Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Masked Superstar vs. The Mighty Igor (Final) (Part 5)

OPPOSITES ATTRACT - Part 5 (Conclusion)
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Catch up on what you missed in PART 1PART 2, PART 3, and PART 4!)

By the end of July 1977 with the result of their feud hanging in the balance, Igor and Superstar entered a new and dangerous phase of their bitter rivalry that went on into the month of August through and until the last week of September.  At the urging of the “Mad Russian” Boris Malenko, vicious Russian Chain matches were scheduled between Igor and Superstar, the first of which occurred on July 26th in Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to the Russian Chain matches, Lumberjack matches between the two adversaries were also set, the first of which occurred on August 9, 1977 in Raleigh.

To show the intensity for the build-up to the brutal chain matches, the combatants talked about it prior to an August 12, 1977 Russian Chain match in Richmond, Virginia. The Superstar began his promo by saying, “As you well know, and the people well know, a Russian Chain match is probably the most dangerous type match. And Igor, FINALLY, you’re gonna get your just due. It’s finally come to this…one of us is definitely gonna be hurt, and I think it’s gonna be you. As a matter of fact, I want Boris Malenko, the Father of the chain match, to show you and the people a little demonstration of what this steel chain can do.”

Malenko moved into camera range carrying a thick chain and said, “Let me just say this…this is the most dangerous match there is in professional wrestling today, or any other day. Both men will be tied over here by the cuffs of this chain. In order to win this match, you must drag your opponent around the ring two complete times. The only way this is humanly possible is if the man that you’re dragging is completely unconscious. This chain can maim you, it can put out your eye, it can end your wrestling career…and that’s what we have in mind.”

The Professor then brought a steel chair onto the set with announcer Ed Capral, and smashed steel again steel for affect. Malenko explained, “Just let me give you a little demonstration. This [chain] is steel…this chair is steel also. Look at the indentations. This chair right over here…it’s steel against steel. See what it did? Can you imagine what it could do to the human body? Well I know what it can do, and I taught my Superstar to do it! And he will do it right here in Richmond…you can count on that!”

When Igor got his turn to talk about the chain match, he didn’t appear to be intimidated by Superstar and Malenko at all and said, “He thinks because Malenko taught him this Russian match here with the chain. What do you think, he can’t get away from me either. I don’t want him to get away. I’m gonna give you punishment ten times over because you hurt my mother and you hurt all the people that I know.”

Igor then addressed the Richmond fans directly by saying, “You people of Richmond, Igor is gonna be in there. Malenko, you’re gonna be very dissatisfied when I get done with that Super-chicken because the day has come that he cannot run away no more. No more runnin’ away, no more. My eye is not right yet. But you will get it because, it’s in the eyes of the people what you did to me, and you are gonna get paid. I still feel hurt inside but you didn’t change me…I’m still gonna be good and you’re gonna be destroyed sooner or later or you’re gonna be crippled. Because one of us is gonna leave that ring, and I plan for me to leave it!”

Despite the natural advantage Superstar seemed to have with Malenko in his corner for the Russian Chain matches, Igor prevailed in the vast majority of these bruising battles with the steel chain in August and much of September. Because there was no pinfall or submission possible in this type of bout, the Superstar maintained his mask and $5,000.00 despite losing most of these contests. However, in the Lumberjack matches that were held during that very same time frame, the Superstar came out the victor in a high percentage of them. Thus, when the 1977 calendar hit the last week in September the winner of this epic feud was very much still in doubt.

The colossal program between the Superstar and Igor that began in the frigid cold of February 1977 would reach its end in the crisp fall air of late September. During the last week of September, the Superstar defeated Igor in brutal fence matches (starting to be called cage matches) in Roanoke, Virginia on September 25th, and in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on September 28th. Also during that last week of September, the masked man punished Igor in Charlotte, North Carolina and Fishersville, Virginia in two bloodbaths of matches. That led to a fence match in Richmond, Virginia on Friday night, September 30th. This would be the last match ever between these two arch-enemies.

