Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wahoo McDaniel: Missing in Action (Part 2)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Catch up on what you missed in PART ONE that set the stage for the tremendous battle between Ric Flair and Tiger Conway, Jr.

* * * * * * * * * *


When Greg Valentine was confronted by David Crockett regarding the disappearance of Wahoo McDaniel an indignant Valentine snarled, “Well, why do you have a feeling that I know where Wahoo is?” Crockett answered, “We’ll see what happens in the match. Right now…now Ric Flair is up to his usual tricks, he has his man down and he wants to punish the man.” Greg, smiling now as he’s viewing the film cackles, “Now you see, this is what I told you before…STAMINA! Tiger Conway is blowed up; he’s had all he can take! Desperation punch there, but he is tired…”

Crockett then interjected, “That’s right, he’s tired from wrestling a previous match.” Valentine then deadpanned, “Now, this surprised me that he had energy to do that.” As Conway turned the tide, an excited Crockett exclaimed, “Look at this, look at this!! Tremendous slam, almost all the way across the ring!” At this juncture, announcer Bob Caudle clarified for the fans watching on TV the key point that the fans in Charlotte witnessed in person, “David, you mean that he’d all ready wrestled a match prior to this?” Crockett affirmed, “That’s correct, and Tiger he’s goin’ full gun. Ric Flair now, Ric Flair’s on the defensive…he’s backing up!”

Mark Eastridge Collection
The “Bionic Elbow” was not about to give Tiger any credit retorting, “Well, let me tell ya something, Ric Flair only backs up when knows he needs to step back and think and get ready to make another move. That’s the only reason he’s backin’ up, not because he’s afraid of Tiger Conway, Jr. because there’s no way.” Crockett continued to push back against Valentine stating, “Well, he’s standing back and now he’s sort of got his hands up saying stay back a little bit. Now, look at Tiger! He’s goin’ 110 percent. It looks like Ric Flair is the one that’s blown up!”

Valentine fired right back at Crockett saying, “I’ll have to disagree with you there. The match is still new; the match has only been goin’ five or six minutes. As I said before, Ric Flair will wear the man down.” Caudle then again clarified the situation for the fans at home noting, “David, do you think Ric Flair knew where Wahoo was?” Crockett answered, “I think he did.” Caudle followed, “You think Ric also knew, then?” David reiterated, “I think he did, I definitely do.”

As the film continued to play, it showcased what was a very competitive match between Flair and Conway that had to be thrown together because of the surprising absence of Chief Wahoo McDaniel. David Crockett continued, “Tiger Conway, Jr., he’s doing very well taking up for Wahoo. He’s doing a fantastic job! Now Ric Flair…” The “Hammer” then interrupted, “That’s a familiar hold right there, a familiar knee right into the old bread basket.” Crockett concurred, “Yes it is, and now Ric is working on the mid section.” Seeing Tiger in trouble, Valentine then gleefully quipped, “Now you see Tiger Conway, laying flat on the mat!”

The back and forth between Flair and Conway was intense, and the film showed how enraptured the Park Center crowd was with this impromptu bout between these two. But there came a time during the film replay that a booming crowd reaction came that didn’t seem to track a brief lull in the action in the ring. It was even to the point that Ric and Tiger almost stopped their brutal assault against each other to see what the crowd was reacting to. While viewing the film at this point, David Crockett’s voice rose in anticipation, “Now, wait a minute…wait a minute! Ric Flair’s looking around! I think he senses something…”

What was unfolding before Crockett’s eyes was the dizzying spectacle that the fans in Charlotte watched with in amazement in person, and one that the fans around the Mid-Atlantic area on television would momentarily witness in disbelief!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Best of the Gateway: Flair vs. Steamboat - How It All Began

