Monday, November 30, 2015

"Jim Crockett's All-American Legacy" Looks at U.S. Title Book

Josh Watko over at JW's Wrestling Memorabilia web site wrote the nicest review for our new book "United States Championship."

In the review, titled "Jim Crockett's All-American Legacy" he also said some very nice things about the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, which is always appreciated, and we're glad he enjoys spending time here.

Josh's website is actually a blog where he regularly spotlights items from his incredible collection of wrestling memorabilia. One of the things I particularly like about his site is that he will post memorabilia related to current events. An example is a recent post about the passing of wrestling legend Nick Bockwinkle that features magazine covers and an action figure from several decades ago, as well as Watko's thoughts and memories of one of wrestling all-time great champions. He also often links his posts to anniversaries of big events from yesteryear such as Starrcade, Wrestlemania, or the Great American Bash.

He also posts about recent books on wrestling, and I am pleased he wrote about "United States Championship."

His review begins:


November 27, 1975. Greensboro, North Carolina. A night of wrestling presented by Jim Crockett Promotions. Terry Funk. Paul Jones. All the ingredients needed for what we would now look upon as a classic night of professional wrestling. Traditional wrestling. Wrestling the way that many still remember as the greatest era in the history of the sport. The one element that I failed to mention? The Funker and Number One were battling over the United States Championship. Funk had just won a tournament for the vacant title while Jones, an icon of Carolina wrestling, was the other wrestler who had made it to the finals. Who won the epic Thanksgiving night rematch? You could go look it up and simply see the result, but I have a better idea. How about learning each nuance of the match. Why it happened, what happened during, and what the ramifications were. This is where a brand new book comes into the picture.
The complete article "Jim Crockett's All-American Legacy" takes a look at the special aspects of the book and serves as a sneak-peak inside the book as well.

Watko wrote this about the Gateway:


The Gateway is a site that I'm sometimes too scared to surf over to. The reason is that I know I'm about to lose an hour or two getting absorbed into the great content covering anything and everything that you ever would want to know about Jim Crockett Promotions and the rich Carolina wrestling history. ... The writing and photography pulls you in and actually almost transports you back to the era that's being described.

I love that. It's what David Chappell and I envisioned when we started the website back in 2000. We hope you just get lost in here.


TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF THIS NEW BOOK:

The book on the U.S. title is available on Amazon.com as well as through the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Click here for more details.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dr. Joseph Estwanik: A Doctor Remembers

Noted Charlotte orthopedist recalls his experiences treating the wrestlers of Jim Crockett Promotions, marvels at their toughness and athleticism
by Kyra Quinn
Special for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway


Editor's Note: For a review of what first led to this article and interview by Kyra Quinn, read "Yes Virginia, there is a Dr. Estwanik."



“Let people know how great these athletes were,” said Dr. Joseph Estwanik, referring to the wrestlers of Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s.  Dr. Estwanik said this at the close of our recent telephone interview, which he had graciously agreed to after I reached out to him with questions about his involvement with professional wrestling decades ago. 

Dr. Joseph Estwanik
Not Just a Doctor on TV 
After recently discovering that Dr. Estwanik was still practicing medicine in Charlotte some 30 years after his initial appearance on Crockett television, I became curious about how he had become associated with the Crocketts, and about the extent of his involvement with the wrestlers. Estwanik had appeared on television as part of two highly memorable and now-classic angles: the ankle injury to Dusty Rhodes at the hands of Ric Flair and the Andersons in the buildup to Starrcade ’85, and the neck injury suffered by Ric Flair as the result of being piledriven on a ringside table by Terry Funk in 1989. But I wondered: were those two TV appearances all there was, or was there perhaps more to his story?

As I found out, there was much more. Joe Estwanik treated many of Crockett’s wrestlers throughout the 1980s. They were his patients and his friends, and his respect for them, even after all these years, remains profound and undiminished.

The Wrestling Connection
Dr. Estwanik’s association with professional wrestling developed as a result of the geographic location of his practice as well as his own background in and involvement with athletics, including Greco-Roman wrestling. Estwanik moved to Charlotte in 1978 after graduating from medical school at Wake Forest University and completing his residency. At that time he was one of the few doctors in the Charlotte area with an interest in sports medicine, which resulted in, as Dr. Estwanik put it, “sort of a natural hook-up with the Crocketts. Plus,” he added, “I was an avid weightlifter and bodybuilder, so I actually was in the gym with many of the athletes anyway… so I think I gained the, if I can say, respect for my knowledge base of wrestling [and] of weight training.”

