Wednesday, March 30, 2016

World Tag Team Title Head Scratcher

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Going back in time to the frigid days of late January 1976, NWA World Tag Team Champions Gene and Ole Anderson appeared to be on top of the world. The “Minnesota Wrecking Crew” had just dispatched the challenge of Tiger Conway and Steve Keirn, and were battling the high-flying duo of Roberto Soto and El Rayo. But the young challengers weren’t seasoned enough to pose a major challenge to the champs. All seemed well for the Andersons, and no new challengers seemed poised to make a run at their prized championship belts.

But unexpected happenings were beginning to percolate in Columbia, South Carolina, and things would change abruptly on January 27th. On that date, the Andersons were pitted against the formidable duo of “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel and Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones in the Township Auditorium. Wahoo and Rufus were not regular tag team partners at the time, and the promotion had not pushed them in any way towards a run at the World Tag Team Titles. However, Columbia did see Wahoo and Rufus beat Gene and Ole by disqualification on January 13th, and then on January 20th McDaniel and Jones won a Lumberjack match over the champions.

Another anomaly in this picture was that this third match in Columbia between these two teams in as many weeks was a best two-of-three-falls bout. This stipulation was exceedingly rare to be seen in 1976. In the 1960s into the early 1970s the two-out-of-three-falls concept was prevalent in tag team matches, but not so much thereafter. Could something big be going on with this stipulation? As it turned out, it was, as Wahoo and Rufus upset Gene and Ole on 1/27/76 to become the NWA World Tag Team titlists! And outside of Columbia, nobody knew these four had become tag team rivals.

The head scratching became stronger a mere one week later when the new champs defended for the first and only time, against the “Wrecking Crew” at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 3, 1976. On the following Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that aired in the territory, Wahoo and Rufus were brought out to comment over filmed highlights from that match. Explaining to the fans how they had lost the World Tag Team belts after only a week was quite painful.

Announcer Bob Caudle introduced Wahoo and Rufus as the former World Tag Team champions saying, “Wahoo, you and Rufus held them for only a brief time but I know you wore those belts with a lot of dignity and you really hated to lose them.” McDaniel responded, “I know they have a film of what happened and I don’t know what happened myself because I was on the floor, but I would like to see myself exactly what happened.”

The film began with Wahoo in the ring with the ultra-tough Gene Anderson. Wahoo commented, “We’ve got ‘em going here pretty good; I thought we had command of the match all the way here.” Wahoo then got a good suplex applied to Gene, but the Chief stunned himself as he went down as well, but he was able to tag Rufus. Jones said, “Right here I give Gene a head butt, and right here, boom, down he go. Referee isn’t in no place to count him out there.” Caudle then remarked to Wahoo, “I don’t believe anybody could get up from a suplex and then a head butt from Rufus Jones.”  Wahoo concurred, and at that moment McDaniel was battling with Ole on the film with fists and chops flying!

Rufus still had Gene in a bad way, but then the “good guys” opted to throw the two villains together! Pandemonium reigned in the Dorton Arena! But Ole also ran into the referee, causing the official to go down. Wahoo commented, “You see right there, Ole’s elbow hit the referee in the eye, which he got seven stitches above his eye. And it’s like I told the fans, the referee is not used to taking all the physical punishment that we do every night, and he was hit with quite a blow to his head.”

The “Freight Train” again took over on a groggy Gene Anderson, and appeared to have Gene beaten. Rufus said, “I got Gene covered again there, got him beat, the referee is out of the ring there, all the referee has to do is count him down. Right there he’s beat, see?” Wahoo then attempted to pick the bloodied referee up, but a rejuvenated Ole hammered Wahoo in the back, and then ran the Chief viciously into the ring post. Jones head-butted Gene just to make sure he wasn’t getting up. Rufus exclaimed, “Gene was beat there. He’s stayed down for the count of a hundred. Gene was beat there!”

Raleigh NC 2/3/76
With Wahoo down and out on the floor, Ole jumped off the top turnbuckle right on an unsuspecting Rufus Jones. Rufus went down like he’d been shot out of a cannon, and Ole physically pulled up the injured referee and put him on top of a prone “Freight Train.” Caudle interjected, “Rufus, there you are being counted out, after you could have counted a hundred on Gene.” Rufus replied, “That’s right, baby. One thing for sure, if we get another match with ‘em, I think Wahoo and I will beat ‘em. We had ‘em beat all the way through the match. We had ‘em beat there. Ole came off the top on my back there, and that’s how we lost the match there. They didn’t win it fair…they cheat.”

Bob Caudle concluded, “Alright fans, there it is, that’s a look at how the belts were re-won by Gene and Ole Anderson from Wahoo McDaniel and Rufus R. Jones. Fellas, I know you feel really bad about it Wahoo, but you may have lost the war, but you really won the battle.” Wahoo countered, “Well, the thing that would really make me feel bad is if we actually lost the belts, which we didn’t. People saw how they beat us; we had them beat all through the match. There’s no way they could have beaten us unless they pulled something. The referee happened to get knocked down, which is a very unfortunate circumstance. The man suffered seven stitches above his eye, and it’s just one of those things. But like Rufus said, they did not beat us; we don’t feel they beat us. We have one of the belts…if they want it; let ‘em come get it! Because let me tell you something, we’re certainly not afraid of them.”

Caudle closed the show saying, “If they come after it, it’s gonna be a tough time isn’t it Rufus?” The “Freight Train” replied, “Just let ‘em come on baby, anytime they get ready, Wahoo and I’ll be ready. We’ll be ready for them anytime.”

The fact that Wahoo and Rufus had physical possession of one of the World Tag Team Title belts after losing the titles did not propel them to any return matches with Gene and Ole. The Andersons moved on to a short program with Bolo and Geto Mongol, and Rufus and Wahoo went back to mainly singles matches. Wahoo and Rufus’ one week reign as World Tag Team Champions really passed into oblivion as quickly as it came. Wahoo mentioned that he and Rufus were former World Tag Team Champions a couple of times over the next few years, but otherwise it went virtually unnoticed.

Without any territory-wide buildup for the victory, and no follow up after the defeat, the one week World Tag Team Tile reign of Wahoo McDaniel and Rufus R. Jones was a head-scratcher at the time. And with the passage of many years since it happened, and thinking about how this major NWA title flipped twice within the span of a week, my head itches more than ever.

Newspaper Clippings from the collection of Mark Eastridge

Steven Medford caught a blooper we'd missed in the Raleigh newspaper ad above - - Larry ZABISCO.  As Steven put it, perhaps the ad editor was hungry for some Nabisco crackers when he made that error. But hey, all these years later and I still can't spell Larry's last name!

We love all the bloopers. (Take a look at them all.)