Tuesday, July 26, 2016

30th Anniversary of Dusty's Final World Title Win

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The list of men who have held the NWA World Championship during the territory era is relatively short. Few of wrestling's legends can claim the honor. Even fewer can claim to have held it more than once. Dusty Rhodes did it three times.

NWA World Champion Dusty Rhodes
It's hard to imagine that it has been 30 years, but this indeed is the 30th anniversary of Dusty Rhodes defeating Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the Great American Bash event in Greensboro, NC.

It was a hot Saturday night, July 26, 1986. The Greensboro Coliseum was packed and Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes met inside a steel cage with the NWA world title on the line. It was near the end of a string of Great American Bash shows that had stretched the month of July, and it was near the end of a series of NWA title defenses all during that famous Bash series.

Flair had successfully defended against Road Warrior Hawk, Ricky Morton, Wahoo McDaniel, Nikita Koloff, Ron Garvin and others. The Bash had played in places like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, RFK Stadium in Washington, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, and Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati.

Flair had even successfully defended against Rhodes twice already during the Bash - - in Washington, DC and in Jacksonville, FL.

But the third time proved to be the charm for the "American Dream", winning the prestigious championship for a third and final time, taking the Big Gold belt in "Crockett country" at the historic Greensboro Coliseum.

It was a jubilant scene as Rhodes stood on the second turnbuckle, hugging the Big Gold belt as tears streamed down his face. Wrestlers flooded the ring, along with Baby Doll and country singer David Allen Coe, as Tom Miller made the dramatic announcement...

"...the winner and new world heavyweight champion, the American Dream Dusty Rhodes!"

(See also: American Dreams Come True: for the first time since Dusty Rhodes won the Big Gold in 1986, the nameplate finally goes on the original belt.)



Dusty Rhodes with his daughter Teil around the same period as
when Dusty won the "Big Gold" belt in Greensboro. Teil
will be in Charlotte on July 5th to help honor her Dad
at the Hall of Heroes. (Eddie Cheslock Photo)
One of the men celebrating with Rhodes that night was his protege, Magnum T.A. Magnum was embroiled in a bitter series of matches of his own, a best-of-seven series for the vacant U.S. championship with Nikita Koloff. That same night, Magnum captured his first victory in that series, preventing Koloff from sweeping him. Magnum now trailed 1-3, and would go on to get wins #2 and #3 in Atlanta and Asheville before losing match #7 in Charlotte in mid-August.

Magnum's big victory that night in Greensboro, along with Dusty's historic 3rd NWA title win, made Greensboro the best night in that amazing string of shows that was the Great American Bash thirty years ago this month.

And now all these years later, Magnum T.A. will pay tribute to his mentor and friend Dusty Rhodes at the annual Hall of Heroes dinner banquet Friday, August 5, during the NWALegends.com Fanfest weekend in Charlotte. Dusty's wife Michelle and his daughter Teil will be there to see Dusty honored and inducted into the Hall of Heroes Class of 2016.

It is bound to be an emotional evening, and one you will want to be a part of. Complete details on Fanfest and the Hall of Heroes dinner banquet can be found at NWALegends.com.

Monday, July 25, 2016

American Dreams Come True

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

On the eve of the 30th Anniversary of Dusty Rhodes' historic third NWA world heavyweight championship win over Ric Flair at the Great American Bash in Greensboro on July 26, 1986, Dusty's son Cody Rhodes posted these thoughts in a 4-part tweet (the original tweets are embedded at the bottom of this post):
"If you've read "Big Gold" by Dick Bourne you know the nameplate for my Father was never on the actual Title after my Father defeated Ric at The GAB. It was rumored to not even exist, but it was ordered and it does exist. I found it in a cigar-box. And on the eve of the 30th ANNIVERSARY and with @HeyHeyItsConrad 's help, it officially goes on the original "Big Gold". The "hard times" for you Pop are over. Just good times ahead sir." - Cody Rhodes
Needless to say, I'm honored that Cody has my book, and thrilled that the discussion within its pages regarding the "Dusty Rhodes" nameplate led to his sentimental post on Twitter celebrating one of his father's greatest victories.