“Tough as Nails”
Though he treated numerous Crockett wrestlers over the years, Dr. Estwanik actually had no professional relationship with Jim Crockett Promotions. “I think I felt better that way,” he explained, “that I was able to maintain a doctor-patient relationship. But because we had so many athletes in common I couldn’t help but at times meet the Crocketts or serve a need for them if I could.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

Paul Jones Reflects Back on Thanksgiving 1975 in Greensboro

U.S. Champion Paul Jones
Paul Jones still gets hot when he looks at the poster promoting the annual Thanksgiving wrestling card in Greensboro for 1975. (We celebrated the 40th Anniversary of this card today!)

"Terry Funk and I worked so hard the night of the [11/9/75] U.S. tournament in Greensboro," Jones told me in a phone conversation in November 2005. "We both wrestled four times that night, none of them quick matches. The tournament drew a record house and a record gate, and we had this memorable match that had the whole territory talking."

Indeed they did. One only needs to listen to the audio tapes of the tournament matches that were broadcast on Mid-Atlantic television in the weeks following the tournament to know just how into that show Greensboro fans were. And make no mistake about it, fans were shocked that an outsider such as Terry Funk had won the tournament and the U.S. title. Fans had gotten comfortable with the U.S. title now being their title after Johnny Valentine had won it from Harley Race earlier that summer. The U.S. title had been a Mid-Atlantic-based title ever since. Now this brash young Terry Funk was promising to take the title back to Texas, telling the Greensboro Record that future contenders would have to come to the panhandle of Texas to vie for the title.

But as the story played out, promoter Jim Crockett, Jr. and booker George Scott along with Paul Jones himself, lobbied NWA President Jack Adkisson for a rematch at the upcoming annual Thanksgiving wrestling extravaganza. Minutes before Funk cradled Jones for the tournament victory, Jones had covered Funk for an apparent three-count, only referee Greg Peterson was unable to make the count due to be knocked off his feet moments earlier. Adkisson himself, at ringside for the big event, was on his feet as Jones covered Funk. It was based on this fact that Adkisson forced Funk to return to Greensboro on Thanksgiving night for the rematch with Paul Jones.

The stage was set. Paul Jones and Terry Funk were set to draw another record gate in Greensboro. The advance was huge based on this match as the main draw alone.

It's here where Paul Jones still holds a small grudge against booker George Scott.

"George had (NWA Champion) Brisco booked in the territory the week of Thanksgiving and decided to have him defend the NWA title against Wahoo on the Thanksgiving night show. But this show didn't need that match. Terry and I were the draw and deserved to be on top of that card."

Paul is likely pointing to the fact that having Brisco on the show meant 10% of the house gate would automatically go to him,  as well as a fee back to the St. Louis office that booked him. This was was the norm for the NWA champion at that time. Having that match with Wahoo on top of the card also meant Wahoo would receive a high percentage of the gate, watering down what would have gone to Funk and Jones had they been on top of the card. Paul firmly stands by his assertion that the show would have sold out without the addition of the NWA title match on the card.  One would find it hard to credibly argue against that claim based on the interest in the U.S. title and his re-match with Funk, both set up by the memorable tournament three weeks earlier.

"When I see that poster, I get hot because it was Terry and I that drew that house, not Jack and Wahoo. That would be lost on someone today looking at that old poster and not knowing the history."

For the casual fan, that's likely so. For the die-hard Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fans that grew up in that era, the month of November 1975 and the two Greensboro cards held that month will always be remembered for the outstanding matches fans witnessed between Terry Funk and Paul Jones.

"I guess it's a small thing, really," Paul Jones told me as he laughed. "But I wanted to set the record straight!"





For more on the U.S. championship tournament that Paul mentioned, take a moment to check out the 5-part series we did commemorating the 40th anniversary of that big event in Greensboro. Lots of memorabilia and sound clips there from 40 years ago this month!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanksgiving Feast!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from everyone here at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway!

Along with your turkey and pumpkin pie, I hope you'll feast on these great memories of Thanksgiving events 30 and 40 years ago:

The Forgotten Prelude to Starrcade '85
When most folks think of events leading to the Flair/Rhodes main event at Starrcade '85, they think of Flair and the Andersons turning on Dusty in the cage at the Omni. However, it got it's start much earlier than that. Read about an angle and an important part of that story largely forgotten in the saga of Starrcade '85.

Thanksgiving Retro: Greensboro and Norfolk 1975
A look back at a huge night of action in the Mid-Atlantic territory featuring NWA champion Jack Brisco, U.S. champion Terry Funk, Wahoo McDaniel, Paul Jones, Andre the Giant, Superstar Billy Graham, Gene and Ole Anderson and so many more!

Thanksgiving Memories: Starrcade '85 Turns 30
Hard to believe it's been 30 years since Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair met in the main event of Starrcade '85. That card was loaded and was spilt between Atlanta and Greensboro and was seen so may other places on closed-circuit television.

And we keep rolling through the weekend! Stay tuned for more! Scroll down for all of these Thanksgiving week updates.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

- Dick Bourne and David Chappell



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Memories: Starrcade '85 Turns 30


This Thanksgiving marks the 30th anniversary of Starrcade '85, one of the most successful events in Jim Crockett promotions history.

