Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Blackjack Mulligan is Back--With a Vengance (Part 2)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

This is a continuation of the post Blackjack is Back--With a Vengance (Part 1) 

PART TWO  (Catch up with Part 1)

After giving the fans on the October 15, 1975 Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show a dominating victory over young Kevin Sullivan, a clearly energized returning Blackjack Mulligan spelled out to announcer Bob Caudle his vendetta against Wahoo McDaniel and his plans going forward.

Ed Capral with Blackjack Mulligan and Ric Flair
When the television tapings continued later that night at the WRAL studios in Raleigh, Mulligan continued to be in rare form! On the Wide World Wrestling TV show, Blackjack thoroughly demolished the up-and-comer Ron Starr, and then turned his attention to the fans and announcer Ed Capral. Before Capral could barely utter a word, Mulligan interrupted and exclaimed, “Let me ask you one question Mr. Announcer. What do you do, what can you say when you give a man your best punch? You hit ‘em with everything you’ve got? You have your best day, you give your heart and soul…you hit ‘em and he goes down and he gets back up. What do you do?” Of course, the hyped-up Mulligan didn’t give Capral a chance to answer!

Blackjack continued unabated, “I’ve been hit with everything the Indian can throw; I have been hit with everything that Paul Jones can throw. I have been hit with everything Rufus can throw…the headbutt does not work on Blackjack Mulligan; Kenneth Patera’s muscles are synthetic!” After bashing the territory’s “good guys,” the big Texan wanted to let the fans know exactly who they were going to see in the months to come.

Mulligan ranted, “Let me tell you a natural fact…they have no idea where I came from; I do not know how to submit. They think my granddaddy was a wildcat and my momma was a rattlesnake…they’re not sure. They found me floating down the Rio Grande in a Cadillac hubcap! I’m comin’ in as class brother, and I’m going out as class. And I will not stop. Let ‘em look, let ‘em stop and look just for one second at a world class wrestler.”

It then appeared the big man was going to engage Capral, saying, “How many wrestlers have you seen in your day? How many wrestlers have you seen come down the pike? When Capral tried to reply, Mulligan shut him down shouting, “Stop trying to butt in, I’ll answer that!” Blackjack then elaborated, “None with so much; too much power…six foot eight and 300 pounds. I weighed 97 pounds and was five foot two the day I was born! Believe me, just too much power; too much everything! Blackjack Mulligan’s got it all!”

Blackjack Mulligan battles
Wahoo McDaniel in a strap match.
The modest Texan then turned his attention to his most hated rival at the time, bellowing, “Wahoo McDaniel, I want to stop right here for a second. I want to show everybody these deep cuts in my back! He put ‘em in there…he strapped me. He strapped me in front of my kin folks! He strapped me in front of my Uncle Red; he strapped me in front of my granddaddy. I took a beatin’ that day, but I got up like a man; I’m not a quitter!”

Mulligan ended the interview on Wide World Wrestling with a self-assessment, concluding, “I have maintained my national ranking…get it straight. Get it right! I am ranked number one in the nation, number one in the world. I am the greatest wrestler in the world, the greatest wrestler of all time!”

An obviously taken aback Capral quipped, “Blackjack Mulligan…if you don’t believe he’s great, just ask him!” But the announcer then added, “And obviously this man can back up what he says.” The last point was the significant one, as Mulligan would light up the reeling territory, and set it on a course of greatness for many years to come. The Mid-Atlantic area desperately needed a shot in the arm in the middle of October of 1975, and Blackjack Mulligan provided that and then some. The rocket-ship called Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was now ready for lift-off!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wrestlers and Their T-Shirts

Well, that seems like an odd topic for a post on the Gateway, doesn't it?

Long before there was ProWrestlingTees.com, wrestlers just wore whatever t-shirt they thought to throw in their bag that morning. But it always interested me what they chose. This oddball interest, I simply cannot explain.