American Dreams do come true: for the first time since Dusty Rhodes won
the Big Gold in 1986, the nameplate finally goes on the belt.

Fans of this legendary belt owe Cody a debt of thanks for sharing the nameplate with all of us. Stars truly aligned for this to have ever happened to begin with.

The back story, if you don't own the book (but you really ought to own the book), is that a nameplate was ordered to go on the belt after Dusty's big win at the Bash. Nelson Royal, on behalf of Jim Crockett Promotions, placed the order with Crumrine Jewelers in Nevada (the company that made the Big Gold Belt) on July 29, three days after Dusty's big win.

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/big-gold.htmlOn the same day that order was placed, Jim Crockett, Jr. appeared with Dusty on a television taping of "World Wide Wrestling" and told fans that a new nameplate had been ordered and would go on the belt, replacing the Ric Flair plate.

But before the nameplate was delivered, Dusty lost the NWA championship back to Flair after a Horseman ambush in Kansas City led to an injured Rhodes dropping the title back to Flair in St. Louis only a few weeks later.

Crumrine provided scans of the original paperwork for the book showing the special order form and the artwork for the Rhodes nameplate. (Cody's first tweet shows the book opened to that page.) But because we never got to see the nameplate appear on the Big Gold belt, we never knew if the order for that nameplate had ever really been filled and delivered.

Until now.

A few months back, Cody Rhodes read about the nameplate in "Big Gold" and with the help of Conrad Thompson, Ric Flair, and the collector who owns the belt today, arranged for a dream to come true - - an American Dream, if you will. What for the last 30 years would have seemed unthinkable has now been made possible - - the Dusty Rhodes nameplate was placed on the original 1986 NWA world heavyweight championship belt for the very first time.

Sparks actually flew when the two pieces of gold first touched. Stardust.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

 Here are the original tweets from the official Twitter account of Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes):

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mike Mooneyham Writes About the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and the Hall of Heroes

Many thanks to Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier for the very nice article he published today (7/24) about the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and our inclusion in the NWALegends.com Hall of Heroes Class of 2016.

David Chappell, Bob Caudle, and Dick Bourne
at WRAL in Raleigh

'Gateway Boys' help keep Mid-Atlantic wrestling memories alive
by Mike Mooneyham, Charleston Post & Courier

Mike has always been a supporter of our website and book projects (like the review he wrote for "Big Gold" in 2014) and we were honored by his mention of us in his Hall of Heroes induction speech when he was recognized in the Class of 2015 last year in Charlotte. He is one of the true "good guys" in the wrestling media, an accomplished writer and journalist, as well as a New York Times best selling author.

The Hall of Heroes Dinner Banquet and Awards Ceremony is part of a huge weekend in early August in Charlotte called "NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest." It is one of largest and longest running wrestling fan conventions in the country, and takes place this year on August 4-7 at the University Place Hilton in Charlotte.

Mike Mooneyham
The Hall of Heroes is in its tenth year and recognizes wrestlers, managers, announcers, promoters, and referees that were an integral part of the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling territory of the 1960s through 1980s, and a few outside of the territory as well. Recently, it has begun recognizing the efforts of those that have helped preserve that history, beginning last year with the induction of Mooneyham. We are honored to be a part of this recognition in 2016.

The list of those recognized in prior years are some of the most familiar names to fans of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling over the last decades: Johnny Weaver, George and Sandy Scott, Gene and Ole Anderson, Danny Miller, Bob Caudle, Blackjack Mulligan, Joe and Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, James J. Dillon, Les Thatcher, Jack and Jerry Brisco, Ricky Steamboat, Jay Youngblood, Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express, and a host of others, far too many to name them all here.

This year's class includes the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes (inducted by Magnum T.A.), The Road Warriors with Paul Ellering (inducted by Jim Cornette), the "Boogie Man" Jimmy Valiant, "Perfect 10" Baby Doll Nickla Roberts, and your ever so humble undercard, the "Gateway Boys" as we've become to be known.

For more ticket and hotel information on this year's Fanfest, including the scheduled autograph signings, photo opportunities, exclusive Q&As (including a rare one with broadcaster Tony Schiavone), "Ringside with Jim Ross", live wrestling matches, and the Hall of Heroes, visit NWALegends.com or follow on Twitter at @NWALegends or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MidAtlanticLegends/.


