Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Flashback: Ric Flair tells George South "Today You're Ricky Steamboat"

Today we revisit one of our favorite articles from the past, just in case you missed it, or perhaps might enjoy it again. (It's kind of like your favorite TV show is in re-runs!)

And apparently, although I can't confirm it having not yet seen it, but Ashley Flair (WWE's Charlotte Flair) mentions this in her new book.

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Ric Flair tells George South: "Today You're Ricky Steamboat"
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published Dec. 18, 2015

I've written before about all the stories that George South has told me over the many years we've been good friends, and usually I find myself not believing half of them. I mean, come on - - wrestlers tend to tell tall tales, am I right? And George loves to tell a good story. But then someone comes along that was involved in one of those stories and says something that confirms his story and I wind up calling him and confessing  - - "You were right!"

Such was the case on a recent episode of the "WOOOO! Nation" podcast, when Ric Flair and co-host Conrad Thompson were taking questions sent in by fans. One question dealt with wrestler Mike Jackson and why he never quite got a break to move up the cards back in the day. Jackson was thought of at the time (and still to this day) as one of the best underneath workers in the business and all the main event guys liked working with him.

But Flair moved on quickly from Jackson and said this, which confirmed part of a story George had told me long ago:

"You know who was actually the best worker back then, was George South .... I got in the ring with him one time and I said, 'Buddy, today you're Ricky Steamboat'. And we tore it down."  - Ric Flair, WOOOO! Nation, December 9, 2015

About ten years ago, George told me the story about his November 12, 1988 match with Ric Flair on Superstation WTBS, a match that went nearly 15 minutes, much longer than the usual WTBS TV match at the time. We were making a 22-hour round trip in a rented truck to visit the great Blackjack Mulligan at his home in Florida. That's right, I had 22 hours of listening to George South tell stories with the same Journey CD playing in the background the whole time. (And that part about Journey is a shoot!)

World Championship Wrestling on Superstation WTBS, November 12, 1988

George told me on that trip that before they walked through the curtain that morning in the WTBS studio, Ric had uttered those same words to him: Today you're Ricky Steamboat. Now, I never knew if I really believed that or not. I mean, I knew George loved Ricky Steamboat, and at times thought he was Ricky Steamboat, so it seemed plausible that in the context of the story this was George's wishful thinking. That is until last week when I heard Ric Flair say those very same words.

So having once again called George to acknowledge he had indeed told me the truth, I asked him to tell me whole story again. He quickly reminded me that it was a match Ric didn't want to have to begin with.

"When you got to TV, you found out who would actually work," George told me. "Ric was scheduled to work for the first time in awhile, but he really didn't want to. He had just gotten in from Pittsburgh after being up all night and he had to catch an early plane to Ohio after the taping. That studio was so cold and he didn't want to work and then have to shower and have that wet hair and rush to the airport."

Indeed, a quick review of notes from those Saturday night shows in the fall of 1988 showed that Ric didn't wrestle on any WTBS studio taping that late summer or fall until that Nov. 12th show. He did lots of those classic interviews, but didn't work in the ring. 

"He and Dusty sort of got into it right there in front of everyone, and Dusty told him he was going to have to wrestle," George told me. "So Ric threw his bag on a chair and said, 'Well then I want South.'"

I asked George if he remembered who he was originally scheduled to work, or if he remembered who Flair was scheduled to work, but he could not recall. "All I know is Ric changed it and I was now working with him."

George had wrestled Flair on several occasions on different Crockett TV shows going back to 1985, but this time the circumstances were different. Flair was in a horrible mood and George figured he might be in for a tough, stiff, short match.

"Ric got dressed," George told me, "and as we were at the curtain about to go out, he looked at me and said, 'Buddy, today you're Ricky Steamboat."

George's heart skipped a beat. "I about peed in my pants!"

He entered the ring alone during the long break set aside for the "College Football Scoreboard" segment that aired on WTBS during fall Saturday afternoons in those years. Ric didn't follow right away and it seemed like an eternity waiting for him, even though it was only a few minutes. George had time to ponder what was to come.

When they came out of the break and back on air, Ric came through the curtain and entered the ring wearing one of his beautiful white robes. He removed the "Big Gold" NWA world heavyweight title belt and handed it to his manager James J. Dillon at ringside. George told me he thought to himself, "OK, buddy, here we go," and then they locked up.

But George wasn't prepared for what happened next.

"Ric started calling all these spots," George told me, "and I was going a hundred miles an hour. I was having the time of my life, but I was rushing."

Indeed, Ric was giving a great deal to George early on. George was reversing holds, working a lot of drop-downs, trading chops, and even throwing drop-kicks.

Suddenly, he was aware that he wasn't pacing himself. And there was no finish in sight.

"I got so blowed up in there," George said. "I was really hurting."

I asked George if he and Ric had discussed the match before hand. "No, not at all," he told me. "Back in those days, he called it in the ring. I didn't know anything. And I didn't know if we were going 2 minutes or 20 minutes. I was just going so fast. Ric did this every night, but I didn't!"

Given that Ric didn't want to work to begin with, it was surprising the match was going the way it was. "Honestly, I think he was doing it just to tick Dusty off," George told me. He laughed as he thought back on it. "He was so annoyed with Dusty, I think he would have let me win the NWA belt just to get back at him."