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published February 8, 2016

When I attended a spot show card at the Colonial Heights, Virginia High School gym on March 4, 1977, little did I know that I was witnessing the professional birth of one of the greatest stars in wrestling history, Ricky Steamboat. Ricky defeated the always dangerous Sgt. Jacques Goulet that night in Colonial Heights, Steamboat’s second match in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling area. The young Steamboat continued his slow ascension up the proverbial ladder over the next three months, with flashes of promise popping up with each succeeding match. But nobody could have foreseen what the late spring of 1977 would bring for the up-and-coming Steamboat.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television taping date of May 25, 1977, Steamboat closed the show by being interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. Discussing the tough competition in the Mid-Atlantic area, Ricky commented, “With what I know, I feel I have some confidence within myself. I’ve spent a lot of years and years and years…” But Steamboat couldn’t finish, as he was interrupted by none other than the flamboyant Ric Flair! At this juncture, Flair was a Mid-Atlantic veteran compared to Steamboat, having been wrestling in the territory for three years and Ric was the current holder of the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship belt.

The “Nature Boy” dismissively scolded Steamboat, saying, “Step aside kid, the people came to see me and Valentine, not some punk kid! Step aside kid!” Ricky, somewhat taken aback replied, “I’m sorry, I thought this was my interview time.”  Flair, knowing he was effectively pushing Steamboat’s buttons commented, “Don’t make the mistake again…take off kid, take off. And don’t make the mistake of coming in again.” Gaining some confidence, Steamboat counterattacked, saying, “Flair, let me tell you something. I’ve been in this area now for about three months. I’ve been watching you; I’ve been studying you. And let me tell you something; let me tell you something. I can beat you any time of the week, any time of the day, you name it…we’ll go. Don’t YOU make that mistake.” This first confrontation between Flair and Steamboat ended with Flair again trashing the new star from Hawaii, saying, “ Get out of here; get that kid out of here. We got more important things to talk about, get lost kid, we’ve got men to talk about, get lost kid.”

The next week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, Steamboat and Flair had their second incident.  Steamboat and Bob Caudle were talking about Ricky’s victory over Lanny Poffo earlier in the show, when Flair showed up again unannounced. Steamboat exclaimed, “What’s going on, what’s going on?!?” Ric countered, “Here I am, $500 suit, looking as only I could look! Step back punk, every time I got something to say, this punk kid is in my way.” Steamboat, incredulous that he was being interrupted yet again, said, “They told me this was MY interview time!” Flair laughingly retorted, “You’re gonna have to learn like everybody else has had to learn, nothin’ goes unless the Nature Boy says so, you  understand that boy, now just step back.”

At this juncture, the youngster from Hawaii had about enough of Ric’s mouth, explaining, “Hey, Flair, let me say something now partner…I do a little bit of talking out here to the fans and everything, but I do my business in the ring. I don’t want to do it right here in front of TV and the interviewer here…I don’t want to get him involved. So let me say something…if you want to go right now we’ll climb in there…” Ric rudely interrupted, “I don’t want to hurt you…get lost punk! I’m dressed up and I’ve got the girls out there screaming! I don’t want to wrestle a punk like you, hurt you and put you in the hospital, how does that make me look? I don’t want to wrestle someone underprivileged like you!” When Steamboat then hesitated, Flair said, “You got something to say? Speak up boy!” A now fuming Steamboat snarled, “This is the second time you’ve done this, the second time. Don’t push your luck too far, you understand? Don’t push your luck too far.” Ric, a little caught off guard by Steamboat’s retort, incredulously asked, “Who does this punk think he’s talking to? You hear all the girls screaming, the guys are in fear, and the mightiest man of them all is standing right here. Take a walk kid!”

The following week on the TV taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, taped on June 8, 1977, Steamboat and Flair confronted each other once again on the set. Flair screamed at Steamboat, “I want the whole world to see you and I have this out. You’re trying to tell me and tell all the fans that there is someone greater than the Nature Boy, someone younger someone more beautiful …me with the $5,000.00 robe! Look at it boy!” Ric then proceeded to slap Steamboat in the face and then said, “That’s what I think of him…he’s just a punk and he’s gone. I’m the greatest…you get that through your head!”

