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.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Almanac History - July 1980 (Week 1)

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History

JULY 1980       (WEEK 1)
July 1980 - Week One
The Fourth of July holiday week of 1980 brought in the biggest star in professional wrestling, literally, in the person of Andre the Giant, to the Mid-Atlantic area. The first week of July also brought with it a series of action-packed battles where Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood attempted to regain the World Tag Team Tiles from the newly formed duo of Ray "The Crippler" Stevens and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.

A rare card in the Raleigh Civic Center on July 1st started out the first week of July, and the second half of the year of 1980, for the stars of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. The highlight of the event in Raleigh was a World Tag Team Title match where anger got the best of Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, in their championship bout with Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens. Steamboat and Youngblood's venom directed against the bad guy's manager Gene Anderson turned a sure win into a disqualification loss.

Despite spirited attempts, Steamboat and Youngblood also came up short in their quest to unseat "Anderson's Army" for the World Tag Team Titles in the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 5th, in Asheville, North Carolina on July 6th, in Fayetteville, North Carolina on July 7th and at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina on July 8th.

The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on Wednesday July 2nd featured the first appearance of the double-tough Texan "Bad Boy" Bobby Duncum, who dispatched Nick DeCarlo with little trouble. Duncum told announcer Bob Caudle at the end of the program, "I'm gonna tell you something, there's gonna be a lot people payin' some dues around here, you understand? You got Mulligan runnin' around here, big bad Mully made a legend of himself...he's gonna be beggin' and screamin' for mercy before I get through with him. You got Flair runnin' around with a nice robe, we're gonna take him down to his knees. He's holdin' the belt partner; I'm gonna leave 'em all layin', you understand?"

Andre the Giant returned to the area on July 3rd at the Scope Coliseum in Norfolk, Virginia. Andre was his dominating self in Norfolk, capturing a 13 man Battle Royal at the Scope. On the July 4th holiday, the Giant controlled another Battle Royal in Shelby, North Carolina before heading over to Winston-Salem , North Carolina later in the day to battle the Masked Superstar in a NWA Television Title contest. The Giant then appeared in Hampton, Virginia on July 5th and formed a dynamic trio with Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan to handily dispatch the combination of the Superstar, Greg Valentine and Enforcer Luciano.

Ray Stevens, Jimmy Snuka, and the Iron Sheik
Andre closed out the holiday weekend in Roanoke, Virginia on July 6th by teaming with "Jumping" Jim Brunzell and Ric Flair to dominate the trio of the Iron Sheik, Greg Valentine and Enforcer Luciano, before heading down the road to Greensboro, North Carolina later that same day to capture yet another Battle Royal, this time besting Jimmy Snuka at the end.

Former close friends and partners Ric Flair and Greg Valentine battled over Ric's United States Heavyweight Title in the Richmond Coliseum on the 4th of July, and followed that with title bouts in Greensboro on July 6th and Greenville, South Carolina on July 7th. While Flair won all these encounters, the matches were hyper competitive and could have gone either way.

July's inaugural week also saw Jim Brunzell capture two disqualification victories in title bouts with Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion the Iron Sheik in Richmond on July 4th and the next night in the Charlotte Coliseum, leaving the Sheik battered but still holding his belt. And finally, the first week in July saw the continuation of the bizarre program between Blackjack Mulligan and Enforcer Luciano with Mully scoring wins in Greensboro and Greenville, and also saw Blackjack's cousin Luke subbing for Mulligan in Richmond on the 4th and scoring a win over the Enforcer in Luciano's specialty match, the Detroit Street Brawl.

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More Mid-Atlantic History from July 1980 coming soon! 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Action Figures Friday - No. 1 Paul Jones

What a great custom action figure of one of the real legends of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, No. 1 Paul Jones.

The figure, and the awesome presentation here with the custom U.S. belt and a 1976 issue of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine, are part of a series of posts by our friends at Wrestler Weekly. You can follow all of their great posts of classic wrestling memorabilia on Twitter at @wrestlerweekly. Reggie Richardson (brother of Scottie who publishes Wrestler Weekly) had the figure custom made and arranged this very cool presentation.