"Dusty was hollering at me 'What are you doing?' and I said, you know, I'm not gong to beat a guy like George South in one minute. Sorry." 
- Ric Flair, WOOOO! Nation, December 9, 2015

George thought he might have a chance to rest when they went to a commercial break during the match, but no such luck. "Ric just kept going," he said.

By the time they were back from commercial, they were over eight minutes into the match, with still no end in sight.

"If there ever was a clinic in pro-wrestling, we're watching it. The world champion Nature Boy Ric Flair against George South, showing us a variety of moves during the break."   - Tony Schiavone, World Championship Wrestling, November 12, 1988

Back in those days, unlike today, commercial breaks during matches were relatively rare except in longer main event matches. The fact Ric went two segments with George made the match seem all the more special. Ric was calling all the signature spots that he would normally do with main event guys like Harley Race, Sting, Lex Luger, and yes, certainly with Ricky Steamboat.

"He had me shoot him out of the corner and he did his flip into the turnbuckles," George said." I couldn't believe what was happening. Then he went to the top turnbuckle and told me to throw him off. Brother, I was about to die in there! I think he just flipped off the turnbuckle himself!"

When George finally threw Ric from the top, Ric's feet hit the lights, and debris fell into the ring. It was a surreal moment for George, and Ric kept giving him a comeback.

Finally, Ric called for the finish. He lifted George high in the air and held him for a few moments before delivering the vertical suplex.

"Now, we go to school!" Flair shouted, as he applied the figure four leglock. It didn't take long for George to submit.

George lay prone on the mat, exhausted. As TV aired the instant replay of the figure four, Ric hopped out of the ring to do a ringside post-match interview with David Crockett.

Referee Teddy Long knelt down on one knee beside George. They were right behind Flair, who would soon be joined in the interview segment by Barry Windham and J.J. Dillon.

"I thought Teddy was checking on me, making sure I was OK. So I whispered, 'I'm OK, Teddy.' He said right back to me, 'Brother, you've got to get out of this ring! I've got to get you out of the shot.' I could barely move, so he just rolled me like a big log out of the ring."

David Crockett prepares to interview Ric Flair after the match.
Teddy Long tries to usher George South out of the ring behind them.

If you carefully watch this back on tape, you can see this happening. "Oh, it's funny now," George said, "but it wasn't funny then. I had never been so blowed up in all my life."

To make matters worse, George observed that Ric was barely breathing hard. "He was just so in shape, it was amazing. You couldn't blow him up. He was what he said he was - - a 60-minute man."

Still exhausted, George made his way back to the dressing room and then collapsed on his hands and knees and crawled to his chair.

"Kevin Sullivan was sitting in a chair right inside the door watching the monitor," George said. "He just looked down at me crawling on the floor and laughed. Not so much laughing to be mean, just laughing as if to say 'brother, we have all been there.' I don't think there was a wrestler in that locker room who hadn't been blown up at one time or another by Ric Flair."

George looks back on that match with fondness. It is without a doubt the longest and most competitive match he ever had on TV, and it is a memory he will hang on to forever. Nice to know Ric remembers it, too, some 28 years later.

Listen as Ric Flair talks about George South on WOOOOO! Nation.
December 9, 2015

You can probably find the whole match if you do a little searching on YouTube. Otherwise, enjoy this one-minute music video of a few highlights from the match.

Visit George's website at

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Giant Comes to Charleston County Hall

 by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It is without a doubt that most lifetime professional wrestling fans have a favorite arena where they went to the matches. For Mid-Atlantic fans, there are many to pick from. While I was blessed to travel and have been to Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, and many others, for me, my all-time favorite place to witness the matches was Charleston County Hall. It was must-see and if it were at all possible, it was the place to be on Friday nights at 8:15.

Mr. Henry Marcus, the promoter, was known to be near the door and the entering fans would hear his famous words, “hold your own ticket.” The last matches held in the historic building was nearly 20 years ago. I had the honor of promoting that final show. As I have been reflecting on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the final wrestling show ever held at County Hall, I have been thinking of the history of the events that were held there.

I started going in 1974, but long before that, the biggest stars in pro wrestling would make the journey to the home of the Battery and the place where the Civil War started, Charleston, SC. In my current place in life, I serve as a minister. I love words, and often key in on certain ones when I am searching for a message. As I am thinking about all the big stars that came through County Hall, I can say I was there, the night the biggest star -- and I mean literally, the “biggest” star -- entered the hallowed Hall. Yes, I was there the night Andre the Giant came to town. It was the first time seeing him in person and as a young kid, I was in total awe. He looked way bigger in person than he did on TV. It was one of those moments you just don’t forget.

Andre was in town to face the dastardly Masked Superstar. The card was announced during the "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" television program when they aired the local promos, and I knew I wanted to be there if there was any way possible. I mean this was Andre the Giant. I had seen the posters, read the magazines, but now for a chance to see him in person, wow, I couldn’t wait.

The Masked Superstar has been running over everyone and now he would face an opponent that would not be so easy to dispatch, the undefeated Giant. I had seen Superstar in other battles against Mighty Igor, Blackjack Mulligan and many top stars of the area, but never did I imagine they would bring in Andre the Giant to try and bring justice. Superstar was certainly no small guy, but when Andre entered the ring it was just awesome. When he walked under the balcony on the way to the ring, he reached up to touch the hands of the fans leaning over the railing. He was sporting the big hair, often seen in his pictures, and that night, he left a larger than life impression with this young fan.

