Monday, December 11, 2017

Best of the Gateway: Flair vs. Steamboat - How It All Began

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published February 8, 2016


When I attended a spot show card at the Colonial Heights, Virginia High School gym on March 4, 1977, little did I know that I was witnessing the professional birth of one of the greatest stars in wrestling history, Ricky Steamboat. Ricky defeated the always dangerous Sgt. Jacques Goulet that night in Colonial Heights, Steamboat’s second match in the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling area. The young Steamboat continued his slow ascension up the proverbial ladder over the next three months, with flashes of promise popping up with each succeeding match. But nobody could have foreseen what the late spring of 1977 would bring for the up-and-coming Steamboat.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television taping date of May 25, 1977, Steamboat closed the show by being interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. Discussing the tough competition in the Mid-Atlantic area, Ricky commented, “With what I know, I feel I have some confidence within myself. I’ve spent a lot of years and years and years…” But Steamboat couldn’t finish, as he was interrupted by none other than the flamboyant Ric Flair! At this juncture, Flair was a Mid-Atlantic veteran compared to Steamboat, having been wrestling in the territory for three years and Ric was the current holder of the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship belt.

The “Nature Boy” dismissively scolded Steamboat, saying, “Step aside kid, the people came to see me and Valentine, not some punk kid! Step aside kid!” Ricky, somewhat taken aback replied, “I’m sorry, I thought this was my interview time.”  Flair, knowing he was effectively pushing Steamboat’s buttons commented, “Don’t make the mistake again…take off kid, take off. And don’t make the mistake of coming in again.” Gaining some confidence, Steamboat counterattacked, saying, “Flair, let me tell you something. I’ve been in this area now for about three months. I’ve been watching you; I’ve been studying you. And let me tell you something; let me tell you something. I can beat you any time of the week, any time of the day, you name it…we’ll go. Don’t YOU make that mistake.” This first confrontation between Flair and Steamboat ended with Flair again trashing the new star from Hawaii, saying, “ Get out of here; get that kid out of here. We got more important things to talk about, get lost kid, we’ve got men to talk about, get lost kid.”

The next week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, Steamboat and Flair had their second incident.  Steamboat and Bob Caudle were talking about Ricky’s victory over Lanny Poffo earlier in the show, when Flair showed up again unannounced. Steamboat exclaimed, “What’s going on, what’s going on?!?” Ric countered, “Here I am, $500 suit, looking as only I could look! Step back punk, every time I got something to say, this punk kid is in my way.” Steamboat, incredulous that he was being interrupted yet again, said, “They told me this was MY interview time!” Flair laughingly retorted, “You’re gonna have to learn like everybody else has had to learn, nothin’ goes unless the Nature Boy says so, you  understand that boy, now just step back.”

At this juncture, the youngster from Hawaii had about enough of Ric’s mouth, explaining, “Hey, Flair, let me say something now partner…I do a little bit of talking out here to the fans and everything, but I do my business in the ring. I don’t want to do it right here in front of TV and the interviewer here…I don’t want to get him involved. So let me say something…if you want to go right now we’ll climb in there…” Ric rudely interrupted, “I don’t want to hurt you…get lost punk! I’m dressed up and I’ve got the girls out there screaming! I don’t want to wrestle a punk like you, hurt you and put you in the hospital, how does that make me look? I don’t want to wrestle someone underprivileged like you!” When Steamboat then hesitated, Flair said, “You got something to say? Speak up boy!” A now fuming Steamboat snarled, “This is the second time you’ve done this, the second time. Don’t push your luck too far, you understand? Don’t push your luck too far.” Ric, a little caught off guard by Steamboat’s retort, incredulously asked, “Who does this punk think he’s talking to? You hear all the girls screaming, the guys are in fear, and the mightiest man of them all is standing right here. Take a walk kid!”

The following week on the TV taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, taped on June 8, 1977, Steamboat and Flair confronted each other once again on the set. Flair screamed at Steamboat, “I want the whole world to see you and I have this out. You’re trying to tell me and tell all the fans that there is someone greater than the Nature Boy, someone younger someone more beautiful …me with the $5,000.00 robe! Look at it boy!” Ric then proceeded to slap Steamboat in the face and then said, “That’s what I think of him…he’s just a punk and he’s gone. I’m the greatest…you get that through your head!”

An incensed Steamboat fired back, “Mr. [Jim] Crockett, I’m sorry for what is about to happen here. This is the third week now…the third straight week. I have been trying to be as gentleman as I can be…” Ricky then landed a thrust to Flair’s head and knocked the Nature Boy out into dream-land!  Steamboat said, “I’m sorry” as David Crockett, Jim Crockett along with Blackjack Mulligan looked on in amazement as the prone Flair was not moving. After being knocked out with one punch, Flair had to be helped out of the studio as David Crockett exclaimed, “He pushed him too far…he just pushed him too far!”

Fast forward to the end of this TV program, and an agitated Ric Flair comes back on the set where Bob Caudle is talking to Ricky Steamboat. Caudle said to Flair, “I thought you would have had enough.”  Ric responded angrily, “I HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH OF ANYTHING…THINGS HAVE JUST STARTED!” Flair continued, “Step back kid and hear what I got to say. I want you. You see this robe right here…$5,000.00 and I got bent feathers and feathers missing because of you! Not to mention the humiliation of what you did to me on TV! I know you had something in your hand!” A furious Ricky Steamboat replied, “What you’ve been doing to me the last 3 weeks…every time I’ve been getting out here you’ve been butting in and taking up my time, saying it’s your time all the time!”

