George South was Ric Flair’s favorite opponent in the wrestling ring. Flair pinned him “a couple hundred times,” South said, while always respecting his skill and work ethic.
The 55-year-old South lives in Charlotte and still travels the country as a professional wrestler, but saving souls is what counts the most now, he told the Observer on Friday.
South is scheduled to wrestle at 11 a.m. Saturday in an outdoor ring at Rock City Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He will minister to fans the final 15 minutes or so of his hour-long appearance, and then drive to a 7 p.m. wrestling event at Clayton Fitness in Clayton, near Raleigh.
South owns a wrestling school in Charlotte and has taken his students to wrestle before Charlotte Motor Speedway fans for 16 years. He joined with Raceway Ministries after 9/11 to share his personal testimony with fans. He also penned an autobiography, “Dad You Don’t Work, You Wrestle!”
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“Professional wrestling used to be the hottest thing in Charlotte before the Panthers,” South said. “We were just household names. Me and Flair just hit it off. When he needed a good match, he always asked for me.”
As former Observer sports columnist Tom Sorensen wrote: “Before the Hornets, the Panthers and Bobcats, there was wrestling. And before Interstate 485 and the New South, there was George South.”
South was born near Boone and caught the professional wrestling bug the first time he watched it on TV at age 9. He later moved to the Charlotte area.
He graduated from North Gaston High School on a Friday in 1980 and the next day “they threw me in a ring,” he said. He’s wrestled professionally since 1985.
“Pro wrestling was very prestigious,” he said. “You just didn’t walk in.”
His greatest move was “the claw,” he said. “They took their big hands and put them on their opponent’s face,” South said. “Today’s younger fans have never seen it.”
He is 6-feet tall and 235 to 240 pounds. He weighed 260 pounds in his prime. “I may have been a little taller back then, but getting dropped on my head a few times in the ring might have made me shorter,” he joked.
South, who travels three or four days a week, said he now wins the matches, since he owns the two rings he takes to venues such as the speedway..
“It’s my wrestling ring, so I get to win,” he said with a laugh.
South not only loves the sport but uses it to bring more fans closer to God.
He was 13 when he became a born-again Christian. He had a mean streak, he said, and was drinking beer at age 10. His parents died, leaving 14 children. One of his brothers told South that God loved him, and that changed his life, he said.
That’s what he says to fans. “I’m telling them God loves them,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what they’ve done.”
He’ll treat fans to free breakfast at 9 a.m. and after the matches provide lunch. Then it’s back on the road for the father of five. His oldest is 30 and youngest 18. He has twin 19-year-old daughters.
“The wrestling is the easy part,” he quipped. “Raising the kids is the hardest part. I go on the road so I can rest.”