The match was back and forth between these two, but I was blown away when Superstar locked in his famous “Cobra hold” on Andre. Such did not seem possible, but he did it and Andre went to the mat. The referee continued to check the arm to see if it would drop for the third time, but Andre kept holding on. As the hold seemed to be wearing down the giant, the fans began to rally and it would not be long before he made his way back to his feet and broke the hold. After a few more exchanges, Andre hit the headbutt and made the pin much to the joy of the crowd. It was something to see, that is for sure.

Later in life, I met Andre at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, GA. This was near the end of his life and he was not in great shape, but he was still that legendary figure, the one I saw in person, all those years before in Charleston. In 1997, Superstar would work the main event of the very first wrestling show I ever promoted and was nothing but a class act to me. I also got to be the ring announcer, one night, for a match between Superstar and my dear friend George South.

I am so grateful for all the things I have been able to be a part of in wrestling. The memories are almost too many to count. I was blessed to see so many of my pro wrestling heroes come to County Hall, but I will always remember the night Andre and the Masked Superstar came to town in one “giant” showdown.

Oh, there is the time Masked Superstar faced Rufus R “Freight Train” Jones, but that’s another story with one really funny twist.

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Order your copy of "Reunion at County Hall" on
Black & White Version   |   Color Version

Read the review by Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier
Wrestling Book Takes a Look at County Hall

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Flagship interview J.J. Dillon - Part 3 "Yiorgio" Pantas recently interviewed James J. Dillon for "The Flagship", a military newspaper in eastern Virginia. The interview took place a few days before a VCW show in Suffolk, VA. We posted the first two parts earlier and now post a link to the third and final installment.

PART THREE includes JJ's podcast co-host Rich Bocchini in on the conversation and the discussion centers around JJ's new podcast, "The JJ Dillon Show"  on the MLW Radio Network. 

If you missed the earlier installments, you can check those out here:

Check out the final part of the interview with the Leader of the Four Horsemen as he discusses how his podcast came about.

Rich Bocchini and Tony Schiavone (
JJ Dillon and Rich Bocchini:
The newest podcast tag-team on the MLW Network

J.J.'s podcast "The JJ Dillon Show" can be found at MLWRadio or anywhere you download your podcast.

You can find out where J.J. will be appearing by checking out our JJ Dillon page right here on the Gateway.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Action Figure Friday: Jimmy Snuka and Ric Flair

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 
Photographs by Mike Simmerman

One of the most brutal and bloody feuds of 1979-1980 in the Mid-Atlantic area was between "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

The two battled over the United States Heavyweight championship. Flair had voluntarily forfeited the title in August of 1979 after he and Blackjack Mulligan won the NWA World tag team titles from Paul Jones and Baron Von Rachke. The NWA put the title up in a one-night tournament in Charlotte on September 1 of that same year. The man who came out on top of that night's single elimination tournament was Superfly Snuka.

Bob Caulde interviews "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers
manager of the U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Snuka
Snuka had been one of the area's most popular combatants for some time, but had recently developed a more vicious style in the ring after taking on "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as his manager in July. By the time the tournament rolled around on 9/1, Snuka was a full-fledged member of the "heel" brigade. He defeated "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods and Jim Brunzell on his way to the finals where he defeated the odds-on favorite Ricky Steamboat for the title.

Meanwhile, Flair and Mulligan had lost the NWA World tag titles back to Jones and Raschke, and Ric was hungry once again to regain the U.S. championship, a title he had held on several occasions over the last two and a half years. In late 1979, Buddy Rogers sold the contracts of his wrestlers to Gene Anderson, now in his furst stint guiding the careers of others after a succesful in-ring career as part of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew with brothers Lars and Ole Anderson.

Flair and Snuka headlined cards for months as Flair fought in vain to regain the title. Finally on April 20 in Greensboro, NC, Flair took the measure of the Fiji islander and reclaimed the title for a fourth time.

Years later, Snuka still held fond memories of that time in his career and his time with the U.S. championship belt. I wrote about that in an earlier post: Jimmy Snuka Remembers the U.S. Championship Belt.

Mike Simmerman's photographs of his action figures rekindle some of the images from that classic rivalry in Mid-Atlantic area.

Monday, October 09, 2017

It's Fall and Tim Woods Declares Open Season On All the Belts

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When autumn arrives as it has recently in 2017, people embrace the change of seasons from summer to fall in many different ways. Some folks love the colorful foliage, others anticipate the beginning of college and professional football seasons and still others can’t wait for the cooler temperatures. Many also look forward to hunting season just around the corner, as did a top flight Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling star in 1976…he was just “hunting” championship belts!

In that wrestling sense, I always think back during this time of year to an interview on the set of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television on September 8, 1976 when announcer Bob Caudle was talking to Tiger Conway, “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods and Dino Bravo at ringside. It was then that Woods gave his take on the change of seasons to fall that’s always stuck with me.

After Caudle and Tiger Conway had talked a bit, Bob turned his attention to Woods saying, “By the way Tim, speaking of all the belts around the area as Tiger was, with Blackjack Mulligan and Mosca and Ric Flair…there’s a lot of them around and several would fit nicely around that waist of yours.” Woods concurred, “I think any of them would or Dino Bravo’s either. You know, it’s fall and I can’t think of a better time to just declare open season on all the belts!”

