Friday, July 20, 2018

Classic Poster Friday: Woods vs. Mulligan at Starland Arena

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Brack Beasley Collection
Another classic poster this week, this one is the second of three similarly designed posters we'll be presenting from three different venues in Roanoke, VA.

Promoter Pete Apostolou (Jim Crockett's man on the ground in Roanoke and surrounding area) ran wrestling in three different buildings in the 1970s, usually on Saturday nights.

Big shows with multiple main events were staged at the Roanoke Civic Center, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. 

In the summer, he would occasionally run at the mammoth Victory Stadium where he could draw big crowds and the rent was cheaper than the Civic Center. (We recently featured a card from there in our Classic Posters series.)

But his bread and butter venue that he ran weekly when not at the other places was the famous Starland Arena.

Apostolou owned the structure. I had always heard of Starland Arena growing up, hearing it mentioned in promos that ran on TV out of Bristol, VA. I imagined at is some fancy arena, glittering with lights, after all it had to be fitting of the name Starland.

Tim Woods tries to fight his way out of
Blackjack Mulligan's claw hold.
(Photo by Bill Janosik)
In actuality it was a very plain, ordinary looking rectangular metal building without any sort of fancy marquee to speak of. Apostolou owned the building and ran there for decades and many of the biggest names in the sport appeared there over the years. It was part of his promotional infrastructure in the Star City, along with an amusement and entertainment building downtown called The Sportsman.

This poster is from January 24, 1976 in the middle of the brutal wars between Blackjack Mulligan and Tim Woods.The photos on the poster include Woods upper left, Roberto Soto lower right, and oddly George "Two Ton" Harris from his 1960s managerial days in the main event section of the poster where it would seem a photo of Mulligan would be appropriate. That said, we never tire of seeing photos of "Two Ton" Harris!

I love this particular design of these classic posters the most: a vertical format with the main event in huge thick letters and the remaining matches all in a much smaller font. But it's that thick lettering for the main event that jumps out. The Flair vs. Wahoo main event poster from Victory Stadium was the exact same design, and we have one more like this to post in upcoming weeks.   

This was a pretty standard 5-match card that you would get at Starland. A hot main event to draw the crowd, and a solid supporting tag match as the semi-main event. Mulligan and Woods were embroiled in a bitter, bloody feud. Blackjack was a couple months away from winning his first U.S. title, and this feud with "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods was his first major program here.

The tag match featured one of my favorite tag teams ever from the mid-1970s in the mid-Atlantic area. The high flying team of Roberto Soto and El Rayo (Manuel Soto) wrestled a sort of modified lucha-style that you didn't see many others do during this time. They stood out for that. I remember as a young teenager being so sure they would win the Mid-Atlantic tag team titles. They came close to beating the Andersons for the NWA World Tag Team titles. (I once wrote about them being one of the great tag teams that didn't win a tag title here.)

These two top matches were preceded by a series of singles openers that featured some of the areas grizzled veterans (like Danny Miller, Klondike Bill, and George "Two Ton" Harris), veteran journeyman enhancement talent (such as Jack Evans and Joe Turner) and "young lions" (like Don Kernodle.)

The newspaper reported the next day:

"After nearly thirty minutes watching Blackjack Mulligan and Tim Woods batter each other out on the mats at Starland Arena Saturday night, the referee stopped the feature match short of a decision. With both Mulligan and Woods bloodied from the brutal match the official ended the bout with no official winner."

The poster reads "Roanoke Sports Club presents Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling." It didn't get any better than that on a Saturday night. Great memories of our favorite period in wrestling, the mid-1970s.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WRAL Wednesdays: Wahoo McDaniel vs. The Blue Scorpion

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Today, we begin a new feature series of photos that will appear each Wednesday for the next few months. They were all taken from the studio bleachers of WRAL channel 5 television studios in Raleigh, NC. Our first photo in the series is also accompanied by vintage audio (below) from this very TV show.

The photographs were taken by photographer Ric Carter who was attending the WRAL TV wrestling tapings on an early July Wednesday night in 1975, just over 43 years ago this month. He is sitting in the large set of bleachers that is on one side of the ring in the studio, looking across toward the set and the hard camera.

Wahoo McDaniel prepares to battle the Blue Scorpion at WRAL Studios in Raleigh

Mr. Carter wasn't sure of the exact date he attended this taping, but we were able to narrow it down using audio tapes made from the wrestling TV shows in those years, and by matching up the wrestlers and matches in Ric's photos with the matches taking place on the audio tape.

