Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
On February 1st, Ric and Gene hooked up at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina with Ric coming perilously close to having his famous “golden mane” being shaved off! After that brutal contest, Flair and Anderson had to travel all the way up to Hampton, Virginia, for a “rematch” the following evening. In the promos leading up to the Hampton bout, Gene chuckled about Ric becoming bald, while Flair told the tidewater Virginia fans that Anderson would have to kill him to ever take his hair. In the end, Ric was correct as he survived the Hampton bout with his hair intact, and this short Anderson/Flair program had run its course.
On the World Wide Wrestling television program that aired around much of the territory on Saturday March 2nd, an intriguing new tag team debuted. Newcomer Ox Baker with his dreaded “heart punch” teamed with the returning big Swede Hanson! Announcers Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver referenced that the big Swede had just returned from a very successful tour of the northeastern states, where he had wrestled main events in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The duo of Baker and Hanson whipped the tag team of Bob Marcus and Don Kernodle with ease on the March 2nd TV show.
This “World Wide” show also featured a one minute film clip where Ric Flair described how Jimmy Snuka put 36 stitches in his head. Additionally, Jim Crockett made a very rare television appearance, telling the fans that when he informed Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood that he was suspending Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens for cutting Jay’s hair, he was threatened with a lawsuit from “Steamer” and Jay! The good guys desperately wanted Stevens and Valentine in the ring. Crockett said he relented in the face of a lawsuit, and that Stevens and Valentine instead were being fined and put on probation.
Mid-Atlantic History for February 1980 continued...
Finally, the March 2nd World Wide Wrestling TV show had an interesting interview between Rich Landrum and “Number One” Paul Jones. Jones told the viewing audience that he had received a letter from a fan, who said Paul was in cahoots with the devil and that by being obsessed with the devil, Jones was going to burn in hell! Jones proceeded to tell the female fan to mind her own business, and that he wasn’t going to change his behavior one bit! Gene Anderson chimed in to end the show, saying that he would be introducing a newcomer to the area soon, by the name of the Iron Sheik. Anderson said to the fans that he got a good deal on the Sheik’s contract. However, the Sheik would not actually appear in the area for a number of weeks.
Another noteworthy bout that occurred early in the month saw the former NWA World Tag Team Champions Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke drop a match to the duo of Rufus R. Jones and Jim Brunzell on February 3rd in Charlotte, North Carolina. It would be the last time that Jones and Raschke wrestled as a team. The two months plus of frustration of being unable to recapture the World Tag Team belts tore the Jones/Raschke combination apart at the seams. The deep seated issues between Jones and Raschke had finally bubbled up to the surface.
The blow up between Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke on February 3rd in Charlotte insured that these two would return to Charlotte, but this time on opposing sides of the ring! On February 17th, the Charlotte Coliseum was site to a "Lites Out", Non-Sanctioned by the NWA, challenge match between the Baron and Paul Jones. This was a truly ferocious bout, and the lengths that these two went to cripple each other was astounding. Raschke pulled out the win, but both he and Jones were brutal messes when this one was over.
Jones and Raschke followed up the Charlotte blood-bath with a repeat performance in Charleston, South Carolina on February 22nd. Again the Baron was victorious, but both combatants were bloody and bruised when the final bell rang. Paul and Raschke would continue their vicious feud into the month of March.
February 6th was the first television taping date of the two Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television shows for the month, and the action was fast and furious! The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show featured World Tag Team champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood commentating over the video tape of a “last chance” World Tag Team Title match in the Greensboro Coliseum between themselves and Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke.
It was clear during the film that the frustration of not being able to win back the World Tag Team Title belts was frustrating the Jones/Raschke team to no end. Jones and Raschke collided with each other in the ring, which each of them blaming the other for the mishap. Jones hit the Baron, and a shoving match ensued. Raschke even tried to put the claw hold on Jones! The “bad guys” dropped their last chance bout for the World Tag Team Titles, and were continuing to blame each other for the loss after the match was concluded.
The February 6th Mid-Atlantic TV show also saw the NWA Television Title Tournament continue, with the Masked Superstar advancing over Tim Woods. Miss Julie continued to place the winner’s names on the big tournament board.
The World Wide Wrestling TV show that was taped on February 6th produced an extremely important segment for the fans. Ric Flair followed up on his “36 stitches” issue with Jimmy Snuka from the prior week, this time commenting over a longer video tape clip (four minutes) of him wrestling Gene Anderson, with the stipulation mentioned above in place where the “Nature Boy” had to defeat Gene within 30 minutes with the figure four leg lock or have his head shaved. Ric also told the viewing audience that if he won, it would insure him getting a U.S. Title match against Anderson’s charge, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. Flair won the match, and Ric said he purposely didn’t break the figure four hold quickly, hoping to injure Gene. And the Nature Boy hurt Gene enough to where Anderson had to use a cane after the match!
Significantly, Jimmy Snuka caught Flair by surprise after the Anderson match, used the piledriver hold on Ric onto the concrete floor, and then speared Flair head-first into the steel ring post. The brutal treatment cost Flair 36 stitches in his head, and left the Nature Boy yelling for revenge against the wild man from the Fiji Islands.