An incensed Steamboat fired back, “Mr. [Jim] Crockett, I’m sorry for what is about to happen here. This is the third week now…the third straight week. I have been trying to be as gentleman as I can be…” Ricky then landed a thrust to Flair’s head and knocked the Nature Boy out into dream-land!  Steamboat said, “I’m sorry” as David Crockett, Jim Crockett along with Blackjack Mulligan looked on in amazement as the prone Flair was not moving. After being knocked out with one punch, Flair had to be helped out of the studio as David Crockett exclaimed, “He pushed him too far…he just pushed him too far!”

Fast forward to the end of this TV program, and an agitated Ric Flair comes back on the set where Bob Caudle is talking to Ricky Steamboat. Caudle said to Flair, “I thought you would have had enough.”  Ric responded angrily, “I HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH OF ANYTHING…THINGS HAVE JUST STARTED!” Flair continued, “Step back kid and hear what I got to say. I want you. You see this robe right here…$5,000.00 and I got bent feathers and feathers missing because of you! Not to mention the humiliation of what you did to me on TV! I know you had something in your hand!” A furious Ricky Steamboat replied, “What you’ve been doing to me the last 3 weeks…every time I’ve been getting out here you’ve been butting in and taking up my time, saying it’s your time all the time!”

Flair scolded Steamboat, “You hear what I got to say and you hear it good. Nobody has ever knocked me out with one punch in their entire life. You took something out of your trunks and had it in your hand…I want you. You see this [Mid-Atlantic TV Championship belt] right there?  Next week…you and me…I want you so bad!” Steamboat jumped in immediately and said, “I ACCEPT; I’LL ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE!” A perplexed Flair said, “You’re pretty anxious aren’t you?  You think you can handle me in that ring??” Steamboat confidently said, “I told you I’ve been watching you for 3 months, I told you I can beat you! Next week brother, it’s gonna happen!”

As Steamboat left the TV studio, Ric told Bob Caudle that Steamboat didn’t know who he was dealing with. Caudle countered, “Did you realize that you may have been suckered into putting that belt on the line…it may be YOU that’s in for trouble Ric.” Flair, not surprisingly, disagreed saying, “I’m going to bring it down to earth for a minute. I know I get a little high once in a while, and sometimes I get real spaced out. But I’m going to tell you something right now…I know what I want. This guy is hording in on all aspects of my life. They even tell me that when I have my back turned, this kid is moving in on my private stock!  Well, Steamboat, like every other punk that’s come around and thought he had something going on…I’m going to teach you the same lesson! You ask Wahoo and you ask Paul Jones what it is to pay the price to get in there with the Nature Boy!! WOOOO!!”

The anticipation was palpable when Flair and Steamboat met for the first time in a singles match on June 15, 1977at the studio taping in Raleigh, NC of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show. And Flair’s prestigious Mid-Atlantic Television Title was on the line! Ric’s close friend and tag team partner Greg Valentine joined Bob Caudle and David Crockett in announcing the match. This bout had a true big match feel to it!

Steamboat showed early on in the match that he belonged on the big stage with Flair. Ricky’s athleticism and hard chops kept the Nature Boy off balance early. Valentine countered that Steamboat did not have the stamina or experience to keep it up much longer. After a period of even battling, it appeared that Flair had the win locked up when he dropped Ricky to the mat with a vicious suplex. To the surprise of everyone, particularly Greg Valentine, who was rendered nearly speechless, Steamboat kicked out of the pin attempt before the count of three! Soon after, Ric flung Steamboat out on the concrete floor and it appeared unlikely Ricky would make it back in the ring before the 10 count…but Steamboat persevered and made it back into the ring!

