Monday, March 21, 2016

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's own Big Boss Man

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When word came out recently about the Big Boss Man, the infamous prison guard from Cobb County, Georgia being selected for inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame, it got me to thinking about another Big Boss Man in professional wrestling. While Ray Traylor’s Big Boss Man character was the most famous under that moniker, it’s probably been forgotten or is a well kept secret, that Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had a “Big Boss Man” of their own in the late summer of 1974. And the man using that name to describe himself was none other than a young Ric Flair!
Yes, before he was the “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair was the self-proclaimed “Big Boss Man!” Flair only referred to himself as the Big Boss Man for around a month or so, but Ric was at his obnoxious best while he was doing it. Flair wasn’t posing as a renegade prison guard; it was just Ric being loud-mouthed Ric!

In the summer of 1974 Ric Flair teamed up with the legendary Carolina’s veteran Rip “The Profile” Hawk, and they soon became the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on August 14, 1974, Flair and Hawk were interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. The rambunctious Flair told Caudle, “Let me tell you something daddy…I’ve got a new name for myself! Everywhere I go the people are shouting, WOOOOO, there goes the Big Boss Man!! You know why? Because every BOY like Conway and like King, they gotta have a boss! And when they see me they say, ‘WOOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man,’ that’s what they say to me! When they get in the ring with me they say, ‘WOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man?’ They say, ‘Please Big Boss Man don’t hurt me; please don’t hit me too hard.’ Ain’t that right, Mr. Hawk?” Naturally, Rip agreed!

Of course, back in 1974 professional wrestling and society in general was much different than it is today. The “Conway” and “King” Ric referred to were two beloved African American wrestlers, Tiger Conway, Jr. and Sonny King. Both Conway and King had arrived in the Mid-Atlantic territory in the early summer of 1974. Conway came in as an athletic high flying newcomer, while King came in to challenge the “bad guys” that injured his brother, Bearcat Wright. Both of these great black stars, particularly Conway, were pitted frequently against Flair, who at the time was also a relative newcomer to Jim Crockett Promotions.

The racially tinged “Big Boss Man” comments in 1974 certainly did not then, and do not now, reflect the feelings of the man Ric Flair. However, the professional wrestling character Ric Flair at that time was able to generate lots of “heat” with black and white fans alike, by going down what would be called today a politically incorrect road. Racial stereotypes were utilized, insinuated and implied regularly in professional wrestling in 1974, and Ric Flair playing the role as the “Big Boss Man” had its existence within the culture of that day in time. No matter what we may think of the propriety of Ric Flair anointing himself as the Big Boss Man, one thing is for sure, it gave the Mid-Atlantic fans in 1974 yet another reason to hate this young “bad guy” star on the rise!

The shelf life of Ric Flair, the Big Boss Man, as mentioned above was actually quite short. Within a month or so, Ric gradually stopped referring to himself by that name in the fall of 1974. Interestingly, Flair didn’t “boss” around Tiger Conway, Jr. or Sonny King much in the ring! Conway’s first run in the territory lasted until February of 1975, and Tiger fought Ric on pretty much even terms. Ditto for the in-ring results between Flair and King, with Sonny leaving the area in July of 1975.

Ric Flair as the Big Boss Man is certainly well housed in the moth balls of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history. I’m glad the contemporary Big Boss Man, Ray Traylor, was brought back to the forefront recently. It jogged my memory to go back in time and reflect on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling’s Big Boss Man, and a vastly different era in professional wrestling.