Sunday, October 30, 2016

Roddy Piper and Bob Armstrong bring their Georgia feud to the Mid-Atlantic Area

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/mid-atlantic-georgia-talent.htmlby Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The recent spate of excellent quality uploads of old "Georgia Championship Wrestling" shows on YouTube had me fondly remembering Roddy Piper's one-year stint in Georgia and particularly his early feud with "Bullet" Bob Armstrong.

In the fall of 1981, Ole Anderson became booker for both the Mid-Atlantic and Georgia territories, something pretty unheard of in that time.  One result of his having that dual responsibility was the cross-over of talent between the two promotions. This was yet another chapter in the long history of what I have dubbed the "talent exchange" or partnership between the Mid-Atlantic and Georgia territories that went back to the mid-1970s.

Gordon Solie and Roddy Piper, hosts of
"Georgia Championship Wrestling" on SuperStation WTBS
One of the most visible examples of this was Roddy Piper becoming the co-host of "Georgia Championship Wrestling" alongside Gordon Solie in late October of 1981. Piper proved to be the perfect bombastic and colorful compliment to Solie's rather dry style of calling matches. It's not clear what Solie must have first thought of Piper when he debuted alongside him on WTBS on Halloween evening of 1981, but after a few weeks he warmed up to him pretty quickly as there was great chemistry between the two and they became one of the top pro wrestling broadcasting duos in the country with broad exposure on the nationally televised Georgia program.

Piper was such a hit in the color commentary role that Ole Anderson also paired him with Bob Caudle on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" a few months later. Piper was perhaps the only wrestler to ever be a color commentator on two top shows for two different promotions at the same time. It was this experience that would first get him noticed in that role and would later serve as a foundation for the groundbreaking "Piper's Pit" segments on WWF television shows in 1984. 

Bob and Brad Armstrong
Along with his commentary duties in Georgia, Piper also would occasionally conduct interviews. In his first few months, he seemed particularly enamored of the father and son combination of Bob and Brad Armstrong, and his passive-aggressive confrontations with the two eventually led to fireworks between Piper and Bob Armstrong.

For several weeks in a row, Piper would interview the Armstrongs at ringside, complimenting the tag team prowess of the team, but also questioning their strategies and execution. He even went so far as to get personal with Bob, suggesting he was perhaps a bad father for occasionally letting his son take a beating in a match.

Bob, for his part, handled all of this masterfully in the slow build to the inevitable explosion with Piper, at first just just acting mildly annoyed at Piper's antics, usually brushing him off or ending the interviews before Piper was ready to end them, leaving the rowdy Scot occasionally flummoxed and at a loss for words.

Bob Armstrong was the perfect foil for Piper, aptly able to hold his own in a verbal joust with him, using his popular southern wit to confound the west coast bullying and arrogance of Piper. Armstrong was now looked at as one of the wise old veterans in the territory by the fans, and fans enjoyed watching Armstrong put Piper in his place over those early weeks.




But Piper was relentless. And as he turned the volume up on his criticism of the Armstrongs, it began to get under Bob Armstrong's skin. However, the two never touched for nearly three months.

Things finally came to a boiling point on the 1/30/82 episode of "Georgia Championship Wrestling"  and Armstrong attacked Piper at the podium and the they brawled into the ring.

That wild melee led to an actual match between the two at the Omni on Sunday, February 7. It was Piper's long awaited first match in Georgia and part of a big night at the Omni which included National Heavyweight Champion Tommy "Wildfire" Rich defend that title against former NWA world champion Harley Race.

There are different accounts as to the result of the February match. Most reports say it was a double DQ or a no-contest finish. The match would actually serve as a springboard to a progression of matches Piper would have over the next few months at the Omni, moving from one challenge up to the next. Following Armstrong, there was Tommy Rich and then Dick Slater. Others opponents down the line in 1982 for Piper included Dusty Rhodes, Ole Anderson, and Don Muraco.

Even though Piper moved on to other opponents in Atlanta, his feud with Bob Armstrong would continue outside the territory. Piper's only real role in Georgia was doing TV's with Gordon Solie on Saturday mornings, and matches on the Omni cards every three weeks or so. He didn't wrestle often on the house show circuit in Georgia because he was a full-time wrestler for Jim Crockett Promotions, and was actually booked out to Atlanta through the Charlotte Crockett office. In fact, through much of this time period Piper was Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, feuding first with Ricky Steamboat and then with Jack Brisco over that title belt.


THE PIPER/ARMSTRONG FEUD MOVES 
TO THE MID-ATLANTIC TERRITORY

Their feud was a quite unusual because it began in Georgia, but was largely carried out in the Mid-Atlantic territory, even though Armstrong never appeared in person on Mid-Atlantic television.  The feud had incubated every Saturday on WTBS for nearly three months (November 1981 - January 1982) without the two ever touching.

Then soon after that one Atlanta match on 2/7/82, things moved directly to the Mid-Atlantic territory, where Piper was the reigning Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion. But other than isolated matches in Norfolk and Greensboro, their war took place entirely in the city of Greenville, SC on Monday nights.

Over a two month period, beginning on February 22 and culminating on April 19, the two had five (5) different matches in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium.

  • 2/22/82 - Mid-Atlantic title match (mid-card)
  • 3/01/82 - No Disqualification match (semi-main)
  • 3/22/82 - 2 out of 3 falls match (main event)
  • 3/29/82 - Indian Strap match (main event)
  • 4/19/82 - Canadian Lumberjack match (main event)

With Armstrong not appearing in person on any Mid-Atlantic TV shows, and only a few isolated clips shown from Georgia, it is astounding that Piper and Armstrong went for five events in Greenville, headlining the last three of them. it is a testament to the chemistry they had together and how well things clicked on the Georgia show, which was seen on cable channel WTBS in the Greenville market, although cable penetration in 1982 was far more limited than today.

Piper and Armstrong also headlined three shows in Cincinnati, OH which were part of the Georgia Wrestling tours of Ohio and Michigan at that time. The local promoter for the Cincy shows was Les Thatcher, and lots of Mid-Atlantic talent was booked on those shows as well.

It was a wonderful feud and a great memory from that time where so much talent was appearing in both territories simultaneously.

******

Thanks to Brian Rogers for his help with these Greenville newspaper clippings.

http://midatlanticwrestling.net/nwabelt.htm