In the following short audio clip you'll hear the ring introductions for this match, including the voices of ring announcer David Crockett and the opening comments of host Les Thatcher:

Ring Introductions: Wahoo McDaniel vs. The Blue Scorpion

The photos Ric Carter took were during the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling "B" show hosted by Les Thatcher. At that time in 1975, there were two separate and different "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" shows that were taped at WRAL. The "A" show was hosted by Bob Caudle and David Crockett and was the show that aired in all of the Crockett TV markets. The "B" show hosted by Thatcher was a second show with different matches that would air in markets where Jim Crockett Promotions could obtain a clearance for a second hour of wrestling in that market. Not all cities or markets had that second show. (In October of 1975, this Mid-Atlantic "B" show was replaced by a new show called "Wide World Wrestling", hosted by legendary former Georgia wrestling commentator Ed Capral.)

The exact date of these photos appears to be from the taping on Wednesday, July 9, airing the following Saturday, July 12, 1975. In the photo featured today, ring announcer David Crockett (facing the hard camera with his back to the fans in the bleachers) introduces the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Wahoo McDaniel and the Blue Scorpion. These two wrestled in the opening match of that taping.

In the photo you see Wahoo wearing the Mid-Atlantic title belt, which at this time was the old Eastern heavyweight title belt. You can see the simple set just off the ring to the right which was used as a backdrop for interviews. You can also see a clock just below the hard camera in the center of the photo which shows the time as 8:15 PM. The first hour taping for the "A" show typically started around 7 PM, with the "B" show starting around or a little after 8 PM.

Next week on "WRAL Wednesdays", we'll take a look at some of the action in the ring between Wahoo and the Scorpion from this match.

All photographs in this series by Ric Carter, © Used with permission.
Vintage audio provided by Gary Wray.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Anderson Brothers' Greatest Year (Final Part Three)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

Need to catch up? Check out PART ONE and PART TWO

Gene and Ole Anderson were none too happy after the second filmed segment on the 1975 Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Year-In-Review program showed their lone title defeat of the year. However, when announcer Bob Caudle placated them by telling the Andersons' that he would show a clip where Gene and Ole rebounded, Ole changed his tune.

"I'm glad you're gonna show it to 'em because you're gonna see in this next film clip where we win these championship belts back and you're gonna find out as Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel did that by beating us...didn't make us scared, didn't make us run, didn't make us crawl around it only made us more determined to win these championship belts back," Ole explained. "And we worked and worked for weeks, trained hard, and you're gonna see the results of that training in this next film clip," the younger Anderson continued." Caudle then exclaimed, "Another great match fans!"

At this point, a film clip of the World Tag Team Title bout from June 11, 1975 in the WRAL TV studios between the newly crowned champions Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel and the Anderson Brothers was shown. What wasn't shown was the guts of the match where Gene and Ole controlled and double teamed Paul Jones unmercifully, with Jones being tantalizingly close to a tag from Wahoo but barely missing his life-line on numerous occasions. The film clip began just after Paul miraculously tagged Wahoo in after taking a tremendous beating. The studio audience roared throughout unlike anything I heard before or after on a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show.

"There's an Indian on the war path...tommy-hawk chop and a slam," Caudle exuded. Bob continued, "Wahoo McDaniel...who was almost in tears could not wait to get in the ring, slamming Gene Anderson to the mat. Again, the Andersons will change...big Ole goes down from a big chop. He's gonna chop him right in half! Ole Anderson is down from another chop!"

David Crockett then yelled over the boisterous crowd, "He's bleeding...he's bleeding from those chops!!!" Ole was clearly bleeding, and the crowd's frenzy seemed to pick up with the blood flow. An animated Caudle concurred, "He's cut him above the eye and there you see the eye...and David he's bleeding heavily above the eye! He is really bleeding!!"

The film skips ahead with Caudle describing, "And now here's Gene Anderson face down, flat in the corner, as Paul Jones comes charging in after him. And right now Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel have come alive, they've got a second wind." For an instant, it appeared that the good guys had captured a quick pinfall on Gene as Caudle commented, "Whoa, what was it, a count of two?" Crockett confirmed, "Ole Anderson got there for the save." Bob concurred, "Ole got in just in time for the save!"

But the elder Anderson was still in dire straits and Crockett was loving it and observed, "Gene Anderson's completely out of breath, and the Indian goes to work on him!" Caudle chimed in, "Wahoo McDaniel, with a big tommy-hawk chop! Ole's gotta go down!" David agreed, "He can't take much more!" Gene seemed to be ripe for the picking again, but was able to get his foot over the ropes before a three-count ended it! Crockett gleefully hollered, "Gene Anderson is completely exhausted, completely exhausted... hanging over the ropes, hanging there!"

