by Dick Bourne
We've spent some time recently looking in-depth at the story of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's "Dream Team" of the 1970s, Ric Flair and Greg Valentine. One of the main storylines for that team involved an almost two-year feud with the "Minnesota Wrecking Crew" Gene and Ole Anderson. The Anderson brothers were NWA world tag team champions and had held those belts for the better part of the two previous years before Ric and Greg were able to take them away in late 1976. A big part of this story was the "family feud" between Flair and his cousins.
While you might think this family feud first originated when Flair broke away from the Andersons to team with Valentine in late 1976, you would be overlooking a brief exchange that took place almost a year earlier when Ric and Blackjack Mulligan were first forming their alliance.
"You know what, Cuz? We might even remove you from those belts." -Ric Flair
It was early December of 1975 and Ric was still recovering from the broken back that he suffered in the October 1975 airplane crash. While he was still roughly two months away from getting back in the ring, he was already back on television doing interviews and occasionally sitting in as a color commentator with Bob Caudle or Ed Capral.
The first sign that the cocky, brash, younger cousin of the Andersons might actually be thinking about challenging them for their world tag team titles took place on TV in December 1975 and early January of 1976. Flair announced in an interview with Ed Capral on "Wide World Wrestling" that he would be forming a team with Blackjack Mulligan (who had entered the area not long after Flair was injured in the plane crash) and that they would challenge anyone and everyone, including the world tag team champions.
Ole later responded to Capral:
"Ric Flair is family. And I hate to get any kind of discussion going about family here on the television, I don't believe in airing your linen. But Ric, Ric is full of a little bit of vim and vigor, and he sometimes gets carried away, he sometimes just doesn't think. But, uh...ah, let's just leave it alone right now, I don't want to get into that family kind of discussion."
But the following week on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling", Flair made his intentions known directly to Ole during an interview that followed a particularly brutal Anderson match on TV. The interview was the closing interview of the program, and featured all four guys: Ric Flair. Blackjack Mulligan, Gene and Ole Anderson.
For full context of the following audio clip: the Andersons had just fought Tony Rocca and Roberto Soto in the final match of the program, and really put a beating on Tony Rocca's arm and injured Roberto Soto after the match. Host Bob Caudle was incredulous about the tactics of the Andersons. Notice Ric Flair early on was complimentary of his cousins, but moments later would make a quick challenge. Transcript follows, so you can read along. (And the conclusion follows the transcript.)
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Bob Caudle: And here come the Andersons, and again...again, Ole...
Ric Flair: Have you ever seen anything like my great cousins the Andersons? In your life, ever?!
Bob Caudle: ... this was completely uncalled for!
Ole Anderson: These two guys, they shouldn't even get in the ring with us, because we're just too good for 'em. You got a couple of young guys like this that think they are pretty great. They are going to use us for a stepping stone, they think that just by getting in the ring with us that they are going to get a little bit of a reputation. Will maybe they will, but it won't be at our expense. It's going to be at theirs once you see what we've done to these guys, it's a sample of what we're going to do for the new year of '76.
Bob Caudle: Alright...
Ric Flair: ... there is excitement in the air with Mulligan and Flair...everybody knows, individual or as a team, we're the greatest wrestlers in the world. We can go anywhere in the world and beat anybody, and let me tell you something: it gets down to me, I just came to the realization that the Blackjack and I are gonna be tagging up a lot in the future, and you know what, Cuz? We might even remove you from those belts, there.
Bob Caudle: Oooo! Uh oh! What about that, Ole? [Flair and Mulligan leave.] Hey, why did you walk away, Ric?
Ole Anderson: You know they've got enough to do, and uh.... he must be a little bit sick, he comes back...well that's family, and I don't want to get into that kind of stuff.
Bob Caudle: No, no...
Ole Anderson: ...I guess everybody has their days. But right now what I'm concerned about is not Flair and not Mulligan. I'm concerned about these promoters down here that keep putting these ringers against us. They bring in these young guys, they know that they are full of vim and vinegar, they know that they have a lot of endurance and everything else. And they also know, like I've said once before that we're on the road alot and they're hoping that one of these days we're gonna come in really tired and they're gonna get some team out here to beat us, to embarrass us right on television. And Gene and I are just as determined to see that that doesn't happen. And the best way...the best way that we can think of to see that something like that doesn't happen is to make sure every time we get in the ring, we do something so damaging, so miserable to our opponents, so devastating, that the word is gonna get around, and pretty soon people are going to say "Well, now, we'll wrestle, but we don't want to wrestle the Anderson Brothers."
Bob Caudle: You can't, you can't do that every time. You can't go in and just maim somebody every time they get in the ring...
Ole Anderson: You wanna bet? You wanna watch us? Well then you and all these other people that are watcing right now, you tune in and you watch us. Becasue every time we're on television, we're going to do the same thing that we just did here to this Mr. Soto and "Mr. Wrestler" or whatever his name happens to be. And what we really want to see is guys like Wahoo McDaniel, Paul Jones, Rufus R. Jones, Ken Patera, Tim Woods...we want to see those boys...we want to see their knees start to shake. We want to see them get a little bit scared. We want to see them back out maybe of a few of the contracts that they've got set up for us. And we'll rule as kings forever. The world tag team champions.
Bob Caulde: All right, that's it from the Andersons, fans, and we'll see you next week, until then, so long for now.
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In the end, it was all much ado about nothing, at least for the time being. Flair returned to action in late January and immediately began teaming with the Andersons against various combinations involving Johnny Weaver, Paul Jones, Rufus R. Jones, and Wahoo McDaniel. Whatever friction had developed between Flair and the Andersons over the holidays had been smoothed over by the time of Flair's return. Flair maintained a tight relationship with his cousins throughout the majority of 1976 until another young and brash blonde bomber named Greg Valentine hit the Mid-Atlantic scene late in the year. And that's when Ric finally made his move to separate himself from his family and formed the team with Valentine.
To learn more about the dynamic duo of Flair and Valentine and the path of destruction they cut across the Mid-Atlantic area, check out David Chappell's mammouth 8-part series on the "Dream Team" which is currently ongoing on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
And for a look at the entire story of Ric Flair's tumultous relationship with the Anderson family (including the 1980s with younger cousin Arn Anderson), check out the timeline history book of the Andersons in wrestling titled "Minnesota Wrecking Crew." Click the ad below for more information!