The in-your-area promos leading up to the fence match in Richmond had the feel of an upcoming battle that would decide this program once and for all. An agitated Superstar told announcer Ed Capral, “I’ll tell ya, for the first time, I’m a little befuddled…I’m almost at a loss for words. Because Igor has evidently gone to the promoter and he’s pressured the promoter once again to put in another stipulation. I really don’t know what to say because I don’t particularly like this kind of match. I’ve seen cage matches before…they’re very devastating. There’s no way out. There’s no way out for me, and there’s no way out for Igor. And I don’t mind telling you that I don’t like the situation I’m put in. I DON’T LIKE IT IGOR! You’ve got me in a corner. You think you’ve got an advantage; well, this cage may be your downfall. I don’t particularly like Richmond, and I hate you Igor. And it’s come to either you or me, AND IT’S GONNA BE YOU!!”

Igor appeared to be brimming with confidence as he addressed the Richmond fans before this monumental steel cage contest. Laughing, the powerful Polish grappler announced, “I wait a long time for this! He said he don’t particularly like this cage match, but I like it; I love it! This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Hey mom, look, I finally got the Super-chicken in a cage…he can’t go nowhere! His feathers can’t fly him away or nothing! He’s all mine! Oh momma, you should be happy for your son…I’m happy for myself!”

Igor then approached announcer Ed Capral and offered, “Oh boy, good kielbasa, you like some?” Capral politely declined! Igor concluded, “Oh, you’re gonna get it Super-chicken, I’ve been waiting a long time! Malenko, you stay out of this cause Igor’s gonna win!!”

The climactic match in Richmond between Superstar and Igor certainly lived up to the hype. Eight months of animosity between these two seemed to all come out within the confines of the unforgiving cage. The steel was used as a weapon by both combatants, and the blood was flowing freely on both sides. Ultimately, the Superstar reached down deeper than he ever had before, and vanquished a battered Igor. As the Polish strongman lay prone on the mat in the Richmond ring, it signaled the end of the bitterest of feuds. Igor was laughing no more, and the fans were stunned.

Graphic courtesy Mike Cline / Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats

On the next Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, that was taped on October 5, 1977, Superstar addressed the situation with Igor with Bob Caudle. Superstar gloated, “I want to make note…you hear all these people chanting ‘Igor, Igor, Igor?’ Well, I have the pleasure to announce that Igor isn’t gonna be around any longer. He and I were involved in a very, very brutal cage match. And I got some scars and I got some bruises, but I got rid of that fat thorn that was in my side. Igor’s not gonna be around here any longer! You don’t see him here today?”

A shaken Caudle commented, “No, but it’s hard for me to believe that he’s not gonna be around anymore.” Superstar countered, “You just take my word for it, because I don’t tell any lies. If you don’t ask me, ask [Malenko], I’ve never lied to him.” Malenko predictably exclaimed, “Never!” Superstar concluded, “I’ve moved on to bigger and better things. I’m looking forward to some championship belts myself, and I’m looking forward to some matches with some so-called heroes around this area…Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniel. I’m gonna come after these people now!”

Superstar was accurate for the most part. The Mighty Igor, after a short hiatus after the Richmond defeat, returned to the Mid-Atlantic area, but was never a major factor with the promotion again. The Polish strongman had a short and unsuccessful program with Blackjack Mulligan at the tail end of 1977, and then dropped into the middle of the cards before leaving Jim Crockett Promotions for good in March of 1978.

After finally dispatching Igor, the Superstar moved on to a heated feud with Paul Jones that lasted into early 1978, though the masked man’s attempt to collect a $10,000.00 bounty on Blackjack Mulligan’s head was probably the more memorable program, that lasted from April until September of 1978. Mulligan unmasked the Superstar in several cage matches that September, doing what Igor could not do a year earlier, and the masked man retreated from Jim Crockett Promotion’s to the Georgia territory.

The feud between the Masked Superstar and the Mighty Igor had it all, and was an amazing contrast in styles and personalities. It featured the athletic and cerebral Superstar against the gentle giant, the child-like, Mighty Igor. For me, this feud ran parallel with a memorable time in my life…my last semester in high school, to high school graduation, and into my first semester in college. And the program ended in my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia. So, the feud was quite memorable for me, but nothing like it must have been for the two warriors involved, the Masked Superstar and the Mighty Igor. They had the scars to prove it. And they proved something else…opposites really do attract, but in this case, in the most violent way possible.