Top left: Rocky Johnson (Sweet Ebony Diamond), "Steve Rickard's Gymnasium and Health Clinic, Wellington, New Zealand." Steve Rickard was the NWA promoter in New Zealand and brought many of the top U.S. stars to his promotion down under.

Top right: Dewey Robertson, "Moosehead Beer." Dewey was Canadian and Moosehead was Canada's "proudly independent" brewery. Headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick and still independently owned to this day.

Bottom left: Roddy Piper, "Master." Piper had all sorts of t-shirts, most of  them looked like he had them printed up at a local mall. He had some classics. This wasn't necessarily one of them, but I liked the photo with the pipes and U.S. belt.

Bottom right: Wahoo McDaniel, "The King's Gym - Body Building." No idea where this gym was, but would like to know, so if you have info, smarten us up. Wahoo never spent much time in the gym, but that was only because he was too busy fishing and golfing. One of pro-wrestling's greatest atheltes and according to ost everyone that stood across the ring from him one of the toughest men to ever walk the planet.

We thank Steve Davies for sharing his photographs with the world.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday TV: NWA Pro Wrestling (8/23/86)

Featuring an NWA title defense: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, Baby Doll's infamous heel turn, a near riot, my favorite Ric Flair robe, Bob Caudle and Johnny Weaver, and one of the craziest bumps you'll ever see by Sam Houston in his match with Buddy Landel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blackjack is Back - - With a Vengance (Part 1)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The tragic airplane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 4, 1975 threw Jim Crockett Promotions off its stride, and understandably so. Both the promotion and the fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling were in a state of disbelief. Wrestlers were badly hurt, and spirits were low. But it didn’t take long for somebody to reappear in the territory and shake the area out of the doldrums. Blackjack Mulligan was back…with a vengeance!

At the end of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on October 15, 1975, announcer Bob Caudle told the fans, “And moving in here with us at ringside right now, he’s been gone for many months…Blackjack Mulligan!” The mammoth Mulligan appeared on the set, and came out red hot! Blackjack exclaimed, “Stop everything you’re doing for just a second! It’s not a mirage…you are seeing it. Mulligan is back! Like a bad disease no matter whatever happens, the pride of the prairie, the wonder-man from West Texas has returned!”

Mulligan then proceeded to tell the fans what he had been doing since the late spring of 1975, when he abruptly departed the Mid-Atlantic area. Blackjack continued, “I’ve been on the wild prairie, I’ve been digging fence posts, I’ve been rindin’ wild broncs, I’ve been doin’ it all brother. And now I’m back!”

Blackjack then commented on why he came back to the Mid-Atlantic territory, stating that the main reason was to get revenge against the talented Indian, Wahoo McDaniel. Mulligan left Jim Crockett Promotions all of a sudden at the end of May after Wahoo brutally beat him in a string of violent Indian Strap matches. Mulligan clearly was still perturbed about those bouts, and loudly proclaimed, “Take a look at this back! Take a look at these stripes that that dirty rotten Indian put on me! Believe me; they are etched in my mind!”

Mulligan continued, “I have made a promise, I have made a vow. I will not stop, I will not quit until that Indian, the squaw-man, Wahoo McDaniel is completely thoroughly once and for all destroyed! I will never forget it. They strung me up at home; I embarrassed my family! I humiliated the Mulligan clan. My poppa and my grand poppa strung me up and they rubbed salt into the wounds. They said, ‘Did you give up boy? Did you give up boy?’ I said, ‘No sir, I didn’t give up! I never quit; I never quit fightin’! I never stopped fightin’!’

Blackjack battles Wahoo McDaniel
(Photo by Bill Janosik)
Blackjack then maniacally shouted, “They kept rubbing the salt in my wounds; kept rubbing it in. Believe me, I’ll never forget it; his kind of match. Wahoo McDaniel I promise you I cannot return home, I cannot return to the proud state of Texas until my vendetta is carried out! I’ve got to destroy him; I’ve got to put him on his back. And believe me, believe what I say, stop what you’re doing right now. I will not be defeated, I cannot give up; I do not know the word surrender. Under no circumstances will I be beaten!”