Caudle then called Gene's next near-pin, "Now Paul Jones covers him again, and again he's too near the ropes. They just can't get him out in the center of the ring. Wahoo McDaniel....another big tommy-hawk chop!" Crockett added, "Tremendous chop!!" At this juncture, David noticed some strange goings-on. Crockett bellowed, "Gene Anderson's yelling something to Ole!!" At this very instant, Bob Caudle announced one of the most vicious and memorable acts in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history exclaiming, "Wahoo...slammed into the head...he and Gene Anderson butted heads...and he's gonna be counted out!!!"

A disbelieving David Crockett who just saw Ole Anderson slam his brother's head into Wahoo's head ranted, "We have new champions, Gene and Ole Anderson, but how can, how can Ole Anderson do that?!? Gene Anderson, Gene Anderson is out on the floor...he's out cold!!!" The fact that the NWA World Tag Team Titles had changed hands was almost an afterthought to the viciousness that Ole had just carried out.

As Caudle tried to collect himself he summarized for the fans, "Wahoo was slammed into the head...he and Gene Anderson collided! Gene was outside of the ring, the two head-butted as they came together. Wahoo is out in the ring and Gene Anderson is out on the floor, and referee Sonny Fargo counted Wahoo out!" Crockett, who had not collected himself in the least bemoaned, "But how can Ole Anderson sacrifice his brother like that?!? Gene Anderson's not moving...HE'S OUT COLD!!!" Caudle confirmed, "Out cold as a cucumber!"

Caudle concluded the film clip noting that Ole was true to his word that the Andersons' would do anything to regain the World Tag Team Titles. Bob reflected, "He had said earlier that the Andersons' would do ANYTHING, ANYTHING, to win those belts and there's a good example of just what they did."

While the 1975 Year-In-Review TV show did not provide any more Anderson Brothers highlights, it is fair to say that Gene and Ole's greatest year continued in dominating fashion after the "Supreme Sacrifice" victory on June 11th. In fact, the only real "hiccup" the Andersons' experienced for the remainder of 1975 was in the very same WRAL TV studios on September 17th when Gene and Ole suffered a non-title loss to the upstart duo of Steve Keirn and Tiger Conway. The Andersons' rebounded from that defeat emphatically to cement 1975 as, without a doubt, their greatest year!

(Don't miss PART ONE and PART TWO)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Classic Poster Friday: Harley Race Brings the NWA Title to Crockett Park

Brack Beasley Collection
The NWA World Champion came to Charlotte roughly four times a year, and usually would defend the title against the Mid-Atlantic area's top challenger in either the Charlotte Coliseum on Independence Blvd or the Park Center by Memorial Stadium.

But in the hot summer of 1977 Harley Race made not one, but two title defenses in Charlotte at the venerable Jim Crockett Memorial Park, otherwise commonly known as Crockett Park.

Both of Race's title matches at Crockett Park were against challenger Wahoo McDaniel, the first being on Memorial Day night, May 30, and the rematch on Saturday, July 2 as part of a big 4th of July weekend celebration.

This is a pretty rare poster. As we mentioned last week, posters from Charlotte are hard to come by in general, much less one for the NWA World Title in Crockett Park. This show also is the second big Charlotte card within the same week, as the Park Center had hosted a JCP event just five days earlier.

c. Eric and Wendy Pastore /
The outdoor venue was the baseball home to the Charlotte O's, the Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliate that was owned and managed by the Crockett family since bringing the team to Charlotte from Asheville a year earlier. Previously known as Clark Griffith Park, the facility was renamed Jim Crockett Memorial Park in honor of the patriarch of the Crockett family who had promoted wrestling and other entertainment events in Charlotte going back to the 1930s. Mr. Crockett died in April of 1973.

The wrestling card this night was pretty loaded for the relatively small venue (as compared to the Coliseum) with Race, Wahoo, Blackjack Mulligan, Bobo Brazil, Greg Valentine, Johnny Weaver, and even a special appearance by Andre the Giant.

Yes, NWA champ Harley Race and Andre the Giant on the same Crockett Park card. That was a special night indeed.

Race successfully defended the title that night at the ol' ballpark, while the team of Andre and Brazil topped Mulligan and Valentine in the second main event.

