Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Masked Superstar vs. The Mighty Igor (Final) (Part 5)

OPPOSITES ATTRACT - Part 5 (Conclusion)
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Catch up on what you missed in PART 1PART 2, PART 3, and PART 4!)

By the end of July with the result of their feud hanging in the balance, Igor and Superstar entered a new and dangerous phase of their bitter rivalry that went on into the month of August through and until the last week of September.  At the urging of the “Mad Russian” Boris Malenko, vicious Russian Chain matches were scheduled between Igor and Superstar, the first of which occurred on July 26th in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to the Russian Chain matches, Lumberjack matches between the two adversaries were also set, the first of which occurred on August 9, 1977 in Raleigh.

To show the intensity for the build-up to the brutal chain matches, the combatants talked about it prior to an August 12, 1977 Russian Chain match in Richmond, Virginia. The Superstar began his promo by saying, “As you well know, and the people well know, a Russian Chain match is probably the most dangerous type match. And Igor, FINALLY, you’re gonna get your just due. It’s finally come to this…one of us is definitely gonna be hurt, and I think it’s gonna be you. As a matter of fact, I want Boris Malenko, the Father of the chain match, to show you and the people a little demonstration of what this steel chain can do.”

Malenko moved into camera range carrying a thick chain and said, “Let me just say this…this is the most dangerous match there is in professional wrestling today, or any other day. Both men will be tied over here by the cuffs of this chain. In order to win this match, you must drag your opponent around the ring two complete times. The only way this is humanly possible is if the man that you’re dragging is completely unconscious. This chain can maim you, it can put out your eye, it can end your wrestling career…and that’s what we have in mind.”

The Professor then brought a steel chair onto the set with announcer Ed Capral, and smashed steel again steel for affect. Malenko explained, “Just let me give you a little demonstration. This [chain] is steel…this chair is steel also. Look at the indentations. This chair right over here…it’s steel against steel. See what it did? Can you imagine what it could do to the human body? Well I know what it can do, and I taught my Superstar to do it! And he will do it right here in Richmond…you can count on that!”

When Igor got his turn to talk about the chain match, he didn’t appear to be intimidated by Superstar and Malenko at all and said, “He thinks because Malenko taught him this Russian match here with the chain. What do you think, he can’t get away from me either. I don’t want him to get away. I’m gonna give you punishment ten times over because you hurt my mother and you hurt all the people that I know.”

Igor then addressed the Richmond fans directly by saying, “You people of Richmond, Igor is gonna be in there. Malenko, you’re gonna be very dissatisfied when I get done with that Super-chicken because the day has come that he cannot run away no more. No more runnin’ away, no more. My eye is not right yet. But you will get it because, it’s in the eyes of the people what you did to me, and you are gonna get paid. I still feel hurt inside but you didn’t change me…I’m still gonna be good and you’re gonna be destroyed sooner or later or you’re gonna be crippled. Because one of us is gonna leave that ring, and I plan for me to leave it!”

Despite the natural advantage Superstar seemed to have with Malenko in his corner for the Russian Chain matches, Igor prevailed in the vast majority of these bruising battles with the steel chain in August and much of September. Because there was no pinfall or submission possible in this type of bout, the Superstar maintained his mask and $5,000.00 despite losing most of these contests. However, in the Lumberjack matches that were held during that very same time frame, the Superstar came out the victor in a high percentage of them. Thus, when the 1977 calendar hit the last week in September the winner of this epic feud was very much still in doubt.

The colossal program between the Superstar and Igor that began in the frigid cold of February 1977 would reach its end in the crisp fall air of late September. During the last week of September, the Superstar defeated Igor in brutal fence matches (starting to be called cage matches) in Roanoke, Virginia on September 25th, and in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on September 28th. Also during that last week of September, the masked man punished Igor in Charlotte, North Carolina and Fishersville, Virginia in two bloodbaths of matches. That led to a fence match in Richmond, Virginia on Friday night, September 30th. This would be the last match ever between these two arch-enemies.

