Mulligan and Flair had been close friends (as well as partners in crime) going back to Mulligan's arrival in the territory in 1975. They had dominated the two top singles titles in the territory, the United States championship and the Mid-Atlantic championship, for most of the past three years.
But when Flair finally gained a tight grip on the U.S. belt in the spring of 1978, tension started to develop between the two. Mulligan was a multi-time U.S. title holder who considered the title his greatest achievement and was thought by many at the time to be the greatest U.S. champ of them all. Mulligan certainly thought so! Ric had just won the title for a thrid time himself and was really rubbing it in to his "best friend", the big cowboy from west Texas.
Except Ric and Blackjack really hadn't been best of friends in some time. Greg Valentine had taken that spot in Ric's life. The two had held the NWA world tag team titles together, and had run roughshod over the Mid-Atlantic area over the last 16 months. The two young bucks had begun to look at Blackjack as the old warhorse whose time had perhaps come and gone. Flair saw himself as the new top dog in the territory, certain the man now in control of the U.S. title, and he didn't want Blackjack having any thoughts of trying to regain that spot.
The inevitable explosion finally happened, and the two had a split on television that to this day almost 40 years later is one of the most talked about and remembered angles in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling history - -"The Hat and Robe." (Audio Clips to follow...)
Main Event Memory: Mulligan vs. Flair on a Hot July Night (1978)
To get at Blackjack, Ric destroyed Mulligan's prized cowboy hat given to him by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. In return, Blackjack tore up Flair's beautiful $10,000 peacock robe. The roof about came off the WRAL television studio where it all took place.
I wrote a long detailed piece about that angle several years ago for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, and will be updating and republishing it here again soon. You won't want to miss it, especially if you've heard about the angle before, but have never known all about it. The article will tell every small detail leading up to and the aftermath over the following months, and includes some fun audio as well.
In the meantime, enjoy this "Main Event Memory" from Richmond featuring some archival audio.
After months of ducking and delays, including a $10,000 bounty on the head of his former friend, Flair was finally forced to step in the ring with Blackjack Mulligan.
The advertisements in the Richmond Times-Dispatch proclaimed it "The match that fans have asked for." and "By public demand!"
This was not just hype; the feud between Mulligan and Flair was one of the hottest programs ever for Jim Crockett Promotions. Fans were clamoring to finally see Mulligan and Flair hook it up!
Listen to the local promos for this big bout:
Listening to that has me all ready to buy my ticket again!
Click here for the entire story of "The Hat & Robe" on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
- Dick Bourne
David Chappell wrote about this entire card as part of his series on the greatest Mid-Atlantic cards ever in Richmond. Check it out on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives.
Audio clips from the collection of David Chappell.
Newspaper clippings from the collection of Mark Eastridge.
A Guide to All Posts in the "Main Event Memories" Series