Name: Gordon Solie
Year Inducted: 2004
Induction Category: Non-Participant

Gordon Solie

Gordon Solie, "The Dean of Wrestling Announcers" and "The Walter Cronkite of Wrestling", was born on January 26, 1929 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He moved to Florida in 1950 after serving time in the Air Force working with Armed Forces Radio. He worked as a disc jockey, reporter, and talk show host for a small Tampa radio station as well as the announcer of stock car races in the area.

In the early 1950s, Solie was hired by Cowboy Luttrell as a ring announcer for $5.00 per night. His duties expanded to advertising and publicity. He wasn't a wrestling fan at first, but eventually learned about the sport and got his big break in 1960 when he was hired to announce the weekly Tampa television show, which later became syndicated throughout Florida

Solie learned wrestling holds and how they worked from men such as Eddie Graham and John Heath. The wrestlers would actually put Solie into the various holds so he would know what every move was supposed to feel like. While other wrestling announcers treated pro wrestling as a comedy act, Solie was told by Cowboy Luttrell to treat it very seriously, just like his paycheck. Solie had a knowledge of human anatomy and used it to sell the pain and psychology of the moves to the audience. He was the last man in wrestling to use the term "suplay" for the word spelled "suplex". His reputation for treating the sport seriously added to the success of Championship Wrestling from Florida. Solie was well-known for his calling of the "human chess at its finest" battles such as Jack Brisco vs. Dory Funk, Jr. for the NWA World Title, Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine, and Ric Flair winning the NWA World Title from Harley Race in a steel cage. It is said that Solie announced an estimated 25,000 televised wrestling matches. Solie also came up with terms such as "crimson mask" when a wrestler was bleeding heavily from his face.

Solie had two great moments in his career. The first was when Leroy McGuirk, a blind NWA promoter out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, told Solie that it was the first time in years that he could "see" a match just by listening to Gordon's announcing of the July 11, 1964 match where Hiro Matsuda won the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title from Danny Hodge in Tampa.

The second great moment came on May 21, 1995 in St. Petersburg, Florida when World Championship Wrestling inducted Solie into its Hall of Fame at the WCW Slamboree pay-per-view show. Even though he knew about it ahead of time, he was humbled to see his home audience give him a standing ovation.

On January 20, 1973, Solie became the voice of Championship Wrestling from Georgia, a position he held until 1984. Many fans were upset about not hearing Solie's voice on the airwaves. Fortunately for Solie and the fans, Ted Turner brought Solie back on the air.

Besides his announcing stints in Georgia and Florida, Solie also announced for Continental Championship Wrestling from September 1975 to 1988. He also co-hosted with Joe Pedicino a new concept of a wrestling program, Pro Wrestling This Week, a weekly rundown of matches from the various NWA territories as well as matches from Puerto Rico and Japan. Solie returned to WCW in 1989 and stayed with the company until his departure in 1995.Gordon was also the host of Ring Warriors, a syndicated version of New Japan Pro Wrestling which aired on Eurosport. Gordon also did play-by-play on New Japan Pro Wrestling videotapes.

Solie's health deteriorated drastically after being diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Solie's life came to an end on June 28, 2000 at the age of 71, succumbing to brain cancer.

Jim Ross, Michael Cole, Tony Schiavone, the late Gorilla Monsoon, Mike Tenay, Scott Hudson, and many other great play-by-play announcers and color commentators all owe a debt of gratitude to Gordon Solie for paving the way for announcing in pro wrestling. Despite the fact that Solie was neither a wrestler nor a promoter, he was deeply admired and respected by many within and outside the pro wrestling business. As long as pro wrestling continues to be on television, Gordon Solie's legacy will live on.

- BRIAN WESTCOTT



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