Lance Russell

Class of 2009





Photograph by Christine Coons

Studio 11-B

Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2009





Lance Russell was inducted into the Hall of Heroes Class of 2009

by his long time broadcast partner Dave Brown.


Lance Russell hoped once upon a time to be a play-by-play announcer in the big leagues for football or some other sport. Their loss was wrestling’s gain. The long-time voice of Memphis wrestling had the perfect eye for what he was calling, and the perfect pitch for describing it to viewers. “In my heart, he’s the announcer equivalent of Lou Thesz—and I think he’d consider that to be a much bigger compliment than any comparison to an actor,” said wrestling columnist Scott Bowden, a veteran heel manager in Tennessee. For generations of fans glued to the TV set on Saturdays, Russell somehow made sense out of the wild and wooly Memphis territory, adding a knowing respectability to matters, even when Jerry Lawler and Sam Bass tore off his suit, or Jimmy Hart dumped flour on his head. “"Personally, just the absolute most classiest, nicest fellow,” said Chris Cruise, another veteran announcer. “He is just a storehouse of knowledge. Just so calm and so cool, yet he’s still able to get excited.”

Russell was a wrestling fan growing up in Dayton, Ohio, and was working in Jackson, Tenn., when Nick Gulas and Roy Welch approached him about doing a live wrestling show for their promotion. Want to know how long ago that was? Russell once calculated he started three years before Hall of Fame announcer Gordon Solie. From there, he headed to Memphis, and made his mark in more ways than one. “They put me on doing a show with Charlie Sullivan, who was the big-time wrestling announcer in Memphis at the time,” Russell said. “Charlie left and I started doing it all. I worked with Eddie Bonn, who's a successful country musician, and ultimately got around to Dave Brown. Davey and I worked together as play-by-play commentary guys straight, in a row, for about 22 years.” What most fans don’t know is that Russell was more than just a voice―he was for many years program director for WHBQ-TV (Channel 13) in Memphis. He was the brains behind moving the TV show to 11 a.m. on Saturdays, despite the grousing of Gulas that only kids watched the boob tube at that time of day. Between 20 percent and 25 percent of Memphis households tuned their sets to watch Jackie Fargo, Lawler, and the rest of the crew got through their ministrations, the highest local market penetration in the country. Promotions across the country started switching their time slots to follow the lead of Memphis.

Russell never bothered much with the detailed scripting of shows and matches, which is one reason, observers say, why his calls sounded realistic and authentic. “I got to the point after seeing 2,000 matches or so, I kind of got the string of how everything went down. In my mind, I could figure that out, not being totally stupid,” he reflected. “ ‘You want to hear how this match is going?’ The answer would be ‘no.’ We just let it flow, how’s it going to hit you? It just seemed to work well that way.” In fact, the video clips on his Web site,, including the infamous flour attack, attest to that success. He also worked with World Championship Wrestling from 1989 to 1993, working with Solie, before settling into retirement in Florida with Audrey, his wife of more than 60 years. Like any good announcer, Russell still knows how to put over the talent. “I was blessed of having worked with two or three guys who were just sensational mouths. Lawler was one of them; Lawler may be the best I’ve ever run into anywhere. Austin Idol was a very good one too,” he said. At the Hall of Heroes banquet, it’ll be time to put over Russell as one of the legendary voices of the game.


- Steve Johnson

Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels






© 2005-2009, All Rights Reserved.

Neither this website nor NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest nor the Mid-Atlantic Gateway are affiliated or associated with the National Wrestling Alliance.
The NWA name and logo are trademarks of Pro Wrestling Organization, LLC and are being used with permission.