By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
When professional wrestler “Superstar” Bill Dundee turns in the final pages of the book he is working on to his publisher later this year, he can add “author” to his résumé.
The list for the “fan favorite,” who will appear Aug. 15 at the Obion County Fair’s wrestling “arena” near the grandstand, already includes his award-winning fighting credentials, circus performer, circus marketing director, wrestling promoter, wrestling manager and talk-radio guest. In addition, he has passed on his expertise in the ring to his son, Jamie Dundee; his son-in-law, Bobby Eaton; and his grandson, Dylan Eaton.
Dundee will be appearing with hometown wrestling hero “Birdman” Koko B. Ware, plus Cody Michaels, “Hollywood” Jimmy Blaylock and Bonecrusher in matches that will begin at 7:30 on the fair’s kick-off night.
Robert Pruett, Obion County Fair director, is elated to be welcoming his friend Dundee back to Obion County. The last appearance here for the Jackson-based wrestler was about six years ago, the pair estimate.
Entering the ring with the “rasslin’” legend and Derrick King will be Tennessee state Rep. Bill Sanderson of Kenton, who will be serving as referee. Sanderson was on hand Wednesday to greet the visiting fighter he recalls as being a staple in his childhood Saturday morning television viewing schedule.
Dundee was born in Scotland and, as a 15-year-old, emigrated with his family to Australia. While undergoing some early training in judo, provided by his Scottish uncle, the lad had his first introduction to the art of wrestling, as practiced by British fighters. They taught him some basic holds and moves, so when he arrived in Australia and discovered a neighbor had set up a ring in his backyard, he decided it was the perfect opportunity to enlarge his experience. Wrestling had captured his imagination and he eventually worked up the nerve to ask the neighbor to continue his education.
While his earliest paychecks were drawn from a circus payroll — with Internet sites saying he was a trapeze performer — Dundee eventually found his was to America and made his reputation in this country as a wrestler. Borrowing his stage name from the Scottish city of Dundee where he was born, the new kid in the ring (who was christened William Cruickshanks), had his first state-side wrestling match in Tupelo, Miss., in 1974. His home base was Memphis and Dundee says the connection of those two cities to the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was certainly not lost on him.
“Elvis was still living at the time and I thought living in Memphis and fighting in Tupelo was quite a treat. I hadn’t realized how big wrestling was in Memphis, but anybody that’s anybody (in the ring) has been there,” he says. “Saturday morning wrestling in Memphis — first on Channel 13 and then moving to Channel 5 and other stations — was a religion.”
Asked how the world of wrestling has changed, Dundee says the pay scale is the biggest change he has observed and he credits the art of merchandising and the outlets provided by the Internet with bringing about that increase.
Pruett, a friend and fan, is encouraging the community to turn out for the event that will be free with admission to the Obion County Fair. “Bring along something to autograph and come see some great rasslin’. It’ll be a terrific night,” he says.
Published in The Messenger 8.5.11