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Big Time Wrestling is a Downtown Tradition

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Sunday, May 24, 2009, at 03:54PM
Dick Lane of KTLA

KTLA publicity photo of Dick Lane.

On a day when blogdowntown is giving away tickets to see WWE action at Staples Center, it's fitting to note that the showmanship of televised wrestling has a long history in Downtown Los Angeles.

In the early days of television, it was wrestling that was tops in the sports ratings, and much of what was broadcast originated from the Grand Olympic Auditorium and carried the voice of KTLA commentator Richard "Dick" Lane.

Wrestling, along with boxing and roller derby, began to be televised from the Olympic in 1946 by KTLA.

Back then, it was names like Freddie Blassie, The Sheik, Black Gordman, Bobo Brazil, Buddy Rogers, and of course, Gorgeous George, that commanded an audience.

Not that there were a lot of programs to choose from in those early days, but wrestling programs commanded outstanding ratings in the 1940s and 50s. In 1951, when viewers could find local wrestling broadcasts seven days a week between five channels, a poll by Woodbury College found wrestling by far the most popular television sport.

With his vaudevillian cadence and ability to play along with the story lines of wrestling and roller derby, Lane's phrase "Whoa, Nellie!" would punctuate action in the ring or track. Listening in as a young broadcaster was Keith Jackson, who credits Dick Lane as the source of the now well-known phrase.

Back in those days, ticket sales were driven by Lane's urgent shout to "Call RIchman95171 . . . that's RIchman95171 to reserve your tickets now!!" Today, it's the Internet and 20% off coupons.

Other than that, not much has changed.

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