Monday, June 15, 2015

Hot August Night

by David Chappell, Mid-Atlantic Gateway
from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives
Updated with three new audio promos from Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, Blackjack Mulligan, and Enforcer Luciano! Scroll to the bottom of the post to hear those great local promos for this big card in Richmond!

August 1, 1980 was a scorching summer’s day in the Richmond area. On that Friday, the temperature soared, and then soared some more. It felt like about a 120 degrees, though the official high was "only" 99 degrees in Richmond and 104 degrees in nearby Norfolk.

Being a Friday, of course, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was in town that evening. Typically, Jim Crockett Promotions would bring in a sizzling card of wrestling action to match the hot weather outside. Such was the case on this night, though in a somewhat different fashion. This card at the Richmond Coliseum, while in no measure one of Jim Crockett’s best, gave me two of my most lasting memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

The semi-final bout of the evening saw Blackjack Mulligan square off with Enforcer Luciano in a Texas Street Fight. While Blackjack was a familiar face to Mid-Atlantic fans, the Enforcer was a strange character who was only in the area for about three months. As the story goes, the Enforcer came into the area from Detroit with a "contract " out on Mulligan. In actuality, Mulligan had dispatched the challenge of Superstar # 2 (John Studd) in the late spring of 1980, and Mulligan’s next significant program would not occur until mid-August 1980 with newcomer "Bad Boy" Bobby Duncum. Hence, the Enforcer was only a brief transition figure, but a pretty entertaining one. Many may best remember Luciano for breaking cement blocks with his bare fist and chewing up a light bulb on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program!

The Texas Street Fight was Mulligan’s specialty match, and involved the participants dressing however they wanted and bringing whatever they wanted into the ring. It amazed me how many "foreign objects" that Luciano could cram into his clothing. He had nearly everything on him but the kitchen sink. Despite chains, brass knuckles, powder, etc. Luciano never got on track against Mulligan. It became clear after a couple of minutes, that this would be a slaughter and Luciano’s swan song in the Mid-Atlantic area. After wearing the Enforcer down, Mulligan took one of his cowboy boots off, flung Luciano into the ropes and smashed him in the head with the hard boot. The Enforcer was counted out, and Luciano proceeded to lay flat on his back with his arms and legs spread out wide for a good five minutes. The image of Luciano laying in the middle of the ring for so long has always stayed with me. To this day, when I see anyone in any sport get a real butt-kicking, I remember the Enforcer on this night and think to myself that they didn’t get laid out nearly as badly as Luciano did! Needless to say, Enforcer Luciano was never heard from again after this Texas Street Fight!

The Richmond Coliseum
The main event on this hot August night also provided me with a lasting remembrance of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. The match was a NWA World Tag Team Title match with Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Ray Stevens defending against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood in a fence match. It was always an adventure when there was a fence match in Richmond. There would be a number of men that would come out before the match with the four sections of the fence and "attach" the fence sections to the four ring posts. It never made for a sturdy looking structure, and apparently it wasn’t as at least four men stayed during the match itself acting as a "human brace" with their hands holding onto the fence. You always wondered if the fence would collapse, particularly when a wrestler was thrown headfirst into the fence, which happened often. On this night, the high flying Jimmy Snuka would give the fence its ultimate test.

Hear match promos from Ray Stevens and manager Gene Anderson:

Snuka’s usual finishing move was a dive off the top rope with his opponent lying nearly on the other side of the ring. It was a breathtaking maneuver, particularly during this time period, as wrestling did not showcase many aerial moves in this era. During this match, Ray Stevens had weakened Jay Youngblood considerably and tagged in Snuka. The "Superfly" mounted the ropes, with Youngblood a good three-quarters of the way across the ring from him. Snuka perched himself on the top rope, crouched, and we in attendance all thought the great dive would begin. But then Snuka inexplicably paused, turned, and looked toward the top of the rickety fence. We were all thinking, NO, he couldn’t be considering going to the top of the fence!! But that’s exactly what he was doing….everyone in attendance held their collective breaths as Snuka attempted to navigate from the top rope to the top of the 10 foot fence as the flimsy fence was swaying. He eventually made it and was somehow standing on top of the fence, with the men below holding on to their respective parts of the fence with all their might. When the "Superfly" raised his arms above his head in preparation for his jump, he appeared to lose his tenuous balance and everyone in the Coliseum had their hearts in their throats. I know I was positive that he was going to fall backwards off of the fence. Somehow, miraculously, Snuka kept from falling off the fence and righted himself and actually jumped upward but still flew through the air far enough to reach a prone Jay Youngblood. Jay moved out of the way a split second before Snuka arrived, and Snuka plowed face-first into the mat. The other three wrestlers backed off momentarily, obviously waiting to see if Jimmy was all right. Snuka was down for about thirty seconds and then was able to make a tag to Stevens, while Youngblood was in turn making his tag to Steamboat. The match continued in anti-climactic fashion, with Stevens and Snuka ultimately capturing the win and keeping their titles.

Anyone who saw Snuka scale and jump off that fence will never forget that magical moment. I sweated during the early part of that Friday because of the searing heat, but never more so than later that night inside the Coliseum when Jimmy Snuka was teetering on top of that fence. This was undoubtedly a hot August night in Richmond that I’ll always remember!

Postscript: The Madison Square Garden Connection

It is interesting to note that Jimmy Snuka later received national acclaim after moving to the WWF for doing a similar dive off the top of a cage in Madison Square Garden in New York City during a title match against Bob Backlund. You heard about that match, and the well publicized story about Mick Foley seeing Snuka dive off the cage in MSG and emulating Snuka by jumping off his own house onto a mattress which literally sprung Foley into a great career in professional wrestling. What you never heard, though, was that Snuka first performed the death defying maneuver in the Mid-Atlantic area under much more dangerous circumstances, and emerged intact to be able to do it later for a bigger audience in the "Big Apple."

- David Chappell
Originally published  in 2001 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

MORE AUDIO! Additional  promos have been added to this post for this big August 1980 card in Richmond. Great memories - - Enjoy

Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood Promo

Blackjack Mulligan

Enforcer Luciano