Flair scolded Steamboat, “You hear what I got to say and you hear it good. Nobody has ever knocked me out with one punch in their entire life. You took something out of your trunks and had it in your hand…I want you. You see this [Mid-Atlantic TV Championship belt] right there?  Next week…you and me…I want you so bad!” Steamboat jumped in immediately and said, “I ACCEPT; I’LL ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE!” A perplexed Flair said, “You’re pretty anxious aren’t you?  You think you can handle me in that ring??” Steamboat confidently said, “I told you I’ve been watching you for 3 months, I told you I can beat you! Next week brother, it’s gonna happen!”

As Steamboat left the TV studio, Ric told Bob Caudle that Steamboat didn’t know who he was dealing with. Caudle countered, “Did you realize that you may have been suckered into putting that belt on the line…it may be YOU that’s in for trouble Ric.” Flair, not surprisingly, disagreed saying, “I’m going to bring it down to earth for a minute. I know I get a little high once in a while, and sometimes I get real spaced out. But I’m going to tell you something right now…I know what I want. This guy is hording in on all aspects of my life. They even tell me that when I have my back turned, this kid is moving in on my private stock!  Well, Steamboat, like every other punk that’s come around and thought he had something going on…I’m going to teach you the same lesson! You ask Wahoo and you ask Paul Jones what it is to pay the price to get in there with the Nature Boy!! WOOOO!!”

The anticipation was palpable when Flair and Steamboat met for the first time in a singles match on June 15, 1977at the studio taping in Raleigh, NC of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show. And Flair’s prestigious Mid-Atlantic Television Title was on the line! Ric’s close friend and tag team partner Greg Valentine joined Bob Caudle and David Crockett in announcing the match. This bout had a true big match feel to it!

Steamboat showed early on in the match that he belonged on the big stage with Flair. Ricky’s athleticism and hard chops kept the Nature Boy off balance early. Valentine countered that Steamboat did not have the stamina or experience to keep it up much longer. After a period of even battling, it appeared that Flair had the win locked up when he dropped Ricky to the mat with a vicious suplex. To the surprise of everyone, particularly Greg Valentine, who was rendered nearly speechless, Steamboat kicked out of the pin attempt before the count of three! Soon after, Ric flung Steamboat out on the concrete floor and it appeared unlikely Ricky would make it back in the ring before the 10 count…but Steamboat persevered and made it back into the ring!

Flair was never the same after Steamboat made it off of the floor. After several more minutes, a disoriented Flair was wobbling around while Steamboat climbed to the top turnbuckle, Ricky leaped off the top rope with a double-chop that disabled Flair, enabling “Steamer” to capture a three count, and the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship! Valentine ran in from his announce position, and joined an embarrassed Flair to double-team an unsuspecting Steamboat. The “bad guys” were beating Ricky senseless until Wahoo McDaniel joined the fray after a couple of minutes, and pandemonium ensued! Luckily for Steamboat, he was able to leave the ring and not be seriously injured.

As the program was about to go off the air, Bob Caudle got a few words with the new Mid-Atlantic TV Champion. Ricky said, “I’m very fortunate to have won that match; he’s a very tough competitor…but I never knew that Flair was the type of individual to have something going on with his partner. To me, this is just the beginning…but I’m gonna tell you something Flair. Deep down inside, this is just the beginning between you and I. Anytime you want me just let the promoter know, and we’ll go.”

Everything has to start somewhere…including famous wrestling feuds. Even on that Wednesday night way back in June of 1977, Ricky Steamboat seemed to sense that his first singles match with Ric Flair was the start of something big. Really big. But nobody could have known at that time just HOW big! One of the greatest feuds in wrestling history began just because Ric Flair would not let Ricky Steamboat finish several innocuous TV interviews! But thank goodness those interruptions happened, as we fans got to enjoy 17 years of a fantastic rivalry and great matches as a result!

- David Chappell



http://horsemen.midatlanticgateway.com

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Best of the Gateway: Sundays with Schiavone



Originally published in a Seven-Part Series February - March 2017


When professional wrestling fans think back to the red hot days of Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid 1980s and the even hotter time following the advent of WCW’s Monday Nitro about a decade later, the name Tony Schiavone is front and center. Tony’s face and voice on television brought us many of the most famous angles and events in professional wrestling history, starting at the lead-off for Starrcade 1983 until the demise of WCW in 2001.

What many fans may not know is that Tony grew up in the western section of Virginia as a huge fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

This interview with Tony is different than any he has ever done before, as it will delve into Tony Schiavone the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan.

Among the multitude of subjects Tony will touch on are his earliest memories of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling starting in 1974, watching the product on television, his favorite Mid-Atlantic wrestlers and the angles they were part of, his road trips to a number of the Crockett towns and his impressions of why and how the Mid-Atlantic territory captured the enduring love of so many fans to the point that we still want to talk about it today in 2017.

http://www.mlwradio.com/what-happened-when-.html
The timeline of this interview will cut off during the year of 1983, when Tony actually went from being a Mid-Atlantic fan to a Mid-Atlantic announcer. The reason for this is that Tony has just begun an exciting new podcasting adventure with the Gateway’s good friend Conrad Thompson, called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday), where Tony and Conrad will dig deep into Tony’s broadcasting career throughout the 1983-2001 time period when Tony was a fixture in the wrestling business. They will discuss a different topic each week as voted on by fans and listeners through a weekly poll on their Twitter account. WHW Monday can be found on the MLW Radio Network, with new episodes dropping every Monday! 


* * * * *


David Chappell: Tony, thank you for taking the time to chat with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway today. You being a native Virginian I’d like to focus on your memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and then we’ll segue to your tremendous new podcast with Conrad Thompson where you two will be breaking down your time in the wrestling business from 1983-2001. Sound okay? 

