Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gateway Interview - "Precious" Paul Ellering

"Precious" Paul Ellering
One of the most dynamic tag teams in the history of professional wrestling was the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors. Animal and Hawk, along with their cerebral manager “Precious” Paul Ellering, wreaked havoc in a number of wrestling promotions and territories from the early 1980’s until Hawk’s untimely death in 2003. But one of the greatest runs for the Road Warriors was in Jim Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance during stretches from 1984 until 1990. It is principally for their excellence during that latter time frame that the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering are being inducted into the Hall of Heroes “Class of 2016” as part of the Fanfest in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 4-7, 2016. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway caught up with Paul Ellering recently, and “oh what a rush” it was to chat with this wrestling legend!

David Chappell: Paul, thank you for taking the time to speak with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway today. My website partner, Dick Bourne, told me that he hoped you weren’t reading your Wall Street Journal when I called, and that I wouldn’t be interrupting your reading time with what used to be your favorite newspaper! With smart phones and other electronic substitutes, I don’t even know if there’s a Wall Street Journal paper out there anymore.

Paul Ellering: Believe it or not, I still get the Wall Street Journal! Basically, it's so obsolete because of, like you say, the cell phone. Recently I've been back at NXT, and they said, "Yeah, nothing out of the '80s or '90s. No Wall Street Journals, no sunglasses, no nothing."

Chappell: I don’t doubt it at all; the world has really changed. Skipping ahead a little bit, since you brought up NXT!  I follow the current product at WWE, and actually I went up to the Battleground event in Washington recently. But for whatever reason, I haven't gotten into NXT much, just because I guess there are only so many hours in the day. I'd heard great things about NXT, but I actually watched, probably for the first time, one of their entire special events, NXT TakeOver: The End of the Beginning, and I had no idea you were going to be there. When you came out with the Authors of Pain, I became an instant NXT fan!

Ellering: Well, they've got a great product. They have a great facility, with the performance center, and my gosh, they've got an abundance of talent.

Chappell: Absolutely, for sure.

Ellering: NXT itself has gotten to a point where they're self funding their whole deal. They don't do a lot of shows, but the ones they do, they do really good. There is one coming up in Brooklyn next month, and that was sold out in 4 hours!

Chappell: NXT has a kind of old school feel to it for me!

Ellering: Well, going back to the '70s and '80s, we always did TV in basically small venues. Now, with Raw and Smackdown, they do them in big arenas and stuff, but with NXT, it's like old school TV. It's not huge, and it fills up, and the crowd's really into it. In that respect, it's a throwback.

Chappell: I agree. Paul, you have been previously inducted into several prestigious Halls of Fame, but the 2016 Hall of Heroes in Charlotte is principally recognizing you and the Road Warriors for your accomplishments during your Crockett/NWA run in the mid and late 1980’s. I'm curious how the stint with the NWA compares to all the other successes you and the Warriors had in other parts of the country and world.

The Legion of Doom, The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal with "Precious" Paul Ellering
Ellering: Well, one has to look at the history of things, and that was a tremendously exciting period for wrestling because of the wrestling wars and the companies that wanted to sign talent up, and it was really good for the boys, and people in wrestling. Everybody was competing. It was the WWF at that time against Crockett and Turner, so it was really exciting in that respect, because everybody'd go check the ratings and see who was doing good and who wasn't, and of course, we were part of it.

Chappell: A huge part of it!

Ellering: We came along in the first revolution of wrestling, which was the beginning of the '80s, when cable TV started to spread across the country. Then people, there were so many, many territories across the United States, could finally compare their local products to a national product. Then along came the Road Warriors, and wrestling changed from the old school wrestling to the new era at that time.

Chappell: That's right, you all were really front and center during that switch over period.

Ellering: Oh yeah, we were just huge, and it was non stop action, and very visual. The guys were super strong, and then along came the paint and the haircuts and the entrance music, and it was really exciting in that respect.

Chappell: At that time, nobody had seen anything like the Road Warriors. I remember when you all came briefly into the Mid-Atlantic area in the summer of 1984. Of course everybody had heard about the Warriors and had seen you all in the Apter magazines, but when you all appeared on our local TV program it was quite an awakening. You all really were at the forefront of that change. Change is good a lot of times, and I think in this case, it really was.

Ellering: Yeah, and then at that time, I think we worked up until '84 or '85 for TBS there, Turner. Well, actually, Ole was the booker at that time.

Chappell: Yes…

Ellering: Then we basically went independent, because we had our deal with Japan. Japan always came first, and then we did a deal with Verne, up in the AWA, so we could move back home, and then we also kept working for Crockett. Basically, we worked for everybody, but we called our own shots. I saw it, at the time, because I saw how they promoted Andre as just an attraction, where you bring him in and he's in for a month, and then he's gone.

Chappell: Interesting…

Ellering: The guys were over, so strong, I thought to myself, "Boy, we can do the same thing.” We can just be an attraction, not even stay in a territory, and just hot shot the whole country, the whole world, for that matter, and just hot shot it. Go in, go out, and they see us, and then the fans are always left with, "We want to see more." You always had another place to come in, and it worked really good because we didn't get over exposed, and so it was very exciting that we had that many territories that we could work with.

