and more.  He had rap icon Grandmaster Flash and many other brilliant stars of the day on. Many guests had an affinity for wrestling already. So they could talk about their music, plug their content, and then discuss wrestling. Evan continues that today with his big current Wrestling Coast To Coast podcast with an old pal of mine from California in former Calif wrestling indie manager Buddy Sotello. 

Before I forget, Evan and I, for about a decade, did Legends Radio together every Sunday with him based in NYC, me in California. It was firstly a pro wrestling radio show. But we followed his philosophy of having on people from all walks of life, not just wrestling. One of our bigger shows was when I brought on as a guest. Along with singing superstars Roberta Flack, Grace Slick, and Judy Collins. Or Mad About You star Paul Reiser, The Doors Ray Manzarek, Gilbert Godfried, and more. Or Soupy Sales and Paul Winchell.

Evan brought on many like Claudio Castagnoli (now WWE Cesaro) from ROH and his great tag partner Chris Hero. Just tons of ROH talent Evan booked along with top entertainers like Grandmaster Flash, Billy Paul, and more. We made sure if we had a wrestler on in one hour, in the second, we’ve had a musician or comic legend.