Tony Schiavone: Sure, that’s fine.

Chappell: I understand you grew up in the Staunton, Virginia area?

Schiavone: Yeah, my hometown is Craigsville which is west of Staunton; kind of southwest of Staunton. It’s much closer to the mountains than Staunton is. It’s Augusta County, but that’s basically the area.

Chappell: Last August I was up that way for a work conference and stayed at the Stonewall Jackson Conference Center, and that was a great place.

Schiavone: Right, that’s been there forever.

Chappell: It has, but they’ve kept it looking great. I used that occasion to hit a couple of old Crockett towns nearby. One night I went down to Roanoke and met Dick Bourne for dinner, and on another day I went by the Expo in Fishersville on the way back home!

Schiavone: Oh yeah, the Fishersville Expo!

Chappell: One of the great spot show venues in Virginia!

I have heard that you started following Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling around 1974?

Schiavone: Around 1974 I was in Craigsville. We had, I guess they still do, an IGA grocery store and I worked there on the weekends as the bag boy and the stock boy in the grocery store which was owned by my father’s best friend. And I would walk down there on Saturday’s, Saturday mornings, to work and then I would take a lunch break and I would walk back home, which was not too far to go. And I would stop in my Uncle John’s house, he lived on the same street, and I’d stop in during lunch hour and he’d be watching wrestling. And I started watching wrestling with him, and that’s where I kind of got hooked on it.

Chappell: Was this on channel 6 in Richmond, or the station out of Harrisonburg, Virginia?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Jones & Steamboat vs. Flair & Valentine



One of the big tag team rivalries from 1978 for both the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team titles and the NWA World Tag Team titles.  - - Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair and Greg Valentine.

Another great photo evoking great memories with customized action figures and ring set-up by Mike Simmerman.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Texas Connections Part 5: Sound Clips!




by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In this final PART FIVE of our "Texas Connections" series, we travel back in time and hear some vintage audio clips from some of the great Texan stars that were part of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling including Terry Funk, Bobby Duncum, Dick Murdoch, and of course Blackjack Mulligan. Along the way you'll hear some other voices including Bob Caudle, Tom Miller, Joe Murnick, Ed Capral, and even Ric Flair!





Here is a summary of what you'll hear on this special Mid-Atlantic Gateway audio montage:
(1) Joe Murnick introduces Blackjack Mulligan
(2) West Texas Bar (Bob Caudle and Tom Miller)
(3) Joe Murnick introduces Paul Jones
(4) Blackjack Mulligan on Paul Jones
(5) Terry Funk: Texas Athlete of the Year
(6) Bob Duncum: 4-Time Texas Champ (with Bob Caudle)
(7) The Murdoch Shuffle (Bob Caudle and Dick Murdoch)
(8) West Texas Style (Blackjack Mulligan)
(9) Big Bad Texan (Bob Caudle)
(10) Blackjack Will Never Let You Down (Ed Capral and Ric Flair)


Some of our favorite quotes:

"Two of the baddest of the bad. If you put Flair and Mulligan in a west Texas bar on a Saturday night, you'd have to call out the national guard to clean out the place." - Tom Miller, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling 

“The Cowboys might let you down, the Oilers might let you down, the great University of Texas might let you down. But Blackjack Mulligan never lets anybody down.” - Ric Flair, Wide World Wrestling

"I'm a 4-time Texas champion. I travel all around this high world representing the great state of Texas which is one of the biggest honors you can really have." - Bobby Duncum, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling  


Miss any of our earlier "Texas Connections" installments?
Here are links to all of them:

TEXAS CONNECTIONS
in the Mid-Atlantic Area
Part 1: Hailing from the Great State of Texas
Part 2: Crockett's Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling
Part 3: Crockett TV in Texas (1977-1978)
Part 4: Terry Funk Takes Crockett's U.S. Title Back to Texas
Part 5: Audio Clips!


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Wahoo McDaniel: Missing in Action in Charlotte

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Fans filing into the Park Center in Charlotte, North Carolina were looking forward to another outstanding Monday night card of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on November 15, 1976. A double main event was on tap that evening, featuring Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair battling “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel and second from the top the newly crowned Mid-Atlantic Television Champion Greg Valentine squared off against Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones. The top tag team bout of that stacked card matched Tiger Conway and “Cowboy” Frankie Laine against the up and coming Poffo Brothers, Randy and Lanny Poffo.

Mark Eastridge Collection
This card, replete with tremendous action, was progressing normally until the main event was scheduled to go on. At that juncture, the Charlotte faithful were advised that Wahoo, shockingly, was nowhere to be found. The fact that McDaniel would no-show against his bitterest rival was unfathomable. But the show had to go on, and Tiger Conway, despite having wrestled in a lengthy bout earlier in the evening, was called upon for double-duty and faced off against a fresh and ready “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

During the match between Flair and Conway, the fans in Charlotte were left wondering, ‘Where is Wahoo?’ Well, they were about to find out in shocking fashion! And on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on November 17, 1976 the whole Mid-Atlantic territory was about to find out why Wahoo McDaniel came to be missing in action in Charlotte…and the unsolved mystery at the time was blown wide open!

Tiger Conway, Jr.
(Online World of Wrestling)
The TV segment was started by color commentator David Crockett who said, “Now, let’s get down to a little matter that I have, I’ve brought a piece of film and I wanted Ric Flair to be here and Greg Valentine. Ric Flair is not here; Greg Valentine is here. I want to call him in right now, Mr. Valentine come in here.” Announcer Bob Caudle then noted, “Fans, here comes Greg Valentine in now.” With Valentine now on the set, things would get quite interesting.

