Sunday, September 27, 2015

NWA World Champions in the Mid-Atlantic Era and the Titles They Held Here

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

During the Mid-Atlantic era of 1973-1986 (when the territory went by that name) there were several NWA world champions that held regional titles here either before or after they were world champion.

We take a look at those champions and the titles they held.

Dory Funk, Jr.
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (1983, 1984)

Okay, I'm already cheating a little bit here. Technically the "Mid-Atlantic era" began in October 1973 when the Eastern title was renamed the mid-Atlantic title, and the Atlantic Coast tag team titles were renamed the Mid-Atlantic tag team titles. Jack Brisco was NWA champion by that time. But since we've broadly listed the Mid-Atlantic years as beginning in the year 1973, I thought I'd include the man who was NWA champion at the beginning of that year, Dory Funk, Jr.

Dory won the the Mid-Atlantic Championship in early 1983, nearly 10 years after losing the NWA title to Harley Race in Kansas City. I always loved the fact that the man he defeated was none other than his arch rival in the 1970s Jack Brisco. Funk/Brisco was the defining rivalry of the 1970s, and so it was very cool to see these two legendary figures trade our territory's championship all these years later.

Funk also held the Mid-Atlantic title in 1984 wrestling under a mask and known as the Masked Outlaw.

Harley Race
United States Heavyweight Championship (1975)

When booker George Scott decided to establish a United States championship in the Mid-Atlantic area, the man he chose to launch that title was former NWA champion Harley Race. Race had held the title for three short months in 1973, and that line on his resume helped give the new title credibility right off the bat.

Race was brought in to defend the title against Johnny Valentine, putting Valentine over to establish the championship in the territory. He was announced on area television as U.S. champion weeks before the July 1975 match with Valentine, but in reality he was champion for that one night only - bringing the title to the ring and dropping it to Valentine in what is still remembered to this day as a classic.

Jack Brisco
Eastern Heavyweight Championship (1971, 1972)
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (1982)
World Tag Team Championship (with Jerry Brisco in 1983 and 1984)

Jack Brisco held area championships both before and after he was NWA world heavyweight champion. He won the Eastern heavyweight title (the forerunner to the Mid-Atlantic title) from the Missouri Mauler just after Thanksgiving in 1971 at a High Point, NC TV taping, and then traded the title with Rip Hawk in 1972, a little over a year before winning the NWA title from Harley Race.

Brisco was never a regular here in the early 1970s, despite winning our area's championship twice. His home area was always Florida, but he was booked out to lots of territories for exposure as he was being groomed for an NWA title run. He made lots of shots here in 1972 and 1973 leading up to his NWA title victory over Race, usually over a weekend, but sometimes lasting a whole week.

Brisco's first full-time run in the Mid-Atlantic area began in the spring of 1982 and lasted until jumping to the WWF in 1984 after selling his stock in the NWA Georgia promotion to Vince McMahon. In 1982 he had great feuds over the Mid-Atlantic title with Roddy Piper and an old Florida rival from the early 1970s, Paul Jones. He eventually lost the title for good after his 6th title reign (which included the Eastern title reigns) to career arch-rival and former world champion Dory Funk, Jr.

Following his Mid-Atlantic title run, Jack reunited with his brother Jerry to defeat Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the NWA world tag team titles in the late spring of 1983 and held those titles multiple times over the next year before losing them in April of 1984 to Wahoo McDaniel and Mark Youngblood right before leaving for the WWF.

Giant Baba

Baba obviously never held a title here, but did wrestle here on a few occasions, most notably a 1977 card in Greensboro that shared talent between Jim Crockett Promotions and Baba's All-Japan Wrestling. Baba defeated Baron Von Raschke on that card.

Image from The Domed Globe Website at

Terry Funk
United States Heavyweight Championship (1975)

Funk was given a short run as U.S. champion in November 1975 to set the stage for winning the NWA title in December of that year.