Due to the crippling injuries that United States Heavyweight Champion Johnny Valentine sustained in the plane crash, the U.S. Title was vacated and a one night tournament to crown a new United States Champion was set to be held in a few weeks. Mulligan briefly touched on that issue, before returning his wrath to Wahoo and the earlier Indian Strap matches. Blackjack commented, “The first thing I look to do…I understand the great Johnny Valentine has retired. Believe me, I will be in competition for the United States Heavyweight Championship …I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. I will be one of the most aggressive opponents ever in the history of wrestling!”

Mulligan then returned his attention to Wahoo, and seeking retribution for the Indian Strap bouts in the spring. Blackjack concluded, “Nobody can endure, nobody can understand the torture, the punishment, the mental anguish I’ve been through. Thousands of letters have been written to my home state; to my hometown, asking is Mulligan a quitter? I have never quit in my life; I have never quit at anything! I have never given up, and I vow to you Wahoo McDaniel, these stripes etched in my back, salt rubbed in the wounds, I will completely destroy you! Anyone getting in my way, the Jones boys, Patera; I beg you come on. I’ll wrestle anyone in the world today! I’m the greatest wrestler in the world…I cannot be beaten by anybody!”

Bob Caudle and the fans had to collect their breath after Blackjack’s diatribe. But Mulligan had succeeded in shattering the malaise that had tried to set in around the Mid-Atlantic area after the horrible Wilmington plane crash. The fans of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show had just gotten an earful on that Wednesday night TV taping, and announcer Ed Capral and the fans of Jim Crockett Promotions’ other television show, Wide World Wrestling, were about to hear in short order from the returning Mulligan as well, and the pride of the prairie wasn’t going to mince any words about what the future held for Jim Crockett Promotions with him back on the scene!

To be continued in part 2…


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You Could Always Count on Wally Dusek

The Day the Ring Didn't Show Up in Asheville
by Don Holbrook
special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Back in the mid-1970s when Crockett began running shows on Sunday afternoons in Asheville in the new Civic Center, three of the maintenance guys at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium would get a rental truck, U-Haul size, and take the Greenville ring up to Asheville. Same thing for Anderson, Greenwood, and any spot shows around the area. They used the Greenville ring for all these towns. 

(Photo by Dave Routh)
I went to Asheville this one particular day and got there at 1:00 pm when they opened the doors for a 3:00 pm show. I went in, saw Sandy Scott with a disgusted angry look on his face. He saw me and came directly to me and said, "I was hoping you would come today. Do you have Bill Turner's phone number?" 

Bill was the maintenance manager at the Greenville Auditorium. And no, I didn't have his phone number.

The ring did not show up in Asheville that day and I don't know if Sandy forgot to schedule them to bring it or if Bill just forgot to tell the guys to bring it. Regardless - -there was no ring!

So then 3:00 pm got there, and still no ring and the Asheville Civic Center was nearly full. They stalled, they brought Wahoo out to talk. Then finally the ring announcer came out and said the ring had not arrived from Greenville but another ring was on the way from Charlotte. 

Finally, Wally Dusek showed up with the back-up Charlotte ring. Wally was one of Jim Crockett's right hand guys in those years, and did a little bit of everything, including making the rings. 

The Asheville Civic Center, Asheville NC
(Photo by Dick Bourne)

You can imagine, Wally wasn't thrilled about this. Another guy was with him and they frantically began setting up the ring. Everybody including Sandy Scott, referee Sonny Fargo and even a couple of the cops pitched in to get it set up and poor Wally Dusek was flying around, pouring sweat and as red as a stop sign. By this time, Wally was up in years and moving sort of slow. But on this day he was zooming around and I really felt sorry for him.

When the show finally started, they did the opening match, which was Two Ton Harris and somebody else, and they only went like 3 minutes. Then they went straight to the main event that was Wahoo and maybe Blackjack, I can't remember for sure. But I do remember that they needed to get our main event on and over with because 3 or 4 of the wrestlers had to fly straight back to Charlotte for a show that same night. 