Crockett started, “Now, this pertains to a match that took place between Ric Flair and Tiger Conway, Jr. Now, there’s some things that happened in that match that I want Mr. Valentine to explain to us.” Caudle responded, “Good, we’ll let him do a little commenting as we go along, right David?” Crockett answered, “That’s right.” The film started to roll, with Valentine looking piqued all ready. “As soon as we can, okay we’re into the match and right now Ric Flair is wrestling Tiger Conway, Jr., and Mr. Valentine right now Tiger has got the best of Ric Flair…how about that,” Crockett inquired of Valentine.

The “Hammer” replied, “Well, he’s a good athlete. I never take anything away from Tiger Conway, Jr. He’s gonna be a great star and in fact, he’s a good wrestling star right now. But, how long can he keep this up? You know, the match is very new right now, it’s only been going about two or three minutes so how long can he keep it going? How good is his stamina? That’s where the real professionalism comes in, in this wrestling game.”

At that juncture, Crockett would ask the $64,000.00 question, “All right, during the match though I was standing out of the ring and people asked me, ‘Where is Wahoo?’ And I had to say I didn’t know. And…I have a feeling that YOU know where Wahoo was.” Valentine bristled up, and the mystery of Wahoo’s disappearance was set to take a shocking turn…

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2


http://bookstore.midatlanticgateway.com

Friday, December 01, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Flair vs. Wahoo



Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair had the top feud of 1976, battling the entire year over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship and trading it back and forth several times. Flair describes his matches with Wahoo as the period that prepared him for what was to come in his career, both in experience and in toughness.

Great image from collector Mike Simmerman who is kind enough to share these photographs from his personal (and customized) collection.


http://horsemen.midatlanticgateway.com

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Friday Night at 8:15

 
by Andy McDaniel
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor
Originally published in May 2010

The smoke circled through the air as if a cloud had settled from the sky. The bright light that beamed from the center of the room cast its glow through the haze down to the white canvassed battlefield below. The crowd, eager with anticipation lets loose with a mighty roar as the time keeper strikes the bell signaling that it was 8:15, it was Friday night and professional wrestling had come to town!

Available on Amazon.com
(See links below.)
The challenges had been laid down, all the threats of terrible beatings had been made; now it was time to put up or shut up. The wait was finally over, weeks and weeks of interviews, sometimes months of build up had prepared us for what was about to come. Our heroes were there to bring justice for all the evil deeds that the villains had taken part in and caused so much grief and anguish to everyone with their terrible ways.

For many of us this scenario was a staple part of our week or at least a few times a month. One of my absolute favorite childhood memories was going to the wrestling matches with my Dad on Friday nights. Each and every Saturday (unless it was pre-empted for tennis or something, and boy did I ever hate that) Mid-Atlantic wrestling was on television. These larger than life figures filled the screen and each one clearly defined whose side they were on. The good guys did everything they could to please their adoring fans. They shook hands, they signed autographs at ringside and they let you know that your cheers really meant something. The bad guys did all they could to prove they were indeed bad. Their job was easy, do the good guy wrong, cheat, antagonize the cheering crowd, pull hair, hide the forbidden “foreign object” from the referee while at the same time making sure that the people in the seats screaming at the referee to look were the only ones who saw it. It was a magical time and for many it was not hard to believe. These men, and on rare occasions women, knew their jobs and they did them very well. It was up to them to bring in the crowds. The more serious the feud was, the bigger the audience would be. The more real it seemed, the louder the cheers and jeers.

The formula was simple. It was the age old real existence of good versus evil. The combatants in this contest were often good friends and the intention was certainly not to hurt each other if possible, but when the bell rang it was showtime and business was business. The good guy was going to do all he could to please his fans while trying to stay within the rules (which for him was certainly difficult because of the strict sanctioning of the NWA board of directors), but his foe, the dastardly bad guy, he had neither concern for the rules nor any care of obeying them. He wanted to make the people as mad as possible. He wanted to do what was needed to win even if it meant causing pain and hurt to the beloved hero that all had come to see. He was going to taunt everyone with his cheating ways and more often than not he would do his best even if by hook or crook to squeak out a win so that no one went home happy. Why was that? Well of course so they would come back the next week to see justice served to him because of his cheating ways, but that didn’t always happen right away. It was not uncommon for it to keep going for several months before the conclusion, the blow-off, the highlight of the feud, if you will. It might be a street fight with “no rules”, it might be a chain match or some other specialty weapon but, if things really needed to be settled once and for all and there had been problems with outside interference or the bad guy always running, then it was time to bring out the steel cage. If it came to this it was not uncommon to see someone giving an interview telling of what was going to happen while grating a head of cabbage against a wall of cyclone fencing. The effect was powerful. This was serious, it had gone on long enough and somebody was going to get hurt and hurt bad.

The crowds would come out in droves. This was a must see event. Was it violent? Yes! Was it bloody? Yes! Was it dramatic? Yes! Was it believable? Very! Because this is what made it work, the two men in that situation knew what to do to make it look that way. They knew how to tell a story. They knew how to take a situation that people could relate to and draw them into the story. It worked! And it was an incredibly enjoyable night of action, drama, sports, athleticism all rolled into one.

There were no script writers, no creative departments and no movie people who knew nothing about the business. Instead it was just some very talented, very agile, very believable guys  who knew how to draw a crowd and knew how to tell a story. Who didn’t believe that Wahoo McDaniel was really tough or that Blackjack Mulligan looked really mean?