The only foray into Toronto, Canada during the month of February for the stars of Jim Crockett Promotions was on February 10th, when several Mid-Atlantic stars invaded the Maple Leaf Gardens. The main event for that February 10th super spectacular card in Toronto saw Jimmy Snuka successfully defend his United States Heavyweight Title against the stiff challenge of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. A nip and tuck match between these two in Toronto showed beyond any doubt that the margin of difference between these two outstanding competitors was razor thin.
The bout between Flair and Snuka over the U.S. Title in Toronto highlighted a February full of bruising battles between these two. In fact, Ric was Snuka’s only challenger for the U.S. belt during the month of February. The fans in Columbia, South Carolina were lucky enough to witness Ric and the Superfly wrestle twice during the month of February. On February 5th, Snuka left Columbia with a tainted victory, which came in large part from the interference of Gene Anderson. When the two hooked back up in a Title encounter in Columbia on February 24th, Flair controlled the bulk of the action, but his temper got the best of him leading to a disqualification loss to Snuka.
Ric Flair and Jimmy Snuka also engaged in several Texas Death Matches during the month, that type of match being one of the most dangerous matches in professional wrestling. The first Texas Death Match between these two occurred in Richmond, Virginia, with this bout being a fairly even encounter. Several nights later in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 12th, Flair emerged the victor in a rugged contest. But what followed during the next week was truly unique…two Texas Death Matches between Flair and Snuka with the U. S. belt on the line! In Charleston, South Carolina on February 15th and in Asheville, North Carolina on February 18th, the two battled in long bloody slugfests with Snuka managing to retain his Title by only the narrowest of margins.
The February 13th edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped at the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh featured the in-person debut of the team of Superstar #1 and Superstar #2. These two monsters were menacing in their first on-site TV interview, and they were clearly after the $10,000 bounty that John Studd had placed on Blackjack Mulligan’s head.
Mulligan was concerned enough about the threat from the Superstars, that he promised the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling viewing audience that he would soon be introducing a member of his famous family to the fans! This family member was said to be able to even the odds for Mulligan against this formidable masked duo. Blackjack also suggested strongly that the man underneath the mask as Superstar #2 was none other than big John Studd!
There was another NWA TV Tournament bout on this February 13th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show, and it featured the reenergized Swede Hanson against the talented newcomer Matt Borne. Swede continued on his roll since returning from New York, defeating Borne in somewhat controversial fashion. The shoulders of Hanson and Borne were down together almost simultaneously, but the big Swede was declared the winner, and thus advanced in the Tournament.
Paul Jones also appeared on this February 13th Mid-Atlantic television program, and commentated over a video tape of the February 3rd bout in Charlotte mentioned above, between himself and the Baron against Rufus R. Jones and Jim Brunzell. During the playing of the video tape, Jones accused Raschke of attempting to hog the limelight, and scoffed at the notion that the Baron was the stronger person in the team. To prove his point, when Raschke got into trouble, Jones refused to accept a tag from Raschke, allowing the Baron to take a beating and ultimately led to Raschke being pinned. Jones then said he couldn’t wait to face Raschke one-on-one in the ring. And believe it or not, during the match the Baron called himself “Number One,” prompting Paul to call the Baron a bald headed geek during his commentary!
The World Wide Wrestling television show that was taped on February 13th also saw the in-ring debut of Superstars #1 and #2 on that program. The masked tandem demolished the overmatched duo of Ronnie Sexton and Tony Garea in a quick bout. At one point, commentator Johnny Weaver said that he thought the movements of Superstar #2 were very familiar, though he stopped short of relating to the fans who he thought the identity of “#2” was.
A big announcement on this February 13th World Wide Wrestling television program was that beginning the following week there would be a television tournament for the vacant Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles. A number of teams were named as participating including Superstar #1 and Superstar #2, Rufus R. Jones and Special Delivery Jones, Paul Jones and Frankie Lane, Swede Hanson and Dewey Robertson, Ox Baker and Brute Bernard, Tony Garea and Pedro Morales and Johnny Weaver and Don Kernodle.
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Jim Brunzell continued to hold on tightly to his prestigious belt during the month of February. Brunzell actually wrestled fellow fan favorite Johnny Weaver for the Title the most times during the month. These two “good guys” wrestled for the Mid-Atlantic Championship on February 3rd in the Roanoke Civic Center and then again the next night in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with Brunzell emerging with his Title on both occasions. While each match was for the most part scientific, there were times when tempers got on the ragged edge a bit! Brunzell and Weaver met again in a Mid-Atlantic Title championship match on February 10th in the Greensboro Coliseum. This bout saw Brunzell dominate for the most part, and Jim’s clean pin over Johnny effectively ended this mini series between the two friends.