Tim then followed up, “You know…Flair, Mosca, Mulligan; they all can be beat. They’ve all been riding high and I think they’re all, well, I just think they’re all in for a fall. I think they’ve all been underestimating a lot of the people they’ve been encountering and I think that Dino or I would love to upset any of them.” Caudle then engaged Bravo, “Dino, actually, you don’t mind doing a little singles wrestling then?” Bravo responded, “That’s what I want right now; we’re gonna wrestle as a team but if I ever get a chance at a championship match at either Flair, Mosca or Mulligan I am ready. We’re ready to wear any type of belt.”

By September of 1976 the team of Woods and Bravo had been unable to regain the NWA World Tag Team Titles they captured in the spring of the bicentennial year and lost back to Gene and Ole Anderson in late June. The Anderson’s were about to leave the Mid-Atlantic area for Georgia, in turn leaving Woods and Bravo to turn their attention elsewhere.

Woods made good on his promise to declare open season on the area’s belts as he defeated Angelo Mosca in Greensboro, North Carolina for the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship on October 16, 1976 and then he and Bravo captured the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championships on November 3, 1976 in the finals of a month-long TV tournament in the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bravo would also make a major run at Blackjack Mulligan’s United States Heavyweight Title, but that would have to wait until early 1977.

So every year when fall rolls around, I still think of Tim Woods using the autumn of 1976 to proclaim it as his open season on all the belts of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and making good on his proclamation by acing two of those coveted titles in short order. I really can’t honestly remember if the autumn foliage of 1976 was vivid or how quickly the temperatures dropped, but the hunting season of Mid-Atlantic titles that fall by Tim Woods was simply outstanding!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Action Figures Friday: The Collection

Mike Simmerman's impressive, nostalgic collection of MACW early 80s action figures.

It's Action Figures Friday, so I thought we'd take a look at Mike Simmerman's throw-back collection of action figures, focusing on the late 1970s and early 1980s in the Mid-Atlantic area. Many of these were specifically customized to represent wrestlers who have never had an official figure, or their figure came well after their stint in the Mid-Atlantic area.

I hope I get all these right:

On the floor, L-R; Paul Jones, Masked Superstar, Johnny Weaver, Gene Anderson, Ole Anderson, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Valiant.

In the ring, L-R: The Iron Sheik, Ken Patera, Ivan Koloff, Bobo Brazil, Nikita Koloff, Dick Slater, Greg Valentine, Johnny Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Caudle, Ernie Ladd, John Studd, Jack Brisco, Buddy Rogers, Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods, Baron Von Raschke, Jay Youngblood, Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka (on back turnbuckle.)

The belts on the floor, L-R: Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight championship,  NWA World tag team championships, NWA World Heavyweight championship, and three different versions of the U.S. championship.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

September 22, 1976 - - Valentine's Day

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Every year when the calendar flips over to the month of October, I think back to October 4, 1975 when Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was changed forever by the plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that ended the career of the great Johnny Valentine. After that horrible tragedy, the name “Valentine” was heard very little on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television. But that changed abruptly about a year later on the Mid-Atlantic TV show that was taped on September 15, 1976 where Greg Valentine, the splitting image of Johnny, was shown shattering wooden boards with his elbow drop being assisted by Mike Pappas in a taped segment from Florida with commentator Gordon Solie.

But it was the next Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television show taped on September 22, 1976 that saw the first live appearance of Greg Valentine in Jim Crockett Promotions at the WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. Announcer Bob Caudle stated, “Fans right now we welcome another great wrestling star to the Mid-Atlantic area, Greg Valentine, a star in his own right in many sections of the county but you’ve never been in this section Greg.” Valentine responded in the same gravelly voice so reminiscent of Johnny, “Well, I’ve been doing a lot of campaigning in California, Florida; I come here for one reason and that’s to put a championship belt back into the Valentine family. My brother asked me to come here, and that’s why I’m here.”

The younger Valentine, who was actually Johnny’s son and not his brother, continued, “The competition looks tough, but I don’t think the competition is too tough for me, because I’ve been all over the world. As you know and as you’ve seen last week, the tape that I sent in showing how strong my elbow is…I’ve nicknamed it the ‘bionic elbow’ or the ‘brainbuster’ because that’s exactly what it is. It’s the hardest elbow in professional wrestling. The only other person in the whole wide world that can use the elbow smash like I do is my brother, Johnny Valentine.”

Greg then began sizing up the competition he would be facing in Jim Crockett Promotions saying, “And I intend to get the Mid-Atlantic championship or the United States championship, I don’t care which. I intend to beat wrestlers like Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes, Paul Jones, Mr. Wrestling, Dino Bravo…these are just stepping stones for me in my quest for the championship.” Caudle then countered, “Ah, you know that’s no small order Greg when you call off names like that and you talk about defeating ‘em; it’s a pretty large order for any man.”

Valentine confidently retorted, “I’m sure it is, but I’m not your average man. I’m Greg Valentine; when you say the name Valentine you think of a champion and that’s exactly what we are…champions.” Caudle concurred, “True, Johnny Valentine the champ for a long, long time and now it’s going to be what, the champ Greg Valentine, right?” Greg concluded, “That’s right, I didn’t come here to Carolina to make any friends or to influence people in any way, just to get the championship belt around the waist of the champion and that’s me.”