My last memory of that afternoon in Asheville was of poor Wally sitting in the back totally exhausted and ringing wet with sweat after that long drive and rushing to get the ring set up, with Sandy on his ass the whole time to hurry up.  

But once again, as was his reputation, Wally Dusek was the man you went to when you needed to make sure something got done. And his hustle had saved the show in Asheville that day. 

* * * * * *
Don Holbrook is an occasional Gateway contributor as well as a history buff on late 1960s and 1970s wrestling in Greenville, SC. His mother worked for years in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium office and Don spent many afternoons hanging out there as a kid. He became known to all those in charge, which later gave him lots of great access and some great stories to tell. 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

From Baseball to Wrestling: Frances Crockett Talks About Tony Schiavone's Journey within Jim Crockett Promotions

Frances Crockett and Tony Schiavone reflect on Tony's transition from calling AA baseball on the radio to the national face and voice of pro-wrestling for the company. 
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

We recently concluded our 7-part interview feature "Sundays with Schiavone" where Tony shared some of his favorite memories as a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the 1970s before he got into the wrestling business in 1983.

Tony Schiavone
In part two of that interview, Tony talked about how he first came to work with Frances Crockett and the Crockett family on the baseball side of the business. He was working as the radio broadcaster for the (then) Class A Greensboro Hornets in 1981, where he had won South Atlantic League Broadcaster of the Year. He got a tip about the Class AA opening in Charlotte.

"I found out from a friend of mine named Bob Jamieson, who was the play-by-play guy of the Double A Nashville team…I found out that the Charlotte job was opening up, so I went down and interviewed for it," Tony told David Chappell in the Gateway interview.

I recently had the chance to ask Frances Crockett about her memories of hiring Tony all these many years ago. Frances was the General Manager of the Charlotte O's team and was a trailblazer of sorts, awarded The Sporting News Class AA Baseball Executive of the Year in 1980. She was the first woman to achieve such recognition. She had a proven track record of making good business decisions for her team. And she was getting ready to make another one. 

"Tony’s personality is and was the type of on air personality I was looking for," Frances told me. "I asked him to come down and see me at my ballpark, if I remember correctly."

The O's radio job seemed like the perfect fit for both Tony and Frances. "Not only was he a sports fan and baseball fan, he was a wrestling fan. I knew he was the perfect fit."

"I interviewed with Frances Crockett," Tony told us, "and she hired me that day."

Frances Crockett
General Manager of the Charlotte O's
Frances told me it was important to create an atmosphere for the fans of the minor league baseball team where the fans felt a part of their community at the Park. "Our players were young, 18 and 19 years old," she said. "Since Tony would be on the road with them, our radio announcer had to be a people person." Tony was the right fit to relate not only to the young players but to younger fans.

Much as Tony would later wear lots of different hats when working for the wrestling side of the family business, Frances loaded Tony up with lots of responsibilities besides calling the games for radio.

"Yes, he had to sell the commercials and help coordinate appearances," Frances said. He also occasionally worked on the grounds crew with the legendary wrestler, now Crockett Park grounds crew chief, Klondike Bill.

Calling baseball on the radio was a dream come true for Tony, and had been since he graduated from James Madison University a few years earlier. But his first love was wrestling.

"My baseball career, in my mind, was off and running," he told David Chappell in our interview. "I was two years out of college, my first year was in Single A and now I moved up to Double A. And as I got the job I would continue to talk to Frances about letting me do wrestling."

But nothing developed from that his first year. "I remember one time going to a TV taping [at WPCQ-36 studios in Charlotte]", he said, "and I remember talking to David [Crockett], and he was very nice to me. I told him what I’d like to do. He said he appreciated that, but there wasn’t anything available."

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/2015/12/tony-schiavone-profile-charlotte-os.htmlBut Tony continued to make himself seen and he got lucky one night at a house show at the old Charlotte Coliseum. He was there to watch the matches when he realized something different was going on.