And check out these photos hosted on - - both are of the outfield fence at the ballpark, and if you look closely you will observer the Mid-Atlantic logo on one (in left field between the Budweiser and NCNB bank logos) and the Wide World Wrestling logo on the other (fourth from the left on the fence in right field.) Very cool to see that!

More information on Jim Crockett Memorial Park can be found on the Gateway Archives website.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Betrayal of Chief Wahoo McDaniel (Part Two)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway


Between 1981 and 1984, the NWA took the U.S. title from Wahoo McDaniel on three separate occasions, leading Wahoo (understandably) to believe that the NWA was out to get him in some way. In each of those three cases (storyline, of course), we believe Wahoo was treated unfairly by the NWA.

Last time, we reviewed the first betrayal of Wahoo when Roddy Piper hired Abdullah the Butcher to injure Wahoo, preventing him from giving Piper a contractually obligated rematch for the U.S. title. You can read all about that in PART ONE of this series: Betrayal #1 - - The Roddy Piper Conspiracy

Now, less than a year leter, it was about to happen again...

The Sgt. Slaughter Conspiracy

Wahoo McDaniel
After the NWA held up the U.S. title in the late summer of 1981, a tournament was held in Charlotte, NC to fill the vacant championship which was won by newcomer Sgt. Slaughter.

After the unreasonable treatment Wahoo felt he received from the NWA in 1981, he briefly left the Mid-Atlantic area to wrestle in Florida followed by an extended tour of Japan in early 1982, as well as appearances in Georgia Championship Wrestling and Southwest Championship Wrestling.

He returned to the Mid-Atlantic area full-time in April of 1982 along with new tag team partner Don Muraco. The two had won the (fictitious) Western Division of the ongoing NWA World Tag Team Tournament and were looking forward to facing the Eastern Division winners once they had been decided.

But in the interim, Wahoo became involved in a singles feud with Sgt. Slaughter after defeating him on television on 4/28 in a non-title match. The victory made Wahoo the number one contender for Sarge's United States belt. Just under a month later, Wahoo defeated Slaughter for the title in Richmond.

Sgt. Slaughter
It was a sweet victory for Wahoo, who many felt had been robbed of the title when he was stripped of it following the controversy over Roddy Piper’s unusual 20-day return match clause and the attack by Abdullah the Butcher the previous summer.  Add to that the fact Wahoo was not allowed to enter the October 1981 tournament that filled the vacant championship, and this victory was very special indeed.

A couple of weeks before Wahoo won the title, NWA representative Sandy Scott announced on TV that the NWA had selected the Mid-Atlantic territory for an experimental new rule for a 30-day trial period whereby title matches could not end on disqualification and could not end in time-limit draws. Every title match had to have a winner by pinfall or submission. The rule came about as an attempt to force matches to a conclusion since so many recent title matches had ended in disqualifications, count-outs, or time limit draws. The NWA claimed to be doing this for the fans.

As part of that new rule, a wrestler who failed to appear would have to forfeit the title to his scheduled opponent. In early June, Wahoo was injured in a match at the hands of Sgt. Slaughter and was unable to make a schedule title defense against Slaughter in Greenville, SC on 6/7/82. Wahoo failing to appear, even though injured by the very same opponent he was now scheduled to face, resulted in the NWA awarding the title to Slaughter by forfeit due to this experimental new rule.

Fans were furious, and so was McDaniel. He had now been stripped of the U.S. championship for the second time. Two successive U.S. title reigns had ended with the title being taken from him legislatively rather than in the ring.

Similar to the puzzling decision by the NWA in the late summer of 1981, this decision was also questionable, as the intent of the NWA's experimental rule was to force title match conclusions rather than endless DQ's, count outs, or draws. Wahoo was injured by the man who was then presented the title when Wahoo couldn't appear the next night.
Every title reign. Every title change.
All five belts.
And wouldn't you know it, to rub more salt in Wahoo's wounds, at the end of the the 30-day trial period, a week after Slaughter was awarded the title by forfeit, the NWA decided the experimental rule wasn't working as intended and would be discontinued. Wahoo had once again been caught in a technicality and the NWA refused to cut him any slack in the interpretation of rules and events that had taken place.

Wahoo finally gained a matter of redemption from Slaughter, defeating him cleanly on 8/22/82 in Charlotte to win the U.S. title for a third time.

