Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Caudles: Married 70 Years!

We love these two so much. Our warmest best wishes to the two sweetest people we know, Bob and Jackie Caudle, married 70 years today!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Simply the Best

Two of the very best at what they did in the wrestling business for decades: longtime NWA referee Tommy Young and the voice of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Bob Caudle in Spartanburg, SC, 2005.

Images Reclaimed: Terry Funk and the United States Championship

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The United States Heavyweight championship was defended in Jim Crockett Promotions from the birth of the title in 1975 until the company folded in 1988. While the title lived on in WCW and WWE, its 13-year history in Crockett's NWA promotion was arguably its most storied period, during a time when wrestling titles actually meant something. During those 13 years, there were 5 different versions of the belt, the first being cast plates on red crocodile leather used from 1975-1980.

While there are many photographs of most of the U.S. champions, there were a three that held the red belt for which no photograph exists at all, or at least none that we have ever been able to find. One of those men was Terry Funk.

Terry Funk in 2010 in Charlotte
Terry Funk held the U.S. title for less than three weeks in 1975. He won the title in the huge Greensboro tournament that took place following the airplane crash that ended the career of then-reigning champ Johnny Valentine. He defeated Paul Jones in the finals of that tournament and then faced Jones in a rematch weeks later on Thanksgiving night, dropping the title to him.

On the night Funk won it, the company did not have the original belt, thought to still be in the possession of Valentine recovering from the accident. They used a stand-in belt that night. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around three weeks later, JCP had the original belt back and Funk wore it to the ring only to quickly remove it and hand it to the referee before his title defense against Jones.

The 2010 NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte presented a unique opportunity to finally capture an image of Funk with a likeness of that belt, a beautiful replica crafted by Dave Millican.

When I handed the belt to Terry, he looked at it for a moment.

“Do you remember that?” I asked.

He looked at it a moment longer and said, “This was Paul Jones’, right? Did I beat him or did he beat me?”

“Both.” I replied, thrilled that he remembered something that long ago. I reminded him of the scenario that took place 35 years earlier in Greensboro. He held the belt out in front of him and smiled for the photo.

“There was never a photo of you with that belt,” I said.

“Oh, yeah?” Funk said, and with that he pulled the snaps apart and put the belt over his shoulder. “Well then, get this close.”

And with that he posed for another photo with the belt much as he might have done in 1975. A very cool moment indeed.

Taken from a larger article published in 2010 on the old Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, archived on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Official NWA Ten Pounds of Gold Pin

Photo: Mid-Atlantic Gateway
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Check out this beautifully detailed pin of the main plate of the famous "Ten Pounds of Gold" NWA World Championship title belt.

The lapel pin is large with two fasteners on the back, measuring at 1 3/4" wide by 1 7/16" tall.

The detail is amazing. It was manufactured in partnership with the NWA by Lapel Yeah.

The pin was first sold at the NWA's "pop up" show recently in Clarksville, TN. My guess is they will be on sale online at some point (and may be already.) We'll provide details as we come across them on how you can order one for yourself.

In another exciting development, the NWA recently announced that they will be bringing back the Im Crockett Crockett Sr. Memorial tag team tournament (the Crockett Cup), in conjunction with the Crockett Foundation and Ring of Honor Wrestling. The event will be April 27, 2019, at Cabarrus Arena in Concord, NC, just outside Charlotte, NC. We'll be following that exciting news as well.

Follow the NWA on Twitter at @NWA.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Big Star Bound: Sam Houston Upsets Arn Anderson (1985)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

"...if you're big star bound, let me warn you, it's a long hard ride."  -David Allan Coe
 As the fall of 1985 began, I was convinced of one thing: Sam Houston was going to be a huge break-out star for Dusty Rhodes and Jim Crockett Promotions. It was probably a year or two away before he would be on top, but it was going to happen. He had that "it" factor.

But he never made it.