Dream Team: Ric Flair & Greg Valentine (Part 4)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Before you jump into Part 4, get caught up in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

On October 30, 1977 in the Greensboro Coliseum, the Andersons arrived back in the Mid-Atlantic area, and put their World Tag Team belts up against Flair and Valentine, where Ric and Greg put their hair on the line! Ole did a classic promo for the fans in Greensboro, holding up a photo of Ric Flair, resplendent in a beautiful white robe, but Ole had doctored the photo to make it look like Flair had no hair on his head!

Ole enthusiastically told the Greensboro fans in the promo for this mega-match, “All you people in Greensboro you take a look. Ric, you and Greg Valentine, you take an especially close look, ‘cause this is what you’re gonna look like Ric! And Greg, you’re gonna look the same way when we get through with you tomorrow. Because tomorrow, if you remember, you got it marked on your calendar, Sunday October 30th at 7:30, Gene and I are coming to that Greensboro Coliseum and we’re comin’ to do one thing; I should say, two things. We’re gonna beat you, and when we get done we’re gonna have you sittin’ in that ring. And I’m gonna personally cut your hair off!”

Getting even more fired up, Ole continued, “That’s right Ric…I know you gotta be nervous! I know you gotta be scared, I know you’re crawlin’ around like a monkey in a cage…like an animal. Well tomorrow, Ric, it’s all gonna come to a stop! I’m gonna make sure that everybody in that Greensboro Coliseum gets a treat…and you get a treatment! THIS TIME WE’RE GONNA BE DOING EVERYTHING, WE’RE GONNA BE CUTTIN’ THE HAIR, AND IT’S GONNA BE YOUR HAIR RIC! Imagine how you’re gonna look, or better yet, take a look and see how you’re gonna look! Tomorrow, at about 10:00 or so, you’re gonna be walkin’ around BALD! You’re gonna be looking like Kojak, your head down! Get ready!!”

Despite Ole Anderson’s pronouncements, the NWA World Tag Team Titles came back to Flair and Valentine in the mega Greensboro “Hair vs. Title” bout! The hair stipulation clearly fueled the Flair/Valentine team, and the two young blondes were especially vicious in this battle, to the point that Gene Anderson sustained a serious neck injury in the match. Flair and Valentine were quite proud that they hurt Gene in process of winning back the World Title belts.

On November 9, 1977 announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett discussed Gene’s injury at the hands of Flair and Valentine with Wahoo McDaniel on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV broadcast taped that night. Crockett commented, “Alright, Wahoo, you were talking about, [Flair and Valentine] are the World’s Champions, they defeated the Andersons recently, they hurt Gene Anderson, he’s just in the hospital, he’s had an operation on his neck, and we all hope he is doing well.” Wahoo queried, “Well, I heard that Gene Anderson was operated on yesterday morning, or this morning?” Crockett replied, “This morning.” Wahoo continued, “This morning he was operated on, and believe me, I heard ‘em on TV bragging about it!” Crockett added, “It was all a result of the match in which Valentine and Flair defeated the Andersons for the World Tag Team Titles.” A quizzical Caudle then said, “David, I wasn’t aware that [Gene Anderson] had an operation like that, but again it shows you the sort of sadistic, really, the way that Valentine and Flair go about it.”

The October 30, 1977 title-change match in Greensboro effectively ended the epic program between Flair and Valentine and the Andersons, though Gene was able to return on March 19, 1978 in Greenville, South Carolina to team with Ole and Wahoo McDaniel to defeat Ric, Greg and Cyclone Negro in a six man tag match, when on that same date Ole and Wahoo lost to Valentine and Flair in a wild Lumberjack match in Greensboro. Additionally, Ole Anderson teamed with Wahoo McDaniel to battle Valentine and Flair TWICE on December 11th in Asheville, North Carolina and Greensboro, plus on February 12, 1978 in Charlotte, March 7, 1978 in Columbia South Carolina, and then finally on March 30, 1978 in Roanoke, Virginia.