It was all done with local television outlets all over the country in what were called territories. The television shows helped to promote the local events but it was the guys in the ring that brought the people out. I remember watching each Saturday morning and occasionally late Saturday night and hardly being able to wait until the following Friday because then they would be here in town live and in person. It was before music or large video screens and pyrotechnics; just knowing that your favorite wrestler was in the same building that you was created the excitement that filled the air. While waiting on the main event the preliminary guys always did a great job in getting the crowd worked up. The occasional thrill of passing your hero on the road while driving to the arena added to the thrill of the night. It was truly an exciting time.

Things have certainly changed as the years have gone by. Although the performers today can do some amazing and seemingly impossible stunts and they surely have more exposure than the ring warriors of the past, there is just something missing. It is not the same by any means. The ability to tell a story and truly build a feud that drew in the crowds has been taken away or at least not allowed. Three weeks to create something only to try and convince people to spend $40 or $50 on a pay-per-view is called sports entertainment. The problem is the entertainment is not always entertaining. Things have been too rushed and nothing means anything, there is no reason for the situation or proper time has not been given to get people interested enough to keep up with it. In the days past there were very clear reasons for the feud and there was a lot of work put into that to get the fans involved. When a cage match was called for there was a reason. Today on any given Monday night there could be a cage lowered from the ceiling for no apparent reason and then there is no blood, just doesn’t serve much purpose or look remotely believable.

The history of professional wrestling is a long one. Certainly not one without conflict, controversy, turmoil, back stage politics, shady promoters, but not many people knew about that stuff, because we didn’t need to. It was about Friday night at 8:15 that really counted to the fans. It was about seeing Wahoo McDaniel walking out in full headdress to face the stone faced Johnny Valentine in a match that would leave both men battered and scarred and send each person home saying, “we just saw one heck of a fight!” It was seeing Rufus R. (Freight Train) Jones get his revenge on a young braggart named Ric Flair because for weeks and months he had done him wrong. These were magical times that this writer fondly remembers. Looking back they were not always PG moments, they certainly were not politically correct, but then again this was pro wrestling and it was not supposed to be. Those days are long gone, but the memories will live within this fans heart forever.

Thanks Wahoo, Ole, Gene, Rufus, Paul, Blackjack, Johnny, Greg, Burrhead, Sandy. George, Two-Ton, Ric, thank you all and so many more for creating a lifetime of great memories that will never be forgotten.

(Originally published May 2010)


* * * * * * * * * * * *


http://amzn.com/1502350963

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

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

http://amzn.com/1502350963

http://midatlanticwrestling.net/yearbooks.htm

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Thanksgiving Surprise: Starrcade Magic Returns to Greensboro

by Bruce Mitchell, Senior Columnist for PWTorch.com
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When WWE announced that their Thanksgiving weekend house show in Greensboro would be branded WWE Starrcade, I shrugged. There hadn’t been a Thanksgiving Starrcade show in Greensboro in thirty years and between it being WWE and, well, thirty years ago, I figured this wouldn’t be much more than a token gesture.

I wasn’t mad. There are great things in these days too, and you miss out when the past overtakes you.

Thanksgiving Night Mid-Atlantic cards were one of the coolest things ever, where the biggest major league showdown matches between the biggest Mid-Atlantic stars, and where one year, the biggest match in the world, Jack Brisco challenging Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA title, took place.

Ricky Steamboat
and Shinsuke Nakamura

(Photo courtesy of Jonny Fairplay)
For many fans around here the greatest shows they ever saw weren’t Wrestlemanias, but Starrcade/Mid-Atlantic Championship Thanksgiving Night shows at the Greensboro Coliseum. All-time greats, including a significant portion of the WWE Hall of Fame, cemented their legends in this building on these nights.

Then the world changed, as it always does.

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway has a mission statement. WWE has a different one. WWE Starrcade figured to be another WWE house show, except maybe Goldust would wrestle a match, and Ricky Steamboat and The Rock’n’Roll Express would wave to the crowd. WWE has spent decades trying to rewrite history in their favor, so no way this was what it should be.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

White ropes, Starrcade banners, loads of great old video footage, the return of the legendary steel-grey steel cage match, built before our eyes just like Klondike Bill used to do…

The Hardy Boyz talking about what it meant to sit in these seats and dream dreams, Arn Anderson with his first spine-buster since the one he threw at that Wrestlemania, Goldust morphing into the flip-flop-flying Natural Dustin Rhodes…

Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!, The New Day getting The Rock’N’Roll Express to dance, NWA Champion Harley Race and his challenger on a new throwback Starrcade ’83 t-shirt…

(Photo courtesy of Lee Petry)

Modern day innovator Shinsuke Nakamura bowing in respect to all-time innovator Ricky Steamboat…

Oh, and it turned out that early on I wasn’t the only skeptic about all this. Tickets weren’t selling that fast.

Even that worked out, because WWE called in the Great One, the one name synonymous with professional wrestling in the Greensboro Coliseum, and it all turned around.

So, as it turned out, on Saturday night, November 25th, 2017 The Nature Boy Ric Flair drew yet another big house in the old barn on the corner of Lee Street and High Point Road.

There is something indomitable, even now, in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

* * * * * * * * * * *

More on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway from Bruce Mitchell:
The Lightning and Thunder of the Nature Boys
One Night at the WRAL Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Tapings

Visit the Pro Wrestling Torch website at PWTorch.com.


http://horsemen.midatlanticgateway.com
"Four Horsemen" on Amazon.com                                  Mid-Atlantic Gateway Bookstore

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Second Look at "WWE Starrcade"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway


When I first heard about the WWE calling their November 25 house show in Greensboro "WWE Starrcade" I was pretty down on the whole concept. (See "No Thanks. That's Not Starrcade" published 10/1/17.)

