Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
During the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season, an unholy alliance was forged between two tough grapplers that would have major ramifications for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling for the first half of 1980. Ray “The Crippler” Stevens and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine joined forces, with the express intent of capturing the NWA World Tag Team Titles from the current titleholders Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.
On the first television show of the New Year, the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling show taped at the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina on January 2nd, Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine came out and quickly challenged the tag team champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. There could be no doubt that Ricky and Jay were the primary targets of Valentine and Stevens, but the bad guys also issued challenges to the top tier teams of Blackjack Mulligan and Ric Flair, and Jim Brunzell and Rufus R. Jones.
While Stevens and Valentine would continually challenge Steamboat and Youngblood during the month, the two teams only wrestled once for the Titles during the month of January. That bout saw Ricky and Jay score an impressive victory over Stevens and Valentine in Spartanburg, South Carolina on January 12th. The next night in Greensboro, North Carolina, the champs won a scientific matchup with Jack and Jerry Brisco, who were flown in to challenge for the World Tag Team Titles. Other than those two nights, Steamboat and Youngblood had a full month of January Title defenses, staving off the last gasp challenge of Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke.
Mid-Atlantic History January 1980 continued...
The World Tag Team Title bouts between Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood versus Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke in January were replete with significant stipulations. In fact, the New Year’s Day match between these four in Greenville, South Carolina was the only one during the month that did not have a stipulation. But like in all of the others to come, Steamboat and Youngblood prevailed. On January 4th in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “Steamer” and Jay came out on top in an unusual Texas Tornado Title Match. Steamboat and Youngblood again took the measure of Jones and Raschke in bloody Fence Matches in Savannah, Georgia on January 6th, Norfolk, Virginia on January 17th and then again in Fayetteville, North Carolina on January 21st. In the Norfolk Scope pre-match promos, Paul Jones told the Baron they could not blow this chance, Jay Youngblood said it was his first Fence Match ever and Ricky Steamboat called Jones and the Baron “desperate.” And at the very end of the month in Last Chance, Falls Count Anywhere, No Disqualification and There Must Be A Winner climactic bouts, Ricky and Jay came out on top in Charleston, South Carolina on January 25th and in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 27th.
The January 2nd Mid-Atlantic TV show also featured announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett telling the viewing audience that the tournament for the vacant NWA Television Title would begin next week. This show additionally had a real rarity, a match between fan favorites that were highly regarded in the territory, as Mid-Atlantic Champion Jim Brunzell battled Johnny Weaver in a scientific encounter. Finally, Gene Anderson, who was now principally operating as the manager of John Studd and Jimmy Snuka, informed the fans that the Masked Superstar would be returning to the area very soon!
The next edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program, which was taped on January 9th, saw announcer David Crockett comment that the tournament for the NWA TV Title had gotten so big that the promotion was constructing a “big board” to help everyone keep track of the results. The board was promised to be unveiled the next week or the week following that. The first match of the tournament occurred on this show, and featured a bout between two veterans of the territory, Johnny Weaver and Brute Bernard. Weaver prevailed, and thus was the first competitor to advance to the second round.
The new combination of Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine were very much in evidence on this January 9th TV show as well. Early in the hour, Stevens and Valentine came out and challenged Steamboat and Youngblood for the World Tag Team Titles, proclaiming themselves the greatest tag team of all-time. At the end of the program, when Bob Caudle was interviewing Ricky and Jay, Stevens and Valentine interrupted the interview, saying they wanted to confront the Champions “face to face.” When Greg accused the champs of “hiding in the closet,” Ricky promptly told Valentine to get out of his face. Miraculously, nothing physical transpired and Stevens and Valentine left the interview area.
After Stevens and Valentine departed, Steamboat and Youngblood explained to Bob Caudle that they would wrestle Greg and Ray, but would be reluctant to give this new team Title matches until they proved themselves. Certainly whenever Stevens and Valentine heard the Champions’ position on this situation, they were not going to be happy campers!
United States Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Snuka was quite active defending his Title during the month of January. For the most part, the “Superfly” derailed the challenge of “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods during January, although Jimmy did defend his Title against other worthy challengers over the course of the month.
Through the middle of January, Snuka and his new manager Gene Anderson had a long string of successful U.S. Title defenses against Tim Woods. The very beginning of the month saw lively United States Title bouts between Snuka and Woods in Charleston, South Carolina on January 4th and Fayetteville, North Carolina on January 7th. Then the two battled in Columbia, South Carolina in two epic bouts. On January 8th in Columbia, Mr. Wrestling confounded Jimmy by upsetting him in a countout victory. This led promoter Henry Marcus to bring Snuka and Woods back to Columbia the next Tuesday night, January 15th, for a rematch with Lumberjack rules where there would be no outside of the ring issues. In the return bout, Snuka prevailed with some sneaky assistance from Gene Anderson.
Tim Woods’ last hurrah as a U.S. Title challenger occurred on three consecutive days in the middle of the month, where he came up short against Snuka in his quest for the U.S. belt. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina on January 18th, Asheville, North Carolina on January 19th and Charlotte, North Carolina on January 20th the Superfly dominated Mr. Wrestling, and ended his threat to Jimmy’s coveted Championship.
