Long before pro wrestling was given mainstream credibility by ESPN and FOX, Larry King believed that people were craving more wrestling—more specifically, he was steadfast in his belief that people wanted to know more about the wrestlers.
King, whose seventh season of Larry King Nowjust premiered last week on Ora TV, brought wrestlers from both WWE and the now defunct-World Championship Wrestling on his CNN show, Larry King Live.
“They are incredible athletes, their fan following is amazing, but their results are never in the paper,” said King, who saw a gaping hole in wrestling’s national coverage despite its popularity. “I remember watching Antonino Rocca from Argentina bang off the ropes and jump into the air, and it was incredible what wrestling was to early television. Pro wrestling and [early TV star] Milton Berle made early television.
“To me, if someone is interesting, then I am curious. And wrestlers—and wrestling—are interesting.”
Pro wrestling currently enjoys far more mainstream media coverage than ever before in North America, but King gave wrestling—and, more specifically, the wrestlers—a voice long before it was en vogue.
“[Former WCW owner] Ted Turner was a prophet ahead of his time,” said King, who spent much of his career at the Turner-owned CNN. “Wrestling is fun, and those crowds on Monday nights are insane. He saw the popularity of wrestling as a television feature.”
“Wrestlers are very serious but also entertaining,” said King. “They answer the questions you ask, and wrestling’s growth is an incredible story. It’s a multi-million dollar franchise.”
King has always been able to cover national stories and embed them with a local feel, and delivering that local feeling to national figures is constantly on display when he brings out a more human side of wrestling’s biggest stars.
“I’m a broadcaster, and that’s what I live to be,” said King. “When I was five years old, I wanted to be on the radio. That’s all I ever wanted to be, that’s all I wished for.
“I am a conduit for the guest to the viewer and I ask questions I think people will be interested in. It’s important to let the occasion come to itself. I want to know what it’s like to be a wrestler, what it’s like to be in the ring, what’s it like to be at home, how do you set up your matches, that is all interesting to me.”
King, who is closing in on another milestone with his 1,000th episode this November, is hitting close to three million viewers a day. He expressed his gratitude to all who have watched, and promised a plethora of compelling content during this upcoming season.
“In Season 7, we’ll plan to do what we always do,” said King. “We’re going to have great guests, interesting interviews, with guests from politics to theater to stars. We come to deliver, because tomorrow’s show is the most important I’ll ever do.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.