Now that the show is over, I've taken a second look and will admit that I see it in a little different light.

But just a little.

If I'm true to the normal way I feel about such things, I should celebrate what took place in Greensboro last Saturday night, right? After all, I celebrate the indies when they do something special to recognize wrestling's traditions and legends from the past. (The CWF's "Johnny Weaver Cup Tournament" and George South's sporadic "Anderson Brothers Classic" events are two examples.)

But what kept creeping into my mind was that it was the WWE that helped kill Starrcade. In 1987 they effectively blocked 99% of the cable systems from carrying Jim Crockett Promotions' first pay-per-view event which was one of what would be several fatal blows to Jim Crockett Promotions that forced the sale of the company, and an end to an era to go along with it.

If WWE had put this thing on their network, that at least would have given it more of a big-show feel, something a show with the name Starrcade deserved. In the end, it was just as I originally framed it - - a glorified house show.

Not that there is anything wrong with glorified house shows. It beats the heck out of "same-old" house shows. And there is no more special house to host one of those than the fabled Greensboro Coliseum.

Here are a few of the touches WWE put on this house show to make it a little more special:

  1. Ric Flair appeared and introduced his daughter Charlotte (née, Ashley) who was defending her Women's championship that night in a steel cage. Flair was Starrcade, headlining all five Crockett events from 1983-1987. And I guess if you are going to have Starrcade in Greensboro again, you might as well have a Flair in a steel cage.
  2. Ricky Steamboat appeared as well, and was was greeted respectfully by Shinsuke Nakamura in the ring. Steamboat was a big part of the first two Crockett Starrcades in 1983 and 1984.
  3. The Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) participated in a skit with the New Day and a four-way tag match. The Rock and Roll Express were a big part of three Crockett Starrcades in 1985, 1986, and 1987.
  4. Dustin Rhodes wrestled in his "Natural" persona from the Turner WCW days. Dustin represented his father Dusty Rhodes well in a match against Dash Wilder. The American Dream was a part of all five Crockett Starrcades, headlining two of them, and is credited with coming up with the name of the event.
  5. And speaking of Dash Wilder, I couldn't help but think of the Andersons seeing video clips of Wilder wrestling Rhodes on the event. Dash and his partner Scott Dawson make up our favorite WWE tag team, The Revival. Wilder wears those classic horizontal-striped boots (a style I dubbed "Anderson boots" years ago) that were synonymous with the Anderson tag teams (comprised at different times of Gene, Lars, Ole, and Arn Anderson) of the 1960s-1980s. Ole and Arn Anderson were a big part of the Crockett Starrcades, as was Gene Anderson behind the scenes. Wilder is a North Carolina native who grew up during the Crockett Starrcade era.
  6. It was fitting that Charles Robinson was the main referee on this show, having been a part of so many WCW Starrcades in the 1990s and being such a huge fan of Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. That, and he's the best referee in the business.
  7. And finally, maybe the best moment of them all from the whole night - - Arn Anderson executing a picture perfect spine-buster on Dolph Ziggler in the center of that Greensboro ring, and then reminding Dolph he was in Horsemen country. Arn was a big part of the final three Crockett Starrcades from 1985-1987.




It isn't clear what percentage of the fans in attendance last Saturday truly understood the history of Starrcade, and the history of the event in that building. Some fans surely did, like Front Row Section D who made their own return to Starrcade, even if from the 5th row in 2017. But I guess in the end what's important is that the name Starrcade continues to be relevant and that those memories are kept alive. After all, that's our sole purpose here at the Gateway.

I guess I should give thanks for WWE Starrcade after all.


http://horsemen.midatlanticgateway.com

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Terry Funk Takes the U.S. Title Back to Texas

TEXAS CONNECTIONS IN THE MID-ATLANTIC AREA
PART FOUR
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of my little side areas of fascination in following wrestling back in the 1970s was learning that a title that had its home in our Mid-Atlantic territory was defended in another territory, another promotion. I've maintained that interest over the years, especially after we started this website back in 2000 and I began to chronicle the little things about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling that I loved.

One of the first titles I was aware being defended outside the Mid-Atlantic territory was the NWA World Tag Team titles held by Gene and Ole Anderson. They actually took those titles to Georgia for several months in 1976 and 1977 before their cousin Ric Flair and partner Greg Valentine brought them back home in a feud for the ages.

The United States title was our areas top championship and I had read in a wrestling magazine when I was a teenager that Ric Flair had defended the title in Florida and I got to see him on Georgia TV in 1977 and 1978 on the Superstation with the U.S. title, defending it there. (I chronicled several of those title defenses in an earlier series here on the Gateway) I only recently learned that Flair had also taken the title to the Amarillo territory as well, also in 1977. See Texas Connections Part 3 for more on that.

But one of the lesser known instances of a Crockett title leaving for another territory was one that was threatened, and may have briefly happened in storyline, but never really had the chance to happen in actuality.

But the threat of it made news.

When Terry Funk won the famous United States Title Tournament in Greensboro in November of 1975, he boasted that he would take the title back with him to Texas and not defend it in the Mid-Atlantic area.

"I'm going to take about a week off, sit back and enjoy myself and then worry about defending the title in the Panhandle of Texas," he told staff sports reporter Bob Heller of the Greensboro Record. "They can all come to me, now."


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/the-tournament.html
Check out our 4-part series from 2015 on the 40th Anniversary
of the U.S. Tournament won by Terry Funk.


