Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jerry Brisco: First Ever Mid-Atlantic Champion

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Today we spotlight the very first Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, Oklahoma State's Jerry Brisco.

Jerry was the first wrestler to hold the title known by name as the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship, although that title evolved from (and shares a direct lineage with) the Eastern States Heavyweight title. Jerry was the reigning 4-time Eastern States champion when the title's name was changed in October of 1973, and as such is recognized as the first Mid-Atlantic champion.

Jerry Brisco's Four Mid-Atlantic/Eastern States Title Victories
Defeated Rip Hawk on 6/13/72 in Columbia, SC
Defeated Rip Hawk on 9/4/72 in Greenville, SC
Defeated Rip Hawk on 3/3/73 in Winston-Salem, NC
Defeated Ole Anderson on 7/3/73 in Columbia, SC

In his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech in 2008, Jerry took time to thank promoter Jim Crockett, Sr. for giving him a chance to shine as a singles competitor on a main event level. It was a special moment for fans of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and the old Mid-Atlantic territory to hear Brisco invoke the name of the man who promoted wrestling in our area for over 40 years:
"I’d like to thank Jim Crockett, Sr., the great promoter in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. They gave me my first opportunity to bust out on my own. I won the Eastern United States Championship there, I won the Mid-Atlantic Championship there…”
 - Jerry Brisco, WWE Hall of Fame speech, Class of 2008
At the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest in 2010, I asked Jerry to take a photo with a replica of the first Mid-Atlantic championship title belt. The photo is seen in the collage above. The replica belt was made by Dave Millican from the original artwork created by Reggie Parks, who made the original belt in 1973. It was a special opportunity to recapture great championship imagery from the territory's past.

Jerry Brisco talks with "Championship Wrestling" host Big Bill Ward in Charlotte in 1972.
Jerry was in the middle of chasing Eastern States champion Rip Hawk in effort to regain that title.
The Eastern States Championship would later become the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship in 1973.

In another bit of trivia, Jerry and his brother, Jack Brisco, were the only two wrestlers to hold both the Eastern States and Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight titles. "Sounds like one of us must have been booking," Jack joked to me during an autograph signing at Fanfest.

Jerry left the area in early 1974, but returned in the early 1980s to team with Jack in a memorable feud with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood over the NWA world tag team championships, a title they held on several occasions.

Regardless of what period you look at in Mid-Atlantic history, whether it be his run in the 1970s or the 1980s, Jerry Brisco is one of the most distinguished champions to ever hold gold in the Mid-Atlantic area.