Flair was never the same after Steamboat made it off of the floor. After several more minutes, a disoriented Flair was wobbling around while Steamboat climbed to the top turnbuckle, Ricky leaped off the top rope with a double-chop that disabled Flair, enabling “Steamer” to capture a three count, and the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship! Valentine ran in from his announce position, and joined an embarrassed Flair to double-team an unsuspecting Steamboat. The “bad guys” were beating Ricky senseless until Wahoo McDaniel joined the fray after a couple of minutes, and pandemonium ensued! Luckily for Steamboat, he was able to leave the ring and not be seriously injured.

As the program was about to go off the air, Bob Caudle got a few words with the new Mid-Atlantic TV Champion. Ricky said, “I’m very fortunate to have won that match; he’s a very tough competitor…but I never knew that Flair was the type of individual to have something going on with his partner. To me, this is just the beginning…but I’m gonna tell you something Flair. Deep down inside, this is just the beginning between you and I. Anytime you want me just let the promoter know, and we’ll go.”

Everything has to start somewhere…including famous wrestling feuds. Even on that Wednesday night way back in June of 1977, Ricky Steamboat seemed to sense that his first singles match with Ric Flair was the start of something big. Really big. But nobody could have known at that time just HOW big! One of the greatest feuds in wrestling history began just because Ric Flair would not let Ricky Steamboat finish several innocuous TV interviews! But thank goodness those interruptions happened, as we fans got to enjoy 17 years of a fantastic rivalry and great matches as a result!

- David Chappell

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Best of the Gateway: Sundays with Schiavone

Originally published in a Seven-Part Series February - March 2017

When professional wrestling fans think back to the red hot days of Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid 1980s and the even hotter time following the advent of WCW’s Monday Nitro about a decade later, the name Tony Schiavone is front and center. Tony’s face and voice on television brought us many of the most famous angles and events in professional wrestling history, starting at the lead-off for Starrcade 1983 until the demise of WCW in 2001.

What many fans may not know is that Tony grew up in the western section of Virginia as a huge fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

This interview with Tony is different than any he has ever done before, as it will delve into Tony Schiavone the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan.

Among the multitude of subjects Tony will touch on are his earliest memories of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling starting in 1974, watching the product on television, his favorite Mid-Atlantic wrestlers and the angles they were part of, his road trips to a number of the Crockett towns and his impressions of why and how the Mid-Atlantic territory captured the enduring love of so many fans to the point that we still want to talk about it today in 2017.
The timeline of this interview will cut off during the year of 1983, when Tony actually went from being a Mid-Atlantic fan to a Mid-Atlantic announcer. The reason for this is that Tony has just begun an exciting new podcasting adventure with the Gateway’s good friend Conrad Thompson, called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday), where Tony and Conrad will dig deep into Tony’s broadcasting career throughout the 1983-2001 time period when Tony was a fixture in the wrestling business. They will discuss a different topic each week as voted on by fans and listeners through a weekly poll on their Twitter account. WHW Monday can be found on the MLW Radio Network, with new episodes dropping every Monday! 

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David Chappell: Tony, thank you for taking the time to chat with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway today. You being a native Virginian I’d like to focus on your memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and then we’ll segue to your tremendous new podcast with Conrad Thompson where you two will be breaking down your time in the wrestling business from 1983-2001. Sound okay? 

Tony Schiavone: Sure, that’s fine.

Chappell: I understand you grew up in the Staunton, Virginia area?

Schiavone: Yeah, my hometown is Craigsville which is west of Staunton; kind of southwest of Staunton. It’s much closer to the mountains than Staunton is. It’s Augusta County, but that’s basically the area.

Chappell: Last August I was up that way for a work conference and stayed at the Stonewall Jackson Conference Center, and that was a great place.

Schiavone: Right, that’s been there forever.

Chappell: It has, but they’ve kept it looking great. I used that occasion to hit a couple of old Crockett towns nearby. One night I went down to Roanoke and met Dick Bourne for dinner, and on another day I went by the Expo in Fishersville on the way back home!

