by David Chappell
In early December of 1974, Johnny “The Champ” Valentine was a dominating force in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Known as the “Hammer,” Valentine was the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion and was running roughshod over foe after foe. But in an edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped right before the wrestlers took off a little bit of time before the Christmas holidays, we learned some surprising things about the Hammer.
But the biggest surprise to come out of this TV bout for me was a bit of information that was produced from color commentator “Big” Bill Ward. To put this bit of surprising news in perspective, one only had to think back to when Valentine was wrestling “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television two months earlier, his deliberately breaking Woods’ leg, and smiling as Woods screamed in agony from the broken bone.
Ward told the Mid-Atlantic faithful, “A lot of times the fans write in, and we like to honor their requests. Someone wanted to know the hobbies of Johnny Valentine…well, you’d be surprised. A rugged guy in the ring like Johnny Valentine, can you imagine what his hobbies would be? Painting and gardening! Now, that’s amazing isn’t it?”
A shocked announcer Bob Caudle paused and then replied, “It really is…you wouldn’t think it was his nature.” Ward responded, “Well, the delicate touch he has in that ring could be applied to gardening and to painting. But it amazes me that a man that can be as rugged in that ring can have hobbies like that!”
Witnessing Johnny Valentine brutalize Mid-Atlantic opponents with his sledgehammer right hand in nearly every bout he participated in for Jim Crockett Promotions, I’m not quite sure when and where Bill Ward saw the ‘delicate touch’ of Johnny Valentine that he mentioned. But I certainly agree with “Big Bill” that I was amazed to hear that Johnny’s hobbies were painting and gardening.
I’ll never forget when TV announcer Les Thatcher followed up with the same line of thought with Valentine on Les’ Mid-Atlantic Wrestling TV show later in 1975, and even got Johnny, the Hammer, to talk about his garden. I about fell out of my chair when Valentine told Les that it was a source of great pride for him that the vegetables he grew in his garden were bigger and healthier than those of his neighbors. It’s just hard to imagine the brutal Johnny Valentine comparing and contrasting his tomatoes to those of his next door neighbors.
Oh well, I guess even a Hammer can have a softer side!