Continental Championship Wrestling was a professional wrestling promotion based out of 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 until Lee Fields reformed it into Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Gulf Coast Years
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 wrestlers and champions from Buddy's Uncle Lester Welch's territory that 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 by 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 the Dothan-Panama City and Bob Kelly booking Mobile-Pensacola and Mississippi after a falling out 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. So he sold it to his cousin Ron Fuller around 1977-1978.
The Southeastern Years
In 1974, Ron Fuller opened up Southeastern Championship Wrestling based out of Knoxville, Tennessee where he focused mainly on the east Tennessee area. In 1977, Ron Fuller took over the territory his grandfather and father had originally 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 territory, 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 Knoxville-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
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.
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.
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 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 the WWE Tape Library
Possible Forerunner To ECW?
It is well known that the creative minds behind Continental during its final years, Eddie Gilbert and Paul Heyman, were long time friends and worked together previously in Memphis and later in Extreme Championship Wrestling. While some ECW angles have roots in Memphis, it is possible early seeds were also sewn in this region as well. An angle with Lord Humongous (a then unknown Sid Vicious) had a similar build to the one Tazz later had in ECW. One that involved returning from an injury and coming back a fierce warrior, even using the same theme music, "War Machine" by Kiss. The main difference was the Lord Humongous angle was a complete work while the Tazz angle was based on a legit injury he suffered.
The angle was also notable for showing wrestlers tending to Lord Humongous backstage. A more well known version of the angle would take place several years later in ECW with Tommy Dreamer injuring The Sandman in the infamous Singapore Cane angle where both faces and heels ended to The Sandman backstage. Also, Lord Humongous was blinded with ink thrown in his eye while The Sandman's cigarette was put out in one eye, with his Singapore Cane putting out the other eye.
Further, the final days of Continental also involved women and children in angles in a similar yet different way as ECW would later do. Such at the Tony Anthony- Tom Prichard angle where the Dirty White Girl a.k.a Lady Mystic had one eye bruised to give the impression Dirty White Boy Tony Anthony had beat her. ECW later featured male vs. female and would inter-gender matches at times. Also, there was an angle where Paul Heyman (then Paul E. Dangerously) and Eddie Gilbert attack Pez Whatley's 14-year-old son. Several years later, Paul Heyman would book an angle in ECW between Raven and The Sandman that involved The Sandman's son Tyler Fullington.
A few rumors persist that the Hair vs. Hair cage match between Jerry Lawler vs. Austin Idol would have occurred in this territory between Idol and Eddie Gilbert. While Idol was the heel in Memphis who cut Lawler with the assistance of Paul Heyman and Tommy Rich, Idol was a babyface in Continental who would have had his hair cut by Heyman and Gilbert.
Also, with the politics David Woods, Heyman and Gilbert were said to going behind Woods back and attempting to take his TV time and deals with the arenas. Heyman and ECW promoter Tod Gordon also later had problems with promoter Dennis Coraluzzo, this led to the infamous incident where former Continental rookie Shane Douglas threw down the NWA World Heavyweight Title to screw over Coraluzzo and make ECW more popular. Continental was also gearing up for The Road To Birmingham tourney to crown Eddie Gilbert as the new champ of Continental and a possible stunt to embarrass Woods and make Continental more popular. This can only be speculated as rumor since Gilbert and Heyman left over a falling out with Woods. The Road To Birmingham later took place in a watered down form. In addition, the Hair vs. Hair cage match in Continental never happened due to Gilbert and Heyman's departure.
For list of wrestlers who appeared in GCCW, SECW, CCW and the CWF please see CCW roster.
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Tag Team Championship
- NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Southern Tag Team Championship (Gulf Coast Version) (1955 – 1967)
- NWA Gulf Coast Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Gulf Coast Tag Team Championship (1967 - 1977)
- NWA Southeast Alabama Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Mississippi Heavyweight Championship (1958 - 1976)
- NWA Mississippi Tag Team Championship (1968 - 1973)
- NWA Tennessee Tag Team Championship (1967 - 1977)
SECW and CCW
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (- 1987)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1987 - 1988)
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (- 1987)
- NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship (Southern Division 1987 - 1980)
- NWA Southeastern Continental Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Southeastern Television Championship
- NWA Southeastern Tag Team Championship
- NWA Southeastern Continental Tag Team Championship
- NWA Southern Tag Team Championship (Southern Division) (1978-1980)
- NWA Southeastern United States Junior Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Southeastern Alabama Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Tennessee Tag Team Championship (1967 - 1977)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship
- CWF Heavyweight Championship
- CWF Tag Team Championship
- United States Junior Heavyweight Championship
- Info on The Southeastern Years provided by Les Thatcher
- Continental Championship Wrestling at Online World of Wrestling
- Kayfabe Memories - Regional territories: GCW
- Kayfabe Memories - Regional territories: SECW
- Kayfabe Memories - Regional territories: SECW Knoxville
- Kayfabe Memories - Regional Territories: CCW/CWF
- NWA SECW & CCW Title Histories
- CWF Title Histories
- The Gulf Coast Years info esp. pertaining to The Gulf Coast Heavyweight Title.
- Interview with Cowboy Bob Kelly which provides more info on The Gulf Coast Years
- Interview with Nightmare Ken Wayne about The Continental Years