It's too bad because he was still so young and hadn't even filled out physically yet and already had so much potential and was so smooth in the ring. And he had that great Texas gimmick that Dusty would have pushed to the moon.

His personal demons took over, and it didn't help that Dusty put him in a position he just wasn't yet ready for as the top babyface in the Kansas City territory that Jim Crockett Promotions had recently taken over. That move helped finish off that territory and derailed Sam's career.

This match in the video embedded above was one of Sam's biggest moments as a "young lion" for the company. He upset Arn Anderson on "World Wide Wrestling" from September 7, 1985, at a time where Arn had only recently stepped onto the main event stage himself as one half of the modern day Minnesota Wrecking Crew. This was just as the Four Horsemen were starting to take form, even if we didn't know that at the time. You'll notice Sam with a cast on his arm; the Andersons and Tully Blanchard had jumped him weeks earlier and broken his arm as a warning to Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A. of what could happen to them.

Sam went on later to win the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship and the Central States Championship for JCP before leaving for the WWF for a short stint.

On a side note, David Crockett calls the match (along with Ole Anderson and Tony Schiavone.) It always amused me how David mispronounced Arn's name as 'Iron' Anderson. He could say the word 'arm', as in "Sam Houston's broken arm", but he could never quite seem to say 'Arn' Anderson.

Also, as an avowed mark for the Andersons, I loved seeing Arn wearing the famous "Anderson boots" and executing two perfect "Anderson slams" (a modified hammerlock slam) on Houston's broken arm. Those slams even got Ole excited a little bit, as he was doing color commentary with David Crockett.

The match also features appearances by Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A.

1985 was a great year. Sam Houston was a part of what made that fall of 1985 special, even if part of a smaller background story. As Dusty liked to say, quoting David Allan Coe, he certainly was "big star bound."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Classic Poster Friday: Harley Race Brings the U.S. Title to the Mid-Atlantic Area

Poster from the collection of Brack Beasley


by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The title of this series is called "Classic Poster Friday", and this particular poster lives up to that name better than most. It is one of the most historic nights in Greensboro and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling history. Fitting that the poster has a different look to it as well.

Brack Beasley selected this poster from his vast collection as one of his favorites, not only because the historical nature of the card, but also stylistically, it stands out almost as an anomaly. The poster background is white and uses all red and blue inks. There is no black ink at all, and as a result the poster has a much different look to it than other from that era.  We guess that the red, white, and blue color scheme had something to do with the card being on the big Independence Day weekend.

Historically, the card is important because it was the night the United States heavyweight championship was introduced to the area. it became the top singles title for the company, and the U.S. title in WWE today traces its lineage directly back to the Crockett U.S. title.

To introduce the championship, booker George Scott created the story that former NWA World Champion Harley Race was the reigning U.S. champion, having defeated Johnny Weaver for it in a tournament in Florida. All of that was fictitious, of course, and was part of the story to build up interest in Race and the U.S. championship.

Race was a great choice to be the inaugural champion and to bring the belt into the area. He was a former NWA World champion, holding that prestigious title for a few months in the spring and early summer of 1973. He had defeated Dory Funk, Jr. for the honors and that victory that ended Funk’s 4-year run as champion had given Race a measure of national notoriety.  He had a reputation in the national wrestling magazines, which were an important part of the wrestling business at that time, and had been pushed by the NWA promoters to the wrestling press as a perennial top candidate for the NWA championship. Race gave the U.S. title tremendous credibility even before it had ever been defended.

In late May, announcers started including Harley Race as United States champion in their weekly rundown of the area champions on the TV shows. Soon after, they started talking about Race coming to the area to defend the title, and showed tapes of Race in matches from Florida.

Finally, the date was then set for Race’s title defense on July 3 at the Greensboro Coliseum, home to most of the major cards in the area. Mid-Atlantic champion Johnny Valentine was selected as the number one contender based on the fact that at the time of the first announcement he held the area’s top singles championship, the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight title.