Chappell: What a great set-up for you all! You were of course managing the Road Warriors on TV, but you actually did a lot behind the scenes to set them up to be these touring free agents, so to speak.

Ellering: I am, to this day, the last shooting manager, because I was a manager. I set up the travel. I set up how we were going to get paid, and we'd just sit down with the calendar, a month ahead, and I'd just say, "Okay, what days don't we want to work, because if you leave it open, I'm going to fill it up."

Chappell: It wasn't just the TV role for you as a manager, you did it all!

Ellering: Oh, yeah! It was fun, though. It was fun. We got to be really close, and were a special family unto ourselves.

Chappell: It’s interesting that the Road Warriors were close behind the scenes, in addition to their obvious on-screen camaraderie. With that being said, you must be excited to be reunited with Animal at Fanfest in Charlotte.

Ellering: Well, it's always great to see him. I saw him a couple months ago. We did a show, well, it was in Dallas I believe. It's always good to see him, see how his family's doing, because all their kids and my kids, we all grew up together and they're family. There's always a special place in my heart for Animal, and him for me, too, I'm sure.

Chappell: Is it a bit bittersweet that when you and Animal get together now, Hawk’s not here to complete the team? I’m sure fond memories of that big man must come flooding back to you.

Ellering: Well, always, because any time you sit around, some memory of Hawk just comes up. Somebody will come up and say, "Remember this? Remember that?" We just go into the memory banks and enjoy those moments.

Chappell: Hawk was a memorable guy, there's no doubt about it. In a lot of respects!

Ellering: Yeah, they only made one Hawk!

Chappell: That's right. They broke the mold, without a question.

Ellering: Yep!

www.nwalegends.comChappell: You and the Warriors are being inducted into the 2016 class of the Hall of Heroes with several people that were important in making that mid 1980s Crockett/NWA time frame so special. One is the late great Dusty Rhodes, of course, who is being inducted by his close friend Magnum TA. What are your thoughts on those two legends?

Ellering: Well, I really miss Dusty. He was just, he was just one of a kind, and it'll be really good to see Magnum. I haven't seen him since the '80s.

Chappell: Wow, really?

Ellering: Yeah. I think it's really a tremendous satisfaction as far as me and the fans, that Magnum gets to talk about Dusty, because they were very close.

Chappell: Very much so.

Ellering: Well, they all were at that time. Yeah, so I think it's tremendous.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Looking Back: Legends Gather at Fanfest

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jerry Brisco: First Ever Mid-Atlantic Champion

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Today we spotlight the very first Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, Oklahoma State's Jerry Brisco.

Jerry was the first wrestler to hold the title known by name as the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship, although that title evolved from (and shares a direct lineage with) the Eastern States Heavyweight title. Jerry was the reigning 4-time Eastern States champion when the title's name was changed in October of 1973, and as such is recognized as the first Mid-Atlantic champion.

Jerry Brisco's Four Mid-Atlantic/Eastern States Title Victories
Defeated Rip Hawk on 6/13/72 in Columbia, SC
Defeated Rip Hawk on 9/4/72 in Greenville, SC
Defeated Rip Hawk on 3/3/73 in Winston-Salem, NC
Defeated Ole Anderson on 7/3/73 in Columbia, SC

In his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech in 2008, Jerry took time to thank promoter Jim Crockett, Sr. for giving him a chance to shine as a singles competitor on a main event level. It was a special moment for fans of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and the old Mid-Atlantic territory to hear Brisco invoke the name of the man who promoted wrestling in our area for over 40 years:
"I’d like to thank Jim Crockett, Sr., the great promoter in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. They gave me my first opportunity to bust out on my own. I won the Eastern United States Championship there, I won the Mid-Atlantic Championship there…”
 - Jerry Brisco, WWE Hall of Fame speech, Class of 2008
At the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest in 2010, I asked Jerry to take a photo with a replica of the first Mid-Atlantic championship title belt. The photo is seen in the collage above. The replica belt was made by Dave Millican from the original artwork created by Reggie Parks, who made the original belt in 1973. It was a special opportunity to recapture great championship imagery from the territory's past.

Jerry Brisco talks with "Championship Wrestling" host Big Bill Ward in Charlotte in 1972.
Jerry was in the middle of chasing Eastern States champion Rip Hawk in effort to regain that title.
The Eastern States Championship would later become the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship in 1973.

In another bit of trivia, Jerry and his brother, Jack Brisco, were the only two wrestlers to hold both the Eastern States and Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight titles. "Sounds like one of us must have been booking," Jack joked to me during an autograph signing at Fanfest.

Jerry left the area in early 1974, but returned in the early 1980s to team with Jack in a memorable feud with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood over the NWA world tag team championships, a title they held on several occasions.

Regardless of what period you look at in Mid-Atlantic history, whether it be his run in the 1970s or the 1980s, Jerry Brisco is one of the most distinguished champions to ever hold gold in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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 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

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. 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 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 or follow on Twitter at @NWALegends or on Facebook at