Sunday, March 24, 2019

Almanac History - July 1980 (Week 2)

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History


JULY 1980             WEEK 2
The second week of July of 1980 kicked off in earnest with the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television taping in the WRAL TV 5 studios in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 9th. The TV card featured a good mix of Mid-Atlantic stars, but the final bout of the card really stole the show!

The first television bout featured a mid-card matchup where Johnny Weaver and Special Delivery Jones bested the duo of Swede Hanson and Billy Starr. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine defeated Ron Ritchie, and the program also showcased wins by "Bad Boy" Bobby Duncum in his second TV appearance and the former World Tag Team Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. But the last bout on the program would see a return to action of the former World Tag Team a quite unexpected way.

Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens
with manager Gene Anderson
Inserted in the middle of the July 9th TV taping was a film of the match where Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens defeated Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Announcer Rich Landrum narrated the video snippets, along with Steamboat and Youngblood. The end of the match saw Stevens piledriving Steamboat on the concrete floor, soon after Ricky had been hit with the cane of manager Gene Anderson.

The film clip went on to show that almost simultaneous to Steamboat being laid out on the arena's concrete floor, Snuka hit Youngblood with a flying head-butt with the "Superfly" capturing the three count on Jay for the pinfall victory.

Steamboat was particularly bitter about the loss of the titles in this way, and vented to Landrum while watching the film, "I'm motionless, I'm laying there [and] I'm knocked out cold. I don't know nothing, I don't feel nothing, but there's gonna be a time and day when Stevens and Snuka [are] gonna feel that cement floor on their heads!"

Ricky and Jay's anger came out in full force and effect when the last match on the July 9th TV program was about to begin. Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens were prepared to wrestle Tony Garea and Nick DeCarlo, and both teams were in the ring waiting for the opening bell to ring. At that very instant, Steamboat and Youngblood raced into the ring and immediately tore into Snuka and Stevens! Garea and DeCarlo seem startled by the turn of events, but left the ring, and the final bout of the show became a "main event" caliber match between the World Tag Team Champions and the former champs!

Color commentator David Crockett exclaimed, "This is the rematch...I wish the championship was on the line!" An equally excited announcer Bob Caudle followed, "What a match! It's all impromptu, at least as far as Snuka and Stevens are concerned and Gene Anderson...because it definitely wasn't on their minds they were gonna wrestle this match. Certainly not today!"

Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood appear to defeat Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens in the unscheduled TV match---but referee Tommy Young is forced to make a controversial ruling!

To be continued...                                                        ALMANAC DIRECTORY

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Pvt. Jim Nelson

Pvt. Jim Nelson is under orders to hold and protect Sgt. Slaughter's United States Championship belt.

Many fans may know him better as Boris Zhukov, who challenged Sgt. Slaughter in the AWA for his Americas title, or teamed with Nikolai Volkoff at WrestleMania III in the WWF.

But to us he will always be Sgt. Slaughter's young recruit Pvt. Nelson.

Nelson was one half of the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions with Pvt. Don Kernodle. He was also later a behind-the-scenes spy for Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood in their quest to regain the NWA World Tag Team titles from Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle, which they finally did at the famous cage match in Greensboro in March of 1983.

Don't drop that belt, maggot! Now drop and give me 20!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Action Figures Friday: Paul Jones and the Masked Superstar


Another great presentation of classic custom action figures from Reggie Richardson featuring the unlikely team of Paul Jones and the Masked Superstar.

The two men had been mortal enemies going back to their feud in 1977, but in 1980 they teamed up and took the NWA World Tag Team titles from Ray Stevens and Jimmy Snuka on Thanksgiving night in Greensboro.

Those little custom belts make these things work, too. Paul is wearing the NWA World Tag Team title belt, while Superstar is wearing the NWA TV title belt with his tag belt over his shoulder.

The backdrop is a classic issue of Mid-Atlantic Magazine that included two fold out posters, one of Paul and one of the Superstar. Great issue. Great set up!