Schiavone: Oh yeah, the Fishersville Expo!

Chappell: One of the great spot show venues in Virginia!

I have heard that you started following Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling around 1974?

Schiavone: Around 1974 I was in Craigsville. We had, I guess they still do, an IGA grocery store and I worked there on the weekends as the bag boy and the stock boy in the grocery store which was owned by my father’s best friend. And I would walk down there on Saturday’s, Saturday mornings, to work and then I would take a lunch break and I would walk back home, which was not too far to go. And I would stop in my Uncle John’s house, he lived on the same street, and I’d stop in during lunch hour and he’d be watching wrestling. And I started watching wrestling with him, and that’s where I kind of got hooked on it.

Chappell: Was this on channel 6 in Richmond, or the station out of Harrisonburg, Virginia?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Jones & Steamboat vs. Flair & Valentine

One of the big tag team rivalries from 1978 for both the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team titles and the NWA World Tag Team titles.  - - Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair and Greg Valentine.

Another great photo evoking great memories with customized action figures and ring set-up by Mike Simmerman.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Texas Connections Part 5: Sound Clips!

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In this final PART FIVE of our "Texas Connections" series, we travel back in time and hear some vintage audio clips from some of the great Texan stars that were part of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling including Terry Funk, Bobby Duncum, Dick Murdoch, and of course Blackjack Mulligan. Along the way you'll hear some other voices including Bob Caudle, Tom Miller, Joe Murnick, Ed Capral, and even Ric Flair!

Here is a summary of what you'll hear on this special Mid-Atlantic Gateway audio montage:
(1) Joe Murnick introduces Blackjack Mulligan
(2) West Texas Bar (Bob Caudle and Tom Miller)
(3) Joe Murnick introduces Paul Jones
(4) Blackjack Mulligan on Paul Jones
(5) Terry Funk: Texas Athlete of the Year
(6) Bob Duncum: 4-Time Texas Champ (with Bob Caudle)
(7) The Murdoch Shuffle (Bob Caudle and Dick Murdoch)
(8) West Texas Style (Blackjack Mulligan)
(9) Big Bad Texan (Bob Caudle)
(10) Blackjack Will Never Let You Down (Ed Capral and Ric Flair)

Some of our favorite quotes:

"Two of the baddest of the bad. If you put Flair and Mulligan in a west Texas bar on a Saturday night, you'd have to call out the national guard to clean out the place." - Tom Miller, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling 

“The Cowboys might let you down, the Oilers might let you down, the great University of Texas might let you down. But Blackjack Mulligan never lets anybody down.” - Ric Flair, Wide World Wrestling

"I'm a 4-time Texas champion. I travel all around this high world representing the great state of Texas which is one of the biggest honors you can really have." - Bobby Duncum, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling  

Miss any of our earlier "Texas Connections" installments?
Here are links to all of them:

in the Mid-Atlantic Area
Part 1: Hailing from the Great State of Texas
Part 2: Crockett's Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling
Part 3: Crockett TV in Texas (1977-1978)
Part 4: Terry Funk Takes Crockett's U.S. Title Back to Texas
Part 5: Audio Clips!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Wahoo McDaniel: Missing in Action in Charlotte

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Fans filing into the Park Center in Charlotte, North Carolina were looking forward to another outstanding Monday night card of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on November 15, 1976. A double main event was on tap that evening, featuring Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair battling “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel and second from the top the newly crowned Mid-Atlantic Television Champion Greg Valentine squared off against Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones. The top tag team bout of that stacked card matched Tiger Conway and “Cowboy” Frankie Laine against the up and coming Poffo Brothers, Randy and Lanny Poffo.

