When I attended a spot show card at the Colonial Heights, Virginia High School gym on March 4, 1977, little did I know that I was witnessing the professional birth of one of the greatest stars in wrestling history, Ricky Steamboat. Ricky defeated the always dangerous Sgt. Jacques Goulet that night in Colonial Heights, Steamboat’s second match in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling area. The young Steamboat continued his slow ascension up the proverbial ladder over the next three months, with flashes of promise popping up with each succeeding match. But nobody could have foreseen what the late spring of 1977 would bring for the up-and-coming Steamboat.
On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television taping date of May 25, 1977, Steamboat closed the show by being interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. Discussing the tough competition in the Mid-Atlantic area, Ricky commented, “With what I know, I feel I have some confidence within myself. I’ve spent a lot of years and years and years…” But Steamboat couldn’t finish, as he was interrupted by none other than the flamboyant Ric Flair! At this juncture, Flair was a Mid-Atlantic veteran compared to Steamboat, having been wrestling in the territory for three years and Ric was the current holder of the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship belt.
The “Nature Boy” dismissively scolded Steamboat, saying, “Step aside kid, the people came to see me and Valentine, not some punk kid! Step aside kid!” Ricky, somewhat taken aback replied, “I’m sorry, I thought this was my interview time.” Flair, knowing he was effectively pushing Steamboat’s buttons commented, “Don’t make the mistake again…take off kid, take off. And don’t make the mistake of coming in again.” Gaining some confidence, Steamboat counterattacked, saying, “Flair, let me tell you something. I’ve been in this area now for about three months. I’ve been watching you; I’ve been studying you. And let me tell you something; let me tell you something. I can beat you any time of the week, any time of the day, you name it…we’ll go. Don’t YOU make that mistake.” This first confrontation between Flair and Steamboat ended with Flair again trashing the new star from Hawaii, saying, “ Get out of here; get that kid out of here. We got more important things to talk about, get lost kid, we’ve got men to talk about, get lost kid.”
The next week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, Steamboat and Flair had their second incident. Steamboat and Bob Caudle were talking about Ricky’s victory over Lanny Poffo earlier in the show, when Flair showed up again unannounced. Steamboat exclaimed, “What’s going on, what’s going on?!?” Ric countered, “Here I am, $500 suit, looking as only I could look! Step back punk, every time I got something to say, this punk kid is in my way.” Steamboat, incredulous that he was being interrupted yet again, said, “They told me this was MY interview time!” Flair laughingly retorted, “You’re gonna have to learn like everybody else has had to learn, nothin’ goes unless the Nature Boy says so, you understand that boy, now just step back.”
At this juncture, the youngster from Hawaii had about enough of Ric’s mouth, explaining, “Hey, Flair, let me say something now partner…I do a little bit of talking out here to the fans and everything, but I do my business in the ring. I don’t want to do it right here in front of TV and the interviewer here…I don’t want to get him involved. So let me say something…if you want to go right now we’ll climb in there…” Ric rudely interrupted, “I don’t want to hurt you…get lost punk! I’m dressed up and I’ve got the girls out there screaming! I don’t want to wrestle a punk like you, hurt you and put you in the hospital, how does that make me look? I don’t want to wrestle someone underprivileged like you!” When Steamboat then hesitated, Flair said, “You got something to say? Speak up boy!” A now fuming Steamboat snarled, “This is the second time you’ve done this, the second time. Don’t push your luck too far, you understand? Don’t push your luck too far.” Ric, a little caught off guard by Steamboat’s retort, incredulously asked, “Who does this punk think he’s talking to? You hear all the girls screaming, the guys are in fear, and the mightiest man of them all is standing right here. Take a walk kid!”
The following week on the TV taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, taped on June 8, 1977, Steamboat and Flair confronted each other once again on the set. Flair screamed at Steamboat, “I want the whole world to see you and I have this out. You’re trying to tell me and tell all the fans that there is someone greater than the Nature Boy, someone younger someone more beautiful …me with the $5,000.00 robe! Look at it boy!” Ric then proceeded to slap Steamboat in the face and then said, “That’s what I think of him…he’s just a punk and he’s gone. I’m the greatest…you get that through your head!”
An incensed Steamboat fired back, “Mr. [Jim] Crockett, I’m sorry for what is about to happen here. This is the third week now…the third straight week. I have been trying to be as gentleman as I can be…” Ricky then landed a thrust to Flair’s head and knocked the Nature Boy out into dream-land! Steamboat said, “I’m sorry” as David Crockett, Jim Crockett along with Blackjack Mulligan looked on in amazement as the prone Flair was not moving. After being knocked out with one punch, Flair had to be helped out of the studio as David Crockett exclaimed, “He pushed him too far…he just pushed him too far!”