The in-your-area promos leading up to the fence match in Richmond had the feel of an upcoming battle that would decide this program once and for all. An agitated Superstar told announcer Ed Capral, “I’ll tell ya, for the first time, I’m a little befuddled…I’m almost at a loss for words. Because Igor has evidently gone to the promoter and he’s pressured the promoter once again to put in another stipulation. I really don’t know what to say because I don’t particularly like this kind of match. I’ve seen cage matches before…they’re very devastating. There’s no way out. There’s no way out for me, and there’s no way out for Igor. And I don’t mind telling you that I don’t like the situation I’m put in. I DON’T LIKE IT IGOR! You’ve got me in a corner. You think you’ve got an advantage; well, this cage may be your downfall. I don’t particularly like Richmond, and I hate you Igor. And it’s come to either you or me, AND IT’S GONNA BE YOU!!”

Igor appeared to be brimming with confidence as he addressed the Richmond fans before this monumental steel cage contest. Laughing, the powerful Polish grappler announced, “I wait a long time for this! He said he don’t particularly like this cage match, but I like it; I love it! This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Hey mom, look, I finally got the Super-chicken in a cage…he can’t go nowhere! His feathers can’t fly him away or nothing! He’s all mine! Oh momma, you should be happy for your son…I’m happy for myself!”

Igor then approached announcer Ed Capral and offered, “Oh boy, good kielbasa, you like some?” Capral politely declined! Igor concluded, “Oh, you’re gonna get it Super-chicken, I’ve been waiting a long time! Malenko, you stay out of this cause Igor’s gonna win!!”

The climactic match in Richmond between Superstar and Igor certainly lived up to the hype. Eight months of animosity between these two seemed to all come out within the confines of the unforgiving cage. The steel was used as a weapon by both combatants, and the blood was flowing freely on both sides. Ultimately, the Superstar reached down deeper than he ever had before, and vanquished a battered Igor. As the Polish strongman lay prone on the mat in the Richmond ring, it signaled the end of the bitterest of feuds. Igor was laughing no more, and the fans were stunned.

Graphic courtesy Mike Cline / Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats

On the next Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, that was taped on October 5, 1977, Superstar addressed the situation with Igor with Bob Caudle. Superstar gloated, “I want to make note…you hear all these people chanting ‘Igor, Igor, Igor?’ Well, I have the pleasure to announce that Igor isn’t gonna be around any longer. He and I were involved in a very, very brutal cage match. And I got some scars and I got some bruises, but I got rid of that fat thorn that was in my side. Igor’s not gonna be around here any longer! You don’t see him here today?”

A shaken Caudle commented, “No, but it’s hard for me to believe that he’s not gonna be around anymore.” Superstar countered, “You just take my word for it, because I don’t tell any lies. If you don’t ask me, ask [Malenko], I’ve never lied to him.” Malenko predictably exclaimed, “Never!” Superstar concluded, “I’ve moved on to bigger and better things. I’m looking forward to some championship belts myself, and I’m looking forward to some matches with some so-called heroes around this area…Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniel. I’m gonna come after these people now!”

Superstar was accurate for the most part. The Mighty Igor, after a short hiatus after the Richmond defeat, returned to the Mid-Atlantic area, but was never a major factor with the promotion again. The Polish strongman had a short and unsuccessful program with Blackjack Mulligan at the tail end of 1977, and then dropped into the middle of the cards before leaving Jim Crockett Promotions for good in March of 1978.

After finally dispatching Igor, the Superstar moved on to a heated feud with Paul Jones that lasted into early 1978, though the masked man’s attempt to collect a $10,000.00 bounty on Blackjack Mulligan’s head was probably the more memorable program, that lasted from April until September of 1978. Mulligan unmasked the Superstar in several cage matches that September, doing what Igor could not do a year earlier, and the masked man retreated from Jim Crockett Promotion’s to the Georgia territory.

The feud between the Masked Superstar and the Mighty Igor had it all, and was an amazing contrast in styles and personalities. It featured the athletic and cerebral Superstar against the gentle giant, the child-like, Mighty Igor. For me, this feud ran parallel with a memorable time in my life…my last semester in high school, to high school graduation, and into my first semester in college. And the program ended in my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia. So, the feud was quite memorable for me, but nothing like it must have been for the two warriors involved, the Masked Superstar and the Mighty Igor. They had the scars to prove it. And they proved something else…opposites really do attract, but in this case, in the most violent way possible.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Yellow Rose of Texas

Memories of Texas Stadium 1984:
Ring jacket, replica belt, texas flag, and yellow roses.

