Monday, August 03, 2015

Main Event Memories: Blackjack Mulligan vs. Rufus R. Jones (1976)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the hottest feuds in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in 1976 was between Rufus R. "Freight Train" Jones and the then reigning United States champion Blackjack Mulligan. It didn't last long, but it was white-hot while it did.

There were several issues leading to the brutal battles between the two:

First there was the fact that Blackjack had put Rufus's cousin Burrhead Jones in the hospital by leaping off the top turnbuckle onto the neck of the prone wrestler several times.

Secondly, Blackjack had performed a similar maneuver onto the crown that was one of Rufus's most proud possession. It was, after all, given to him by his fans on TV; they had proclaimed him "the King of Wrestling!"

Left: "The King of Wrestling" Rufus R. Jones
Right: Rufus's crown after Blackjack trashed it in the ring.

Blackjack even attacked Rufus after a match on television. Mulligan jumped him from behind, but Rufus got the upper-hand in this confrontation when he not only whipped up on the big Texan, but stripped off his shirt as well. Color commentator Tom Miller got so excited he exclaimed "Have mercy, Mama!" as Rufus was having his way with Blackjack. It is to this day one of my favorite TV moments (and call of that moment) in my years watching Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.

Check out this audio clip featuring the call of the Mulligan/Jones brawl by Bob Caudle and Tom Miller:

Transcript of audio:

Bob Caudle: Here's Blackjack Mulligan! Blackjack Mulligan diving into the ring, trying to get Rufus R. Jones from behind. And Rufus is now going to lift him high into the air! Blackjack's got his street clothes on, his t-shirt and his pants. Rufus is going to tear that t-shirt off of him...

Tom Miller: I don't believe it!

Bob Caudle: ....his cowboy boots on .....

Tom Miller: I don't believe it, he's ripping his clothes to shreds! HAVE MERCY, MAMA! 

Bob Caudle: Mulligan with his boots and street clothes....

Tom Miller: Boy! Look at that! Rufus is getting his revenge now!

Bob Caudle: ...and Rufus R. Jones is just going to whip him to death! Mulligan out of the ring, down on the floor.....Well, Blackjack Mulligan was going to try and hurt Rufus Jones, and it's Blackjack that really winds up in trouble as he not only to he get a few licks from Rufus, but he lost his shirt in the deal.

End Transcript

All of the events described above happened over the course of 1976 and led to several main event matches between Blackjack and Rufus for Mulligan's U.S. title. One of the epic battles between the two took place in Wilson, NC at venerable Fleming Stadium. Wilson Times sports editor Paul Durham wrote nostalgically about that match in an article published last Friday (7/24/15.) Be sure to check it our here: Those Mid-Atlantic Memories Still Vivid. It was Durham's article that got me to thinking about this feud for Main Event Memories.

Rufus Jones battles Blackjack Mulligan

I don't have the newspaper clipping for that match in Wilson, so I thought I'd include one from around the same time in nearby Raleigh, NC at Dorton Arena.

Blackjack told the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in an interview several years ago that he suggested to booker George Scott and promoter Jim Crockett that they put the title on Rufus for a short period of time because of how hot the feud had become. Scott, regrettably, declined the suggestion. But can you imagine the celebration in the arena where that might have taken place?

* * * * *

PS - A couple of notes about the undercard in Raleigh:

Sgt. Jacques Goulet and Mike "The Judge" Dubois were one of my favorite tag teams that year. Not only were they an excellent combination, I loved the way Joe Murnick would introduce them on television. I'll have to find one of those introductions for a future installment of "Sound Bytes."

Also of note on this card was Burrhead Jones, the aforementioned cousin of Rufus Jones. And the opener featured a young kid from Japan named Dr. Fujiani. His real name was Tatsumi Fujinami, the future Japanese legend who would go on to have multiple reigns as IWGP champion in Japan, and even a short run as NWA world champion, defeating Ric Flair in the Tokyo Dome in 1991. Fujinami was recently inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Roddy Piper - Rest in Peace

Mid-Atlantic Champ Roddy Piper (1982)
(Eddie Cheslock Photo)
While away this weekend, was very sad to learn of Roddy Piper's passing on Friday, July 31. Roddy was one of the true legends of pro-wrestling and was such a key figure for a three year period in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling from late 1980 through 1983.