This title reign ended in the ring in November of 1982  when Greg Valentine returned to the Mid-Atlantic area and defeated Wahoo for the title in Norfolk VA, renewing their rivalry that traced all the way back to a broken leg in 1977. But even that title change, although taking place in the ring and not by NWA legislation, still screwed Wahoo over as Valentine's manager Sir Oliver Humperdink was able to pass a foreign object to Valentine who used it knock Wahoo out cold, but of course the referee didn't see it. There was, however, clear evidence of this on film, yet the NWA did nothing to remedy the situation and Valentine was allowed to keep the title. This inconsistency in film review would rear its ugly head in 1984.

Frustrated with the NWA for all of these events, Wahoo left for the AWA where he wrestled until returning to the Mid-Atlantic full time in September of 1983, where he helped train Ric Flair for his upcoming NWA title shot at Harley Race at Starrcade '83.

Wahoo regains the U.S. title in unusual circumstances for a 4th time in April of 1984, and once again the NWA was about to rule adversely against the Chief. This time it would send Wahoo over the edge. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

1982 Tournament Coda: What if Toronto?

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
with Andrew Calvert, Maple Leaf Wrestling 

I'm not normally into fantasy booking, although one can't help but wonder what a tournament in Toronto would have looked like in 1982 when the NWA World Tag Team titles were up for grabs in tournaments being held in many cities across three different promotions.

I'm referring, of course, to the nearly 5-month long multi-city tournament for those vacant tag team titles that we recently covered in a 12-part series. And by all accounts, Toronto was supposed to host one of those regional city tournaments, but did not. (We discuss all of this in Part Eight - Lost Tournaments of our 12-part series on that 1982 extravaganza.)

Andrew Calvert, of the excellent Maple Leaf Wrestling website, and I began an email exchange while I was working on that series imagining "what if" a tournament had been held in Toronto. I asked him to come up with an imaginary bracket based on who was regularly working Toronto at the time, figuring in some "special appearances", too, similar to the other tournaments.

We kicked it around and here is what we came up with:

In addition to the tournament matches, the card would feature three other main event bouts, all apropos of the times:

  • NWA World Championship: Ric Flair vs. Harley Race
  • WWWF Championship: Bob Backlund vs. Greg Valentine
  • Canadian Heavyweight Championship: Angelo Mosca vs. Ivan Koloff

What a card! And it very easily could have been put together in those years. Obviously a 10 match card would be somewhat out of the ordinary, but as long as we're fantasy booking this, might as well have both the NWA and WWWF champion make a title defense, as both champions regularly appeared atop Toronto cards in this era.

Let's take a look at the tournament teams:

Gene Kiniski/Kelly Kiniski
Former NWA World Champion Gene Kiniski was a fixture in Toronto and one if its biggest all-time stars. His son Kelly was just getting started in the business and would work much of 1982 for Jim Crockett Promotions learning his craft. We obviously would want this rare father-and-son pairing in the tournament.

Rick Martel/Tony Garea
An extremely popular tag team in the WWWF at the time and widely known to Toronto fans as they saw WWWF TV in their market. This would be one of the "outside" special guest teams, similar to what we saw in the other city tournaments.

John Bonello/Tony Parisi
As Andrew described them, this would be a good "local team." Both were local favorites, Parisi was in nearly every opener, and Bonello was the popular local youngster.

Adrian Adonis/Jessie Ventura
Coming off a big win in their Toronto tag-team debut over Tony Parisi & Dom Denucci earlier that year, they were familiar to Toronto fans as they had AWA TV in the Toronto market for years. Adonis and Ventura legit appeared in the tournament held in Greensboro, NC in February and were presented on Crockett TV as an AWA representative in the tournament. They got over huge in their first Toronto appearance as a team and would have made a great team for this tournament.

Dino Bravo/Ricky Steamboat
The two popular stars had teamed in Toronto before. Bravo was a former Canadian champion who had just returned after a two year absence. Steamboat had become a huge star in Toronto over the years that Jim Crockett Promotions booked talent into the Toronto office. A perfect babyface team for the tournament.

Ole Anderson/Stan Hansen
According to Andrew, Stan Hansen never wrestled in Toronto, but it seemed to me that this would have been the perfect time for him to make that debut. The Anderson/Hansen team were the only team to wrestle in all of the legit tournaments, and I would hate for that streak to have been broken here. And of course they wound up winning the whole thing.

An alternate plan was to have The Destroyer (Dick Beyer) team with Ole instead. Beyer was regular in Toronto and a heel the fans loved to hate (similar to Kiniski). According to Andrew, the fans would have loved this team.

Blackjack Mulligan Sr. and Jr.
A second great father and son duo for this tournament.  Blackjack Jr. (Barry Windham) made his Toronto debut in February of 1982 and got over with the Toronto fans in a big way. Mulligan Sr. was also a favorite in Toronto.