The photograph was featured on Scottie (Reggie's brother) Richardson's Wrestler Weekly twitter feed. (Check out @wrestlerweekly)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New Book by Mike Mooneyham Now Available

We are excited about a new collection of essays from one of the best wrestling writers we are fortune to have today. The book is available now from Evening Post Books, and while we haven't had a chance to see it just yet, we look forward to reviewing it shortly.

As a collection of essays previously published, we're sure we've read some of these before, but can't wait to explore them again, and read material that might have slipped past us. And it's nice to have this material in one volume.

From the Evening Post Books site:

Best-selling author Mike Mooneyham is back with a collection of his previous columns that remember some of pro-wrestling’s finest movers and shakers. From their rise to fame to the end of their days, Final Bell: Legends of the Mat Remembered pays tribute to fallen wrestlers such as Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper and the Fabulous Moolah. 

The book also includes quotes from the industry’s favorite wrestling professionals like J. J. Dillon, Jerry Brisco and Jim Cornette. 

Showcasing two forewords by industry pros Les Thatcher and Jim Ross, this book is a must-have for all dedicated wrestling fans!

The book is available now. Click here for more information.

"Big Time Wrestling" Returning to the Mid-Atlantic Area in Chester, VA

Big Time Wrestling returns to Thomas Dale High School in Chester, VA on Friday, March 30 with WWE Hall of Famers, the NWO SCOTT HALL and KEVIN NASH, WWE Hall of Famer, Double J JEFF JARRETT plus all the stars of Big Time Wrestling.
Meet all the stars 5:30–7 PM.

First match 7 PM.

For more details on the Big Time Wrestling show coming to Chester, visit their website:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Crockett Lieutenants - Notes from a Conversation with John Ringley

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I was looking through some notes that I had made during a casual conversation I had with John Ringley back in 2016. There were some tidbits about some of the Crockett lieutenants and local promoters that I had not included in earlier posts resulting from those conversations. I thought I would tie up those loose ends now.

We talked about some of the key people working for Crockett when Ringley was with the company. These notes are taken from Ringley's reflections back on those days:

Leo Voss 
A referee and a good lieutenant for Crockett. He would go on the road and handle a lot of local spot towns (gate receipts, etc.) From Oklahoma, a big fisherman.

George Harbin
An ex-wrestler, who ran Lexington and did ring announcing there and Charlotte TV. Did lots of small things for JCP. An important lieutenant.

Wally Dusek
Ex wrestler, perhaps the most important lieutenant of all. Crockett trusted him completely. Like Voss, would handle gate receipts, and also receipts from outlet ticket sales (for example The Hat Shop in Charlotte.) Built rings, delivered them to arenas, with his crew set them up, tore them down. Was also an agent.

There were two other guys Ringley relied heavily on - -  Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, whom Ringley said were also his close personal friends.

Then there was a discussion we had of the local promoters Crockett partnered with. These weren't technically Crockett's lieutenants, and they were also independent. I would give them a higher rank like captain or major. But they were the guys on the ground that made things work outside of Charlotte.

The local promoters were:
Joe Murnick - Raleigh, Richmond, Norfolk (and surrounding towns)
Pete Apostolou - Roanoke, Salem, Lynchburg (and surrounding towns)
Henry Marcus - Charleston, Columbia (and surrounding towns)
Paul Winkhaus - Greenville, Asheville (and surrounding towns)
Mr. Ringley told me these local guys were all independent operators, considered business partners to Jim Crockett Promotions, who originally booked talent from Jim Crockett for their towns but then later were basically just sent talent from the office. As these guys retired or died, they were replaced by “agents” (for example Sandy Scott, Danny Miller, and Wally Dusek.) Of all the local promoters, Ringley said Paul Winkhaus was his favorite.