In their second run as NWA World Tag Team Champions, Greg Valentine and Ric Flair were quite busy defending their belts against a variety of formidable opponents. The first big challenge to Ric and Greg came from former World Tag Team Champions Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel. These matches in Greenville, Richmond and Raleigh around the week of Thanksgiving 1977 were particularly entertaining because Wahoo was just returning from a broken leg at the hands of Greg Valentine from September 7, 1977 when Greg injured Wahoo and also won the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title. The three bouts, all of which Valentine and Flair won, focused on Wahoo trying to single out Valentine and injure his leg.

In promoting the Richmond World Title match on November 25, 1977 against Wahoo and Jones, Ric Flair made it clear he didn’t think Wahoo was sufficiently healed to battle the World Champs. Flair told the Richmond fans, “No more Wahoo, that’s the shirt that Valentine’s been wearin’! All our fans have been wearin’ those shirts, Wahoo! NO MORE WAHOO! And now the legend’s back, the man that said he’d done it all. He’s got pretty little Paul Jones with him, and he wants to tangle with the World Champions…a man that nine weeks ago had a broken bone in his ankle. McDaniel, you gotta lot of guts, we think you’re a double tough dude, but we don’t think you’re ready, you understand? Valentine and I are the World Champions! I might turn the animal loose again! One way or the other, you’re gonna get hurt babydoll! WOOOO!!”

Over the next several months, Flair and Valentine successfully defended their titles against combinations of the other top “good guys” in the Mid-Atlantic area, including the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Wrestling, Dick Murdock, Mighty Igor and Bobo Brazil. And on February 26, 1978 in the Greensboro Coliseum, Ric and Greg pulled off a win against the dynamic brother combination of Jack and Jerry Brisco, who flew into the Mid-Atlantic area for a shot to become the World Tag Team Champs for the first time in their illustrious careers.

But it turned out that the biggest threat to Greg and Ric’s World belts in their second reign was from the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions, Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat, the duo that had given them so many problems a few months back. The new program between these four heated up in February of 1978, and went strong for about two more months. Several of the bigger cities in the Mid-Atlantic area saw multiple bouts between these four, some with very intriguing stipulations.

The Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina saw three outstanding bouts between the Flair/Valentine and Jones/Steamboat teams. On February 13, 1978, Ricky and Paul won a hard fought victory via a disqualification finish. The teams returned to Greenville two weeks later in a match where the World Tag Titles could change hands on a disqualification, and both tandems battled to a 60 minute draw. Then two weeks later on March 13th, the Greenville fans witnessed Flair and Valentine prevail in a “rubber match” of sorts.

Raleigh, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina also had similar multi-bout results in the same time frame. In both towns, Valentine and Flair and Paul Jones and Steamboat went to a draw in a World Tag Team Title match where the belts could change hands on a disqualification. In the rematches in each respective town, Flair and Valentine prevailed to the chagrin of the fans looking for a “good guys” World Title victory.

But fans in Richmond, Virginia may have gotten the best matches of all between these four. On March 10, 1978, the four combatants squared off where BOTH sets of titles were on the line! Greg Valentine told the Richmond faithful in a pre-match promo, “Just remember Jones and Steamboat, when you walk in that Coliseum in Richmond, you’re walkin’ in the ring with the World Champions! And not only our titles are at stake, but also those Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship tag team titles. We used to be the Mid-Atlantic champions, and we wouldn’t mind embarrassing you, leavin’ you both layin’ flat on that mat, and walkin’ out of that Richmond Coliseum with all four belts wrapped around us…just think about that Jones and Steamboat!”

Ricky Steamboat & Paul Jones
The thoroughly entertaining “Title vs. Title” bout went the 60 minute time limit, and ended up in a draw. Promoter Joe Murnick was able to get the four combatants to come back to Richmond two weeks later for a World Tag Team Title bout, but this time with a 90 minute time limit! In a pre-match promo, Jones told the Richmond fans that he didn’t think Valentine and Flair could last 90 minutes! Paul explained, “90 minutes, that’s the time limit the next time we meet you in Richmond. One way or the other, we have 90 minutes to get those belts. We can do it. I don’t think either one of you can wrestle for 90 minutes. You get on TV and you talk about the bright lights, the big cities, the women, the good times…well, anybody doin’ all that, can’t last 90 minutes.”

