Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Three Seconds: The Mid-Atlantic Mystery Wrestlers

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When Mid-Atlantic Wrestling debuted its new musical theme and opening sequence in 1977, it was a sharp departure from the show opening Jim Crockett Promotions had used for the previous several years, which was a montage of wrestlers and wrestling maneuvers from the TV show. This new opening featured three distinct graphics and one brief wrestling scene, each one finally scaling down into a screen divided into four equal sections.


The four sections were as follows:
  1. the familiar Mid-Atlantic logo on a blue background
  2. a short wrestling clip, shot in an dimly lit arena
  3. the title "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" with a small collegiate-style wrestling icon
  4. and five states that represented the Mid-Atlantic area at that time, all in yellow on a red background. 

From the moment this new opening aired, I was fascinated by the short wrestling clip. It appeared to be one wrestler cradling another for a pinfall, but I couldn't identify the wrestlers. At first I thought it might be Jack Brisco and Terry Funk from their NWA title match in Miami Beach in 1975. In that match, Brisco went to apply the figure-four leglock and Funk cradled him for the pin. In this brief opening wrestling clip, it looked at first as though perhaps the same thing was happening. Or maybe not. It all happens so quickly.

I had only seen the Brisco-Funk clip one time, when Mid-Atlantic Wrestling showed it in December of 1975 right after that title change. I was only 13, and going on my memory of that. We didn't have VCRs then, so there was no way to compare the two clips.

The segment with the wrestlers only lasts about 2-3 seconds, and is full screen for less than a second. With no DVRs or VCRs in 1977, there was no way to pause or freeze-frame the clip to examine it. All I could do was wait until next week's show and try to get another quick look at that 3 seconds.
While the wrestler on the mat had curly hair and at a quick glance looked very much to me like Terry Funk did at that time he won the NWA title, the wrestler on one knee had what appeared to be a horseshoe on his trunks. I knew that wasn't Brisco. Also, the referee in the shot sure looked like Tommy Young, and I knew Tommy Young was not the referee for the Funk/Brisco match.  It also became clear after watching it several times that the wrestler on one knee wasn't being cradled when applying a figure-four leglock or a spinning toe hold; it was clearly a hammerlock on the arm into the cradle. This wasn't Funk/Brisco.

The mystery remained.

In a 1999 exchange with several folks on a wrestling message board speculating on this very subject, there were a number of different guesses, everyone going on their memory of this alone; no photo was posted. One person put forth the guess of "Cowboy" Frankie Laine as the wrestler in the blue trunks. Speculation continued on Terry Funk on the mat in the black trunks.

The mystery remained.

Doug Somers and
"Cowboy" Frankie Laine
When the WWE started airing complete episodes of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling on its On Demand channel around 2005, the crystal-clear digital transfer from the master tapes (from which the image above was taken) allowed a much closer look at the short clip. The Frankie Laine guess looked good, but it still wasn't clear who the wrestler on the mat was.

In 2010, I received an email from a visitor to the website who had seen an earlier article on the Gateway speculating about all this. He asserted that the wrestlers in the opening were Frankie Laine and Doug Somers. Another look at the photo above confirmed that. Doug had that brown curly hair back then (long before he became "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers with the bleached-blinde hair.) It made perfect sense; Laine and Somers were both mid-card guys in those years and would have wrestled each other a great deal I'm quite sure.

If there had been a contest, and winners were announced for the first correct guess, I'd have to award the prizes to Richard Sullivan for first guessing "Cowboy" Frankie Laine in that Wrestling Classics message board thread from 1999, and Randy Elrod for his more recent identification of Doug Somers in 2010.

That opening theme segment for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling aired from 1977 until 1983. "Cowboy" Frankie Laine and Doug Somers were seen more times on that open than any others wrestlers ever seen on the show itself. Funny that it took another couple of decades before most of us were ever aware it was them.



Mystery solved.




Take a look at the opening theme to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling from 1981.
This video open was used from 1977-1983. There were two different versions of theme music used. 
1977-1979: "Good King Bad" by George Benson
1979-1983: "Got to Have Loving" by Don Ray




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This article was drawn from an earlier story posted on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in 2010.