Thursday, July 23, 2015

Main Event Memories: The Origins of Wahoo vs. Flair (1975)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Bill Janosik Photo
Things were so simple back in the day. You didn’t have to set anyone on fire to start a feud with them. It could be something as simple as coming to the aid of a friend.

I’ve been listening to old audio tapes of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling from 1975, and I think I’ve found the very beginning of the feud between Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair.

On the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling show taped July 23, 1975, Ric Flair, the Mid-Atlantic TV champ, is wrestling Bob Bruggers. Les Thatcher is doing commentary and is giving Bruggers athletic background, talking about how he played football at the University of Minnesota and played NFL football for the Miami Dolphins. He roomed with Wahoo McDaniel while in Miami.

Flair and Bruggers have a pretty even and competitive match, but at the end Flair gains the upper hand, wins the match, and then relentlessly goes after Bruggers after the match, screaming for someone to bring him some competition. Wahoo McDaniel, currently the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight champ having defeated Johnny Valentine less than a month earlier, hits the ring for the save.

Wahoo gets the microphone and tells Flair “That’s a good friend of mine laying there. You say you want some competition, well you’ve got some competition right here, right now!” and they launch into a wild brawl, with Flair finally bailing out after a series of Wahoo’s chops.

Here is about 2:30 of that vintage audio. The sound quality is a little muffled, but you can make most of the key points mentioned above. Your host is Les Thatcher with color commentary by NWA rookie of the year Steve Keirn. The audio picks up with about a minute left in the match.

The feud between Wahoo and Flair lasted for over 11 years, and included battles over the Mid-Atlantic, United States, and NWA World heavyweight titles. But it all started over Wahoo coming to the aid of a friend, his old NFL roommate. That was enough is get things started. It made sense to everyone watching. We all bought into it because we all would have done the same in that position.

Flair beats Wahoo for the Mid-Atlantic Title
Flair would soon lose the TV title to Paul Jones and mount a challenge for Wahoo’s Mid-Atlantic title. The two would battle over the next couple of months until Flair finally beat Wahoo for the title on September 20, 1975 in Hampton, VA in a title-vs.-hair match; if Flair lost, he would have to shave his head.

A few weeks later in early October, the airplane Flair was on with Bob Bruggers, Johnny Valentine, Tim Woods, and David Crockett went down in Wilmington NC. Despite suffering a broken back in the crash, Flair was back in action by late January 1976 and defending the Mid-Atlantic title against the former champion Wahoo McDaniel.

The two would trade the title several times over the entire year of 1976, with Wahoo eventually getting the title back for good in December 1976. Flair and new partner Greg Valentine began a family battle with Flair’s cousins the Anderson Brothers for the World Tag titles. Wahoo moved on to a feud with Greg Valentine in 1977 that eventually cost Wahoo a broken leg. But the paths of Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair would cross again and again over the coming years.

You've just listened to those paths crossing to begin their feud on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV taped in Raleigh, NC, July 23, 1975. Forty years ago today!

Read about all of these great events and much more in the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling 1975 Yearbook, on sale now.

(The story above is edited and expanded from an original story published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway titled "A Simpler Time" in July of 2006.)