Starrcade '85 took place on Thursday, November 28, 1985 in two big venues - - the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC and the Omni in Atlanta, GA. It was also broadcast on closed-circut television to dozens of venues across the southeast, including the Louisiana Superdome where it was part of a big Mid-South Wrestling card held there promoted by Bill Watts.

In celebration of that great event on this Thanksgiving Day, and in memory of what was once a special part of many folk's Thanksgiving tradition for a several years, we take a look back at some of the memorabilia surrounding Starrcade '85. Happy Thanksgiving!


Program Cover


Ticket Stub



Photograph of Ric Flair moments before ring introductions for Starrcade '85


Line-Up Sheet


Newspaper result from the event in Greensboro, NC


RESULTS

  • Don Kernodle defeated Tommy Lane by pinfall
  • Denny Brown defeated Rocky King by pinfall to retain the NWA Junior Heavyweight Title
  • Krusher Khruschev defeated Sam Houston by pinfall to win the vacant Mid-Atlantic Title
  • Ron Bass defeated Black Bart by pinfall in a bullrope match
  • James J. Dillon defeated Ron Bass by pinfall in a bullrope match
  • "The Nature Boy" Buddy Landel defeated Terry Taylor to win the National Title
  • Magnum T.A. defeated Tully Blanchard in an "I Quit" steel cage match by digging a broken chair leg into Tully's forehead to win the NWA U.S. Title
  • The Rock-N-Roll Express defeated Ivan & Nikita Koloff by pinfall to win the NWA World Tag Titles
  • Thunderfoot defeated The Italian Stallion by pinfall
  • "Pistol" Pez Whatley defeated Mike Graham by pinfall
  • "The Ragin' Bull" Manny Fernandez defeated Abdullah the Butcher in a pole match
  • "The Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant & Miss Atlanta Lively defeated The Midnight Express (Eaton & Condrey) by pinfall in a street fight match
  • Billy Graham defeated The Barbarian by DQ in an arm wrestling match
  • Arn & Ole Anderson defeated Wahoo McDaniel & Billy Jack Haynes by pinfall
  • "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes defeated "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair by DQ in an NWA World Title match




THE MID-SOUTH CONNECTION


Mid-South Wrestling presented the closed circuit broadcast of Starrcade 85 at the Superdome in New Orleans along with some of their big main events at the time.


Mid-South main events live in the Superdome as part of Starrcade '85:
  • Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Humongous with Sir Oliver Humperdink
  • The Hacksaws: Butch Reed & Jim Duggan vs. Dick Slater and Buzz Sawyer






Thanksgiving Retro: Greensboro & Norfolk 1975

For decades, wrestling on Thanksgiving night was a cherished tradition in the Mid-Atlantic area, particularly in the cities of Greensboro, NC and Norfolk, VA.

The line-up of talent on the two Jim Crockett promotions cards was simply amazing. And this was without their two top heels following the plane crash 7 weeks earlier. Johnny Valentine's career was ended and Ric Flair would not return from his broken back until late January of 1976. 

Brisco, Wahoo, Funk, Jones, Andre, Graham, the Andersons, Mulligan, Woods, Weaver, Miller, Patera, Mosca and so many more. Just an incredible line-up of great talent.

Today we look back at the 40th anniversary of a big night of wrestling in these two big Crockett towns. The actual date was Thanksgiving night 11/27/75, but we take a look back a few days early. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!





THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1975
GREENSBORO, NC
Greensboro Coliseum

Greensboro Event Poster

Greensboro Newspaper Ad


Newspaper Result


A Page from Booker George Scott's Day Planner




NORFOLK, VA
Scope Coliseum

Norfolk Newspaper Ad

Norfolk Newspaper Result

Superstar Billy Graham and Andre the Giant at the Scope, Thanksgiving 1975
Photograph by Bill Janosik




International Wrestling Association (IWA)
WINSTON-SALEM, NC
Winston-Salem Coliseum
The rival IWA also ran a big Thanksgiving show in the Mid-Atlantic area
on Thanksgiving night of 1975.





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ricky Morton Joins The Naitch on WOOOOO! Nation

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson on WOOOOO! Nation
Ricky Morton of the Rock & Roll Express is Ric's guest this week on the 30th episode of WOOOO! Nation!

From the WOOOO! Nation website:
Ric welcomes his friend of over 30 years, the Rock 'n' Roll Express' Ricky Morton! Ric and Ricky share great stories from both inside and outside of the ring! Hear about the nine one hour draws they wrestled two weeks in a row, the drinking, the women and the infamous boat story! Ricky talks about the hard lessons learned on the business end of wrestling while riding high in the 80s. Another great episode from Ric and Conrad on WOOOOO! Nation! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Add a little Flair to your life by joining the Nature Boy every week as he talks pro wrestling, sports, tells stories like only he can, and interviews his celebrity friends. No topic is off limits for Flair during his weekly CBS podcast. Come join WOOOOO! Nation!