Fast forward to the end of this TV program, and an agitated Ric Flair comes back on the set where Bob Caudle is talking to Ricky Steamboat. Caudle said to Flair, “I thought you would have had enough.” Ric responded angrily, “I HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH OF ANYTHING…THINGS HAVE JUST STARTED!” Flair continued, “Step back kid and hear what I got to say. I want you. You see this robe right here…$5,000.00 and I got bent feathers and feathers missing because of you! Not to mention the humiliation of what you did to me on TV! I know you had something in your hand!” A furious Ricky Steamboat replied, “What you’ve been doing to me the last 3 weeks…every time I’ve been getting out here you’ve been butting in and taking up my time, saying it’s your time all the time!”
Flair scolded Steamboat, “You hear what I got to say and you hear it good. Nobody has ever knocked me out with one punch in their entire life. You took something out of your trunks and had it in your hand…I want you. You see this [Mid-Atlantic TV Championship belt] right there? Next week…you and me…I want you so bad!” Steamboat jumped in immediately and said, “I ACCEPT; I’LL ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE!” A perplexed Flair said, “You’re pretty anxious aren’t you? You think you can handle me in that ring??” Steamboat confidently said, “I told you I’ve been watching you for 3 months, I told you I can beat you! Next week brother, it’s gonna happen!”
As Steamboat left the TV studio, Ric told Bob Caudle that Steamboat didn’t know who he was dealing with. Caudle countered, “Did you realize that you may have been suckered into putting that belt on the line…it may be YOU that’s in for trouble Ric.” Flair, not surprisingly, disagreed saying, “I’m going to bring it down to earth for a minute. I know I get a little high once in a while, and sometimes I get real spaced out. But I’m going to tell you something right now…I know what I want. This guy is hording in on all aspects of my life. They even tell me that when I have my back turned, this kid is moving in on my private stock! Well, Steamboat, like every other punk that’s come around and thought he had something going on…I’m going to teach you the same lesson! You ask Wahoo and you ask Paul Jones what it is to pay the price to get in there with the Nature Boy!! WOOOO!!”
The anticipation was palpable when Flair and Steamboat met for the first time in a singles match on June 15, 1977at the studio taping in Raleigh, NC of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show. And Flair’s prestigious Mid-Atlantic Television Title was on the line! Ric’s close friend and tag team partner Greg Valentine joined Bob Caudle and David Crockett in announcing the match. This bout had a true big match feel to it!
Steamboat showed early on in the match that he belonged on the big stage with Flair. Ricky’s athleticism and hard chops kept the Nature Boy off balance early. Valentine countered that Steamboat did not have the stamina or experience to keep it up much longer. After a period of even battling, it appeared that Flair had the win locked up when he dropped Ricky to the mat with a vicious suplex. To the surprise of everyone, particularly Greg Valentine, who was rendered nearly speechless, Steamboat kicked out of the pin attempt before the count of three! Soon after, Ric flung Steamboat out on the concrete floor and it appeared unlikely Ricky would make it back in the ring before the 10 count…but Steamboat persevered and made it back into the ring!
Flair was never the same after Steamboat made it off of the floor. After several more minutes, a disoriented Flair was wobbling around while Steamboat climbed to the top turnbuckle, Ricky leaped off the top rope with a double-chop that disabled Flair, enabling “Steamer” to capture a three count, and the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship! Valentine ran in from his announce position, and joined an embarrassed Flair to double-team an unsuspecting Steamboat. The “bad guys” were beating Ricky senseless until Wahoo McDaniel joined the fray after a couple of minutes, and pandemonium ensued! Luckily for Steamboat, he was able to leave the ring and not be seriously injured.
As the program was about to go off the air, Bob Caudle got a few words with the new Mid-Atlantic TV Champion. Ricky said, “I’m very fortunate to have won that match; he’s a very tough competitor…but I never knew that Flair was the type of individual to have something going on with his partner. To me, this is just the beginning…but I’m gonna tell you something Flair. Deep down inside, this is just the beginning between you and I. Anytime you want me just let the promoter know, and we’ll go.”
Everything has to start somewhere…including famous wrestling feuds. Even on that Wednesday night way back in June of 1977, Ricky Steamboat seemed to sense that his first singles match with Ric Flair was the start of something big. Really big. But nobody could have known at that time just HOW big! One of the greatest feuds in wrestling history began just because Ric Flair would not let Ricky Steamboat finish several innocuous TV interviews! But thank goodness those interruptions happened, as we fans got to enjoy 17 years of a fantastic rivalry and great matches as a result!
by Peggy Lathan Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Think Ole Anderson was
always a nasty, cold-hearted villain? Think again.
Those of you who know me know
that during the 1970s, I was a regular on the front row at the wrestling cards
in Spartanburg, SC every Saturday night. I went to the matches with my mother
and grandmother and I can't remember ever missing one. No matter if I was sick,
or if I had attended a Clemson football game that afternoon (and raced to
Spartanburg after it was over with a Tiger Paw still painted on my face), or had
just gotten back from the beach (I had to be back on Saturday!), you could bet
that I was always right there on the front row - - section B, row 1, seat 10.
mom had bought a new pocketbook that had a zippered pocket on the outside flap
that folded over the main opening to the pocketbook. She would put her car keys
in the zippered compartment so they would be easy to find. One night after the
matches (about 11pm I guess) it was raining and when we got to the car, mom
could not find her keys. The zippered pocket was empty, which meant we could not
get in the locked car. We had to call my dad in Liberty, wake him up and get him
to bring us another set of keys. Those were the days without cell phones - we
had to use the pay phone in the auditorium. Thank goodness for collect calls! It
took about an hour to get from Liberty to Spartanburg.