John Studd/Sgt. Slaughter
Studd was the #1 contender to the Canadian title and U.S. Champion Sgt. Slaughter always a huge (hated) favorite in Toronto.

As far as how the tournament might play out:
  • Martel and Garea would advance over the Kiniskis, which could be booked in such a fashion that it was Kelly Kiniski's inexperience that resulted in their first round defeat.
  • Ventura and Adonis would dominate Bonello and Parisi, establishing them as the top heel team quickly since they would be going to the finals. 
  • Bravo and Steamboat would go over Anderson and Hansen in one of the most competitive bouts of the entire tournament, a match that would be hard to pick if you were filling out your brackets early.
  • Slaughter and Studd would defeat the Mulligans with heavy heel tactics. This would be one of the more heated matches in the tournament since there were established singles-issues with all of these four men. 

The semi-finals would provide two excellent match-ups:

  • Ventura and Adonis would use every dirty tactic possible to go over Martel and Garea in what would amount to a WWWF vs. AWA match-up. (There was some thought to having the Kiniskis advance to face Ventura and Adonis, a heel-vs.-heel match up, which might have been a ton of fun. In the end, we settled for the more traditional approach here.)
  • Likewise Sarge and Studd would be taking every shortcut in hopes of getting to the finals, but Steamboat and Bravo would rise to the occasion and advance.

In the finals:
  • It would be a dream final, and many fans would cheer for the popular "bad guys" Adonis and Ventura in the match-up against Steamboat and Bravo. Eventually, the "good guys" would prevail (as they almost always did in Toronto tournaments of that era, according to Andrew.)

Your Toronto Tournament Winners: Dino Bravo and Ricky Steamboat!

Oh, what could have been!

Special thanks to Andrew Calvert for his input in coming up with this fantasy tournament in Toronto. For more information on the history of wrestling in Toronto and the Maple Leaf Gardens, visit the Maple Leaf Wrestling website.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Classic Poster Friday: Charlotte's Park Center (1977)

This week's poster for "Classic Poster Friday" is a rare poster from the Charlotte, North Carolina. Posters from Charlotte are pretty rare in general for some reason. While you see lots from Greensboro, Roanoke, Lynchburg, etc., you rarely see any from  the home of Jim Crockett Promotions, the "Queen City."

This poster, from the collection of Robert Everett, is from June 27, 1977 for an event at the famous Charlotte Park Center. Wrestling was held there for decades on Monday nights. The building still stands (now called the Grady Cole Center), but rarely hosts wrestling anymore.

Despite the rough shape this poster is in, it is a classic, with the unique header, and touting air conditioning, which in the 1970s wasn't available in all venues. On those hot summer nights, that was a selling point!

The results published in the Charlotte Observer the following day indicated that Flair and the Supserstar had topped Steamboat and Igor on this night's main event.

The newspaper also reported the following about the next night of wrestling in Charlotte, just 5 days away:

"Wrestling moves to Jim Crockett Park Saturday night with a double main event, Wahoo McDaniel vs. Harley Race, and Andre the Giant and Bobo Brazil vs. Greg Valentine and Blackjack Mulligan."

Yes, the NWA World Champion was set to defend the title at Crockett Park. And that poster will be our featured poster next week!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

4th of July Flashback: The Andersons Battle Wahoo McDaniel and Paul Jones in Richmond

A GIANT 4th of July Card in Richmond
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Like most cities, Richmond, Virginia back in 1975 had its share of spectacular fireworks displays to commemorate the Independence Day holiday. But none of those displays held a candle to the “fireworks” that were unleashed on fans inside the Richmond Coliseum, watching a super spectacular card of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on the evening of July 4, 1975!

To those that have followed the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, you may recall that this card ranked #21 on my listing of Richmond’s greatest Mid-Atlantic cards. The most intriguing match to me going in was a rare Richmond appearance of Andre the Giant, going against the seemingly indestructible Super Destroyer, who was saying at the time that he had held onto his mask for thirteen years. But the match that really stole the show was a NWA World Tag Team Title bout between champions Gene and Ole Anderson against Paul Jones and Wahoo McDaniel.

About three weeks prior to this Richmond show, the Anderson Brothers had regained the World Tag Team Title belts on television in the dramatic “Supreme Sacrifice” match, where Ole ran Wahoo’s head into Gene’s head, knocking Gene out in the process. This return bout in Richmond had the big match feel of a title change, and the apparent sellout crown at the Coliseum was at a fever pitch anticipating a win for the challengers. But…it wasn’t meant to be on this night. An even bout turned the challengers way towards the end, but it was too little too late. The Andersons stalled out the final minutes, and escaped with a 60 minute draw. This match set up four return bouts between these four during the summer and fall of 1975, with the challengers coming tantalizingly close to winning back the belts.