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson are on "WOOOOO! Nation" right now! Check it out via iTunes or directly download from the WOOOOO! Nation page at the PLAY.IT website.

Also Don't Miss: Behind the Scenes at WOOOOO! Nation (Part 1)
An interview with co-host Conrad Thompson and a look at how the WOOOO! Nation podcast first came together.



And don't miss some of our most recent updates on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway:

The Forgotten Prelude to Starrcade '85
Most folks remember the big cage angle in the Omni when Ric Flair turned on Dusty Rhodes. But do you remember the largely forgotten angle that led up to it? We celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Starrcade '85!

The Earliest Origins of the Four Horsemen
Yes, I know that's redundant. You'll see what I mean when you get there. The real inside story on when the name came about. And this month we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Four Horsemen!

Yes Virginia, There is a Dr. Estwanik
He was one of the supporting players in the story that was the Road to Starrcade '85. And he really does exist! We tease an upcoming piece on noted sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Estwanik.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Forgotten Prelude to Starrcade '85

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
UPDATED WITH YOUTUBE VIDEO ADDED TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST

As the years pass, it's natural for the smaller details to fade from memory on any good story. When folks talk about the build-up to Starrcade '85 all these 30 years later, the story usually begins with Ric Flair and the Andersons turning on Dusty Rhodes in the cage in the Omni on 9/29. That's the angle they think of when they remember all the things that led up to the big world title match at Starrcade.

But the story began much earlier. You see, Dusty Rhodes needed to be the number one babyface and he had to have more than just the number one heel do bad things to him to set up his biggest match of the year. He needed someone the fans were beginning to love as much or more than him to turn on him. He needed more than evil deeds; he needed selfish betrayal.

Ric Flair had somewhat of a dual personality in the spring and summer of 1985 on Atlanta TV. For a majority of the time that Flair had been NWA world champion since September of 1981, he remained the most popular wrestler imaginable in his home territory of the Mid-Atlantic area, while wrestling straight heel as defending NWA world champion in every other territory in the NWA. When Jim Crockett Promotions acquired the wrestling TV time on Superstation WTBS, Flair maintained his heel persona on the national broadcast, while staying the babyface in the Mid-Atlantic area (even though many Mid-Atlantic fans were seeing the Superstation cable broadcasts, too.)

In the early months of Jim Crockett Promotion on the Superstation, Flair feuded with Magnum T.A. But in the home area of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, the company prepared for the first Great American Bash at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte with mega-babyface Flair defending the honor of America and his world title against the rising "Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff.

At this same time, the company was in the early stages of making plans for the biggest show of the year that was more than a half year away - - Starrcade. Booker Dusty Rhodes knew he wanted to end up challenging Flair for the world title, but he didn't want a repeat of the situation he had the previous Thanksgiving at Starrcade '84 where he and Flair met both as babyfaces in the main event of that show.

Dusty needed more than a simple angle where the heel carried out some dastardly deed to set up the match. With Flair still hugely popular in the Mid-Atlantic area, and riding the successful program there with Nikita Koloff, Dusty devised the ingenious plan to add betrayal into the mix heading towards Starrcade '85.

He allowed the Mid-Atlantic Flair/Nikita feud to also play out on Atlanta TV, and planned a series of three main events between the two in Atlanta.

On 8/11/85, Flair defended the NWA title against Nikita at the Omni, with the match ending in a double count-out. A return match was set for 9/1 with the title on the line again but this time in a lumberjack match, with wrestlers surrounding the ring to make sure the combatants stayed in the ring.

The day before that rematch, on the 8/31/85 World Championship Wrestling show, Dusty shot an angle that was every bit as important as the big turn in the cage to come later, because it laid the foundation for the turn in the cage to have maximum impact. yet sadly, that small angle is largely forgotten in this story.

On that Saturday's show, Ivan and Nikita continued to run down Flair and the U.S.A. until Flair had had enough. During Nikita's TV match, with Ivan at the podium doing commentary with Tony Schiavone, Flair interrupted and challenged Ivan Koloff. Nikita saw what was happening, left the ring and jumped Flair from behind and through him in the ring. Nikita had the upper hand until Flair ducked a clothesline and nailed Nikita with a flying forearm. As he applied the figure four, Ivan hit the ring and the two Koloffs started to do a major number on Flair as the TV studio crowd was in an uproar.

Then the nearly unthinkable happened. Dusty Rhodes hit the ring to make the save. Dusty cleared the ring and then helped Ric to his feet. If you watch the angle carefully, you will notice that Flair gently pulled way from Rhodes as he was trying to help him up, and didn't really acknowledge his assistance. As Flair lit into a crazy promo on Nikita, Rhodes left the studio unnoticed.