Funk took the same position on a television interview right after winning the title, but promoter Jim Crockett and new NWA President Jack Adkisson forced Funk to return to Greensboro two and a half weeks later and defend the title against the man he defeated in the tournament finals, fellow-Texan Paul Jones. Jones evened the score in the feud with Funk, defeated him on Thanksgiving night and brought the title back home to the Mid-Atlantic area.

That whole series of events in November of 1975 are legendary in our area.  Funk's threat to take the U.S. title out of the area and back to Texas seemed plausible to Mid-Atlantic fans at that time as the the title had only recently been brought into the area to begin with when Johnny Valentine defeated Harley Race for the title in July earlier that same year. Now it seemed Terry Funk would take it away. But Paul Jones saw to it that never has a chance of happening.

Another couple of weeks later, Funk shocked the wrestling world and defeated Jack Brisco in Florida to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in mid-December. And of course, Paul Jones would insist on a shot at Funk's World title since he had just beat him for the U.S. title weeks earlier.


*********

Here is the article by Bob Heller in its entirety that appeared in the Greensboro Record the day after the U.S. tournament in Greensboro.


Funk to Take Belt with him to Texas
by Bob Heller
Staff Sports Writer, Greensboro Record

His face was bloody and his left eye was almost swollen shut. As soft-speaking Terry Funk sat in a Coliseum dressing room late Sunday night, he did not look like the newly-crowned U.S. Heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance.

But he was. And such an accomplishment was not easy.

"It was the most grueling thing I've ever been through," said the Amarillo, Tex., resi-dent, "and frankly, I don't know that I'd go through it all again.

"But I won the title, and it's the highlight of my wrestling career," continued the 29-year-old Funk. "I just can't wait to tell my brother about it."

Funk's brother is Dory, Jr., who owned the NWA's World Title before Harley Race took it from him three years ago. Both are the sons of the well-known Dory Funk, Sr., who died in the wrestling ring two years ago.

"I trained very hard for this night," said Funk, "because I knew it would take a tremendous amount of time and muscle to win. Four matches and all that punishment ... it's like two weeks of wrestling crammed into one night."

To win the title, Funk defeat-ed Red Bastein, Rufus R. Jones, Dusty Rhodes and Paul Jones.

"Each presented a different problem," said Funk, "and these were people I wasn't used to wrestling.

"Rufus used his strength and with Dusty, it's just like a big brawl. Paul Jones is probably the most dangerous, though, be-cause of his scientific knowledge of wrestling. It's one constant worry against him to make sure you're not in a position where he can pin you with one quick move."

Funk hadn't wrestled Rufus Jones since a bout in St. Louis some three years ago, but he has had a running feud with Rhodes, dating back to the days when the pair were teammates on West Texas State's football team.

"I was the starting offensive guard and Dusty was always No. 2," said Funk. "It really got to him and we've never seen eye to eye over much."

Funk last wrestled Paul Jones in Tampa, Fla., two or three years ago. "It was a tag-team match, and I didn't remember much shout it," continued the new champion. "So the television station in Amarillo was nice enough to let me view some videotape of some of his recent matches."

A record wrestling crowd of .15,076 (with at least another 1,-000 turned away) witnessed the four-hour affair. Judging by the response, Funk was not the most popular of winners.
"Don't worry about that," said Funk, "because nothing will get me back in this area as long as I hold the title. I'm going to take about a week off, sit back and enjoy myself and then worry about defending the title ... in the Panhandle of Texas. They can all come to me, now."
***************

Original newspaper clipping from which transcript was made from the Mark Eastridge collection.
Terry Funk U.S. title artwork by John Pagan.

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!




Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway! We are thankful for all of you, and thankful for the fact you join us to help keep the memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions alive.
- Dick Bourne and David Chappell

Along with your turkey and pumpkin pie, I hope you'll feast on these great memories of Thanksgiving events from years ago:


Starrcade '87 Turns 30!
 Hard to believe it's been 30 years since Starrcade '87. It was a tumultuous time for Jim Crockett Promotions as they entered into what would be their final year of existence before the family business was sold to Ted Turner. Check out some memorabilia from that show, including a look at some rarely talked about results from the Superdome for Bill Watts in advance of the PPV telecast.

Don't miss Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson talking Starrcade '87 on "What Happened When" on the MLW Radio Network and wherever you get your podcasts.

Our buddy Jeff Jewett posted some terrific photos on his Twitter account of his wrestling belt and figures collection paying tribute to Starrcade '87 and giving thanks to Tony for covering it on his show. It's like Action Figures Friday came a few days early. Great photos, Jeff!



The Forgotten Prelude to Starrcade '85
When most folks think of events leading to the Flair/Rhodes main event at Starrcade '85, they think of Flair and the Andersons turning on Dusty in the cage at the Omni. However, it got it's start much earlier than that. Read about an angle and an important part of that story largely forgotten in the saga of Starrcade '85.

Thanksgiving Retro: Greensboro and Norfolk 1975
A look back at a huge night of action in the Mid-Atlantic territory featuring NWA champion Jack Brisco, U.S. champion Terry Funk, Wahoo McDaniel, Paul Jones, Andre the Giant, Superstar Billy Graham, Gene and Ole Anderson and so many more!