This first interview would begin a nearly eight year association with Jim Crockett Promotions for Greg Valentine. Greg would become a championship fixture in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling during his multiple stints in the Mid-Atlantic area, just as he promised in his very first television interview in the Crockett territory. But what I remember most about Valentine’s Day, September 22, 1976, was that a year removed from that terrible plane crash, it sure was good having a Valentine back on my TV screen.

The Wilmington Plane Crash - 42 years Ago

OCTOBER 4, 1975

Promoter, 3 Wrestlers Injured in Plane Crash
Charlotte Observer

by Mary Bishop Lacy and Roger Mikeal

WILMINGTON - Charlotte promoter David F. Crockett and three Charlotte based professional wrestlers were among six persons injured Saturday evening when their plant crashed near Wilmington.

Crockett, 29, of 732 E. Park Ave. was reported in good condition late Saturday might at New Hanover Memorial Hospital in Wilmington. Also in good condition were wrestler Richard Fliehr, 24, known professionally as Ric Flair, and George Burrell Woodin, 41, listed by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department as a promoter.

Wrestlers Robert Bruggers, 31, and Johnny Valentine, 47, were reported by a hospital spokesman to be in serious condition.

The Pilot of the plane, Joseph Michael Farkas, 28, was listed in critical condition and was undergoing surgery for head injuries at the hospital late Saturday night. The hospital spokesman said Farkas' identification bore addresses in Monroe, Charlotte, and Connecticut.

Hospital officials refused to give details on the other men's injuries. The six men reportedly left Charlotte in the yellow and white Cessna 310 at 5:30 p.m. for the Saturday night wrestling matches at Wilmington's Legion Stadium. Who owned the plane and where it took off couldn’t be learned immediately.

About 6:25 PM when the plane was a bout a mile west of the Wilmington Airport and was approaching a runway, Farkas radioed the control tower that the one of his engines had stopped, according to Deputy Sheriff E. D. Long.

Cutting across treetops and snagging a wing on a utility pole, the plane crashed about a half a mile from the airport along a railroad embankment and near a state prison camp according to the sheriff’s and state highway patrol reports.Several of the crash victims were thrown from the plane, and one was pinned between seats inside according to a spokesman for Ogden Rescue Squad, which carried the men to the hospital.

Crockett is an official of Jim Crockett Promotions, a Charlotte based enterprise that specializes in sports promotions.

Valentine considered one of the top professional wrestlers in the country has wrestled in a number of foreign countries including Japan and Australia. Known as a lover of opera and fine cuisine, Valentine has been a professional wrestler for 25 years.

Flair Is a flamboyant blonde wrestler who has been wrestling in the Charlotte area about 2½ years. He is a native of Minnesota and had been scheduled to meet Ken Patera in a wrestling match at Charlotte’s Park Center Monday night.

Bruggers, also from Minnesota played with Miami Dolphins football team as a linebacker for several years around 1970. He began wrestling in Charlotte about two years ago.

On Site in Wilmington:
A First Hand Account of How Things Were Handled at Legion Stadium In Wilmington the Night of the Crash
by Shawn Hudson
Special for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, October 2002

I was in Legion Stadium the night the plane crashed. I wish I could remember it all but I am not as young as I used to be.

The original card was to have been a double main event: Tim Woods vs. Johnny Valentine (with Woods avenging his broken leg at the hands of Valentine) and Ric Flair vs. Wahoo McDaniel which was a feud just getting started. This was maybe my second or third live event, the one in Wilmington preceding this was Paul Jones vs. Valentine and on the under card of that was Flair vs. Ken Patera. That's how I remember both feuds were just getting started.

The stadium was full and the ring announcer came out just after I had heard the rumor that there had been a crash. The show did not start late. The ring announcer was keeping kayfabe and said that there was a plane crash and Valentine and Flair were injured. He then went on to say that Tim Woods was lost and couldn't make it to the Stadium on time. Then he mentioned that the Spoiler # 1 was also lost. This has always puzzled me. Spoiler #2 and Spoiler #1 were a team that had come in to avenge the unmasking of The Super Destroyer. I honestly don't remember hearing that night that Bob Bruggers was on the plane or even scheduled to wrestle. Since Bruggers was injured and Spoiler # 1 disappeared from JCP about the same time I always theorized that Spoiler # 1 was Bob Bruggers. I recently had a chance to speak with Wahoo at a show and we talked about that night. He told me that Bob was his roommate when he was in the NFL and that Bruggers wasn't Spoiler # 1. Wahoo actually didn't seem to remember much about either Spoiler so he may have forgotten the angle after all these years but he was frank with me about the rest of his actions that night so I know he wasn't lying to me.

Back to that night. Needless to say the crowd was in shock. Shortly after the initial announcement, Wahoo came out and said that they were still going to wrestle and ran down the revised card. I remember Danny Miller in the opening bout, he later teamed with Wahoo, Spoiler # 2 was the main heel on the card. I want to say that Abe Jacobs and Two Ton Harris were there but I can't remember for sure. I know Miller, Wahoo, and Spoiler #2 pulled double duty and maybe a few more. The finale would be a Battle Royal. After Wahoo ran down the card, he said that if we wanted to, we could get our money back and leave. I don't think anyone left.