Mark Eastridge Collection
This card, replete with tremendous action, was progressing normally until the main event was scheduled to go on. At that juncture, the Charlotte faithful were advised that Wahoo, shockingly, was nowhere to be found. The fact that McDaniel would no-show against his bitterest rival was unfathomable. But the show had to go on, and Tiger Conway, despite having wrestled in a lengthy bout earlier in the evening, was called upon for double-duty and faced off against a fresh and ready “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

During the match between Flair and Conway, the fans in Charlotte were left wondering, ‘Where is Wahoo?’ Well, they were about to find out in shocking fashion! And on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on November 17, 1976 the whole Mid-Atlantic territory was about to find out why Wahoo McDaniel came to be missing in action in Charlotte…and the unsolved mystery at the time was blown wide open!

Tiger Conway, Jr.
(Online World of Wrestling)
The TV segment was started by color commentator David Crockett who said, “Now, let’s get down to a little matter that I have, I’ve brought a piece of film and I wanted Ric Flair to be here and Greg Valentine. Ric Flair is not here; Greg Valentine is here. I want to call him in right now, Mr. Valentine come in here.” Announcer Bob Caudle then noted, “Fans, here comes Greg Valentine in now.” With Valentine now on the set, things would get quite interesting.

Crockett started, “Now, this pertains to a match that took place between Ric Flair and Tiger Conway, Jr. Now, there’s some things that happened in that match that I want Mr. Valentine to explain to us.” Caudle responded, “Good, we’ll let him do a little commenting as we go along, right David?” Crockett answered, “That’s right.” The film started to roll, with Valentine looking piqued all ready. “As soon as we can, okay we’re into the match and right now Ric Flair is wrestling Tiger Conway, Jr., and Mr. Valentine right now Tiger has got the best of Ric Flair…how about that,” Crockett inquired of Valentine.

The “Hammer” replied, “Well, he’s a good athlete. I never take anything away from Tiger Conway, Jr. He’s gonna be a great star and in fact, he’s a good wrestling star right now. But, how long can he keep this up? You know, the match is very new right now, it’s only been going about two or three minutes so how long can he keep it going? How good is his stamina? That’s where the real professionalism comes in, in this wrestling game.”

At that juncture, Crockett would ask the $64,000.00 question, “All right, during the match though I was standing out of the ring and people asked me, ‘Where is Wahoo?’ And I had to say I didn’t know. And…I have a feeling that YOU know where Wahoo was.” Valentine bristled up, and the mystery of Wahoo’s disappearance was set to take a shocking turn…


Friday, December 01, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Flair vs. Wahoo

Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair had the top feud of 1976, battling the entire year over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship and trading it back and forth several times. Flair describes his matches with Wahoo as the period that prepared him for what was to come in his career, both in experience and in toughness.

Great image from collector Mike Simmerman who is kind enough to share these photographs from his personal (and customized) collection.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Friday Night at 8:15

by Andy McDaniel
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor
Originally published in May 2010

The smoke circled through the air as if a cloud had settled from the sky. The bright light that beamed from the center of the room cast its glow through the haze down to the white canvassed battlefield below. The crowd, eager with anticipation lets loose with a mighty roar as the time keeper strikes the bell signaling that it was 8:15, it was Friday night and professional wrestling had come to town!

Available on
(See links below.)
The challenges had been laid down, all the threats of terrible beatings had been made; now it was time to put up or shut up. The wait was finally over, weeks and weeks of interviews, sometimes months of build up had prepared us for what was about to come. Our heroes were there to bring justice for all the evil deeds that the villains had taken part in and caused so much grief and anguish to everyone with their terrible ways.