Another little tidbit we discussed was related to my work on studio wrestling history for JCP, specifically the early TV tapings that took place at WFBC in Greenville, SC. in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ringley remembered announcer Bob Poole, but oddly did not remember Bill Krieger. But the main voice he remembered was that of Billy Powell, who not only did local wrestling promos and ring announcing for Greenville for decades, but also did all the voice overs for radio and TV spots for the concert and other entertainment events Ringley and Jim Crockett promoted. He called Billy Powell "the voice of Ringely and Crockett Promotions." This was the name of the separate company incorporated in 1970 that promoted all non-wrestling events for the Crockett promotional empire, which include concerts, Globe Trotters basketball, etc. Jim Crockett Promotions, Inc. was still the company that handled everything wrestling.

Ringley also made these comments regarding his ex-wife Frances Crockett, unsolicited:
"I thought a lot of Frances, I still do. She had the best business mind by far of any of the children. She proved it with baseball. She loved baseball. When I met her, she had baseball posters in her bedroom."
Again, my many thanks to Mr. John Ringley for taking the time to talk with me back in 2016. I'm happy to tie up these "loose ends" from those conversations.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bobby Becker's Silver Dollars

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the cool things that occasionally happens here at the Gateway is we hear from someone who has an interesting connection to wrestling's past.

Such is the case with a nice fellow named Gary J. Grieco who wrote to tell us about his connection to one of the famous brother combinations in wrestling's long-ago past - - George and Bobby Becker.

George and Bobby Becker
The famous brother team were big drawing
cards for Jim Crockett in the early 1950s

Gary found our website searching online for info on Bobby Becker and stumbled across our post from May of 2016 about a cool promotional postcard featuring the Becker Brothers used back in the 1950s by Richmond area promoter Bill Lewis. (See that post here.)

Gary grew up around wrestlers. His father, Mike Grieco, was an amateur wrestler prior to World War II at the Cooper Athletic Club in Ridgewood, Queens NY and then wrestled professionally from 1949-1955 under the ring name Mighty Mickey Cartolano. One of his father's best friends was also a wrestler, a fellow by the name of Johhny Emerling, whose ring name was Bobby Becker. In fact Emerling was Gary's godfather.
The Becker name is nearly synonymous with Crockett wrestling in the 1950s and 1960s. George Becker was a fixture in the Carolinas and Virginias during those two decades, also booking the territory during some of that time. Bobby Becker was sure to be a star here, too, but he died at a relatively young age after a short and sudden battle with leukemia.

The Becker Brothers were a very successful team here from 1951-1955, up until the time of Bobby Becker's death. The two were only brothers in wrestling lore; they were not related in real life. Richmond promoter Bill Lewis, who became a business partner with Jim Crockett, is credited with bringing the Beckers to our area.

A 12 year old Gary Grieco with Edouard Carpentier,
Skull Murphy, Magnificent Maurice, "Handsome"
Johnny Barend, and Jolly Cholly, the Wrestling Hobo.
Sunnyside Garden, Queens, NY circa 1963
Being a wrestler's kid occasionally has its advantages. Gary got to hang around locker rooms with his Dad, and he met lots of wrestlers such as Magnificent Maurice, Handsome Johnny Barend, Edouard Carpentier, Skull Murphy and others. Another wrestler, Al Smith (real name Al Alexander), was such a close friend of his father's that Gary called him "Uncle Al."

Gary has a large collection of memorabilia that his father kept from that era including early photos of the Becker brothers and other wrestlers, newspaper clippings featuring his father Mighty Mickey Cartolano on the bill (one seen below), as well program bills, etc.

But of all the memories and memorabilia Gary was nice enough to share with us via email, the one that struck me most was a poignant memory he shared related to Bobby Becker. Gary was born in 1951 and Bobby Becker (John Emerling) died in 1955, so Gary never really got to know his father's close friend. But there is one particular memory of Becker he still fondly recounts today.

Johnny Emerling, aka Bobby Becker
circa 1940s
"My memories of Bobby Becker are from when I was a three year old kid," Gary wrote. "He always gave me a silver dollar when he visited the house, and a three year old kid never forgets that kind of stuff!"

There is something very special and warm about that, those silver dollars a tangible token of a close friendship. Those simple acts speak to character and affection for folks you consider almost family. And what a cool thing to give to young kid. I just love that story.