Some random info about the magazine cover you see here. It was Vol. 2 Issue 4 of a series of in-house magazines that served as the program at arena events for Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid-1970s through mid-1980s. The early issues of the magazine, including this one, were written and produced by Les Thatcher when he worked as a jack-of-all-trades for the JCP office.

In the artists rendering on the cover, you'll see two wrestling holds being applied just above Paul's head. Both were drawn from photographs taken during the legendary one-night tournament on November 9, 1975 in Greensboro to crown a new U.S. Champion following the Wilmington plane crash in October of that year that ended the career of then-champion Johnny Valentine. At left Paul grabs a headlock on "Handsome" Harley Race, who he defeated in the semi-finals of the tournament. On the right you see Paul working over the leg of Terry Funk, who defeated Paul in the finals. Paul went on to defeat Funk three weeks later on Thanksgiving night to claim his first U.S. championship, commemorated on the cover of this magazine.

Another great addition to our line-up of classic Mid-Atlantic Wrestling custom action figures.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

When Ric Flair put up his "Golden Mane" it meant Championship Gold

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Greensboro NC October 16, 1976
Legendary athletes find their source of inspiration and motivation in many different forms. For the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, it was his trademark blond hair - - his "golden mane" as he liked to call it.

Flair's hair was the stipulation in many matches over the years, but it seemed to especially work well for him in title matches where he was the challenger. All three of the Nature Boy's Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight championship victories over Wahoo McDaniel, for example, came with his hair on the line as a contracted stipulation in the title match.

Back in the 1970s in the early part of Ric's storied career, he was the hated villain and fans always relished the chance to see him have that golden mane shaved right in the ring in front of them. What a wild scene it would have been.

Here is a brief summary of five title matches between 1975-1978 where Flair's hair at risk was enough to push him to victory:

It was Flair's first major singles title (he had briefly held the TV title) and his win over Wahoo McDaniel put him on the map and set him on his path to stardom. That journey was almost derailed when two weeks later Flair was injured in an airplane accident in Wilmington, NC. But the NWA allowed him to keep his title during his rehabilitation and he returned in late February of 1976 and began his year long feud with Wahoo over the championship belt - - with his hair on the line along the way.

Wahoo got his title back from Flair in early may, but later that month, Ric reclaimed the honors. Once again, it was Ric's hair on the line vs. Wahoo's Mid-Atlantic title belt. This was the famous match where Ric hit Wahoo with a "gimmicked" table leg, broken from the ringside timekeeper's table. However, the table leg had a nail sticking out of it and even with the "worked" blow, that nail cut Wahoo across the eye resulting in nearly 50 stitches to close the wound. The number of actual stitches may have been far less; over the years the number fluctuated from 35 to 40 to 55 and back. Regardless, it was a mess!

After Wahoo had regained the title in September, Flair fought back to regain the title on this historic show in Greensboro. It was the night the three top championships for Jim Crockett Promotions all changed hands on one night. In this case, Flair put his hair up yet again in his successful bid to win the title for a third time in less than a year in the main event of that huge show. (See the poster above.)

In 1976, Gene and Ole Anderson had taken the NWA World Tag Team Championships out of the Mid-Atlantic area with them to Georgia. They traded the titles a time or two with their cousin Ric Flair and his partner Greg Valentine in 1977. In October of that year, the Andersons returned to Greensboro to put the titles on the line again against the "blond bombers." Part of what had enticed them to return for that shot was Ric agreeing to put his hair on the line. If the Andersons won, they would shave Ric Flair bald right there in the ring. Ole Anderson even sent in a video promo from Georgia to be shown on Mid-Atlantic TV:

Ole should have studied up on Ric's recent history with putting his hair up. Flair and Valentine regained the titles, kept them in the Mid-Atlantic area, and sent the Anderson Brothers back to Georgia empty handed.