For many of us this scenario was a staple part of our week or at least a few times a month. One of my absolute favorite childhood memories was going to the wrestling matches with my Dad on Friday nights. Each and every Saturday (unless it was pre-empted for tennis or something, and boy did I ever hate that) Mid-Atlantic wrestling was on television. These larger than life figures filled the screen and each one clearly defined whose side they were on. The good guys did everything they could to please their adoring fans. They shook hands, they signed autographs at ringside and they let you know that your cheers really meant something. The bad guys did all they could to prove they were indeed bad. Their job was easy, do the good guy wrong, cheat, antagonize the cheering crowd, pull hair, hide the forbidden “foreign object” from the referee while at the same time making sure that the people in the seats screaming at the referee to look were the only ones who saw it. It was a magical time and for many it was not hard to believe. These men, and on rare occasions women, knew their jobs and they did them very well. It was up to them to bring in the crowds. The more serious the feud was, the bigger the audience would be. The more real it seemed, the louder the cheers and jeers.

The formula was simple. It was the age old real existence of good versus evil. The combatants in this contest were often good friends and the intention was certainly not to hurt each other if possible, but when the bell rang it was showtime and business was business. The good guy was going to do all he could to please his fans while trying to stay within the rules (which for him was certainly difficult because of the strict sanctioning of the NWA board of directors), but his foe, the dastardly bad guy, he had neither concern for the rules nor any care of obeying them. He wanted to make the people as mad as possible. He wanted to do what was needed to win even if it meant causing pain and hurt to the beloved hero that all had come to see. He was going to taunt everyone with his cheating ways and more often than not he would do his best even if by hook or crook to squeak out a win so that no one went home happy. Why was that? Well of course so they would come back the next week to see justice served to him because of his cheating ways, but that didn’t always happen right away. It was not uncommon for it to keep going for several months before the conclusion, the blow-off, the highlight of the feud, if you will. It might be a street fight with “no rules”, it might be a chain match or some other specialty weapon but, if things really needed to be settled once and for all and there had been problems with outside interference or the bad guy always running, then it was time to bring out the steel cage. If it came to this it was not uncommon to see someone giving an interview telling of what was going to happen while grating a head of cabbage against a wall of cyclone fencing. The effect was powerful. This was serious, it had gone on long enough and somebody was going to get hurt and hurt bad.

The crowds would come out in droves. This was a must see event. Was it violent? Yes! Was it bloody? Yes! Was it dramatic? Yes! Was it believable? Very! Because this is what made it work, the two men in that situation knew what to do to make it look that way. They knew how to tell a story. They knew how to take a situation that people could relate to and draw them into the story. It worked! And it was an incredibly enjoyable night of action, drama, sports, athleticism all rolled into one.

There were no script writers, no creative departments and no movie people who knew nothing about the business. Instead it was just some very talented, very agile, very believable guys  who knew how to draw a crowd and knew how to tell a story. Who didn’t believe that Wahoo McDaniel was really tough or that Blackjack Mulligan looked really mean?

It was all done with local television outlets all over the country in what were called territories. The television shows helped to promote the local events but it was the guys in the ring that brought the people out. I remember watching each Saturday morning and occasionally late Saturday night and hardly being able to wait until the following Friday because then they would be here in town live and in person. It was before music or large video screens and pyrotechnics; just knowing that your favorite wrestler was in the same building that you was created the excitement that filled the air. While waiting on the main event the preliminary guys always did a great job in getting the crowd worked up. The occasional thrill of passing your hero on the road while driving to the arena added to the thrill of the night. It was truly an exciting time.

Things have certainly changed as the years have gone by. Although the performers today can do some amazing and seemingly impossible stunts and they surely have more exposure than the ring warriors of the past, there is just something missing. It is not the same by any means. The ability to tell a story and truly build a feud that drew in the crowds has been taken away or at least not allowed. Three weeks to create something only to try and convince people to spend $40 or $50 on a pay-per-view is called sports entertainment. The problem is the entertainment is not always entertaining. Things have been too rushed and nothing means anything, there is no reason for the situation or proper time has not been given to get people interested enough to keep up with it. In the days past there were very clear reasons for the feud and there was a lot of work put into that to get the fans involved. When a cage match was called for there was a reason. Today on any given Monday night there could be a cage lowered from the ceiling for no apparent reason and then there is no blood, just doesn’t serve much purpose or look remotely believable.