Dusty Rhodes takes Ric Flair's hand after Flair had been attacked by the Koloffs


On its face, the angle was to add heat for the Flair/Nikita rematch at the Omni the following night. It certainly did that, but it also served the larger purpose as a subtle beginning to what would be the Flair turn on Dusty a month later in the cage.

The following night 9/1 in the Omni, Ivan and Khrusher Khrushchev, who were part of the contingent of lumberjacks at ringside, repeatedly attacked Flair during the match. The match ended again in a no contest, resulting in a third match between the two being set for 9/29, this final confrontation to take place inside a steel cage.

The following Saturday on World Championship Wrestling, Flair warned Dusty in unmistakable terms to stay out of his business, referring to the previous week's events on TV where Rhodes had saved him from the Koloffs' attack - -




"Dusty Rhodes, don't ever make the mistake of sticking your nose in my business. If I'm down and out, I'll get up and take care of myself. ... don't think you can walk into that ring and give me a hand or try to help me out and ease the tension in our relationship."

It didn't seem odd or out of place at all. Flair and Rhodes had feuded for years, and although Flair had become increasingly popular on the Superstation as of late, he still maintained that heel edge, cutting masterful promos where he would crack on both babyfaces and heels all at the same time in the same interview. It was beautiful to behold. Dusty had been warned. It was subtle, and yet direct at the same time.

Apparently, though, not direct enough for Dusty to get the message.

Fast forward to the infamous cage match of 9/29/85. Flair, with a sold out Omni behind him, finally turned back the challenge of the "Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff. But when the cage door was unlocked, Ivan Koloff and Khrusher Khrushchev hit the ring and three began to pummel Flair. The crowd didn't like it, but suddenly their boos turned into a loud roar as the "American Dream" hit the ring, throwing those famous elbows and sending the Russians running. The Omni came unglued.

With the Russians dispatched, Dusty turned to help Ric to his feet just as he did four weeks earlier on the Superstation. Except this time Ric pointed at Rhodes from the mat and shouted angrily, "I told you not to interfere in my business!" As Dusty stood confused at Ric's reaction, he failed to notice Ole and Arn Anderson entering the cage door behind him. The Andersons attacked Rhodes. Ric got to his feet, paused for a moment, and then went over to the cage door, pulled the chain back through, and padlocked it shut.

If you watch this carefully, you will notice fans at ringside within the camera shot screaming at Flair and pointing to the Andersons pounding Rhodes as if to implore the champ to return the favor and help Rhodes out. But instead, Ric went and joined his cousins and the three put an epic beatdown on the Dream.

You know the rest. As the Andersons held Rhodes, Flair leapt from the top turnbuckle onto Dusty's leg, badly injuring the ankle.

Booker Rhodes used the betrayal to turn Flair heel in the Mid-Altlantic area as well, as the Crockett syndicated shows the entire Omni cage angle. Ric was now a full fledged heel everywhere. Dusty was out of action for a little over a month. TV followed his rehab along with his doctor Joseph Estwanik. When he made his return on 11/3 in the Omni in an undercard match against Mike Davis, he proved the ankle was well, and Jim Crockett signed the NWA world title match between Rhodes and Flair for Starrcade '85.

The angle in the cage in Atlanta was hot and resulted in a near riot at the Omni, as fans at one point rushed ringside and braced the cage door to prevent the Andersons and Flair from being able to exit the ring.

But what made that angle work so well and what made that crowd riot was the betrayal - - not the attack. The weeks leading up to that betrayal are what are often overlooked today as we look back on that famous build to Starrcade '85.

Whatever you think of Dusty Rhodes as a storyteller and how this particular story played out in the end, you have to admit he hit this part of the story out of the ballpark.




Added: YouTube video - - WTBS 8/31/85
Thanks to Scott Anderson for sending us the link.




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Steamboat Returns to Norfolk


Ricky Steamboat made a return to Norfolk, VA recently in an appearance for Big Time Wrestling at the Norfolk Scope.

Prior to the event Eric Stace and Eddie Cheslock met Ricky in front of the famous Scope Coliseum, site of so many great Mid-Atlantic Wrestling events over the years, including yearly cards on Thanksgiving night in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. They took some photographs of the former NWA world champion with a replica of the belt he wore in 1989.

Thanks to those guys for allowing us to post this great photograph here on the Gateway. Thanks also to promoter Tony Hunter who helped make all that possible.

Ricky Steamboat with the book
"United States Championship"
George Pantas interviewed Ricky Steamboat for the Norfolk Navy Flagship in advance of his appearance in Norfolk. You can find links to that interview (which contains lots of Mid-Atlantic discussion) here.

Also, our buddy George South had a chance to spend some time with Ricky before the Norfolk event and show him our new book on the United States Championship. He posted some comments about that on his website. George reports that Ricky loved the book and asked for a copy, which you just better believe is on the way soon. (You kidding me?)