The month of May in 2016 marks the 32 anniversary of the brief NWA world title exchange between Kerry Von Erich and Ric Flair. Kerry won the title on May 6, 1984 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. He dropped the title back to Flair in Yokosuka, Japan on May 24, 1984.

Kerry's victory was at the "Parade of Champions" show that honored Kerry's brother David, who had passed away earlier that same year.

The photograph above contains several iconic elements, not the least of which is the original ring jacket Kerry wore in the ring the day he won the title. The belt is a Dave Millican replica of the National Wrestling Alliance world championship belt, affectionately known as the "domed globe" or "the ten pounds of gold." The belt and jacket are adorned with the Texas flag and yellow roses, all of which call back to that memorable and emotional day in Texas Stadium.

The book "Ten Pounds of Gold" features dozens of photos of the original NWA belt shot especially for the book, one with the original Kerry Von Erich ring jacket paying tribute to his late brother David, the belt and the jacket reunited at the time of the photo in 2008 for the first time in 24 years. I've always loved this photo above, though, taken the following year that featured the flag and the yellow roses with Dave's replica. I've always regretted not thinking to do that when I shot the original belt and robe together for the book.  -Dick Bourne

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Masked Superstar vs. The Mighty Igor (Part 4)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Catch up on what you missed in PART 1PART 2 and PART 3!)

After the Superstar reluctantly signed to face Igor on the June 8, 1977 Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, the tag team bouts involving Igor and Superstar morphed into mainly singles confrontations between the two. One reason for this was that Kim Duk, Superstar’s primary partner, shifted down to mid-card status. The last match involving Duk and Superstar teaming against Igor was on June 24, 1977 in Charleston, South Carolina, where Igor and Bobo Brazil defeated Duk and Superstar.

A wild singles match between Igor and Superstar in June occurred on June 18, 1977 in Hampton, Virginia, where Igor tore Superstar’s mask off! Much like the match on TV where Superstar lost his hood, Superstar was able to obscure his face before anybody could identify him. Greenville, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina also saw ferocious bouts between these two during the end of the month of June. In each of these bloody encounters, Igor had his hand raised in disqualification victories.

As the calendar flipped to July, noteworthy tag team matches pitting Igor and Superstar on opposing sides occurred, with none other than the “Eighth Wonder of the World” Andre the Giant teaming with Igor! On July 3, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Andre and Igor teamed up to defeat the burly duo of the Superstar and Blackjack Mulligan. On July 7th (7/7/77!), Igor and Andre again joined forces to subdue the tandem of the Superstar and the Missouri Mauler in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

After the Giant left the area, Superstar and Igor had an even-steven month of July, with the bouts between these two bitter adversaries being highly competitive. On July 5th, the Superstar gained a hard fought count out victory over Igor in Lynchburg, Virginia. However, almost immediately the Polish strongman turned the tables, defeating the Superstar by count out in Hampton, in a wild melee where Wahoo McDaniel tried to keep order as special referee.

The last noteworthy tag team bouts that featured Igor and Superstar occurred in mid July in two Texas Tornado matches, where all four men were in the ring at the same time. Somewhat predictably, these two high-energy contests saw a split decision in the results. On July 13th in Roxboro, North Carolina, Igor and Ricky Steamboat combined to vanquish Superstar and Ric Flair. But on July 16th in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Superstar got back in the win column, teaming with the Missouri Mauler to defeat Igor and Dino Bravo.

By the end of July with the result of their feud hanging in the balance, Igor and Superstar entered a new and dangerous phase of their bitter rivalry - - Professor Malenko was pushing for a chain match!

Will the Professor have his demands met for a chain match? How will this brutal match affect the heated rivalry between Superstar and Igor?

The final chapter, PART 5, is coming soon!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Crockett Foundation Tag Team Partners

What a great line-up the Crockett Foundation has as its "tag team partners!"

Tommy Young, Baby Doll, Ricky Steamboat, the Rock & Roll Express, James J. Dillon, and the legendary voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Bob Caudle!

Join them by tagging in and helping out at the the Crockett Foundation's website.

Some very cool wrestling gear is on sale there, proceeds from which support the good work of the Crockett Foundation.

"Tag in, help out!"

