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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carter excited to bring wrestling to Tupelo

COLUMN: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Dixie Carter, the president of TNA Impact Wrestling, can attest to that when talking about Ole Miss and Oxford. The one time Kappa Kappa Gamma took some time out of her busy schedule Wednesday to visit with Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and Dr. Thomas “Sparky” Reardon, the Dean of Students at Ole Miss as she continued her preparations for tonight’s big wrestling event in Tupelo.

Carter, who is originally from Dallas and now lives in Nashville, Tenn., is in North Mississippi to help produce the live show at the BancorpSouth Arena that features a six-man tag team event with the likes of Sting, Kurt Angle and Bully Ray, the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Carter has always loved Ole Miss and Oxford and the thought of bringing a show, that can be seen on Spike TV, close to Oxford was too much to pass up. So was seeing some old friends such as Reardon and Jones, who she admires greatly.

“I pulled in today and it’s stunning. It has always been one of the most beautiful campuses in the world but it is truly now unparalleled to me. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And a day like today, it just reminds me of being in school,” Carter said about being back at Ole Miss, a place she tries to visit as much as possible. “I was talking to Sparky Reardon and I was in his leadership course (Carter graduated from Ole Miss in 1986). It was a junior/senior program and one of the last courses I took and it really changed my life. I was very active on campus and I always encourage kids to get active on campus and not just do their grades.

“There are a lot of things you can do on campus that can parallel real life. It gets you exposure on a different level. Back then I don’t think I was sitting around the Kappa house saying that one day Hulk Hogan was going to work for me.”

Carter is Hogan’s boss now, as well as a bevy of other talented wrestlers who don’t always get to perform in this area.

“If you’re a wrestling fan and love a Sting or a Hulk Hogan and you watched it with your dad, tonight is a really great opportunity just 30 minutes away that you may never see again in this area,” Carter said about the two-hour event that begins at 7. “We’re really turning the cameras on the crowd. We have these huge jibs that will be going right over the people and making them a part of the show.”

When Carter isn’t touring with her wrestlers or working to improve her company’s product, she’s keeping up with Ole Miss sports and students.

“I go to games, I come back and speak at the business school. I participate in different kinds of leadership, master’s programs that they ask me to speak on,” Carter said. “I do hundreds of interviews a year and every chance I get I try to talk about Oxford and Ole Miss. I think once you come to Ole Miss, you never leave.

“It’s a very spiritual place, the city of Oxford is just amazing.”

Jones awarded belt

Jones spent some 30 minutes with Carter on Wednesday and was awarded the title belt in his office. Carter remembers the first time she met Jones and how the initial meeting turned into a lengthy conversation.

“The first time, I get this phone call that Chancellor Jones wants to come say hello to me. I was thinking he would be in and out in 10 minutes. I was sure he had a crazy schedule. I was so honored for him to come see me. My assistant at the time was also a Kappa from Ole Miss and I said to book 15 minutes. I think we were together an hour and a half, two hours,” Carter said. “He sat there and was so engaged in everything I was doing. So here is this incredibly scholared doctor who has just taken over as Chancellor and he was trying to find everything out about my business and me.

“They toured our television production facility and we’ve been in there talking about how they can take what we do with the cameras and the graphics and the television studio and see how we can help Ole Miss.”

Keeping up with OM

Wrestling may be Carter’s main priority, but she’s also aware of the jobs Hugh Freeze and Ross Bjork have done.

“I think it’s been a banner year for Ole Miss sports and athletics. I think the leadership of Ross, their leadership, to me, is the perfect Ole Miss representative, what I think this university should be and that’s so positive. They’re very, very talented but I think the way they’ve approached the changes here, I have to give the Chancellor credit. I think he put a great team in place to go out and find these two men who I think are making serious changes,” Carter said. “I’ve got a lot of close friends that work at ESPN or Fox Sports, all the national media, and for years I’ve had to prod them to talk about us, talk about us good, this is very important and now they’re texting me during games and texting me about the different events. It’s completely reversed and there is a vibe out there I’m very excited about this university.”

Just how many games Carter will attend this yearremains unknown due to her workload but she added that the opener, at Vanderbilt, will be one she won’t miss.

“I’ll probably only make a couple of games due to travel and touring but I’m going to buy season tickets this year just to support the school,” Carter said. “I usually host a big party (in Nashville) and try to get a bunch of Ole Miss alum to come to the game. There is a very active alumni chapter there. I’m looking forward to it.” (May 9, 2013, Page 9A)

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