George wrote:
We spent 30 minutes talking about the U.S. belt! He remembered that "heavyweight" was misspelled on the belt and loved seeing all those photos of it again. He marked out a little remembering working with Buddy Rogers in one of the U.S. tournaments. And got mad that Slaughter put new leather on the black belt! haha
Steamboat held the U.S. championship on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, trading the title with the likes of Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, and Dick Slater.

For more information on the book about Jim Crockett's United States Championship and the five belts that represented it, click here.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Yes Virginia, There Is a Dr. Estwanik

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I have a good friend, Kyra Quinn who lives in Pennsylvania, but for a short time a couple years ago lived in Charlotte, NC. In need of  an orthopedic doctor and having just arrived in town and with no regular physician to refer her, she began looking through the greater Charlotte area yellow pages and stumbled onto a familiar name and photo.

There in full color was an ad for the Metrolina Orthopaedic Sports & Medicine Clinic. Featured in the ad was a familiar face and name - - Dr. Joseph Estwanik, M.D.

Sound familiar to any of you old school wrestling fans from the mid-to-late 1980s? Dr. Joseph Estwanik was the orthopedic doctor who appeared on television treating Dusty Rhodes in 1985 for the ankle injury he suffered at the hands of Ric Flair and the Andersons in the lead up to Starrcade '85. He reappeared four years later treating Ric Flair for an injured neck after Terry Funk piledrove him into a ringside table in Nashville, TN at Wrestle War '89.


She snapped a photo of the ad with her cellphone camera and texted it to me. We laughed and had a nice trip down NWA memory-lane over that, but for different reasons. You see, Kyra was a young and impressionable wrestling fan when that segment with David Crockett and Dr. Estwanik aired two days before her 9th birthday. She believed! And right off the bat she believed Dr. Estwanik was a real doctor. I mean, he's sitting there with David Crockett and David Crockett says he is, right? I, on the other hand, was much older, in my mid-20s when that angle took place. I was already somewhat of a jaded cynic, and just loved that Flair and the Andersons had beat the crap out of Dusty Rhodes.

So her reaction nearly 30 years later was something like, "Wow, isn't it cool Dr. Estwanik is still practicing in Charlotte after all these years?" while my reaction was "Holy crap, you mean there really is a Dr. Estwanik??"

Yes Virginia, there really is a Dr. Estwanik. Honestly, I never really thought that there was a REAL Dr. Estwanik because...well, it was wrestling, and I just figured Dusty's ankle wasn't really hurt and it was all just the American Dream's big plan to build sympathy for his dramatic John Wayne-like return, right?


So it was very cool indeed to learn that there was a real Dr. Joseph Estwanik and cooler still to know he is still practicing orthopedic sports medicine and rehabilitation in a very successful practice in the Queen City.

As part of a series of features next week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Starrcade '85, Kyra actually spoke recently with Dr. Estwanik and will share with us some of that conversation, including his insight and great respect for the wrestlers and the wrestling business.

In the mean time, check out Kyra's earlier article written for the Gateway, "My Secret Charlotte", on her short time in Charlotte and the wrestling memories it rekindled for her.

Interview with Ricky Steamboat

Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat (from The Flagship)
George "Yiorgo" Pantas recently had the opportunity to interview "The Hawaiian Punch" Ricky Steamboat for the Norfolk Navy Flagship in advance of Steamboat's appearances in eastern Virginia (in particular last night's "Big Time Wrestling" show in Norfolk.) We loved the interview and are posting links to it here.


RICKY STEAMBOAT RETURNS TO NORFOLK
By Yiorgo, Contributing Writer to the Norfolk Navy Flagship

"Mention to any wrestling fan the name Ricky Steamboat and immediately a wide grin appears on their face as they remember fondly the handsome young wrestler who appeared on their television screen every week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. They did not have to wait long to see him in person, because every two weeks Ricky would appear at the Norfolk Scope on Thursday nights to do battle with such dastardly villains as: Ric Flair, Harley Race, Greg Valentine, Baron Von Raschke, Blackjack Mulligan, and so many more who worked for Jim Crockett Promotions under the auspices of the National Wrestling Alliance...."

Read Part 1 of his interview here and when you are finished there, bounce over to Part 2.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Earliest Origins of the Four Horsemen

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The fall of 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the origin of the Four Horsemen in wrestling. There is much discussion on exactly when the group got its name, but there is no longer any doubt of how it happened. Arn Anderson coined the phrase in the late fall of 1985 during one of the local promo tapings and it just sort of stuck. He said at that time something along on the lines of this:

"Not since the four horsemen of the apocalypse have so few wreaked so much havoc on so many." - Arn Anderson, Fall of 1985

30th ANNIVERSARY
Over the years, it has been speculated that Arn made that "Four Horsemen" reference on a regular televised interview segment, either on one of the two Crockett syndicated programs (Mid-Atlantic or World Wide Wrestling) or on World Championship Wrestling on WTBS. But no video of that has ever surfaced, either from anyone's private videotape collection or from the Crockett videotape library which is now owned by the WWE.