Ric and Greg begged to differ with Jones when they cut their promo for the Richmond 90 minute time limit World Tag Team Title bout. Valentine said to announcer Rich Landrum, “I can’t honestly believe that Paul Jones stood out here and said that he doesn’t think that the way that Flair and Valentine party all the time that they can go 90 minutes. What is this guy talkin’ about?! You know, they wanted this contract from the NWA to get a 90 minute time limit match because they think that they can beat us.” Flair agreed with his partner, saying, “We can wrestle for a half hour, we can wrestle for an hour, we can wrestle for two hours or we can wrestle for two days. You can ask the girls in that town, we don’t even get goin’ in 90 minutes, do you understand what I’m tellin’ you?!”

Flair and Valentine were triumphant in the Richmond rematch, and it appeared to be no stopping them at this point. At least no other team stopped them, but there would soon be a bombshell announcement that the “Dream Team” had stopped themselves.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Wrestling Was Meant to be Watched on Saturday

"You're looking at the two finest tuned wrestling machines in the world today. The proof is not in what I say. The proof is in these two belts around our waists."   - Ric Flair

With our current series on the 1970s "Dream Team" of Ric Flair and Greg Valentine in progress here on the Gateway (currently up to Part 3), we thought we'd throw a little "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" from YouTube up for a Saturday afternoon. Because after all, anyone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s knows that professional wrestling was meant to be watched on Saturday!

These interview segments are from a show taped in December 1982 when Ric and Greg had briefly reunited their classic 1970s tag team as almost a holiday gift for all the fans that year. Ric was reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion and Greg was reigning United States Heavyweight Champion.

Interesting note on their first interview here. It only was seen in markets that did not have local promos inserted for shows in their local area. You will notice Ric addresses West Virginia and specifically Florida where the Mid-Atlantic show was being seen in more markets. Not sure if the Mid-Atlantic guys made any appearances in Florida at that time (Ric certainly did as NWA champion), but he made sure to put over many of the main event guys working Florida at that time including Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham, Angelo Mosca, James J. Dillon and others.

Also featured in this YouTube video are NWA World Tag Champions Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle, Ricky Steamboat, Jay Youngblood, Roddy Piper, and #1 Paul Jones.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Shawn Michaels on "The Ric Flair Show"

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson
The Nature Boy is back, stylin' and profilin' as never before.

It's time once again to walk that aisle.
Along with his co-host (and friend of the Gateway) Conrad Thompson, "The Ric Flair Show" drops every Wednesday at 9 PM  later on the MLW Radio Network (mlwradio.com), RicFlairShow.com, iTunes and many other podcast platforms.

Ric's guest this week is "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels!

Look for the new show every Wednesday night! Ric will review the big news in pro-wrestling for the week, "This Week in Wrestling History" looking back at the Nature Boy's career, the call of the week, Ric on the Road, contests, and so much more. Wooooo!

In weeks to come, you’ll hear the Nature Boy talk about the “good ole days” with his friends like Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Sting, Bret “the Hitman” Hart, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Kurt Angle, Eric Bischoff, and every other major name in wrestling from the last 40 years.

Ric has some of his other friends on the show too like NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor and even Grammy Award Winning Darius Rucker.

The fans even get a chance to be involved with the show and ask any question they want using #AskNaitch. Don’t miss a minute by subscribing to the "Ric Flair Show" today on iTunes."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dream Team: Flair and Valentine (Part 3)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

(Before you jump in, get caught up in Part 1 and Part 2

A mere two days after the bout in Richmond, Flair, Valentine, and the Anderson brothers went at it again in Charlotte, NC for the World Tag Team Title with Wahoo as the special referee, but this time in a dreaded Fence match! In a fabulous match with a multitude of momentum swings, and lots of blood and guts, Ole and Gene won the World belts back, but the decision wasn’t without significant controversy. And, yes, special referee Wahoo McDaniel was at the center of the controversy!