Four days before Valentine was to meet Race in Greensboro, he lost the Mid-Atlantic title to arch-rival Wahoo McDaniel in Asheville, NC, on June 29 at the Asheville Civic Center. On the following week’s TV, taped 7/2 before the U.S. title match the following night in Greensboro, Wahoo celebrated his win over Valentine for the Mid-Atlantic title. But Valentine told fans he wouldn’t be down for long. And one night later he would be proven correct as he prepared to walk the aisle in Greensboro to meet Harley Race.

Johnny Valentine’s epic win over Harley Race for the United States championship was by all accounts a classic. Jim Crockett, Jr. gave the event first class treatment, with more TV coverage than was usual for a typical big show there. While most big title changes were recorded on 16mm film with no commentary, this match was video-taped and David Crockett and Sandy Scott were on hand to do live commentary for the match, which would be shown on Mid-Atlantic TV several weeks later.

The match had an interesting feel to it. Valentine was and had been the top heel in the territory since entering in October of 1973. He was the most despised, reviled, and hated man in the area. However, the fans had gained a measure of respect for him over time as he had proven to be one of the toughest wrestlers ever seen there. On this one evening, the fans put aside feelings of antipathy and got behind him as he represented their territory in the match with U.S. champion Harley Race. The general feeling at the time, I’m told, was that Valentine may have been a dirty old bastard, but he was our dirty old bastard. And during the long 51-minute battle fans slowly turned in support of Valentine. When he scored the pin on Race, the capacity crowd in the Coliseum exploded with cheers, and offered an extended standing ovation.  One of their own had just brought the United States championship into their home area.

The office made sure that warm feeling held by the fans for their new champion was short lived. Fellow “bad-guys” Mr. Fuji and Frank Monte were sent to ringside to congratulate Valentine and escort him from the ring back to the locker room. Fans were still happy Valentine had won, but there was no misunderstanding as to whose camp he was still in.

I've always hated that the Race/Valentine title match wasn't billed as the main event on this poster. In the newspaper ads, it did get top billing, but for some reason, it was listed second on the poster. The Andersons were NWA World Tag Team champs and defending against Andre the Giant and Paul Jones, but the match selling the show was Valentine challenging for the U.S. title.

Elsewhere in the territory on that same night, JCP held a big card in Norfolk, VA. Headiling that card was Wahoo McDaniel vs. Ric Flair, plus Sonny King vs. The Super Destroyer (Don Jardine), Swede Hanson, Bob Bruggers, Doug Gilbert, the Blue Scorpion and others. 

Worth noting also for historical purposes that Valentine was almost exactly 3 months away from his career ending plane crash in Wilmington, NC.

The entire story of the build to this U.S. title match, the tale of the Florida tournament and Johnny Weaver, and photos of Valentine leaving the ring that night ion Greensboro are part of the book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship", which chronicles the entire history, both fact and myth, of the U.S. title.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ric Flair's Crystal Ball Was Clear in 1975

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 
Originally published in January 2017

On June 18, 1975 Ric Flair was about a year into his tenure with Jim Crockett Promotions. While Flair was the Mid-Atlantic Television Champion at that time, the young “Nature Boy” was still clearly a work in progress. The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped that night featured a bout between reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco and the 1974 NWA Rookie of the Year, Steve Keirn. The rare appearance of the NWA World Champion on Mid-Atlantic TV was not lost on the supremely confident Flair.

In a brief interview segment on that show with announcer Bob Caudle, Ric exclaimed,

“I just want to take one minute here to tell everybody that I had a dream! You know, I have a lot of girlfriends around the country and one of ‘em happens to be a fortune-teller. And one day she looked at one line of my palm and she said, ‘You’re the best lookin’ man in the world!’ And the next day she looked at another line in my hand and she said, ‘You got the greatest body in the world!’ And the next day she looked at a line in my hand and said, ‘You’re gonna beat Paul Jones, you’re gonna beat Wahoo McDaniel, you’re gonna beat Jack Brisco, WOOOO, and you’re gonna be the World’s Champion! Because there’s only one Nature Boy, and you are the greatest wrestler in the world today Nature Boy, know it for a fact!’