John Ringley: Jim Crockett's Early Relationship With Television

by Dick Bourne 
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As mentioned earlier, I recently had the pleasure of a casual conversation with John Ringley, at one time the most trusted confidant of promoter Jim Crockett, Sr. He had graciously agreed to talk with me for a feature I am constantly updating related to the old TV studio taping locations of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. The following is another little "tidbit' about the wrestling and TV business in the early days gleaned from those conversations, plus a broader perspective on wrestling and TV's relationship in general. 

When Mr. Ringley and I began talking about the changes in presenting wrestling on television over the decades, one thing became clear: in the early days of TV, unlike today, professional wrestling was in an equal partnership with their television counterparts.

The 1940s and 1950s

Wrestling from New York and Chicago and the west coast had been a staple of national television in the 1950s. By the late 1950s, a growing percentage of  programming on local stations began originating from the studios of those stations, and wrestling was one of earliest programs on local television. 

In 1958, Charlotte, NC television station WBTV partnered with local wrestling promoter Jim Crockett, Sr. to produce live televised wrestling bouts in Charlotte. The arrangement was advantageous for both parties. WBTV needed original local programming, and Jim Crockett benefited from an effective and far reaching way to promote his weekly wrestling cards at the Charlotte Park Center.

Studio 2 at WBTV-3 in Charlotte
The 1960s
At first, the wrestling matches were broadcast live. Later, as technology improved, the station began to record the matches on huge reels of videotape and air them later. Eventually, Crockett soon began similar arrangements with other TV stations including WGHP TV in High Point, NC and WRAL TV in Raleigh.

Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, it was a barter arrangement with hardly any additional expenses for Jim Crockett Promotions. John Ringley explained how it worked at WBTV.

"Things were so different back in the day as it related to expenses," Ringley said. "It was a partnership with television. For example, at WBTV in Charlotte - - the only expense [Jim Crockett Promotions] had was buying dinner for the television studio floor crew at channel 3. That was it!"

And Big Jim made sure those boys always ate well.

The relationship was one of near perfection. Crockett didn’t have to pay for studio time. WBTV didn't have to pay for the wrestlers or the matches.  It was a simple arrangement, equally advantageous to both parties. Crockett promoted his upcoming live events in the area. WBTV got to sell advertising for the highly-rated program.

The only other expense was of course to get the ring set up and torn down in the channel 3 studio, a task that fell to longtime veteran wrestler and trusted Crockett lieutenant Wally Dusek and his crew.

The Crockett/WBTV relationship was put together by people at the top of each organization. "Charlie Crutchfield was the fellow we dealt with at channel 3," Ringley told me. Crutchfield was once president of  Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting Company which owned WBTV. He had been with the Charlotte based broadcasting company since 1933, where he was a host on 1110 WBT-AM radio. "He was a powerful man, with ties to the highest levels of government and of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)," said Reno Bailey of Crutchfield on his BT Memories website. It is only fitting that James Crockett and Charles Crutchfield, two pillars of the Charlotte community for decades, worked together to make "Championship Wrestling" one of the early success stories of local television in the southeast.
WBTV stopped taping wrestling in 1973 when all of Crockett's local TV tapings were consolidated to WRAL studios in Raleigh.

"It was a great bunch of folks to work with for all those many years we did TV there (at WBTV), " Ringley told me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Masked Superstar vs. The Mighty Igor (Part 3)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Catch up on what you missed in PART 1 and PART 2.)

David Crockett and JCP lawyers were demanding the Masked Superstar present a doctor's note as to why he couldn't wrestle the Mighty Igor.

Later on the same TV show, announcer Bob Caudle spoke to Igor about the earlier segment involving the Superstar.  Igor said, “Mr. Crockett was kind enough to get lawyers to make him show certificate… blueprint.  He don’t wanna show it because there’s nothing wrong with his leg, you see. He’s afraid of Igor and I’ve been chasing him all this time. But I must thank Crockett, Mr. Crockett, thank you very much! Because this way he’s got to show his face to wrestle Igor! No more runnin’ away from Igor…the kielbasa is good! And I feel good ‘cause Mr. Crockett really helped me!!” Igor then started lavishing kisses on Bob Caudle before the announcer could escape the affection of the Polish strongman!