Part Three
On the first Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that aired after their Title loss, Flair and Valentine were in surly moods as they came out to be interviewed by announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett. Watching the announcers’ facial expressions as they announced Gene and Ole as the new World champs, Flair said, “What are you two guys smiling about? You know, we’re gonna play a film in a short while here that’s gonna show everybody, and I’m standin’ here not cryin’, not a tear comin’ from my eye because I know, and everybody out there knows, and you know as well as I do, Wahoo McDaniel…and Ole and Gene Anderson, both, all three of ‘em, will pay the price for gettin’ in the way of greatness. A combined greatness that’s so great, we were steppin’ on your toes, and your toes and everybody’s toes, so they ganged up on us, put us in a cage match, with Wahoo McDaniel as the referee.”

Flair continued, “You know, I know, Valentine knows, and you and your brother know…the odds were against us. We lost; we’re admitting it. But not from our own mistake! Wahoo McDaniel tripped me, Ole Anderson landed on top of me, and Wahoo McDaniel counted us out…one, two, three. So I’m tellin’ you, and everybody out there, that’s right, all you suckers that think McDaniel and Ole Anderson are big men…that they will pay the price for gettin’ in the way of greatness!”

Valentine was then finally able to speak his piece, saying, “Let me say something right here, now. All the fans can see, if you watch real closely, that we had full control, full control, all through this match, maybe 85% of the match. The Anderson brothers were tough, but they were bleeding, bleeding a lot worse than us. We had full control, and as you will see the tide turn when that big fat Indian gets in the way. The man shouldn’t have been the referee; we should have had a regular NWA referee. He was prejudiced all the way…”

Despite Ric and Greg’s displeasure with Wahoo’s role as special referee, the Charlotte decision stood. The Andersons again took the World Tag Team Titles back to the Georgia territory, and primarily defended them in the “peach state.” At the same time over the next month and a half, Flair and Valentine continued to team, but also did a great deal of singles wrestling. Particularly noteworthy, on June 11, 1977 Valentine beat Wahoo for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, while on June 15, 1977, Flair dropped his Mid-Atlantic Television Title to Ricky Steamboat.

Valentine and Flair unquestionably had a tag team “hangover” after dropping the World belts on May 8, 1977. They only wrestled twice as a team the rest of the month of May.  In those bouts, Ric and Greg lost two disqualification decisions, in Spartanburg, South Carolina on May 14th and in Raleigh on May 17th, to the reigning Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions, Dino Bravo and Tiger Conway.

In the month of June 1977, the Flair/Valentine team picked up considerable steam as the month wore on. On the first two days of the month, Greg and Ric battled the Mighty Igor and Bobo Brazil to two wild double disqualification finishes, in Roxboro, North Carolina and Anderson, South Carolina respectively. The “Dream Team” disappointingly lost to Igor and Tiger Conway on June 7th in Raleigh and to Wahoo and Igor on June 13th in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, but in that same early June time frame impressively beat Wahoo and Bobo Brazil on June 3rd in Charleston, South Carolina and defeated the stellar team of McDaniel and Steamboat on June 14th in Columbia, South Carolina.

As June wore on, Valentine and Flair really hit their stride. After a perplexing loss to Wahoo and Tiger Conway on June 21st in Lynchburg, Virginia, the “blonde bombers” went on a major roll. On June 23rd at the Scope Coliseum in Norfolk, Virginia, Flair and Valentine whipped Wahoo McDaniel and Ricky Steamboat and the following day demolished the duo of Wahoo and Johnny Weaver, then crushed the tandem of McDaniel and Igor on June 28th at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena. Sandwiched in between was a terrific bout at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina on June 26th where Greg and Ric dominated the World Tag Team Champions, Gene and Ole Anderson, but settled for a double disqualification result which meant they didn’t capture those coveted belts.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on June 29, 1977 Valentine standing next to Flair told announcer Bob Caudle, “You know, we may not be the World Champions anymore, but our friendship means more than those belts did. And another thing, we may not have the gold around our waist, but everybody out there knows that we are still the true champions!” However, as things would work out, it wouldn’t take but one more day for Ric and Greg to capture championship gold! The Anderson Recreation Center in Anderson, South Carolina hosted a Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship match to close out the month of June, on June 30, 1977. The Champions, Dino Bravo and Tiger Conway acquitted themselves well, but the “buzz saw” that was Valentine and Flair continued on their tear, and they aced the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team belts that very night!