While Gary didn't have much of a chance to get to know Bobby Becker because of Bobby's death in 1955, he was fortunate enough to meet and get to know Bobby's older wrestling-sibling, George.

A 1949 newspaper ad for a show that
included Gary's father (3rd match down.)
"I got to meet George Becker on several occasions as a teenager," Gary wrote, "and he was cut from the same bolt of cloth -- Bobby and George could have been brothers in real life."

That was particularly nice to hear. 

Gary's dad was also a sandlot baseball player and he had another neighborhood friend -- a diminutive shortstop named Phil Rizzuto. "I have a boatload of information and signed photos of Phil also," Gary wrote. "But that's a whole other story."

Sounds like Mike Grieco, aka Mighty Mickey Cartolano, led a fascinating and full life. A special thanks to his son Gary for sharing some of the memories of that fascinating life that have a connection to the area we cover here at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

(All photos courtesy of Gary J. Grieco)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Ric Flair vs. Gene Anderson: The Figure Four/Hair Challenge (1980)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
(Includes Rare Vintage Audio Recording)

"You might have pushed me around when I was five years old. You were a lot bigger then, brother. But times have changed. You wanna push me around now? Get a contract, and just like Buddy Rogers learned, brother, I'll go through you to get to Snuka."    -Ric Flair, World Wide Wrestling, January 12, 1980 

In late 1979, Gene Anderson retired from full-time competition to begin his managerial career, taking over the contracts previously held by Buddy Rogers. One of those wrestlers was "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, the reigning United States Heavyweight champion.

Ric Flair, at this point a beloved fan-favorite in the Mid-Atlantic area, was chasing the U.S. title once again, a title he never lost in the ring to begin with. He had given up the championship in August of that year when he and Blackjack Mulligan won the NWA World Tag Team titles. Snuka subsequently won the vacant U.S. championship in a tournament. Now Flair wanted the U.S. title back.

But in January of 1980, Gene Anderson suggested on television to "World Wide Wrestling" host Rich Landrum that he didn't think Flair deserved a shot at Snuka when he couldn't even beat him (Gene), calling himself "the teacher." In wrestling lore, it was Flair's cousins Gene and Ole Anderson that broke him into the business and taught him the ropes.

Flair obviously took issue with that and challenged Anderson to a match and told his cousin to name the town and that if he couldn't beat him in under 30 minutes with the figure four leglock he would never wrestle in that town again. And if he won, he would get the U.S. title shot at Snuka.

Anderson agreed, but said there would be something else Flair would have to put up. The following week, Anderson announced the stipulation and presented Flair with a contract: if Flair didn't beat him in under 30 minutes with the figure-four, he would have to shave his head!

We are happy to present here a vintage audio recording of the confrontation described here between Ric Flair and Gene Anderson, on World Wide Wrestling hosted by Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver:


In a recent story here on the Gateway, I outlined a series of title matches over the years where Flair was chasing a championship with his "golden mane" on the line and how that stipulation proved enough motivation to Flair to never lose one of those matches. That same motivation served him well in the matches with Anderson that took place at the end of January and first of February as Flair defeated Anderson in each one.

There were at least four of those matches, taking place in Columbia and Charleston, SC, Greensboro, NC, and Hampton, VA (newspaper ad seen above.)

As a result of these matches, Gene Anderson had to begin using a cane because Flair had injured his knee with the figure-four. The cane became a controversial item in future matches as Gene often used it to interfere in matches where he managed Snuka, the Sheik, Stevens and others. Snuka also attacked Flair after one of the matches and repeatedly rammed his head into the steel ring post, resulting in Flair needing 36 stitches to close the wound.

Flair went on to eventually take the U.S. title from Snuka in April of 1980, but not before enduring one of the most brutal feuds in Flair's long career. He and Snuka, with manager Gene Anderson always causing trouble at ringside, had one of the most bloody feuds in Mid-Atlantic  Wrestling history.

* * * * * *

Thanks to Mark Eastridge for the newspaper clipping,
Gary Wray for the audio recording, 
and Carl Richardson for additional research.