The history of professional wrestling is a long one. Certainly not one without conflict, controversy, turmoil, back stage politics, shady promoters, but not many people knew about that stuff, because we didn’t need to. It was about Friday night at 8:15 that really counted to the fans. It was about seeing Wahoo McDaniel walking out in full headdress to face the stone faced Johnny Valentine in a match that would leave both men battered and scarred and send each person home saying, “we just saw one heck of a fight!” It was seeing Rufus R. (Freight Train) Jones get his revenge on a young braggart named Ric Flair because for weeks and months he had done him wrong. These were magical times that this writer fondly remembers. Looking back they were not always PG moments, they certainly were not politically correct, but then again this was pro wrestling and it was not supposed to be. Those days are long gone, but the memories will live within this fans heart forever.

Thanks Wahoo, Ole, Gene, Rufus, Paul, Blackjack, Johnny, Greg, Burrhead, Sandy. George, Two-Ton, Ric, thank you all and so many more for creating a lifetime of great memories that will never be forgotten.

(Originally published May 2010)

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Thanksgiving Surprise: Starrcade Magic Returns to Greensboro

by Bruce Mitchell, Senior Columnist for
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When WWE announced that their Thanksgiving weekend house show in Greensboro would be branded WWE Starrcade, I shrugged. There hadn’t been a Thanksgiving Starrcade show in Greensboro in thirty years and between it being WWE and, well, thirty years ago, I figured this wouldn’t be much more than a token gesture.

I wasn’t mad. There are great things in these days too, and you miss out when the past overtakes you.

Thanksgiving Night Mid-Atlantic cards were one of the coolest things ever, where the biggest major league showdown matches between the biggest Mid-Atlantic stars, and where one year, the biggest match in the world, Jack Brisco challenging Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA title, took place.

Ricky Steamboat
and Shinsuke Nakamura

(Photo courtesy of Jonny Fairplay)
For many fans around here the greatest shows they ever saw weren’t Wrestlemanias, but Starrcade/Mid-Atlantic Championship Thanksgiving Night shows at the Greensboro Coliseum. All-time greats, including a significant portion of the WWE Hall of Fame, cemented their legends in this building on these nights.

Then the world changed, as it always does.

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway has a mission statement. WWE has a different one. WWE Starrcade figured to be another WWE house show, except maybe Goldust would wrestle a match, and Ricky Steamboat and The Rock’n’Roll Express would wave to the crowd. WWE has spent decades trying to rewrite history in their favor, so no way this was what it should be.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

White ropes, Starrcade banners, loads of great old video footage, the return of the legendary steel-grey steel cage match, built before our eyes just like Klondike Bill used to do…

The Hardy Boyz talking about what it meant to sit in these seats and dream dreams, Arn Anderson with his first spine-buster since the one he threw at that Wrestlemania, Goldust morphing into the flip-flop-flying Natural Dustin Rhodes…

Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!, The New Day getting The Rock’N’Roll Express to dance, NWA Champion Harley Race and his challenger on a new throwback Starrcade ’83 t-shirt…

(Photo courtesy of Lee Petry)

Modern day innovator Shinsuke Nakamura bowing in respect to all-time innovator Ricky Steamboat…

Oh, and it turned out that early on I wasn’t the only skeptic about all this. Tickets weren’t selling that fast.

Even that worked out, because WWE called in the Great One, the one name synonymous with professional wrestling in the Greensboro Coliseum, and it all turned around.

So, as it turned out, on Saturday night, November 25th, 2017 The Nature Boy Ric Flair drew yet another big house in the old barn on the corner of Lee Street and High Point Road.

There is something indomitable, even now, in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

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More on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway from Bruce Mitchell:
The Lightning and Thunder of the Nature Boys
One Night at the WRAL Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Tapings

Visit the Pro Wrestling Torch website at
"Four Horsemen" on                                  Mid-Atlantic Gateway Bookstore