Tennessee was one of the hottest regions for professional wrestling at one time. A generation of Tennesseans remember the greats who grappled in civic centers, auditoriums, and arenas all across the great state. Long before the WWE was ubiquitous with the term professional wrestling – or whatever it is called today – Tennessee was a leader in the sport, long before it became a popular sports online. It even had its own blood and guts style that differed from other regions across the United States.
One man that was at the center of Tennessee wrestling for many years was Ron Fuller. Known as the “Tennessee Stud”, Fuller was a third-generation wrestler and promoter. Along with his brother Robert Fuller and cousin Jimmy Golden, he followed in his grandfather Roy Welch and father Buddy Fuller’s footsteps and into the squared circle.
In 1974, after just a few years in the business, Fuller bought Southeastern Championship Wrestling from local wrestler and promoter John Cazana. Based in Knoxville, Fuller’s new company branched out with the Tri-Cities being regular stops for shows. Long before Vince McMahon made the WWE into a worldwide phenomenon, Fuller turned towns in east Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and other southeastern states into wrestling hotbeds.
Despite the popularity of Fuller’s wrestling company, which would take on the more national name of Continental Championship Wrestling in 1985, the company just wasn’t able to compete with the WWE machine. Although attempts were made and offers were put in place, including an NBC television deal in the mid-1980s CCW turned down, Fuller sold the promotion in 1988.
He did continue to run wrestling out of Knoxville. Fuller’s USA Championship Wrestling would make stops in the Tri-Cities and many east Tennessee fans believed it to be the best wrestling in a dying sport. By the end of the 1980s, there were only two major wrestling companies left after the WWE had put competitors out of business. Everyone else was just fighting a losing battle.
USA Championship Wrestling not only breathed life back into east Tennessee wrestling, but it gave legendary wrestler Ron Wright the chance to be cheered and booed again by fans. The wrestling heel was famed for being one of the most off the wall bad guys to ever lace up a pair of boots and Wright was given the chance to shine in the fledgling promotion. Despite putting on great shows and a fun television program, USA Championship Wrestling lasted less than 12 months, even if most of the bettors made some big money with the BetDSI promo code over this period. Fuller had grown tired and cynical toward the business and sold his company to businessman David Woods, who had bought CCW previously.
Fuller would leave wrestling almost for good. He founded two minor league ice hockey teams and their successes laid the groundwork for the Nashville Predators. The former wrestler would then move to Florida and become a top-seller for the ADT security company. For decades, wrestling was a part of Fuller’s past. However, in 2017, the growing interest in old-school wrestling brought the ex-grappler out of the woodwork. Fuller started his own podcast called the “Stud Cast” and began telling stories about his family’s journey through professional wrestling. Many of Fuller’s shows are littered with stories of Tennessee wrestling and former great grapplers from the state.
In July, the “Stud Cast” celebrated its one-year anniversary. Throughout the 52 episodes, Fuller has recounted some of the most unbelievable stories. They are pieces of American history that won’t appear in major books or on television documentaries. But the stories Fuller tells are some of the most fascinating one can ever hear. Through Fuller’s voice, the history of east Tennessee wrestling, legends like Wright, and events from the Tri-Cities will live on forever.