Friday, September 25, 2015

The First U.S. Title Switch in the Greensboro Coliseum

It's often said that the night Johnny Valentine beat Harley Race for the United States heavyweight championship in 1975 was the first time the U.S. title changed hands in Greensboro. But that would be wrong. It actually happened in 1962 when Hans Schmidt defeated then U.S. champ Pat O'Connor for the honors in front of 5,800 fans in the Greensboro Coliseum. O'Connor regained the title in the same building about 5 weeks later.

Anyone could be forgiven for not knowing about two such events 13 years apart. I never knew about that title change until I began research for my upcoming book on Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship (coming out this fall.) I was not even a year old when the 1962 matches happened. But additional research by Carroll Hall and Mark Eastridge shed light on this historic switch during an earlier era.

Carroll Hall recently posted both newspaper clippings from those two cards on his All Star Championship Wrestling blog. You can take a close look at those here:

The First U.S. Title Switch in the Greensboro Coliseum
Post by Carroll Hall
All Star Championship Wrestling

As an additional reference point about this time in history, O'Connor had been awarded the United States championship by the National Wrestling Alliance after Buddy Rogers had defeated him for NWA world heavyweight championship. It was during a brief time when the NWA board actually recognized a U.S. title in that era.

It's fun to take a look at who else was on that card:
  • Long time area veteran George Becker teamed with national sensation Argentina Rocca. 
  • Even in 1962 Johnny Weaver was already battling Rip Hawk. 
  • Abe Jacobs was a perennial star in the area over two decades.
  • Women wrestlers were prominent on the cards, as Johnny Weaver's wife Penny Banner was on the July card wrestling Ann LaVerne. She would become one of the biggest names in women's wrestling. The August card featured a women's tag match with four African-American women wrestlers, a rare such booking in wrestling during the era of segregation.  They were Babs Wingo, Fuzzy Robinson (replacing Marva Scott), Ethel Johnson, and Virginia Franklin. 
  • Ringside seats were only $2.50 in 1962!

A blooper alert - - We noticed in the results clipping for the August 16th card where O'Connor regained the U.S. title, Johnny Weaver beat Luis Tillett on the undercard with a dreaded SWEEPER hold!