Continental Championship Wrestling

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"CWF" redirects here. For the other American professional wrestling promotion which used the CWF acronym, see Championship Wrestling from Florida. For the airport serving Lake Charles, Louisiana, assigned the IATA code CWF, see Chennault International Airport.
Southeastern Championship Wrestling/Continental Championship Wrestling
Acronym CCW
Founded 1954
Defunct 1990
Style Rasslin'
Headquarters Knoxville, Tennessee; Dothan, Alabama
Founder(s) Roy Welch and Buddy Fuller
Owner(s) Roy Welch and Buddy Fuller (1954-1959)
Lee Fields (1960-1978)
Ron Fuller Knoxville (1974-1980, 1985-1988) Dothan (1978-1990)
David Woods (1988-1990)

Continental Championship Wrestling was a professional wrestling promotion based in Knoxville, Tennessee, from 1974 until 1988 and Dothan, Alabama, from 1978 to 1990, managed by Ron Fuller. When Fuller sold the promotion to David Woods, it changed name to the Continental Wrestling Federation. The territory had also promoted under the previous name of Southeastern Championship Wrestling prior to 1985. Promoters Leroy McGuirk, Roy Welch, and Buddy Fuller had runs operating the territory starting in 1954 until Lee Fields bought it five years later and reformed it into Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling in the 1960s and 1970s.

History[edit]

The Gulf Coast Years[edit]

Nashville promoter Roy Welch had purchased the Mobile-Pensacola end of Leroy McGuirk's Tri-State Wrestling. Unlike McGuirk, who only promoted in the Mobile-Pensacola area on special occasions called spot shows, Welch decided to make promoting in Mobile-Pensacola a frequent attraction in the summer. However, due to his obligations in Nashville, his son Buddy Fuller (Edward Welch) was made booker for Mobile-Pensacola, and Fuller eventually expanded the territory into Mississippi-Louisiana as well.

At this point, the territory didn't even have a name, its own belts, or even its own wrestlers (aside from members of The Welch Family of course). They often relied on wrestlers and champions from Buddy's and their Uncle Lester Welch's territory. He ran in places like Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia (which would eventually become Championship Wrestling from Florida and Georgia Championship Wrestling), as well getting help from his father in Nashville, Tennessee, and some occasional help from his Uncles Herb and Jack. These early attempts would start to unravel when Buddy Fuller failed to make payments to the territory from his father Roy Welch. Buddy's cousin Lee Fields (Albert Lee Hatfield) would save the territory and gave it the name "Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling".

Lee Fields would eventually buy the territory from Roy Welch and Buddy Fuller, and run shows in the area for almost two decades with Rocky McGuire booking Dothan-Panama City and Bob Kelly booking Mobile-Pensacola and Mississippi after a falling out with promoters in Louisiana with Mobile-Pensacola only running in the summer months. Kelly turned the promotion around from holding monthly and seasonal shows in a few towns which only drew a few hundred people to holding weekly shows in a different town night after night with local television exposure in each market, which led to each arena drawing thousands. Bob Kelly left the wrestling business in 1976 to enter real estate and spend more time with family, and Lee Fields found it more difficult to operate both his wrestling promotion and Mobile International Speedway at the same time.. So he sold it to his cousin Ron Fuller around 1977-1978.

The Southeastern Years[edit]

In 1974, Ron Fuller opened up Southeastern Championship Wrestling based in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he focused mainly on the east Tennessee area. In 1977, Ron Fuller took over the territory his grandfather and father had founded when GCCW folded and Fuller expanded the SECW to run in the Southern Alabama, Northern Florida area in addition the Eastern Tennessee territory he already established. This was initially labelled ”the Southern Division” of the SECW treating them as two separate entities despite the original plan to run a talent exchange between the two involving talent spending sixteen months in one end of the territory and then spend eight months in another to regain momentum after losing steam in the previous one.

In 1980, several members of the talent roster and behind the scenes personnel left the territory out frustration involving backstage politics with Ron's brother Robert Fuller who was considered lazy in terms of booking the terrirory, and spent many nights partying and felt his spot in Southeastern was owed to him since he was a member of The Welch/Fuller family. As a result, many of these defectors joined the Kentucky based outlaw promotion International Championship Wrestling owned and operated by Angelo Poffo.

After this, the Knoxville end of Southeastern experienced financial losses, and sold to promotions such as Jim Crockett Promotions and Georgia Championship Wrestling for the next five years. Fuller then made Birmingham his main end of the territory with the Dothan end continuing to flourish, giving early exposure to future stars such as The Fabulous Freebirds, rising stars in the territory along the lines of Austin Idol, and appearances by Ric Flair who would defend the NWA World Heavyweight Title in the area each year.

The Continental Years[edit]

Continental Championship Wrestling (1985–1988)[edit]

Five years later, Fuller decided that it was time to reach beyond the Southern Alabama/Northern Florida area and re-purchased the Knoxville end of the territory, with this expansion came a name change to Continental Championship Wrestling. This was an attempt on Ron Fuller's part to compete with Vince McMahon. After a failed negotiation with CBS, he settled on moving the television show out of the small television studio and into the big arenas where they did house shows in order to give the promotion a national look and feel. While the name Southeastern restricted the promotion to a more regional feel, the name Continental gave fans the impression they toured all over North America.

Continental Wrestling Federation (1988–1989)[edit]

In 1988, WCOV-TV owner David Woods bought the controlling interest in the promotion from Ron Fuller, and he renamed it Continental Wrestling Federation in a further attempt to compete with Vince McMahon and appear to resemble a nationwide promotion, even to the point of getting an odd national TV deal with Financial News Network. The promotion closed in December 1989.

Legacy[edit]

Despite many huge angles over the years, this territory often has status as the lost promotion. Such obscurity was due lack of media coverage during the Gulf Coast and Southeastern years since neither Lee Fields nor Ron Fuller believed their promotions should not be covered by wrestling magazines and often did not allow reporters in the locker room to interview the wrestlers. This was to prevent the exposure to kayfabe and preserve the illusion of wrestling as a sport in this area. However, Fuller relented with the changeover to Continental in order to get national exposure for the promotion through said magazines, such exposure was at an all-time high during the Eddie Gilbert period.

Due to the expensive nature of archiving at television stations before the home video boom of the 1980s, much of the footage from the Gulf Coast era and the Knoxville portion of Southeastern no longer exists, despite a few bits of rare footage turning up here and there. However, almost all of the Dothan portion of Southeastern along with the majority of Continental footage still exists. They are still owned by David Woods and Woods Communications, and has managed to be one of the few archives not to be acquired by WWE Libraries.

Alumni[edit]

GCCW[edit]

SECW and CCW[edit]

CWF[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Info on The Southeastern Years provided by Les Thatcher
  • YouTube clips are included to show the Possible Forerunner To ECW? section is not based on original research.

External links[edit]