"I remember the matches were getting ready to start and nothing was happening," he said. "David [Crockett] came out and was looking up in the stands, and I knew instantly he was looking for me. And I went down and he said, ‘C.J. Underwood, is not here. Can you do the ring announcing for us?’ So I did the ring announcing that night in the Charlotte Coliseum."

Once that door had opened, Tony was ready to jump through it. He got the call to come assist legendary WBTV personality "Big" Bill Ward with the local promotional segments for the wrestling TV shows, a job he would later take over entirely. And the requests for Tony's services continued.

"Frances Crockett brought me into her office and she said, ‘Well, I knew this would happen. Now they want you to come and do some more interviews.’ She said, ‘You’re going to be pulled between me and them.’ Them being her brothers."

Tony's first big TV assignment for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (other than the localized interviews) was to interview Ric Flair at his home as part of the build-up to Starrcade '83. "This was the announcement," Tony said, "his reaction to being part of the “Flare for the Gold,” having the World Title match with Harley Race."

It was a huge assignment with the top wrestler in the business.

He continued doing baseball on into the following season. "He was with baseball until wrestling took him full time,'" Frances told me.

That full time opportunity came when they needed a new full time co-host for the World Wide Wrestling TV program. "It needed to be a fresh face with personality but would not overshadow the wrestlers.  I thought Tony was perfect and pitched him to my brother Jimmy."

And the rest is history. Tony co-hosted "World Wide Wrestling" with David Crockett for most of 1984 and then was selected to take on host duties for "World Championship Wrestling" in April of 1985 when Jim Crockett Promotions took over that program from the WWF on Superstation WTBS. 

Tony is currently the radio voice of the Gwinnett Braves, the AAA franchise for the Atlanta Braves. Some thirty years after his move full-time to the wrestling side of the family business, Tony and Frances still enjoy seeing each other on occasion, most recently at a special night recognizing the history of the Crockett family and Charlotte baseball at BB&T Ballpark in September of 2016.

Jim Crockett, Jr., Frances Crockett, Tony Schiavone,
and Jackie Crockett at BB&T Park
"Tony working for the Braves has allowed me to see him occasionally," Frances told me. "At the Crockett night I had insisted the [Charlotte] Knights be playing the Braves because he was and is part of the Crockett family history of wrestling and baseball." All of that came together and Tony had an opportunity to reconnect with not only Frances, but all the Crocketts, including Jim Sr., David, and Jackie.

Tony's career in wrestling continued to grow after the Crockett family sold the wrestling business to Ted Turner in 1988. He became the voice of WCW during the infamous "Monday Night Wars" era, and called many of the company's most historic moments and matches on WCW Monday Nitro and on their many pay-per-view events.

One can only imagine how all of that would have looked and sounded different had Tony Schiavone not made his way to the queen city of Charlotte calling baseball games on the radio. It was a special journey that all of us as fans were fortunate enough to share with him.

* * * * *

The Charlotte Knights have announced their 2nd Annual Crockett Foundation Night at BB&T Ballpark in downtown Charlotte on Sunday, September 3rd. Making a special appearance will be WWE Hall of Famers and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling legends Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson of the Rock & Roll Express. Members of the Crockett family are also expected to be in attendance. For more information visit the Charlotte Knights and Crockett Foundation websites.

* * * * *

 Don't miss Tony's podcast every Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bob Caudle on "Go Get Over" Podcast

The voice of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Bob Caudle is the guest of Chris and Joey on their WRAL SportsFan "Go Get Over!" podcast.

Saturday TV: Pro Wrestling U.S.A (10/06/84)

Featuring the Rock and Roll Express, the Road Warriors, Butch Reed and Tony Atlas, Dusty Rhodes, Bob Backlund, Nick Bockwinkle, Jerry Lawler and Tommy Rich, Terry Funk, Mr. Siato, Rick Martel, Eddie Gilbert, and others.