In the semi-final, many in attendance thought Andre the Giant would finally be the man to unmask the Super Destroyer. After all, if a GIANT couldn’t do the deed nobody else had in 13 years, who possibly could? Andre physically manhandled the masked man to a degree that nobody could believe, but that didn’t stop the Destroyer’s active mind from escaping one precarious predicament after another. A disqualification win for Andre got the Giant’s hand raised and validated a dominating performance, but at the same time frustrated many fans who were expecting a hood to come off. However, the Super Destroyer haters were about to get the last laugh. As fate would have it, the masked man would wrestle only one more time in Richmond and within a month or so was out of the area under a cloud, never to return, with his unmasked face plastered all over the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television shows.

The supporting card, honestly, was not as strong as many Richmond saw, but it did have its moments. The “best of the rest” was a unique pairing of the Mid-Atlantic TV Champion Ric Flair and the underrated Doug Gilbert, against the “good guy” duo of big Swede Hanson and Sonny King. Flair was rising fast at this juncture, so I expected the “bad guys” would take this one. The big Swede was dropping down the cards, and Sonny King was being de-emphasized and would be leaving the area in about two weeks as time would tell. However, Flair and Gilbert couldn’t control their anger issues, giving Hanson and King a disqualification victory to the delight of the Richmond fans.

The other tag team match of the night saw Bob Bruggers and Sandy Scott dispatch the team of Charlie Fulton and the Blue Scorpion. The Bruggers/Scott combination was a smooth one, and they ran circles around their confounded opponents this night. Unfortunately for his many fans, Sandy Scott wrestled very little after this Richmond match, though he did continue to stay active with the promotion, primarily behind the scenes. And after a promising start as a main event performer a year and a half before, Bruggers continued to drop down the cards until the airplane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina in early October of 1975 brought his wrestling career to an end.

Three single matches rounded out this holiday spectacular, and the curtain raiser was by far the best of the bunch! The good guys notched a couple of wins as Greg Peterson outlasted Larry Sharpe, and the highly popular Klondike Bill took the measure of Joe Soto. But the first bout of the night stood out, and was really outstanding. 1974 NWA rookie of the year Steve Keirn and veteran Art Nelson wrestled to a 20 minute draw, which was a battle of contrasting styles and youth versus experience. Nelson, the aging veteran, was still in exceptional condition, but had trouble dealing the speed of Keirn. Conversely, the strength of Nelson gave the youngster Keirn fits. Each man had their chances at victory, but ultimately had to settle for a draw. As clearly Keirn was going up the “Mid-Atlantic ladder” as Nelson was going down that same ladder, it was befitting that they would meet in the middle of that proverbial ladder in this early July 1975 confrontation. But to show how this trend continued over the next few months for both, by October of 1975 Keirn was in a main event program with Tiger Conway, while Nelson was set to depart the Mid-Atlantic area, and would never return.

As everyone celebrates July 4, 2015, I hope there are Independence Day Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memories that will find their way into those festivities. For me, a GIANT Richmond Coliseum card 40 years ago will always without question be part of my 4th of July remembrances!

(This story was originally published on July 4, 2015.)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Betrayal of Chief Wahoo McDaniel (Part One)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway


Wahoo McDaniel
United States Champion (1981)
From 1981 through 1985, Wahoo McDaniel held the NWA United States Heavyweight championship on five (5) different occasions. But over half of those title reigns came to an end, not when Wahoo was defeated in the ring, but when he was defeated in the NWA boardroom.

Three different times between the years 1981 and 1984, Wahoo was stripped of the title by the NWA, either as a result of ruling or dubious rule enforcement.

Never has one wrestler's title history been so adversely impacted by a governing body in pro wrestling.

Now of course, this is all part of the story told at the time, but still you have to admit that a guy who fights and wins his championship fairly in the ring and then has it taken from him by "legislation" could reasonably be expected to carry a really big chip on his shoulder.

In Wahoo's case, it was part of the reason he finally "turned bad guy" in the summer of 1984, although one might reasonably take the position that it was the NWA and the fans that turned on him. The system betrayed Wahoo McDaniel for the third time. And the Chief had clearly had enough.

