Legends of Central States Wrestling celebrated at Memorial Hall Thursday night

The legends of Central States Wrestling received one more moment in Memorial Hall’s spotlight last night as K.C. On The Mat: The History of Professional Wrestling in Kansas City premiered in front of a couple hundred people. Kansas City’s wrestling stars of yesteryear took the stage and soaked in the accolades one more time. Eight-time world heavyweight champion Harley Race signed autographs. Announcer Bill Kersten gave his signature “Helloooooooooooooooooooooooo wrestling fans” intro to “All-Star Wrestling.” Announcer Bill Grigsby remembered speeding from KU basketball games to announce wrestling and “making up shit” saying a woman midget wrestler was from Johannesburg, South Africa (she was really a meatpacker from Armourdale). Promoter and former wrestler “Texas” Bob Geigel flashed back to hiring a woman to streak through his wrestling events. “Nature Boy” Roger Kirby grabbed the mike for the first time in 25 years. There were many more — Billy Howard, Richard Brown, Tom Andrews, Butch Reed.

Chris Gough’s documentary was a fascinating look at a bygone era — one squashed by wrestling impresario Vince McMahon’s monstrous World Wrestling Entertainment. The star of the film is Geigel, whose knowledge of the era was sharp. Fans popped at the names of Sonny Myers, “Bulldog” Bob Brown, Rufus R. Jones, Danny Little Bear, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. But the absolute best is the couple of minutes spent on little old ladies Mertie and Gertie Hite. Geigel and the wrestlers recalled getting smacked by the ladies’ purses. And Geigel tells a great story about the ladies’ driver leaving him a special request: spread his ashes at Memorial Hall.

If you didn’t make it to Memorial Hall, you still have a chance to see the documentary on Metro Sports Tuesday night at 7.

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