Anyway, here we were
standing at our car in the pouring rain waiting on dad. Most everyone that had
been there that night, fans and wrestlers, had already left and went home.
Everyone except Ole and Gene Anderson. Being the hated villains, they would wait
until the parking lot cleared out before they would leave.
I had been friends
with Ole and Gene for several years. My grandmother Nannie loved giving the
Anderson brothers a lot of grief at the matches for many of those years. They
knew her well.
Ole and Gene came out and saw us standing there and asked me what
was wrong. I told him that mom had lost her keys and we were waiting on dad to
bring another set.
"So you're going to stand out here in the rain for an hour"
Ole asked? I told him we had no choice.
"Wait a minute, " he said and told Gene
to go on to the car. Ole went back inside the auditorium and reemerged a moment
or two later with a wire clothes hanger. It took him a minute or two, but he
finally got the door opened for us.
He told us to get in and lock the doors. My
Nannie, who had given Ole such grief from the front row at matches all over our
area, suddenly had a momentary warm spot in her heart for him. "You hurry along,
too," she said. "I don't want you to catch cold." That was my Nannie.
him for going to all that trouble to help us, and he jumped in his brown Ford
convertible with Gene and they left.
A few weeks after that at another Saturday
night wrestling card in Spartanburg, mom lost her car keys again! We had to go
to the pay phone and call my poor daddy again. Needless to say, he wasn't too
thrilled about that. But my daddy is a good man and here he came again, another
hour to the auditorium.
So here we are again, standing at the car and Ole came
out and saw us and said "Not again!" I said yep. He just shook his head and went
back inside, got another clothes hanger and opened the door for us.
Mom was so
disgusted with the pocketbook, she began cleaning it out to throw it away. After
emptying the main compartment, she shook it to be sure everything was out. She
heard a jingling noise, but the main compartment was empty. But she could tell
something was still in there! Come to find out, when she put the keys in the
zippered outer pocket and lifted the flap to access the main part of the
pocketbook, the keys would fall straight down into the bottom of a false-pocket.
Because of a poor design, that outer zippered compartment was not sealed off at
the top! There, behind the main pocket of the pocketbook, were two full sets of
Many of you may know the story of how Ole was stabbed by fan at the
matches in Greenville, SC in 1976. I was there that night and helped administer
first aid to him as he lay bleeding in a hallway at the Greenville Memorial
Auditorium waiting for an ambulance. He always tells me I saved his life that
night. Ole's good deeds to me and my mother and grandmother those two nights in
Spartanburg might seem less by comparison, but they were just as significant to
me. Ole didn't have to stop and help us. It was late on those Saturday nights
and he and Gene needed to get on to the next town. But he did help us, and it
was events such as these over many years that have led to our lifelong
I will never forget him being my family's Good Samaritan. Twice!
Check out Mike Mooneyham's latest column on WWE referee (and longtime Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan) Charles Robinson.
We think the world of both these guys. This is a terrific article and interview and I learned alot things about Charles I've never known. And I loved the telling of the story of how he broke into the business.
Excerpt: “I've worked with everybody,” notes Robinson, who holds the distinction of officiating the final bouts for some of the biggest names in the business. He was there to make the final count for his wrestling idol, Ric Flair, in the Nature Boy's retirement match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24 in 2008. Two years later at Wrestlemania 26, Robinson made the final three count in Michaels' retirement match against The Undertaker.
A few years ago, we posted a brief audio clip from "The Dan Patrick Show" radio broadcast where Patrick asked guest country music star Darius Rucker about his interest in pro wrestling.
Darius, a big Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan going back to the early 1970s, ranked his top 5 greatest wrestlers of all-time and of course he had his long-time friend Ric Flair on the top of that list. But he also included a tag team in the list - Gene and Ole Anderson, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew.
That was a cool moment for me me personally, as the Anderson Brothers were among my favorites growing up as well. It was great hearing Darius mention their names in that list and on a national radio broadcast.
I thought I'd post that radio audio clip here again. Along with his all-time Top 5 greatest pro-wrestlers, Darius also mentions Mid-Atlantic legends Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson during the discussion with Dan Patrick.
Darius was recently on Ric Flair's podcast "WOOOOO! Nation" and mentioned that
he enjoyed reading the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and remembering all the
great days of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. We obviously marked out a little
bit for that. (Thanks also to our good friend Conrad Thompson, Ric's co-host, for generously plugging the Mid-Atlantic Gateway as well.)
After listening to the audio clip above, be sure to check out Darius's appearance on WOOOOO! Nation with Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson available for free download (along with all of Ric's other podcasts) at www.Play.it.
Darius Rucker's current album is titled "Southern Style" and is available in stores and online at iTunes and Amazon.com. Visit his website at dariusrucker.com.