Following champion Johnny Valentine's career-ending airplane accident in October 1975, Funk was tabbed to win the tournament to fill the vacant title. Funk defeated Paul Jones in the finals of the Greensboro tournament, and then returned three weeks later on the big Thanksgiving night show in the same city to drop the title to Jones. Two weeks later, Funk defeated Jack Brisco to win the the NWA world title in Miami Beach, Florida.

Dusty Rhodes
NWA World Tag Team Championship (with Dick Slater in 1977, Manny Fernandez in 1984)
NWA World TV Title (1985, 1986)
National Heavyweight Title (1985)
United States Heavyweight Championship (1987)

I'm cheating a little bit again here by listing the NWA world tag titles in 1977, because even thought Rhodes and partner Dick Slater did indeed hold those belts for four weeks, they never actually defended them in our area. But those NWA world tag team titles were Mid-Atlantic area titles, established here in early 1975. The Andersons took the titles with them to Georgia in late 1976 and basically were there with them for the better part of a year, trading them with Flair and Valentine during that time. It was while they were in Georgia with the belts that they lost the titles to Dusty Rhodes and Dick Slater in September of 1977.

Rhodes and Slater were set to defend the titles in Greensboro on 10/30/77 against former champions Flair and Valentine but lost the titles back to the Andersons a week or so before that scheduled match.

Rhodes, however, did win the world tag titles with Manny Fernandez in 1984. It was at the beginning of his run as booker for Jim Crockett Promotions, and in the next four years would give himself multiple runs as NWA world TV champion in feuds with Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. He also had a run as National heavyweight champion, awarding himself the title after firing Buddy Landel in December of 1985.

Rhodes won the U.S. championship from Lex Luger at Starrcade '87. He was stripped of the title after accidentally hitting Jim Crockett with a baseball bat in 1988. It was a title Rhodes had chased at various times since the title had been established in 1975. He was Johnny Valentine's first challenger in Greensboro, and challenged Flair for the title in a memorable match in 1979 that involved special referee Buddy Rogers. After that long chase, it was nice to see him finally win it.

Tommy Rich

Tommy Rich never held titles here, but he did wrestle here on occasion, most notably a short run when Ole Anderson was booking both the Mid-Atlantic and Georgia territories simultaneously in 1981. He also wrestled here for about a month in late 1983.

Ric Flair
Mid-Atlantic TV Championship (1975, 1977)
Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship (with Rip Hawk in 1975)
Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (1975, 1976)
United States Heavyweight Championship (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980)
NWA World Tag team Championship (with Greg Valentine in 1976 and 1977; and Blackjack Mulligan in 1979)

Ric Flair first won the NWA world championship in 1981. Prior to that he held every regional and national championship there was in the Mid-Atlantic area. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was his home area, and he is the only world champion to come straight out of our territory.

His first championship was the Mid-Atlantic tag title with his "uncle" Rip Hawk in 1974. He followed that up with his first singles title defeating Paul Jones for the TV title in early 1975.

But his break-out run began with winning the Mid-Atlantic title from Wahoo McDaniel in September of 1975, just weeks before being involved in the same plane crash that ended the career of Johnny Valentine. Though he was told he would likely never wrestle again, Flair returned better than ever in early 1976 and held the Mid-Atlantic and United States singles titles as well as the NWA world tag team titles over the next 6 years before finally winning the ultimate prize, the NWA world heavyweight championship.

Kerry Von Erich

To my knowledge, Kerry never wrestled for Jim Crockett Promotions, although I could be wrong. Please let us know if I am! His two older brothers did, though. Kevin and David teamed in a January 1982 tag team tournament  in Charlotte, NC.

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Thanks to Mark I., Danny W., and Chrissy B. for reminding me of a few Dusty titles I had briefly forgotten!

For more information on these great champions of the National Wrestling Alliance, check out the book "Ten Pounds of Gold."