For a man known as “Rugged” with “Hands of Stone” during his long professional wrestling career, Ron Garvin hasn’t always been so tough.
Take his visit to Dalton in the late 1990s.
Garvin had retired from wrestling and was working as a pilot flying freight cargo. The plane was en route from Bowling Green, Ky., to Sumter, S.C., when it experienced mechanical problems. The plane lost an engine and began losing altitude, and Garvin searched for a place to make an emergency landing. He found the Dalton Municipal Airport.
“For the last minute, we were about 1,200 feet off the ground,” Garvin said. “The co-pilot kept trying and trying. We finally were able to hold enough altitude about four miles from the airport. We skimmed over the treetops and made it to the runway. We went in and cleaned our pants. Everything turned out OK. I don’t remember wrestling in Dalton, but I remember flying in there.”
Garvin, a former NWA heavyweight champion, is among several well-known wrestlers of the past expected in Dalton on Saturday for “Wrestling Reunion 2014.” The event at the trade center will feature meet-and-greets from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and wrestling starting at 7:30. Scheduled to appear are Bob Armstrong, Buff Bagwell, Bobby Fulton, Mike Jackson, Jim Heidenreich, Tim Horner, Lodi, Moondog Rex and Tommy Rich. For more information, visit the Wrestling Reunion 2014 page on Facebook or wrestlingreunion2014.webs.com. Tickets start at $10.
Garvin, who spoke to me in a phone interview while at a wrestling reunion in Mobile, Ala., said he enjoys these events for several reasons.
“It kind of breaks up my scenery and I get to see a lot of the guys I haven’t seen in a long time,” Garvin said. “You always run into one or two guys you haven’t seen in a while. You talk about old times, then you run into wrestling fans. Some of them know more about your career than you can remember.”
Garvin’s career spanned some 35 years, from regional territories in the 1960s and ’70s to Jim Crockett’s NWA in the ’80s to Vince McMahon’s WWF in the ’90s.
Garvin said he doesn’t keep up with professional wrestling much these days because the sport has changed so much since he broke into it in 1962. But many of the stars of today are the sons of his friends and former opponents.
“I remember seeing Randy Orton. Last time I had seen him he was a year old,” Garvin said. “I was channel surfing and I ran into WWE and heard the name Orton, so it got my attention. Then I realized they were talking about Randy.”
Not Bob Orton Sr. or “Cowboy” Bob Orton Jr., two members of the wrestling family he knew well.
Throughout his career, Garvin held plenty of singles and tag team belts. He competed in a match at WrestleMania 5. And made plenty of money. Garvin said winning the NWA heavyweight championship in 1987 by beating Ric Flair was his greatest accomplishment.
He couldn’t recall the details of how his championship reign came together.
“To me it was a belt, it was a title,” Garvin said. “It was great, but I was after the money. Whatever made me money. It was a business. I treated it as a business. I have no regrets. I’d do it all over again. Some things I might do a little better, but that’s life.”
When thinking back on his toughest opponents, he named Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Ted DiBiase, Greg Valentine and Boris Malenko — from whom Garvin got the famed “Garvin Stomp.”
“People say, ‘Well, what about Ric Flair?’” Garvin said. “Ric Flair had the same match for 35 years. We go dancing and we do the same dance, whatever you call the dance, it’s still the same dance. I’m not knocking him. To me it was not enjoyable.
“But with Jake ‘The Snake,” you never knew what to expect from the guy. That was the thing of it. And Valentine was the same way. It was whatever came up and sometimes it was pretty exciting.”
When Garvin isn’t at reunion shows, he spends much of his time fishing and hunting — moose, caribou, bear, deer, moose, turkey, etc.
“I went from a wrestler to a mountain man,” Garvin said with a laugh.
He should feel at home this weekend in the mountains of northwest Georgia.
Jamie Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (706) 272-7723.