Wahoo won the Battle Royal that night and then went on to feud with Spoiler # 2 eventually unmasking him in several house shows, Wilmington and Richmond being two of them that I know of right off the top of my head.

Wahoo told me he was supposed to take that plane also but changed his plans at the last minute and drove from Richmond I believe. He said he arrived in Wilmington, heard about the crash, and got to the crash sight as they were putting the guys in ambulances. The pilot was pretty messed up and later died after hanging on for maybe 2 months. Everyone else looked fine except for a few cuts and scratches because they had been throw from the plane according to Wahoo. There are some inconsistencies between what Wahoo said and the press reports. Some accounts have Valentine pinned in the plane and Wahoo’s account has him being thrown from the plane . It could be that he was removed before Wahoo got to the scene of the crash.

There was an article that ran in The Wilmington Morning Star the day after the crash. I remember that there was a picture of the plane and I spent what seemed like hours pouring over it. I remember trying to convince myself that part of the wreckage was the U.S. Title. I'll try to dig up the article from the library.

-Shawn Hudson

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Edited text from an e-mail I received from Shawn Hudson in 2002:

I wanted to let you know the good news and thank you for opening a door for me by publishing my article about the Wilmington plane crash. in 1975. 

I was contacted by Kevin Kelly with the WWE. He is researching the crash and found my article on your site. They plan on doing a piece on the crash for an upcoming "WWE Confidential" segment. 

They have asked me to appear at the Raw show in North Charleston Monday and I will be taping an on camera interview. They said they are going to also try to speak with Tim Woods and David Crockett when they are in Dallas the following week. 

Best wishes!

Shawn Hudson
November 23, 2002

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Bob Caudle's Message to Lance Russell

Bob Caudle called us this afternoon and asked that we pass on this message on our Facebook page. I thought I would include it here as well.

"Lance was a great broadcaster, a real gentleman, and a true friend. We worked many matches together. Lance, you will be missed." 
- Bob Caudle (by telephone), 10/3/17

Rest in Peace: Lance Russell Passes Away

Our heartfelt condolences are extended to all the family, friends, and fans of Lance Russell who passed away Tuesday morning. He was 91 years old. His family made the announcement on Lance's twitter page.

We had the great privilege to sit with Audrey and Lance at the Hall of Heroes Dinner Banquet at the
NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest in 2009. (Photo by Dick Bourne)

Lance was of course the legendary voice of Memphis Wrestling for so many years, but also spent a few years in WCW after Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions. During that time Lance worked with Bob Caudle on "NWA Pro Wrestling" and also hosted the "NWA Main Event" with Paul E. Dangerously.

Lance was loved by all, and is sorely missed. Rest in Peace.

WMC-5 Memphis Report

Wrestling Observer Report

Rare Houston Footage spotlights familiar faces from the Mid-Atlantic Area

Bob Caudle, David Crockett, and Joe Murnick join Paul Boesch in signing Harley Race vs. Andre the Giant in a rare video clip.

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Another rare piece of Crockett-related footage has surfaced from Houston TV on YouTube. Houston promoter Paul Boesch flew from Texas to Raleigh, NC, in the fall of 1978 to film a contract signing segment with Andre the Giant.

The video is actually two separate segments that would have aired separately on the Houston television show, and are likely presented here in reverse order.

In the segments, Boesch signs Andre the Giant to challenge NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race at the Summit Arena in Houston on 10/13/1978. Paul Boesch is introduced by "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" host Bob Caudle. Representing the NWA for the contract signing are David Crockett and Joe Murnick of Jim Crockett Promotions in Charlotte.

The segments were taped at the studios of WRAL TV in Raleigh, NC, home of Jim Crockett's weekly television tapings.

Both David Crockett and Joe Murnich got a few words in. I especially liked Murnich's well-wishes to fellow promoter Boesch and the fans of Houston:
"I think the fans of Houston are very, very fortunate because I know this bout could be held anywhere in the world and your fans are most fortunate in having it. Good luck to you." 
David Crockett noted that the bout would be held on Friday the 13th, and suggested it might be unlucky for some (Harley Race perhaps?) but hopefully not for Andre.

The real rarity here is seeing and hearing Joe Murnick. What a special treat. Murnick was the local promoter for Jim Crockett based in Raleigh, NC, and he promoted the Raleigh area, as well as most of eastern North Carolina and eastern Virginia, including Richmond and Norfolk. Murnick was co-host of a Raleigh-only version of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" in the 1960s and early 1970s, and when that Raleigh-only version was discontinued and all of the area's TV tapes were consolidated to WRAL in Raleigh, Murnick was still seen as the ring announcer on Crockett shows until his sons Elliot and Carl took over those duties toward the end of 1977 or early 1978. Joe Murnick had a deep, classically-southern voice that was just so perfect for the times and one of my favorite ring announcers ever. 

Very cool to be able to go back in time this far and see Murnick, Caudle, and Crockett in the old WRAL studio. Crockett Promotions didn't start keeping and archiving their old tapes until the early 1980s, so seeing this is very rare. The backdrop used in this tape was one frequently used in the early 1970s for local promotional spots for the various towns, but by 1978 wasn't used that frequently anymore. Nice to see it here.

These videos are bound to be pulled down soon, so we should enjoy them while we have them.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

No Thanks. That's Not Starrcade.