THE LOCAL PROMOS

I have always thought it had to have happened in a local promo, one of the hundreds that were taped at the Briarbend Drive make-shift studio during each week and then inserted into one of the shows for the local markets. It was perhaps repeated in several promos in various forms before someone realized they were on to something.

Arn Anderson confirmed that in a recent conversation I had with him this past summer, and added further credit to an individual who had not been tied to the origin before that - Tony Schiavone.

"Yes, it was on a local promo," Arn told me (as outlined in my earlier article "Andersons Don't Wear Fedoras"). "And in fact, I just said it off the cuff, not really intending to be coming up with a name for us or anything like that. It was Tony Schiavone who actually validated the whole thing. He looked at me after the promo was over and said, 'I think you just named yourself.' And that led to us starting to refer to ourselves as the Four Horsemen."


TIMING 

The question still remains, however, as to exactly when that happened. There is no doubt that the idea of the four wrestlers by that name gelled in November of 1985. As best as I have been able to determine, Arn first classified them as the Four Horsemen on regular TV (as opposed to local promos) on the November 9, 1985 Saturday night episode of World Championship Wrestling. As United States heavyweight champion Tully Blanchard waited in the ring with Baby Doll for his scheduled TV match, Arn was doing an interview at the podium with Tony Schiavone and said:

"What you've got right here in the ring, you've got a champion. You've got Tully Blanchard. You've got Ole Anderson. You've got myself, and last but by no means least, you've got Ric Flair, the world's heavyweight champion. You're talking about the four horsemen of professional wrestling - - the people that make things happen." - Arn Anderson 11/09/85 WTBS

But the idea had been incubating in Arn's mind much earlier than that and actually goes back to the middle of October. During this time, Tully Blanchard started to become aligned with the family of Ric Flair and his cousins Ole and Arn Anderson. Flair and the Andersons had just injured Dusty Rhodes in the cage in the Omni in that huge angle that led to the main event at Starrcade '85. There was no angle that brought Tully into that story, I think it just made sense that the top heels were all hanging together.

On the October 12, 1985 episode of World Championship Wrestling, after review of all the Omni footage, Arn says:

“As you know, Tony Schiavone, David Crockett - - I run with the world heavyweight champion Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, and Ole Anderson. That’s an elite group in all the world.” - Arn Anderson 10/12/85 WTBS

Arn hadn't come up with the Horsemen name here yet, but the idea of the four of them as an elite group was clearly being conceptualized right there.


TULLY BLANCHARD'S TRANSITION 

The whole marriage of Blanchard with Flair and the Andersons happened relatively quickly. But it hadn't looked that cozy to begin with. Just one month earlier than that 10/12 interview above, Blanchard and Flair would take shots at each other in interviews over silly things like their watches.

On the September 21, 1985 edition of World Championship Wrestling, Tully shows off a gold and diamond watch that Baby Doll had given him. Flair came out later and said:

"First of all we'll start the day off by telling you -- wooo! -- it is Rolex time, Tully Blanchard! So don't be bringing out one of those Mickey Mouse watches and trying to impress the world. You might be the U.S. heavyweight champion, Tully Blanchard, but you are still carrying around a silver belt -- wooo! - instead of the gold!" - Ric Flair 9/21/85 WTBS

This was during Flair's time as a "tweener" when he was feuding with Magnum T.A. and Dusty Rhodes on the babyface side and Buddy Landel and Nikita Koloff on the heel side - - all at the same time! Plus he was still a touring NWA world champion and would often times mention wrestlers in other territories such as Bob Armstrong in Southeastern Wrestling, Wahoo McDaniel in Florida, Harley Race in Kansas City, Kerry Von Erich in Texas, and others. He was was giving these great interviews every week where he would crack on the babyfaces and the heels all in the same promo!

Throughout that time, though, he was always aligned with his family, his cousins Ole and Arn Anderson. And less than one month later, Blanchard was aligned with them as well, as reflected by Arn's 10/12 interview above.


JAMES J. DILLON & BABY DOLL

Another thing forgotten in all of this history is that James J. Dillon was not part of this original unofficial grouping of the Four Horsemen. In fact, one could argue Baby Doll, by her association with Tully as his "Perfect 10" at the time) was part of the original group before Dillon.

