Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Voice of Memphis Wrestling Passes...

It seems like just yesterday when Pittsburgh wrestling fans were mourning the loss of Bill Cardille, the voice of wrestling in the Steel City. A little over one year later and Memphis is feeling the same grief with the loss of the legendary Lance Russell. While both men made their mark in specific regions, in both instances fans from around the world are mourning just as much as those in the respective home cities of the men.

To live ninety-one years is a long life, but as always it's what one packs into those years that matters. Lance Russell certainly did that, first with a career in television that led to widespread notoriety as the voice of Memphis wrestling. Russell also raised a family, along with wife Audrey, who passed away in 2014. Sadly, that family suffered two losses in the span of a week as Lance and Audrey's daughter passed away on Friday from cancer.

My first exposure to Russell came in the form of the antiquated VHS video tape. An early non-WWF/WCW release titled "Masters of Mayhem" came into my possession at a young age. The tape was full of Memphis-area matches featuring stars who had gone on to find fame on a national level. The voice calling those matches? Lance Russell, of course! A fitting title for the tape considering that Russell was famous for often using the word "mayhem" to describe the action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Russell at the 2009 NWA Legends Fanfest. There, the announcer was joined by his former commentary partner, WMC-TV weatherman Dave Brown, as well as Memphis wrestling icons Jerry Jarrett and Jackie Fargo to create a mini-reunion. It would be my only opportunity to meet the famous host, although I did correspond with him in years following. A long, hand-written letter from Mr. Russell is something that I cherish. It is just a small reflection of his well-known persona of being an absolutely wonderful individual.

I once heard Lance Russell's announcing style described as the "grandfather" trying to keep peace among all of the wild "grandchildren." I wish I could credit the source, but it is absolutely true. You trusted and believed what Lance was telling you, and there is no better talent to have when calling pro wrestling. Russell also spent time in WCW and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but he is a firm entry on the "Mount Rushmore" of Memphis wrestling, likely alongside Fargo, Jerry Lawler (who he famously broke into the business), and Sputnik Monroe.

I usually end remembrances with a photo of the personality in question and myself, but Mr. Russell's passing made one photo and one photo only pop into my mind. I can still remember taking it at the Hall of Heroes banquet in Charlotte. I did not snap the photo because of who was speaking on stage in the background. I took it because I had noticed Lance and Audrey Russell holding hands. A simple sign of everlasting love after a lifetime together.

Lance is now at her side again. It's a spot that I imagine he never wanted to leave.

Lance Russell


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