January 9, 2013
As an original member of the iconic Four Horsemen, Tully Blanchard was one of the most notorious bad guys the sport of professional wrestling ever knew. Many years removed from antagonizing fans of WCW and WWE wrestling, Blanchard now brings a message far more powerful than his signature slingshot suplex move ever delivered to opponents.
Battling with alcohol and drugs, Blanchard’s life changed forever on Nov. 2, 1989 when he failed a drug test with the WWE. Trying to get back into the WCW – the former National Wrestling Alliance where Blanchard made his mark as a member of the Four Horsemen with Ric Flair and Ole and Arn Anderson - Blanchard finally came to a moment of truth.
“At one in the morning on November 13, Flair called to tell me the WCW reneged on my deal. Three hours later, I said ‘Jesus, take over my life,’” Blanchard said in a phone interview. “And it was the first time I ever used the name Jesus when I wasn’t cussing somebody. My life was changed at three or four in the morning that day.”
The energy that Blanchard used to spend winning titles such as the NWA’s World Television Championship is now spent spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. During the January 18-20 weekend, Blanchard will visit the area to share his epic struggle with drugs and alcohol and how he found his rescuing grace in God.
“The biggest thing is that we have hope in Christ,” Blanchard said of the message he hopes to convey to the people of Hillsville and the surrounding area. “When governments will let you down, when society is crumbling around you, there is hope in Jesus Christ. And I didn’t learn that until I was 35 years old, but there is a better way. Even in the midst of chaos, we can still live victorious lives.”
Blanchard’s visit to the area will begin January 18 with a scheduled stop to speak at Firehouse Ministries in Mount Airy, N.C. beginning at 7 p.m. The next morning, his day will begin in Hillsville with a meet and greet at Race-In from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Fans will have an opportunity to have pictures taken and to get autographs from Blanchard that morning.
That will lead up to the big event that night at the Carroll County High School Auditorium. Admission is free, and the event will start at 6 p.m. with the drama team from Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church. A pair of dance teams from Firehouse Ministries, Blaze and The Firesteppers, will perform after that. Local worship band Common Creed (Craig and Jessica Vaughn) will then play for about 30 minutes before Blanchard takes the stage to speak for about 45 minutes. Blanchard will also speak at Fellowship Wesleyan Church in Hillsville on Jan. 20.
Blanchard’s visit is being coordinated by the same committee that put together the Christian Family Fun Day event in Hillsville this past September. That event drew a huge crowd to the area and ultimately led to many people giving their lives to the Lord, said Greg Talley, who served on the committee for the Christian Family Fun Day. The overwhelming success of that day drove the committee to seek similar events.
“We are just excited to be able to do this. There hasn’t been any kind of Christian events in the area, and people are coming out of the woodwork wanting to do this stuff,” Talley said. “Right after the Christian Family Fun Day, it touched so many people we had tons of people contacting us wanting us to do more Christian events in the area. We are not doing this for personal recognition. We just want people to get saved.”
Talley said everyone involved with the Christian events has volunteered their own time. Hoping to keep every event free, the committee basically relies on donations, Talley said.
“We don’t ask for anything, and I think that is what makes it so gratifying for everybody,” Talley said.
Approximately 50 churches were involved in the Christian Family Fun Day, and many have joined forces to help with the Tully Blanchard event, Talley said. The Hillsville Police Department and Carroll County Sheriff’s Office have also partnered with the Christian committee.
“Everybody has just been so excited, even the Town of Hillsville. They have their Beach Nights in the summer, but they want to do a Christian Night as well,” Talley said. “After we do this with Tully, we want to build on that and do some more wrestling stuff. Sting has been saved and we would like to get him up here too at some point.”
Talley encourages anyone with questions about the event or the committee to call him at (276) 233-5654 or Richard Edwards at (276) 733-5227.
“We have a wide range of people performing January 19. We want the youth to come as well as wrestling fans,” Talley said. “It’s just a blessing for us and we want to pack out this gym.”
Blanchard was inducted into the WWE Wrestling Hall of Fame on March 31, 2012 as a member of the Four Horsemen. After a bitter feud with fan favorite Dusty Rhodes in the mid 1980s, Blanchard’s next nemesis was Magnum T.A., another popular wrestler with fans. A series of bloody and brutal matches culminated with one of the memorable matches in wrestling history, the famous “I Quit” match, set inside a steel cage for the U.S. Championship at Starrcade ’85. The advent of Youtube and other social media platforms have brought Blanchard and wrestlers of his day to a new generation of fan, opening even more doors for him to spread his message of faith.
“Certainly if the people have got some commonality with you, know who you are and what you have done, they listen in a different fashion then if you just put somebody you do not know in front of them. It’s just a platform that the Lord has used for me,” said Blanchard, who spends most of time serving in the prison ministry these days. “But it’s amazing how many young people with Youtube and all those videos that are accessible, that know the Four Horsemen and the things we have done, the “I Quit” match with Magnum T.A., guys like Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes. They weren’t old enough to remember it, weren’t exposed to it, so it’s just a little beyond me.”
Blanchard said he has wrestled in Hillsville before, but can’t remember if it was in the early or late portion of his career. He remembers wrestling with Dusty Rhodes in Mount Airy one time at an event so packed that promoters had to turn people away. Hopefully, his return visit to the area will be met with the same passion.
“I’m just honored they chose to have me do it,” Blanchard said.