On the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling TV program the next week, taped on June 8, 1977, the issues between the Masked Superstar and the Mighty Igor had become so serious, that the President of Jim Crockett Promotions, Jim Crockett, Jr., became involved in a television segment with the two adversaries. Jim Crockett started off the show by telling the fans, “I have an important signing right now. The Superstar has taken his cast off, for whatever reason. He knows, to wrestle again, he must sign a contract to meet the Mighty Igor, who is also here.”

The President then directed Igor, saying, “Mighty Igor, sign your name.”  An ecstatic Igor joyfully responded giggling, “I will…I love you!” The Superstar, not happy in the least barked out, “What happens if he can’t write…can’t sign his name? And get your stinkin’ kielbasa out of here!” An indignant Igor explained to the masked man, “My mother taught me how to write…what’s the matter with you? I’ve waited a long time for this moment, you’re gonna get it now because Mr. Crockett fixed it up for me…you gotta wrestle me first! And don’t knock my kielbasa…my momma make that!” Superstar retorted, “Get your kielbasa outta my face.” Igor pushed back saying, “I’ll put this [fist] in your face instead of the kielbasa. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for, for such a long time!”

With all of Igor’s yapping, the Superstar was worried the Polish powerhouse couldn’t even execute the contract, as he told Mr. Crockett, “Make sure he signs that properly!” Professor Malenko had similar concerns stating, “I’d like to take a look at that, I’d like to take a look at moment here I want look at this. This doesn’t state where this is going to be held at.” An agitated Jim Crockett curtly replied, “I will decide when and where the Superstar will meet the Mighty Igor, not you.” Malenko answered by saying, “You’re trying to railroad us…that’s exactly what you’re doing.”

The masked man echoed Malenko’s position saying, “I don’t like this situation at all. I’m being pushed back into a corner, this has happened time and time again…” Fed up, Jim Crockett interrupted with an ultimatum, “Just sign it or don’t wrestle…it’s that simple.” Malenko complained, “You’ve got our backs up against the wall! We can’t make a living unless we do…we’ve tried every promoter there is in the country.” The Superstar backed up his manager stating, “We’ve called all over this country, and you’ve gotten ahead of us at every phone call…you know I’m not allowed to wrestle anywhere on account of this man and on account of YOU!! I don’t like it one bit!”

The Mighty Igor had heard enough belly-aching insisting, “I don’t care what you like…you sign your name you creep. Chicken…Super-chicken.” Jim Crockett further infuriated the Superstar by chastising him for attempting to sign his name on the wrong line of the contract, instructing the Superstar, “Don’t mess up the contract…sign right here.” At this point, the Superstar was livid and shot back at Mr. Crockett, “I’m getting quite tired of your insolence…and I’ll sign it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.” Bob Caudle, amazed that the contract signing actually happened said to the fans and David Crockett, “Alright fans, there it is, Superstar is putting his signature on it, and that’s it. He has done it…it’s all signed, sealed and delivered, David!” David Crockett enthusiastically replied, “Fantastic…so the Superstar has to meet the Mighty Igor.” Caudle excitedly added, “It’s gonna happen!”

What happens now that the Superstar has been forced to sign the contract?
Stay tuned as the Masked Superstar / Might Igor saga continues in Part 4! Coming soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Saturday Wrestling - December 1973
(Studio Wrestling)
Take a look at the great line-up of 1-hour wrestling programs (remember them?) airing on local stations across the Mid-Atlantic area in December of 1973.

All-Star Wrestling with Ric Stewart (Kansas City)
(Studio Wrestling) 
A look at Harley Race and Bruiser Brody on the set of "All-Star Wrestling" with host Ric Stewart in the mid-1980s.

Man Behind the Mike: Jim Carlisle (Georgia)
(Studio Wrestling) 
The great series from Wrestling Revue magazine continues with a look at the host of wrestling on TV in Macon and Columbus GA in the 1960s and 1970s.

Great Champions
(Domed Globe)
Great shots of great champions with the "ten pounds of gold"  including Dusty Rhodes as well as a Japanese poster collage featuring Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Giant Baba, and Ric Flair.

Opposites Attract: Masked Superstar vs. Mighty Igor
(Mid-Atlantic Gateway)
Part 1  |  Part 2
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of the re-telling of the Masked Superstar/Might Igor saga which will be up on Wednesday May 18!