The Wildman from the Fiji Islands ended the month of January defending his United States Championship twice on Sunday, January 27th! He first faced, and defeated, Jim Brunzell in a rare Sunday afternoon card in Columbia. Then the Superfly traveled to the Greensboro Coliseum where he lost to Blackjack Mulligan on a disqualification that same night. But Snuka’s next real challenge appeared to be looming from Ric Flair. The “Nature Boy” told Bob Caudle on the January 9th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that he wasn’t entering the TV Title tournament, so he could concentrate on Snuka and the U.S. belt. While not being able to wrestle the U.S. belt from Jimmy in Asheville on January 6th and Charleston, South Carolina on January 11th, Flair’s quest for the United States Heavyweight Championship was clearly just beginning in January!
The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on January 16th featured a match in the NWA Television Title tournament that pitted two top flight wrestlers, Rufus R. Jones and Baron von Raschke. In what was a competitive and entertaining contest, Rufus prevailed when the Baron was disqualified for fighting outside of the ring. The January 16th show also featured another appearance by Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens, clamoring again for a World Tag Team Title match with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. In this interview, Stevens and Valentine were more agitated than ever, saying their patience was running out in getting contracts signed for Title shots. Ominously, both Greg and Ray said that if Steamboat and Youngblood didn’t step up soon, something “drastic” was going to happen to them!
A number of stars from Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling invaded Toronto, Canada on January 13th for a super spectacular card there. Greg Valentine renewed an old feud with Johnny Weaver in one of the bouts, while the duo of the Canadian Heavyweight Champion Dewey Robertson and Ric Flair battled a new vicious combination of Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens in an action packed main event match.
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Jim Brunzell had a number of Title defenses during the month of January, but Jumpin’ Jim also was part of several top tag team combinations in January. The majority of Brunzell’s defenses were against his old nemesis Ray Stevens, but as Stevens began to concentrate on the World Tag Team belts, those contracts for the Mid-Atlantic Title began to shrivel up. Jim had successful Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title defenses against Stevens in Charleston, South Carolina on January 4th, Greenville, South Carolina on January 7th and at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on January 8th.
Perhaps the wildest Title defense that Brunzell had during the month of January was in Charlotte, North Carolina on January 20th. In this titanic struggle, Brunzell held on for dear life against a fiercely determined Ray Stevens. Ray eventually let his emotions get the better of him and was disqualified, handing Brunzell an unexpected victory. Brunzell also wrestled Paul Jones a couple of times during January for the Mid-Atlantic Title, besting Paul in the port city of Charleston on January 11th and then at the Greensboro Coliseum on January 13th.
The epic feud between Blackjack Mulligan and Big John Studd, which began in the Fall of 1978, finally reached its end during the middle of January. Blackjack prevailed in brutal and bloody Loser Leaves Town matches in three of the territory’s biggest cities, sending Studd packing back to Los Angeles. On January 11th in Richmond, Virginia in a Texas Death Match with Street Fight rules, Mulligan came out victorious in a long arduous encounter. Two days later in the Greensboro Coliseum, the two battled again in a Fence Match with Street Fight rules. Using everything at his disposal, Mulligan triumphed in 27 minutes with a deadly piledriver. The last battle of this three match “Loser Leaves Town” series occurred in Charleston, South Carolina on January 18th, featuring a wild Texas Death Match where falls counted anywhere in the building! Blackjack chased Studd all over County Hall before finishing “Big John” off for good.
The January 23rd taping of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show started off with the unveiling of the new NWA TV Tournament board. To help oversee the new board and to announce the Tournament matchups and results, “Miss Julie” was introduced to the television audience. Upcoming matchups were then shown to the fans, including in the first bracket where Paul Jones would meet (and defeat) Tony Garea later in the program, to set up a second round match with Johnny Weaver. Other upcoming matches in the first round would feature Frankie Laine versus S.D. Jones and Superstar # 1 against Tim Woods.
Announcer David Crockett proceeded to nickname the second bracket of the Tournament as the “black and blue division.” In addition to the completed bout where Rufus R. Jones defeated Baron von Raschke, bouts on this side would feature returning Swede Hanson versus Matt Bourne, Blackjack Mulligan against newcomer Dutch Mantell and Ox Baker was set to face off against Austin Idol.
And speaking of the vociferous Ox Baker, he was interviewed by Bob Caudle early in the program taped on January 23rd. Yelling at the top of his lungs, Ox complained that he had to win a “Midwest Tournament” to even get into the NWA TV Title Tournament, but said he was nevertheless going to win it all with the use of his dreaded “heart punch.” After the interview, Bob Caudle said he didn’t think he would be able to hear for a week!