We will collect some links here to obituary and tribute articles, and will update it over the coming week.

Rest in Peace, Hot Rod. You will forever be remembered as one of the great U.S. and Mid-Atlantic champions for Jim Crockett Promotions, and one of the top performers in the wrestling business, period.

Roddy Piper Dead at 61
Greg Oliver at Slam! Wrestling

Wrestling legend Roddy Piper dead at 61

Ric Flair’s Statement On The Passing Of Roddy Piper Will Break Your Heart
Bill Diflippo, WithSpandex, Uproxx

The Late, Great Roddy Piper: An Appreciation of a Man Who is Directly Responsible for this Website
Dave Scherer,

Roddy Piper, pro wrestling 'bad guy,' dies at 61
Steve Almasy, CNN

Roddy Piper's Best Pop Culture Moments
Brandon Stroud, With Spandex, Uproxx

The Rock Talked About Learning ‘Style, Swag’ From Rowdy Roddy Piper
Brandon Stroud, With Spandex, Uproxx

Happy Birthday Bob Caudle!

Bob Caudle with the Gateway boys, March 2004 in Raleigh

A special Happy Birthday shout out to our good friend Bob Caudle, the voice of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling for over three decades! We love you Bob, and wish you and Jackie all the best.

- Dick Bourne & David Chappell

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Blackjack and Ric Reflect on the "Hat & Robe"

We recently posted a complete summary of the 1978 angle between Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan famously known as The Legend of the Hat and the Robe.

In a conversation for a follow-up story after the article was originally published back in 2004,  Blackjack got to chatting about the Hat and Robe angle and he discussed some of things going on behind the scenes during that time.  The following are excerpts from that conversation.


Dick Bourne: Who came up with the idea for the actual angle to tear up a hat and tear up a robe? Was that George Scott or did you and Ric come up with that?

Blackjack Mulligan: Well, it was George's idea to turn me, but we all came up with ideas on how to do it. I had this hat maker down in Austin, they were called Texas Hatters, they made my hats and my hat bands. They made Willie Nelson’s hats, too, and Willie had given me this hat, and Ric had heard about it. And so it was just sort of this spontaneous thing where we figured, what really do people get the most mad about when two lovers split? Your stuff, right? And Ric and I were a lot closer than a lot of couples were, believe me, we shared a lot of things, well, I won’t go into all that! (Laughs)

Bourne: So the hat was a shoot? The one that Ric tore up on TV, was that one that Willie had actually given you?

Mulligan: Oh, yes, and it broke my heart to see that hat torn up.

Bourne: I can imagine! And Ric having that $7,500 robe that Olivia Walker made completely destroyed.

Mulligan: He hated it, he nearly cried! But it was going to be so big.

Bourne: It sure made the whole thing work.

Mulligan: Problem was, I had heat when I went back to get another hat made, people had not only heard about this in Mid-Atlantic, they had heard about it all over the world, man! (laughs). I still had a home down in Austin, and my wife would go into that hat store, Texas Hatters, and the guy said “Hey, that hat I made for Willie, I understand it got tore up down there.” They had actually heard about it at Texas Hatters.

Blackjack stands outside the van he and Ric
owned together. He's wearing the hat Willie Nelson
gave him that would soon be destroyed in the angle.
But all of that was so real. We had this van that we and our wives shared it, too. And my wife was getting ready to take the kids to church in this van. And I panicked! And I ran out there, because, my God, from the night before, there were pantyhose and crap laying all over the place and paraphernalia lying everywhere, and I started throwing all this stuff in a bag.

Bourne: This was part of the angle...

Mulligan: Yes! It was a shoot! And so I’m cleaning out this closet - - we each had a closet in the van, - - and I look in Flair’s closet, and said “Wow, this is some weird stuff, Flair really is over the edge!”

Bourne: (laughs)

Mulligan: And of course, at the same time, I’m raking up all my crap, too. (laughs)

Bourne: But I guess that went into another bag, huh?

Mulligan: Well, it’s my story, so I’m not telling you about my stuff. (laughing) So it was so natural, here was his closet and all this stuff in there, it just worked. I mean, this was real. We were breaking up for real.

