Gordon was known as the ‘Dean of Professional Wrestling’ by almost every pro-wrestling enthusiast who got the chance to hear Gordon call a match, and even by millions and millions of pro-wrestling enthusiasts who were afforded the opportunity to watch old tapes with Gordon calling a match.
There is no doubt that even today’s pro-wrestling product is still heavily influenced by Gordon Solie. And there is no doubt in our hearts Gordon will always be remembered and cherished in this industry for everything that he gave back to us. He truly was the voice which changed the face of pro wrestling forever.
Many look back on the legendary career of Gordon Solie and consider him to be the “Walter Cronkite of professional wrestling” based on how much credibility he had. If Gordon Solie told you the match you were watching was a ‘classic’ it was not simply ‘hype’ to get the show over, it was the actual truth. Gordon did not ever go out on television with the idea to get himself over, or to get any of the wrestler’s over. He did that, but he did it in such a way that he didn’t have to shill for any of the companies he worked for. Solie truly was a fan of every company he worked for, and he truly believed in every wrestler he got to provide ‘play by play’ for during his career.
This is obviously why when Gordon Solie announced something special was going on right in front of us, there was actually something special going on right in front of our very own eyes. There will never be another Gordon Solie in this industry. And when Solie passed away, the wrestling world lost the best play by play man in the history of this industry.
THE EARLY YEARS
Gordon Solie was not a pro-wrestling man to start out, he began his career in the broadcasting world in the 1950’s, after he finished his service in the U.S. Air Force. Solie covered Minor League Sporting event’s such as Stock car racing, Professional Boxing, and yes, Pro-Wrestling. Solie would get all the assignments the more experienced sports broadcaster’s wanted to shy away from.
Solie worked for a small radio station in Ybor City, Florida. And it was during this period he was assigned to interview local pro-wrestler’s and eventually became interested in pro-wrestling.
FIRST WRESTLING JOB
Gordon took a job as a ring announcer for “Cowboy” Lutrell and his Florida Championship Wrestling promotion earning $5.00 a night. Even though he was not earning a considerable amount of money (even for this era), Solie took his ring announcing duties serious. And conducted himself as a professional broadcaster.
It quickly became known Gordon Solie was something special, when after he was assigned by “Cowboy” Lutrell to interview wrestler’s at ringside, the interviews were thought to have been ‘revolutionary’ by wrestling standards. Gordon approached each interview as if it was something new and unique, and took every personality he interviewed seriously.
From 1960 to 1987 Gordon hosted Florida Championship Wrestling. In this time period, FCW did not have the greatest talent roster in the world. But you would never have known that watching the television show. When the FCW company had a lack of talent depth, even the jobbers came across as being special attractions based on Solie’s commentary. When the company had great talent depth, the show seemed just as hot. Gordon had this unique ability to turn a lackluster match in to a must-see contest. But he did not ever compromise his credibility by shilling for lackluster contests and trying to build them up to be ‘classic’ battles. Somehow, Solie was able to tell us the match wasn’t a ‘classic’ but at the same time get over the wrestler’s involved in the contest turning it in to a ‘classic’.
In 1974 Gordon began working for Georgia Championship Wrestling and would travel from Florida to Georgia every week to do the GCW show (which aired on Ch. 17, which would later become Superstation TBS). Gordon kept his job in Florida as well, and hosted both FCW’s TV show and GCW’s TV show.
This relationship with Georgia Championship Wrestling (which later turned in to World Championship Wrestling) lasted until early 1985.
After his stint with the Turner led promotion’s ended in 1985, Solie returned back to exclusively doing Florida Championship Wrestling. Even though over the years, FCW folded, and re-opened (usually with a new front man in charge) Gordon was still “the man” for that group.
“I remember watching the new Florida Championship Wrestling show, and their talent roster, well lets face it, sucked. And here was the legend Gordon Solie, who no doubt by this time was over himself as a true personality in pro-wrestling even though he never attempted to get himself over, doing play by play for such nothings like “The Ring Lord’s” (Road Warrior tag team rip off, both weighed about 175 lbs soaking wet) and Richard Slinker. And the amazing thing was, I found myself actually believing these superstars were TOP A talent. It was not a sales job by any means, Solie did not attempt to sell anything to us. What it was, was Gordon Solie being himself and telling us he knew these guys were not TOP A talent, but they were unique to their craft, and they had qualities unique to themselves. Gordon truly was the reason why Florida Championship Wrestling still was able to put on HOT TV. And Solie did it without compromise his legendary status, or shilling a product to us, which we obviously realized wasn’t as good as the past FCW companies had provided to us. Solie never looked down on the talent he was working with, and he always treated them as if they were something special.” — CJDark.
In 1989, Gordon signed a contract with World Championship Wrestling to return back to national play by play duties. Alongside Jim Ross, who was in the position of color man, he was once again calling the action as he saw it for all his fans. This was, with out a doubt, the greatest play by play and color combination in the history of pro wrestling. It was also the most knowledgeable duo in history. No doubt this is when Jim Ross became educated in the proper way to call the action as a play by play man. Without Ross being paired up with Solie in 1989, Ross may not be where he is right now in pro-wrestling.
In 1995 Gordon left WCW again, his agreement with WCW dissolved. Solie seemed to be shunned by the WCW organization who didn’t think he was capable of providing play by play action any longer. Solie had been reduced to doing a “Wrestling News Network” segment on WCW TV, and he eventually quit the company.
WCW had a grand vision of turning Gordon Solie in to “Walter Cronkite” for real, and he was asked to shill news items which were obviously not taken seriously by management. In short, Solie began to see his own credibility erode. The problem with the skits were that the news wasn’t meant to be taken serious, and was written to be light humor. But Solie took everything he did serious, and he came across horribly on the skits. Solie quit the company and was gone from the national wrestling scene.
Gordon for all concerns was done with pro-wrestling. He did return to WCW years later when they inducted him in their short lived Hall of Fame. The Tampa Tribune reported the following; “Oh,” whispered Solie, “A fine thing happened recently when the World Wrestling Federation honored me with a swing through Florida cities and revived in my mind the days of the Briscos, Haystacks Calhoun, Johnny Valentine, Buddy Colt, Hiro Matsuda, Don Curtis and Dusty Rhodes.” He was later honored by the WWF at an In Your House PPV. Jim Ross presented Gordon Solie with a plaque for all his years of service in the wrestling industry.
NWA President Howard T. Brody, wrote “On a personal level, Gordon Solie, who along with Hiro Matsuda, had been one of my mentors in the wrestling business. I am proud to say that he has been a very close friend of mine for the past 18 years and until May 11th, had been my business partner in NWA Florida, working behind the scenes to help our group lay the groundwork to revitalize the Florida territory”.
On July 7, 2000, Gordon Solie passed away at his home in Florida at the age of 71. The wrestling will miss him.