The Title change was announced on the next Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on July 6th. Bob Caudle commented to Flair, “Ric, you and your partner have some championship belts back by the way, I hear.” A giddy Nature Boy replied, “That’s right, did you think anything else? Did you suspect anything else? I told you, that anytime we have to start making examples of people, we go right at ‘em. We don’t just talk about it. Someone said, ‘Nature Boy, you and Greg Valentine are on your way out.’ Valentine knocked off McDaniel, and we both knocked off Bravo and Conway. Now we’ve got the championship belts of the Mid-Atlantic area. But that’s just the start!”

Despite Ric’s confidence, the new Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champs had a tough month of July 1977. Perhaps some of that was due to Valentine and Flair’s commitments to singles wrestling. Valentine was having brutal battles with Wahoo McDaniel to hold onto his Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. And Flair would start chasing the United States Heavyweight Championship in July, and won the U.S. belt from Bobo Brazil on July 29th in the Richmond Coliseum.

Ric and Greg did have a successful defense of their Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles in July, knocking off the former champs Bravo and Conway in a rematch on July 14th in Anderson. Other than that match, Ric and Greg struggled mightily during the month of July. Early in the month, the team of Andre the Giant and Wahoo gave Ric and Greg fits during bouts in Asheville, North Carolina on July 3rd and at University Hall in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8th. Things didn’t go much better towards the end of the month for Valentine and Flair, when Wahoo switched to Ricky Steamboat as his partner. The Chief and Steamboat controlled matches in Roanoke, Virginia on July 16th and in Charlotte on July 25th, though Ric and Greg still maintained the Mid-Atlantic tag belts at month’s end.

Flair and Valentine’s rather unimpressive reign as Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions ended on August 22, 1977 at Charlotte’s Park Center, when Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat upset the “Dream Team.” The prior week at the Park Center, Ric and Greg had scored a solid victory against Paul and Ricky. The fact that the Nature Boy dropped another title to the upstart Ricky Steamboat within the span of about two months, was a particularly bitter pill for Flair to swallow. Also, before the loss of the Mid-Atlantic Tag belts, Valentine dropped the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title to arch-rival Wahoo McDaniel on August 9th at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena.

Over the next two months after their August 22nd upset loss, the Flair and Valentine team wrestled the team of Mid-Atlantic Tag champs Jones and Steamboat almost exclusively. The results of these bouts were not good for Ric and Greg. Though for much of the same time frame, Ric and Greg were also busy defending important singles belts in the Mid-Atlantic area. On September 7th on Mid-Atlantic TV, Valentine defeated Wahoo for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, breaking Wahoo’s leg in the process. Flair held the United States Title until he was defeated by Ricky Steamboat on October 21st at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ricky Steamboat & Paul Jones
Though they ended in defeats for the “Dream Team,” there were two memorable battles against Jones and Steamboat in Virginia that took place in September of 1977! Not at all accustomed to being in a “cage,” the young Ricky Steamboat acted like a man possessed in the Fence match with Ric and Greg on September 9th in Richmond. Steamboat’s out of character antics clearly threw Valentine and Flair off their respective games, and certainly contributed to the loss. More of the same occurred at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia on September 24th. Steamboat continued to show an aggressive side of himself that Ric and Greg still had trouble effectively contending with, which resulted in another bruising loss for the “bad guys.”

For much of October of 1977, there was more disappointment for the Valentine/ Flair team as they continued to have great difficulty with the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions, Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat. Dispiriting losses to Jones and Steamboat on October 2nd in the border city of Savannah, Georgia and on October 10th in Greenville, South Carolina seemed to place the “Dream Team” in a deep abyss. Ric and Greg began digging out of that hole with a better performance against Paul and Ricky in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on October 12th. Then following that up on October 20th, Flair and Valentine showed tremendous fortitude in a blistering hot Texas Tornado match against the Mid-Atlantic champs at the Scope in Norfolk. Ric and Greg’s revival of sorts couldn’t have been more timely, as their despised rivals, Gene and Ole Anderson, were about to come back to town!

Stay tuned as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew returns in PART 4. Coming soon.
Until then, "so long for now!"