In February, “Jumpin’ Jim” also successfully defended his prized belt twice against Paul Jones and twice against the burly Ox Baker. On February 19th in Columbia, South Carolina Jim got by the sneaky Jones, and two days later in Sumter, South Carolina Brunzell again maintained his Mid-Atlantic Title despite a determined effort from “Mr. #1.” Brunzell seemed to have a difficult time adjusting to the unorthodox ring style of Ox Baker, but the young champion from White Bear Lake, Minnesota nevertheless took the measure of the big Ox on February 17th in Roanoke, Virginia and then again on February 22nd at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina. Additionally, in the month of February, Brunzell turned back a title challenge apiece from Greg Valentine and Superstar #2.
NWA World Tag Team Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood had a busy month trying to fend off the title challenge from the duo of Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens. Greenville, South Carolina saw two episodes of this heated feud during the month of February. On February 4th in Greenville, Stevens and Valentine got the Champions so upset that Steamboat and Youngblood were disqualified for their out of control actions. However, Greg and Ray were so furious that their title shot faded away because of the disqualification result, that they demanded a rematch during the next week’s matches in Greenville. Promoter Henry Marcus obliged, and Valentine and Stevens got their rematch in Greenville on February 11th. The challengers dominated most of the return match, and it sure looked like Ray and Greg would emerge from this bout with the World Tag Team straps, as they were actually awarded the NWA World Tag Team belts by the referee. But when it was determined that some illegal chicanery resulted in the pin by Stevens and Valentine, the referee’s decision was reversed and Steamboat and Youngblood retained their belts to the relief of all of the fans in attendance!
Columbia, South Carolina also featured a bout for the World Tag Team Titles where the challengers may have won the battle but lost the war, so to speak. Stevens and Valentine dominated the action at times, and kept Steamboat and Youngblood on the defensive, building up a level of frustration for the champions that led them to being disqualified! Of course, even though Stevens and Valentine achieved a disqualification win, the belts stayed with Ricky and Jay. During the month of February, the cities of Charlotte, Roanoke, Richmond, Greensboro, Savannah, Georgia, Raleigh and Charleston, South Carolina all saw exciting bouts with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood battling with Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine over the prestigious NWA World Tag Team Titles.
The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on February 20th saw two more bouts in the NWA TV Title Tournament. In one, Rufus R. Jones renewed an old acquaintance with Swede Hanson, but the “Freight Train” was unable to derail the Swede’s sudden hot streak as Hanson advanced. In the other Tournament bout, Superstar #1 turned back a spirited effort from Special Delivery Jones. And you have to give announcer Bob Caudle credit for trying…after briefly talking to Superstar #1, Caudle tried to get a word with Superstar # 2. Superstar # 1 immediately ended that line of questioning, but most still believed Superstar #2 was actually John Studd, even without the audio evidence.
The next week’s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show saw a very rare women’s tag team match, featuring Winona Little Heart and Cindy Majors whipping the veteran combination of Joyce Grable and Vivian St. John. The two NWA TV Tournament contests on that TV program were outstanding. In one, Blackjack Mulligan overpowered the deadly Ox Baker and his feared “heart punch” in a bout that could have gone either way. Mulligan’s victory clearly took a significant physical toll on him. In the other TV Tournament bout, two wrestlers with quite a long history tangled with a lot on the line. “Number One” Paul Jones let his quick temper get the best of him, dropping a disqualification decision to Johnny Weaver, in a battle between two former NWA TV Champions. While Johnny would have preferred a pinfall victory, he nevertheless advanced to fight again in this ultra competitive Tournament.
The other two television matches on the February 27th Mid-Atlantic Wrestling TV taping saw the Masked Superstars I & II dominate the team of Coco Samoa and Scott McGee in rapid fashion, and in a much more competitive encounter, NWA World Tag Team Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood defeated “Cowboy” Frankie Lane and Doug Somers.
As exciting a month as February was, in many respects it provided more questions than answers for Mid-Atlantic fans. That fact alone insured that the upcoming month of March 1980 would be a month with excitement written all over it!
NWA TV TOURNAMENT BRACKET UPDATE
1. Superstar #1 and #2---This massive team was striking fear into the hearts of everyone in the Mid-Atlantic area. Superstar #1 was a known commodity, and there was a strong suspicion that Superstar #2 was actually John Studd. These two were running roughshod over the competition in February.
2. Jimmy Snuka---The reigning U.S. champion was holding on against a fierce Title challenge from Ric Flair during the month. The fact that Jimmy had put 36 stitches in Ric Flair’s head, clearly had given Snuka a ton of confidence.
3. Swede Hanson---The big man from Newark, New Jersey returned to the area after a successful stint in the WWWF. He looked more confident and in better shape that he had in the last five years. The question was how long could the Swede maintain this momentum
1. Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke---The former great NWA World Tag Team Championship team of Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke completely fell apart in the month of February. It was hard to believe that this team was no more, and that a brutal singles feud between these two was beginning.
2. Tim Woods---“Mr. Wrestling” continued his descent down the cards he was on, and wrestled his last match ever for Jim Crockett Promotions during the month.
3. Jay Youngblood---The New Mexico Indian was still having great difficulty dealing with his hair being cut by Ray Stevens. His emotional state would need to become more fortified if he and Ricky Steamboat were to remain World Tag Team Champions.