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When Bruce Mitchell of recently tweeted that the WWE should consider bringing Tony Schiavone back to do some old-school retro promos for their upcoming "WWE Starrcade" Thanksgiving weekend show in Greensboro, he received an interesting reply from a twitter follower suggesting it would also be cool if Mean Gene Okerlund could do some backstage interviews, too.

Mitchell replied perfectly: "No thanks. That's not Starrcade."

This Okerlund response to Mitchell's Schiavone tweet was well meaning and well intended. But it registered like an off-key note. What that person didn't realize was Bruce wasn't talking about the 1990s Tony Schaivone/Gene Okerlund battlebowl WCW Starrcades of the 1990s. He was talking about the Tony Schiavone/Bob Caudle JCP Starrcades of the 1980s.

It dawned on me that so many younger fans, especially those that didn't grow up in the Mid-Atlantic area, have no idea of what Starrcade really meant to the fans in this area, no idea what Starrcade was in its purest form.

For guys like Bruce Mitchell, David Chappell, and me - - and for that matter Tony Schiavone, too - - Starrcade in its purist form were the 1983-1987 events that ended when the Crockett family sold the family business to Ted Turner in 1988.  Starrcade continued in name for well over the next decade, but it was just a WCW brand and one of a series of cookie-cutter, look-alike pay-per-views at that point. It never had that same Mid-Atlantic stardust on it that the first several years of events had.

So when Bruce made the suggestion that Tony Schiavone be brought back to do retro-Starrcade promos, he was hinting at those simple, memorable 1980s magic promos for those early events in Greensboro, and later shared with Atlanta. Those same promos that had that rockin' Frank Stallone music behind them, that familiar melody that would become synonymous with Starrcade for the first five years of its existence.

The familiar edited instrumental version of Frank Stallone's "Far From Over"

The theme music for the first 5 Starrcade events (1983 - 1987)

Some want to include Starrcade '88 alongside the Crockett-era Starrcades. Not me. That was a decent enough event, and sure enough it was largely built during the final months of the Crockett regime. But it was also the first Starrcade to be moved off of Thanksgiving (a second slap in the face following 1987's move out of Greensboro), not to mention the first to ditch the Frank Stallone soundtrack which always ticked me off. (I value and treasure the little things.) It was also the first pay-per-view for Ted Turner's new WCW, and was not a JCP production. The ink had barely dried on the Crockett/Turner contracts when Starrcade '88 took place in December of that year.

Starrcade just didn't seem the same after that. And by the time Gene Okerlund was doing backstage interviews at a Starrcade event years later, the memories of the real Starrcades were all but lost to the sands of time.

So count me among those that are less-than-enthusiastic about the return of the Starrcade name in the WWE. I will admit I had a twinge of nostalgia when it was announced. And it taking place in Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum on Thanksgiving weekend was a nice touch. But let's not kid ourselves; it's nothing more than a glorified house show with a legendary name from a bygone era slapped on it, morphed into a B-level special on the WWE Network. Without the Starrcade name tagged to it, it's just another WWE house show that no one would have paid much attention to otherwise, at least not more than usual anyway.

Charlotte Flair is wrestling inside of a steel cage that night. I had a good friend tell me he thought I would be happy to see Starrcade back in Greensboro. After all, one of its top matches features a Flair in a cage in Greensboro on Thanksgiving weekend. That's about as Starrcade as it gets, right?

No thanks. That's not Starrcade.

Now, get off of my lawn.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Part Two of the Flagship Interview with James J. Dillon "Yiorgio" Pantas recently interviewed James J. Dillon for "The Flagship", a military newspaper in eastern Virginia. The interview took place a few days before a VCW show in Suffolk, VA. We posted PART ONE of the interview back on 9/14

Now we present PART TWO

Check out this next part of the interview with the Leader of the Four Horsemen about once wrestling David Crockett, his thoughts on the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, his favorite version of the Four Horsemen, working for Vince McMahon Sr., and more.

JJ Dillon: "I'm the Luckiest Man Alive"

J.J.'s podcast "The JJ Dillon Show" can be found at MLWRadio or anywhere you download your podcast.

You can find out where J.J. will be appearing by checking out our JJ Dillon page right here on the Gateway.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Roddy Piper vs. Jack Brisco

This week's "Action Figures Friday" feature evokes memories of one of my favorite matches in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in the early 1980s - - Roddy Piper defeating Jack Brisco for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV.

Piper and Brisco feuded with each other over a great deal of 1982 and this match, which aired right around the 4th of July holiday, was the zenith of that great feud.

It was a tremendous match that led to a great celebration by Piper lying in the floor of the TV studio hugging his belt. Piper made it seem like that belt meant more to him than anything the world. That's the way you elevate a championship.

Thanks as always to Mike Simmerman for the very cool photos of his figures collection.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Tony Schiavone (and Bug) Bobblehead

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Tony & Bug take their place in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Museum, safely ensconced
between the United States Championship belt and Blackjack Mulligan's famous cowboy hat.

The Gwinnett Braves recently honored Tony Schiavone and his dog Bug with their very own bobblehead doll, given away to the first 2,500 fans that attended the Gwinnett Braves baseball game at Coolray Field back on August 26. It was part of a "National Dog Day" at the park where fans could bring their pets to the game as well.