Flair's second U.S. title win, a victory in Charlotte over Tim Woods, also came with his hair on the line. Flair had now won three different championships with the stipulation that if he lost those matches, he would lose his hair.

I'm sure there are other examples. If you remember some others that I haven't mentioned here, drop us a line.

(Poster from the collection of Brack Beasley.)

Friday, March 01, 2019

The Anderson Brothers defend the NWA World Tag Team Titles against Thunderbolt Patterson and Bill Watts

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It was the hot summer of 1977, and Gene and Ole Anderson dominated the tag team scene in the state of Georgia. At one point they held both the Georgia Tag Team titles and the NWA World Tag Team titles.

This screen capture from raw 16mm film footage seen in the Vault section of the WWE Network shows the Andersons wearing the World Tag Team title belts preparing for a defense against "Cowboy" Bill Watts and Thunderbolt Patterson at the Omni on June 24, 1977.

WWE Network

The Anderson Brothers were a month and a half removed from their big victory over Ric Flair and Greg Valentine in Charlotte, NC, on May 8, 1977 where they regained those World tag team titles in a famous cage match where Wahoo McDaniel was the special referee.

Later that fall in 1977, the Andersons would lose those titles to Dusty Rhodes and Dick Slater, but for only a month. The Andersons held those titles off and on in Georgia and the Mid-Atlantic area from 1975-1981.

The film footage, which dropped on the WWE Network on 2/28/19, is heavily edited raw footage of about 7 minutes in duration, and without sound. This clip comes out of the blue as it is believed that WWE doesn't own much Georgia footage, and the source of this material isn't known. It might have been added as part of their recognition of Black History Month, spotlighting Thunderbolt Patterson.

Not much wrestling in this match, as it was an all out, fists-a-flying, "pier six" brawl. Too bad there was no sound, as the crowd was surely into this match-up. Thunderbolt had been feuding with the Andersons for months with various partners over both the Georgia and World tag team titles. The finish to this match is hilarious, which eventually resulted in the Andersons keeping their titles. Check it out in the 1977 sub-section of the Vault on the WWE Network.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Taking Some Time Off

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway is on a temporary hiatus. We’ll be back soon with more great Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memories, including a brand new interview!

Until then, so long for now.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Best of the Gateway: The Briscos' Million Dollar Smiles

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published February 2016 

I just came across a great interview with Jerry Brisco conducted by Marshall Ward for the Canoe Slam! Wrestling website. While the interview is not dated, I believe it took place not long after the Cauliflower Alley banquet in 2015 where Jerry was presented with the 2015 Lou Thesz Lifetime Achievement Award.

There is lots of great Mid-Atlantic Wrestling content in the interview, particularly Jerry talking about his heel run in the Mid-Atlantic area being his favorite of his career.

He also mentions someone sending him a link to a video promo on YouTube:

There's a promo on YouTube now that somebody sent me the other day that I'd forgotten all about. And you know how Edge and Christian used to do that five-second photo op? Well, Jack and I were doing a promo with Bill Ward, the commentator in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and so I come out and I said a couple words, something like: "I know you people are tired of what I've got to say, you're tired of listening to me, so I'm going to give everybody out there what you want the most. Jack and I standing here for five seconds smiling pretty for you."

So we just stood there and didn't say a word for five seconds, just smiling real arrogantly and then walked off the set. So I said to Edge, "You stole that!" and he said he never saw it. So I joked, that was the original five-second pose (laughs).

That 'somebody' that sent him the promo was the Gateway. I came across it on one of David Chappell's old VHS video tapes. I thought you might like to see the actual promo that Jerry mentions. It is just wonderful and embodies the total arrogance of the Brisco Brothers during their memorable heel run with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood ("Youngboat") over the NWA world tag team titles in 1983.

Jerry and Jack Brisco's Million Dollar Smile!

It didn't get any better than that! "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes wasn't the only one with a "million dollar smile."

The Brisco Brothers remain one of my favorite tag teams of all time.