Flair concluded by saying, “I am the best, I am the good, I am the bad…I am everything daddy, and don’t you forget it!” Caudle deadpanned in response, “Well, there’s no doubt what Ric Flair thinks of himself.”

Self confidence has never been an issue for Ric Flair, even back in 1975. But when I watched this interview segment nearly 42 years ago, I didn’t see the young brash Nature Boy as a World Champion. Back then, that prospect seemed almost laughable to me. Was Flair entertaining back then? Yes, without a doubt. But, Ric Flair as a World Champion? Not even a remote possibility in my humble opinion!

As the years progressed, my opinion of Ric Flair and his World Title possibilities certainly changed. But while myself and others had to come around to the idea of Flair as a World Heavyweight Champion, the Nature Boy’s crystal ball on this subject was clear all the way back to June of 1975. And when Ric ascended to the NWA mountaintop for the first time on September 17, 1981, I vividly remember hearkening back to this interview, and realizing that he had one heck of a fortune-telling girlfriend in his past!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Fanfest Memories

Two of our favorite NWA/Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest memories!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Classic Poster Friday: One of Greg Valentine's Earliest Appearances as a Regular in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Today's "Classic Poster Friday" features a historical look at Greg Valentine's first main event match in the Mid-Atlantic territory back in September of 1976. It would be a run in that territory that lasted some 7+ years. 

Valentine made his very first appearance in the Mid-Atlantic area as a "guest' appearance on a Greensboro NC card in August of 1976. Greensboro was somewhat famous for having regular appearances by "guest" stars coming in from other territories. In this case, coming in from Florida, it was a big deal that the "brother" of Johnny Valentine (Greg was actually Johnny's son) was coming into the area that Johnny had dominated up until his tragic airplane accident less than a year earlier.

What fans didn't know then was that Greg would enter the area on a full time basis a month later.

The "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" and "Wide World Wrestling" shows taped 9/15/76 in Raleigh featured a special video tape segment hosted by Gordon Solie sent in from Florida. In the tape, Greg Valentine was demonstrating the power of his "bionic elbow" by breaking boards with it, etc. He told Solie he would be entering the Mid-Atlantic area soon. A week later at the tapings on 9/22/76, Valentine made his full time debut defeating Steve Bolus. Two nights later, he would wrestle in his first main event, teaming with Ric Flair (who would soon become his permanent tag team partner) against Wahoo McDaniel and Tiger Conway, Jr. on 9/24/76 in Lynchburg, VA, the headline event on the poster above.

The next night in Hampton, VA, Greg would challenge Wahoo McDaniel for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight championship. The match played off the history of Wahoo's epic battles with Johnny Valentine and also foreshadowed Greg and Wahoo's legendary feud that would begin in 1977.

It was somewhat unusual in those days for a newcomer to hit the main events as soon as he was in the territory, but Valentine indeed did just that. It didn't take him long to capture gold, either. In less than two months he defeated Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods for the TV championship and then a month later with partner Ric Flair defeated the Anderson brothers to take the NWA World Tag Team championship. 

In the semi-main tag match on this Lynchburg show, the brother due of Lanny and Randy Poffo challenged Red Bastien and Vic Rosettani. Randy Poffo would become "Macho Man" Randy Savage in ICW in the late 1970s, and go on to headline the WWF in the 1980s.

Of note about this card in Lynchburg, it was only a four-match show, which was still occasionally the case in smaller towns or spot show towns. Jim Crockett Promotions often ran three towns a night, and on this night they were also in the regular Friday night towns of Richmond VA (headlined by Blackjack Mulligan vs. Rufus R. Jones in a Texas Death Match) and Charleston, SC, (headlined by Angelo Mosca defending the TV title against Tony Atlas.)

Thanks to Jody Shifflett for the poster image and David Chappell for additional research.