Schiavone is the play-by-play radio voice of the Gwinnett Braves, the triple-A club of the Atlanta Braves, and a bit of a celebrity in the Atlanta area not only because of his association with G-Braves baseball, but also for his long history as the voice of World Championship Wrestling on WTBS and TNT in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tony is also a producer for the University of Georgia Bulldogs radio network, a barista at Starbucks, and host of one of the most popular pro-wrestling podcasts in the country. A true renaissance man if there ever was one!

Like us, Tony was a big fan of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling growing up and so we've given his baseball bobblehead its special spot in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Museum, even though he's not wearing that sweet navy blazer with the "JCP Sports" emblem on it.

A Tony Schiavone bobblehead. Who would have thunk it?

Coolest. Bobblehead. Ever.

Image from Jared Wallis/YouTube
Check out Tony's huge interview about his days as a fan of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Make It Good: Dusty Rhodes channels his inner Marlon Brando

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

On a recent episode of "The JJ Dillon Show" podcast (, JJ and co-host Rich Bocchini discussed the infamous incident in October of 1986 where the Four Horsemen jumped Dusty Rhodes in the parking lot of Jim Crockett Promotions on Briarbend Drive in Charlotte. That ambush left the American Dream with a broken arm as he prepared for a big steel cage tag-team battle with the Horsemen that weekend in Charlotte.

Dusty got the inspiration for this scene where he is tied to Klondike Bill's ring truck
from Marlon Brando in the movie "One Eyed Jacks."

As it played out, the Horsemen, in two separate vehicles, followed an unsuspecting Rhodes in his little red convertible to the offices of Jim Crockett Promotions where they attacked Rhodes in the parking lot, beat him down, and tied him to a ring-truck, arms stretched out as if he were to be crucified.

One of the most often-discussed moments in that big angle was when Dusty cried out three famous words just before the Horsemen smashed his right hand with a baseball bat - -

"Make it good!"

There was much discussion by fans at the time suggesting this was Rhodes' exposed attempt to verbally direct the action in the skit taking place that he was a part of. But JJ maintains that wasn't the case.

"There were critics that didn't like Dusty," Dillon told Bocchini, "who said, 'Oh, there's Dusty, he had to let everyone know that he was orchestrating everything' - - which was not true."

JJ explained that it all had to do with Dusty's fondness for the cinema. Especially westerns.

"Dusty was somebody who loved the movies," Dillon said. "and he loved seeing moments in a movie and re-creating those moments. And one of those moments was in the movie 'One Eyed Jacks' where Marlon Brando was this gunslinger who was terrorizing this town."

In the movie, Marlon Brandon's character Rio had been betrayed by partner and fellow-outlaw "Dad" Longworth (portrayed by Karl Malden) following a bank robbery the two had committed together. Many years later, Longworth had become Sheriff, and when Rio returns to town to confront Longworth, Rio is captured, tied to a hitching post and whipped. But the worst blow of all was still yet to come.

Sheriff "Dad" Longworth (Karl Malden) taunts Rio (Marlon Brando) in the 1961 film "One Eyed Jacks."

Rio, barely able to speak, tells Longworth, "You better kill me." His meaning was that after all you've done to me - - you've betrayed me, you've whipped me - - you might as well kill me. Because if you don't, I'll be back to kill you.

But Longworth says killing him isn't necessary. He picks up his rifle and smashes it down on Rio's right hand, the hand this gunslinger used to draw and shoot his gun. Without the use of that right hand, he would be no threat to anyone.

JJ said it is this scene that Rhodes was channeling in the angle with the Horsemen. Rhodes was telling the Horsemen that if you are going to try and take me out, you better make it good. 

In Dusty's recreation of the scene in "One Eyed Jacks" with the Horsemen, the rifle became Ole's baseball bat, and the hitching post became one of Klondike Bill's ring trucks. The Horsemen tied him to the truck, and you hear Ole telling JJ to make sure his paid cameraman zooms in close. Even though Rhodes was tied to the truck, Ole and Arn held him still as Tully Blanchard wielded the blow of the baseball bat on Rhodes' right hand.

Make it good.  You better kill me.

It was a bit of revenge for Blanchard in particular, who was on crutches due to an earlier injury from a match in Greensboro when Rhodes refused to release a figure-four leg lock.

At the very end of the video tape of the Horsemen angle, you hear JJ Dillon tell Dusty, "I want this to serve as a warning, Rhodes. We'll see you tomorrow night in Charlotte, you cripple!"

In the movie "One Eyed Jack," Marlon Brando warns Karl Malden he'd better kill him. But Malden chose not to do so and at the end of the movie, his drawing hand healed, Brando returns to kill Malden in a final showdown.

And even though Rhodes had warned the Horsemen to "make it good", they didn't make it good enough. The next night in Charlotte, Ole and JJ Dillon (substituting for the injured Blanchard) entered the cage in Charlotte. Rhodes, his right hand and arm in a cast, introduced his mystery partner - - - Nikita Koloff. The hated "Russian Nightmare" had joined the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes to battle the Four Horsemen in the wake of Magnum T.A.'s career-ending automobile accident. The huge crowd in Charlotte loved it. It wound up being the most dramatic and emotional moment of the year.

VIDEO: The Horsemen ambush Dusty Rhodes

VIDEO: The complete 1961 movie "One Eyed Jacks" starring Marlon Brando and Karl Mauldin. Clicking this link will take you directly to the scene in the movie that Dusty Rhodes used as inspiration for his angle with the Four Horsemen.