My book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship" takes a close look at every U.S. title reign and title change during its 13-year history for that company.  From those pages, I'll summarize the the three instances where "the system" took the title from Wahoo McDaniel.

The Roddy Piper Conspiracy

In 1981, Wahoo McDaniel made a successful return to the Mid-Atlantic area after a multi-year absence. As Roddy Piper's feud with Ric Flair over the U.S. title came to an end, Wahoo became Piper's new challenger, and he defeated Piper for the championship in a brutal bout on August 8 in Greensboro, NC.

For that match on 8/8, Piper demanded that a special 20-day return clause be inserted into his contract. (The typical return clause in NWA title contracts at that time was 30 days.) After Wahoo won the belt that night, he was willing to defend the title against Piper any time he wanted his rematch. But strangely, Piper didn’t sign for his rematch right away. He had another strategy to get the title back.

Finally, Jim Crockett signed Piper to his rematch on "World Wide Wrestling" taped 8/26 in Charlotte’s WPCQ-36 studios, the new home of Jim Crockett’s television programs. Hosts Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver announced they had cleared the entire 1-hour program for this one title bout. At that point, there were only two days left in the contractual time period.

As was the usual procedure, "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" was the first hour to be taped, followed by "World Wide Wrestling." On that fateful Wednesday night (8/26) in Charlotte, the match schedule for the Mid-Atlantic show included a non-title match between Wahoo McDaniel and Sgt. Jacques Goulet. Wahoo would wrestle Goulet first, and then would defend the U.S. title the next hour against Piper on the taping of "World Wide Wrestling."

Abdullah the Butcher attacks Wahoo McDaniel just before
Wahoo was set to defend the U.S. title vs. Roddy Piper
Knowing only two days remained for Wahoo to contractually defend the title against him (deadline 8/28), Piper paid the “Madman from the Sudan” Abdullah the Butcher to attack Wahoo during his match with Goulet on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling." Abdullah did indeed “butcher” Wahoo, so badly in fact that the original airing of the match caused a flood of complaints to pour in to local stations over the bloody scene. Subsequent replays of the match were altered to obscure Wahoo’s bleeding from Abdullah’s foreign object that was repeatedly jabbed into Wahoo’s forehead.

Wahoo was injured so badly he had to be taken to the hospital, and when it came time for the World Wide taping later that night, Wahoo was not in the building. It suddenly became apparent what Piper's devious plan was: he had waited until the very end of the contractual 20-day period to sign for his rematch for the title, and now Wahoo wasn't able to defend. 

As Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver opened the "World Wide Wrestling" show less than an hour later, David Crockett, the co-host of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, joined them and explained that Wahoo had been injured on their earlier program and would not be able to defend the U.S. title. Roddy Piper protested that Wahoo had failed to give him his contractually obligated rematch within the 20 day period, and should be stripped of the title and the title returned to the rowdy Scotsman.

The NWA reviewed the original contract for the 8/8 match in Greensboro and ruled that Piper’s 20-day return clause in his contract was iron-clad, but because he was involved in paying Abdullah the Butcher to attack Wahoo, the title would not be returned to Piper. Instead, they held up the championship.

Wahoo protested that decision, reasonably arguing that he was set and signed to defend the title within the 20 day period, and that met the terms of the 20-day clause in the contract. Since he was attacked at the direction of the very person demanding the rematch,he should be allowed to keep the championship.
Every title reign. Every title change.
All five belts.
The NWA would have had every right to arbitrarily void the 20-day return period stipulated in the contract based on these circumstances but, for whatever their reasons, chose not to. Wahoo had lost his title by an arbitrary ruling of the NWA. And sadly, it would not be the last time this would happen to him.

The NWA set October 4 as the date for a one-night tournament to determine a new champion. And to rub salt in Wahoo's wounds, Wahoo was not even allowed to be in that tournament because of the trouble he had subsequently caused NWA officials as a result of the out-of-control brawls he and Abdullah had been involved in during grudge matches that followed the bloody attack on "World Wide Wrestling."

Yes, the title was taken from him by the NWA by virtue of a questionable decision on the contract, and now he couldn't even compete for the vacant title in the upcoming tournament. It's not hard to understand how Wahoo started to feel like someone in the NWA hierarchy was out to get him.

The tournament was won by Sgt. Slaughter, who had just arrived in the Mid-Atlantic territory and had taken the area by storm. Now Wahoo had to put the injustice of the Piper situation behind him and begin his chase of Slaughter to regain his championship.

As we roll into 1982, Wahoo fights through adversity to win the U.S title for a second time. But another betrayal was on the horizon.