by Rich Mancuso
Time to reflect a bit about the infancy stages and how yours truly and pro wrestling talk became a part of overnights with Jody McDonald and the fans on sports radio WFAN in New York. It’s been almost 27 years since, and “Keep It In The Ring” became a slogan with many of the loyal fans who listened and called in at 3 AM.
I hear so many say, “Rich your voice and knowledge of pro wrestling made me stay awake.” And for that, I am forever grateful. But this was all the doing of Jody “Mac” as the opportunity was presented and I went for it, realizing of course that providing scoops and the “Karma” of the wrestling industry would not sit well with the once called WWF and their higher ups.
But the independent promoters. Including the NAWA, for them it was exposure that was welcomed and received at a time when the industry was still not accepted in mainstream media.
But, I went with it. And so did Jody who had a passion for pro wrestling and went with it. What started as the experiment of a few minutes would eventually expand to a half hour. And then, an hour as the open phone lines were not enough to facilitate the volume of fans who wanted to ask a question and know the latest insights of an industry that hit a peak.
You know, this was sports talk radio and not the place to discuss something that was scripted and all about the soap opera that invaded homes, and way before the new WWE Network, the web sites that are now the source for fans when it comes to being informed.
So they listened and waited patiently to talk with Jody and yours truly. WFAN management was not sold on the segment, but Jody pushed for it and soon the hour became a platform for pro wrestling fans. Promoters were tuned in and the buying spots on the hour became their forum, Management saw that revenue, and of course at 3AM, well that revenue was precious to say the least.
It all started as a gimmick in the early 1990’s with Steve Somers. He knocked the industry. I would call in and then Jody came into the picture. We met at a local pub and the idea was to give it a try, not knowing that four years would soon come and go and pro wrestling talk was once again a part of radio and in the New York City market on a 50,000 watt radio station.
We were heard. From New York City to the fans who could get the signal. First it was from the comforts of home and at times direct from the studio. There were the regulars, many who still stay in touch as I no longer had an active role in the wrestling industry and continue to write and cover sports, a columnist here with the NAWA and with other web sites.
But the memories are endless about talking and sharing pro wrestling gossip, rumors, and the popular questions of who is coming and going or what is going to happen. This was a period of time when pro wrestling was at an all time high. The fans wanted to be informed and Jody McDonald was a major part of being there and realizing that this was off topic of sports talk radio.
And because Jody had that passion for pro wrestling, as well as being one of the best with his sports knowledge, it worked. The most common question, and it was a fluke, “Is Paul Orndorff dead?” Of course he was alive and well, but that was a constant rumor and we always answered the question.
At times, I review the various You-Tube casts that some loyal fans have uploaded online and tell you the truth, those moments, and at 3AM, are highlights of this amazing career in sports media. There are the letters from the fans, and the guests in the pro wrestling industry who are part of that media spectrum.
The great Terry Funk came to the studio in the old Kaufman Astoria studios, so did some other legends including the late “Captain” Lou Albano. The Hall of Fame list goes on and on, and we are so always grateful. That includes the tag team known as the Dudley Boys who listened as faithful fans.
In fact, to this day, the Dudleys attribute yours truly for getting the wrestling business. They heard about the “Unpredictable Johnny Rodz School of Pro Wrestling” and this Brooklyn born duo became legends and one of the top tag teams championship tandems in pro wrestling history.
My friends always tell me that the segment with Jody McDonald had an impact. We kept fans from getting their weekend sleep, but we continued until Jody moved on and took his sports knowledge to WIP in Philadelphia.
As for “Keep It in the Ring,” a slogan that is alive and well, it just came. I needed a close to the segment and before 4AM. Jody said thanks until next week, I said, “Keep it In The Ring.” It was appropriate and it became one of those slogans that is a part of this journey.
So many years later and WFAN continues their remarkable ride as the number one talk sports radio station in the country. I am grateful to them, the fans, and owe it all to Jody McDonald.
Yes. as Jody said. “JM with RM, early in the morning.” It worked and others followed with similar success and a smaller audience, at a more normal hour. Pro wrestling talk will always be a part of WFAN history.
And with that, “Keep It In The Ring.” Yes, pro wrestling exposure has come a long way on the air waves and mainstream media. It;s good to be back with the NAWA.
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