Bourne: How so?

Mulligan: We lived two houses down from each other, there was one house in between us. There should have been twenty of them in between us, but that’s another story.

So this is all coming down. George Scott has all of this pre-planned, pre-programmed, he is going with this guy: Flair is it. He's going to be the top guy. It had all been planned for so long, I was the main guy, and now it was Flair’s time to move to the top spot, and I was kind of wearing down a little bit, and George says, "I’m going to turn you babyface." And I said “That’s impossible!” And he said “I’m going to do it like it’s never been done, I’m going to cool you for awhile, I’m going to put you with Tim Woods.” And believe me, that would cool anybody off. (laughs) Timmy and I were working every night.

Bourne: And Tim Woods won the U.S. belt from you, and Flair worked that into his promos when he got the belt from Woods, that you were getting soft.

Mulligan: Right, the whole thing with Timmy Woods was starting to turn me. And George got ready, and said “You guys are going to have to move now.” And we were like, oh no! But Flair goes and buys a new mansion, you know, across town. And I went and bought a place in Matthews, about 5 acres there, now it’s probably worth a fortune. But we actually had to sell our houses and buy new houses.

Bourne: So they didn’t want you living near each other?

Mulligan: That’s right, it had become so real. Scott said, "You guys can’t live on the same street in Charlotte!" (laughing) And he was right!

Ric Flair mentioned the Hat and Robe Angle as one of his most memorable angles at WRAL television. Here is a brief excerpt from the interview that Flair did with David Chappell, prior to the publication of Flair's book, on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Ric Flair: We did a lot of great stuff at WRAL. The angle with Blackjack Mulligan was huge…where I took his Cowboy hat that Waylon Jennings had given him, and tore it up and stomped on it. And a little later on, I was wresting somebody and Mulligan comes out wearing my robe, and he tore up my robe in front of me…

David Chappell: That was an unforgettable Mid-Atlantic moment, Ric!

Ric Flair: And then I put a bounty out on Mulligan. I left for Japan, and when I came back, we were selling out everywhere! (laughing) And of course back then, everything played off the weekly TV show in your market. And that got the fans out to their local arena. So those TV angles like the Hat and Robe were really, really important then. There was hardly any cable TV and certainly no satellite dishes in those days. And Pay Per View events were years off.

Read "The Legend of the Hat and the Robe" on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Audio Clips added to "Hot August Night"

We've added three new audio clips to David Chappell's story "Hot August Night" about a great card in Richmond in 1980 - - - 35 years ago today!

These feature Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, Blackjack Mulligan, and Enforcer Luciano!

Follow the link below to get to the original page, and then scroll to the bottom of that page for the new audio clips. Look for our "Sound Bytes" logo.

Click here:
Hot August Night by David Chappell

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Classic Clipping: Indian Strap Match

On this day in 1982! Loaded card!

Wahoo McDaniel and U.S. champion Sgt. Slaughter had been embroiled in a bitter feud over Sarge's U.S. title all summer. Things were coming to a head and the two were battling around the territory in a series of Indian Strap matches.

It was a big night for a house show. A loaded 7 match card, special radio sponsorship by WRNL in Richmond, and 1000 fans would receive a free poster. Not sure what that poster was, I'll see if David remembers. But a big night in Richmond for sure.

Bell time 8:15 PM! Good memories.

More Classic Clippings

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mark Madden on Ric Flair Podcast

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson on WOOOOO! Nation
Mark Madden is the guest this week of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair on episode #13 of WOOOO! Nation

From the WOOOO! Nation website:
Long time wrestling insider and former WCW commentator Mark Madden shares hilarious stories and doesn't hold back on WOOOOO Nation with Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson. Another Home Run, very entertaining conversation!
Add a little Flair to your life by joining the Nature Boy every week as he talks pro wrestling, sports, tells stories like only he can, and interviews his celebrity friends. No topic is off limits for Flair during his weekly CBS podcast. Come join WOOOOO! Nation!

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson are on "WOOOOO! Nation" right now! Check it out via iTunes or directly download from the WOOOOO! Nation page at the PLAY.IT website.