J.J. Dillon was managing "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel during this time, and was involved in leading him in his chase of the National heavyweight championship that fall that culminated at Starrcade '85. He wasn't involved in any storyline with Blanchard or the Andersons, and only a peripheral story with Ric Flair. Landel and Flair had several "Battle of the Nature Boys" matches before Flair turned hardcore heel in the cage angle with Dusty. It wasn't until Landel was fired in mid-December that J.J. was put with Tully in a big angle at the Greensboro TV tapings right before the Crockett Promotions Christmas break. It was when those tapings aired right after the New Year holiday (the weekend of 1/4/86) that J.J. began to be associated with those who by then were loosely known as the Four Horsemen.

And even that wasn't in a managerial sense yet. J.J. had become the "executive director" of Tully Blanchard enterprises and was really just Tully's manager early on. He morphed into manager of the whole group through the late winter and spring of 1986.  By the time Ole Anderson had returned to action following a worked injury in June of 1986, Dillon was the official manager of the Four Horsemen.


WRECKING CREW HISTORY

In my book "Minnesota Wrecking Crew", a timeline history of the Anderson family in wrestling, I reference the the earliest mention of the "Four Horsemen" name by Arn as taking place in October. I firmly believe that earliest reference was during the promo tapings in one of the last two weeks of that month. In those days, I kept notes about the TV shows in a day planner. In the notes for the 10/26/85 World Wide Wrestling show I have written "the four horses" in quotes. This wound up being a loose reference by Arn to what would become "four horsemen" very soon in Arn's interviews. It is why I peg the month as October for the first mention of the name Four Horsemen, although none of us have ever found it yet.


HOPE FOR DISCOVERY

I still believe that one day that lost promo with Arn referencing the four horsemen of the apocalypse will surface. Someone will find it on a video cassette they've had packed away for years. Someone might also find an earlier regular TV (non local promo) reference than the 11/09/85 WTBS interview referenced above.

If anyone reading this has more information they think can help flesh this out, I'm always anxious to learn more. Contact me through our "Contact Us" page, always linked from the menu bar at the top of the website.

In the meantime, let us all celebrate this anniversary of the Four Horsemen, 30 years ago this month! Where were you in November of 1985? For those of us lucky enough to be wrestling fans at the time, we were, as the great Dusty Rhodes might have put it, riding on the edge of that lightnin' bolt that is the wonderful story of the Four Horsemen.




The Crockett Foundation Four Horsemen T-Shirt
Want to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Four Horsemen in style? The Crockett Foundation, a charitable foundation to help veterans and their families run by members of the Crockett family, has a very cool looking t-shirt for sale in their online store that commemorates the Four Horsemen. It is a great design, blending the classic 1987 Horsemen logo with the Crockett Foundation logo.

The 2015 shirt is apparently sold out, but the 2016 shirt is on sale now! A Portion of all sales goes towards helping a veteran or retired service dog in need. Support these great causes and the work of the Crockett Foundation and get your Crockett Foundation Four Horseman t-shirt today - - available in 3 different color combinations!




Tully Blanchard & RAW Controversy on WOOOO! Nation

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson on WOOOOO! Nation
Fellow Four Horseman Tully Blanchard is Ric's guest this week on the 29th episode of WOOOO! Nation!

From the WOOOO! Nation website:
A packed edition of Wooooo! Nation with Ric remembering Hall of Famer and 4-time Heavyweight Champion, Nick Bockwinkel, who died at 80 years old. Ric credits Nick with being a phenomenal performer and a great guy! Ric then talks about the WWE Raw controversy involving his daughter Charlotte discussing her deceased brother Reid. Last but not least, it's the 30th anniversary of the Four Horsemen and what better way to celebrate then to have one of the originals, Tully Blanchard joins Wooooo! Nation for great stories and a lot of laughs!
Add a little Flair to your life by joining the Nature Boy every week as he talks pro wrestling, sports, tells stories like only he can, and interviews his celebrity friends. No topic is off limits for Flair during his weekly CBS podcast. Come join WOOOOO! Nation!

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson are on "WOOOOO! Nation" right now! Check it out via iTunes or directly download from the WOOOOO! Nation page at the PLAY.IT website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Recent Updates

In case you've been away for awhile, here is a summary of some of the recent posts to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway over the last couple of weeks.

Wrestling: The Gospel to its Fans
A look back at a local event in Harrisonburg, VA in 1977.


The Tournament
A 5-Part series looking back at one of the most important nights in Mid-Altlantic Wrestling history.



A three-part look at the crazy characters from the the 1970s promos and imagination of Blackjack Mulligan.




How Johnny Valentine's 1000 Silver Dollars Doubled
A two-part story looking back at perhaps the TV match of the year in 1974.


You can quickly review all of our posts by checking out  the "All Previous Posts" section on the left side of every page. It's organized by month, and contains links to every post.


And coming next week...

A series of features on the 30th anniversary of Starrcade '85 and the 40th anniversary of a big Thanksgiving night for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1975.





Lastly, we wanted to point out that our new book on the United States Heavyweight Championship for Jim Crockett Promotions can now be purchased on Amazon.com.


We hope you enjoy the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Thanks for your support!