The loaded January 23rd TV show also featured a video tape from Georgia with announcer Freddie Miller, interviewing John Studd, along with the Masked Superstars #1 and #2. John Studd explained that he lost Loser Leaves Town matches to Blackjack Mulligan, and was thus out of the Mid-Atlantic area. But John said he did not lose those matches fairly, and that his lawyers were working on getting him reinstated into Jim Crockett Promotions. Studd explained that he hired Superstars #1 and #2 to get rid of Mulligan while his lawyers were getting him back into the Mid-Atlantic area wrestling wars.
Superstar # 1 spoke to Freddie Miller, and it was clearly the same “Superstar” that had been in Jim Crockett Promotions during 1976 through 1978. Superstar # 1 spoke of the bloody matches he and Mulligan had in the past, and that Blackjack’s nightmares of those bouts were getting ready to start again. Superstar #1 said he respected Blackjack, but he didn’t like him. Superstar #2, the bigger masked man of the two, stood totally silent during the taped interview.
The fans were treated to another bombshell during the January 23rd TV show. Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens came out before Jay Youngblood’s match with Frank Monte, again demanding World Tag Team Title matches against Ricky Steamboat and Youngblood. Ricky Steamboat was said to be at a speaking engagement, thus leaving Youngblood by himself in the ring. Jay essentially told Stevens and Valentine that they would have to wait their turn to get World Tag Team Title bouts. Ray and Greg did TV commentary during the Youngblood/Monte match, becoming more and more upset over Youngblood’s comments. Then suddenly Stevens said he had to leave and go and get something.
The month of January ended with the beginning of a series of intriguing challenge matches between Ric Flair and Gene Anderson. While Gene was almost exclusively a manager at this point, he was nevertheless willing to don the tights again if it meant he could embarrass his cousin! These were 30 minute time-limit matches that Flair had to win with the figure four leglock, or Ric would have to get his head shaved! The “Nature Boy” came out on top with his hair intact after the first two of the bouts, which both occurred on January 27th, first in Columbia during the afternoon and then latter in Greensboro that night. More of these challenge matches between Gene and Ric would spill over into the early days of February.
The last Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show of the month was taped on January 30th. The TV Tournament match for this week featured S.D. Jones versus Frankie Laine, with the blonde Miss Julie again manning the giant TV Tournament board.
The fans got to see another video tape from Georgia, narrated by Freddie Miller, where John Studd and Superstars #1 and #2 again appeared on the subject of Blackjack Mulligan. Studd said he had put up a very large sum of money in escrow, and that the funds would go to the Superstars when they put Blackjack out of wrestling. John again expressed confidence that his attorneys would be getting him reinstated in the Mid-Atlantic area very soon. Again, Superstar # 1 did all the talking for the masked men, and said Mulligan had reached “the end of the road.”
Blackjack Mulligan came out later in the show to comment on this latest tape from Studd and the Superstars. Mulligan said that wrestling was entering the era of the “super-heavyweights,” and that he might have to bring in some of his “kin folks” to help him out, including cousin Crazy Luke Mulligan!
A very angry and focused Ric Flair came out during the January 30th TV show, and showed a short video clip of Jimmy Snuka jumping him from behind, hitting the piledriver on him and ramming his head into the steel ring post. That last action severely lacerated Ric, and 36 stitches were required to close that head wound. Flair vowed revenge on Jimmy, and said he would be showing the fans a longer version of the video clip of this same incident next week.
Finally, at the end of the January 30th TV program, Jim Crockett came out to address the incident from last week where Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens cut Jay Youngblood’s hair and ran his face all over the mat. Crockett told the fans that the NWA had suspended Valentine and Stevens, but when he informed Steamboat and Youngblood of that action the Champions threatened to sue the NWA because they had a valid previously signed contract with the bad guys. Based on that, the NWA rescinded the suspension but still fined Valentine and Stevens. According to Crockett, Ray and Greg were hoping to be suspended so they wouldn’t have to face the enraged tag team champs. Youngblood and Steamboat were clearly elated that there was no suspension, and that they could now get their hands on the men that had injured and humiliated Jay. February was certainly shaping up to be a heated month in this suddenly torrid feud!
1. Blackjack Mulligan---In truly a feud for the ages, Blackjack banished Studd from the Mid-Atlantic area in January with some of the most grueling bouts of all-time. But even while in exile, Studd was still trying to cause Mully problems.
2. Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens---This new combination hit the ground running in January, and through some trickery and deceit, by the end of the month they were poised to take on Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the World Tag Team Titles.
3. Jimmy Snuka---During January, the “Superfly” summarily dispatched the U.S. Title challenge of Tim Woods, and at the end of the month had injured his most feared current challenger for the U.S. belt, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
1. John Studd---Blackjack Mulligan ran Studd out of the Mid-Atlantic area in January by defeating him in a series of Loser Leaves Town matches. But even being out of the territory, Studd was still trying to stir things up!
2. Tim Woods---“Mr. Wrestling” came up short in a number of U.S. Title chances in January, and by the end of the month was noticeably slipping down the cards.
3. Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke---The former World Tag Team Champions appeared to have met their match in January, losing a number of “Last Chance” Title bouts to Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. The impressive run of these two bad guys as a tag team combination seemed over by the end of the month.