Thanksgiving Wrestling Through The Years for Jim Crockett Promotions
Links to pages featuring info on annual Thanksgiving cards for Jim Crockett Promotions from 1967-1987.

http://bookstore.midatlanticgateway.com

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Magazine Memories: Starrcade '85

What a great photo taken in Atlanta's Omni at Starrcade '85. It features the Atlanta crowd watching Greensboro's closed circuit broadcast featuring the legendary Johnny Weaver with the old Greensboro Coliseum logo behind him. Great memories. 32 years ago. (More on STARRCADE '85)


We also should point out one of the photographers listed for the photos that would follow in the article from Greensboro was Mid-Atlantic Gateway contributor Eddie Cheslock.

http://horsemen.midatlanticgateway.com

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cotton is King in 1976

Rufus R. Jones gets Blackjack Mulligan in his favorite match.
Includes Mid-Atlantic Gateway SOUND BYTES

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When summer morphs into autumn around Southside Virginia, one of the impressive sights around the area’s farmlands are fields turning white with fluffy cotton bursting from its bolls. I can always turn any sight or sound into a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memory, but this one is particularly easy. In the early fall of 1976, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones came up with his own specialty match…none other than the Cotton Field match!

During the summer of 1976, the battles between Rufus and United States Heavyweight Champion Blackjack Mulligan were becoming hotter and hotter. Mid-Atlantic fans were sensing that Rufus, also sometimes referred to as the “King of Wrestling,” had a legitimate shot at taking Mulligan’s coveted championship belt away from him. Blackjack told me several years before he passed away that he pushed the promotion to give Rufus a run as the U.S. Champion at that point in time. While Mulligan’s protestations fell on deaf ears, the promotion did set in motion a scenario where Blackjack would get his comeuppance. Rufus would take Mulligan to his own personal wood shed…the cotton field!




In several of the larger Mid-Atlantic cities, including my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia, during late September and early October of 1976 Rufus battled Blackjack in Cotton Field matches. The special rule in the Cotton Field match was that after the regularly scheduled match was concluded, there was a 30 second rest period and then a two minute “anything goes” encounter with no referee!

In the lead up to the Cotton Field match in Richmond on October 2, 1976 Mulligan told announcer Les Thatcher, “Let me tell you something, I’ve never been in a cotton field in my life. Where I come from I hire people to do stuff like that. I don’t know what the rules are about; I have no idea. This is Rufus R. Jones’ type of match; I don’t even know what’s gonna happen in this thing!”

Blackjack then queried Thatcher, “You say it’s two minutes with no referee?” Les responded, “That’s right, anything goes.” Mulligan retorted, “Well, I’ll tell you what Rufus, I’ve never been in a cotton field but I’ll tell you one thing…if everything goes, you ask anybody in the world and they know I’m at my most dangerous when anything goes. You get me trapped in a corner, and I’m liable to come up with a hogleg or something, you never know. So, be VERY, VERY careful Rufus!”



When Rufus had his chance to address the Richmond faithful with Les Thatcher he exclaimed, “Listen Blackjack, I told you before I was gonna get you back. Now I’m comin’ for you again! You had your kind of match; you had your Texas Death match! You bust my head open! I tell you right now Blackjack…this is my kind of match! A Cotton Field match!!”

Rufus R. Jones batters Blackjack Mulligan
The Freight Train then added, “Because I’m from the country. I know what it’s like. And once it’s over there’s no referee…two minutes! I can do anything in my power that I wanna do.  I can reach down and choke you, kick you, stomp you, bite you; anything I want to do to you Blackjack! I got two minutes, with no referee…to do what I want to do to you! And this is my kind of match brother, I’m gonna tell you right now I’m comin’ for you Blackjack and this time I’m gonna show you just where it’s at…a Cotton Field match!!”

And show him, Rufus definitely did! In Richmond as in the other towns that hosted Cotton Field bouts, the “King” avenged an earlier defeat weeks earlier in that venue by Mulligan to win the regularly scheduled match, and then proceeded to whip Mulligan soundly in the referee-less two minute free-for-all. In Richmond, the crowd noise approached record levels as Jones ran roughshod over the massive Texan!

After Blackjack told me that he pushed for Rufus to become the United States Champion in the bicentennial year, I’ve always speculated that the Cotton Field match was the mechanism that Jim Crockett Promotions used to give the “King” a title run of sorts. No, Rufus never officially became the U.S. Champion but for the ecstatic fans that witnessed Rufus’ Cotton Field matches in 1976, Rufus R. Jones performed like a champion and certainly gave new meaning to that age-old saying, “Cotton is King.”


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html

Friday, November 17, 2017

Action Figures Friday: The Legion of Doom



Mike Simmerman's cool representation of the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors, on the set of Superstation WTBS-17 in Atlanta, GA.


http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/big-gold.html



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Updates



David Chappell of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway talks Starrcade history with Jim Valley on "Wrestling Road Stories" on the PWTorch Livecast. The show is part of a huge line-up of live and archived podcasts that are part of the PWTorch media group that is an industry leader in pro-wrestling and MMA news.

You can become a PWTorch VIP member by surfing over to PWTorch.com and checking out all the benefits of that program. They occasionally offer free trials and other promotions. And, of course, there's Bruce Mitchell, so hey - - what more needs to be said?

Jim Valley and David Chappell are up on the PWTorch Livecast site now at PWTorchLiveCast.com.



Over at our sister-website "Studio Wrestling" check out Dick Bourne's latest article "No Antenna? You're Missing A Lot. Especially Wrestling." featuring a 1960 newspaper advertisement for WRAL TV touting their popular pro wrestling program hosted by legendary sportscaster Ray Reeve. It's part of our ongoing effort to document the great voices of pro-wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling throughout its history.


UPCOMING!
Don't miss our weekly feature ACTION FIGURES FRIDAY tomorrow featuring Mike Simmerman's look at the Road Warriors.

Plus this Sunday, David Chappell looks back at Rufus R. Jones cornering Blackjack Mulligan in a "Cotton Field Match," complete with audio, photos and newspaper clippings.

And next week, it's Thanksgiving and of course that means our annual look back at Jim Crockett Promotions' annual Thanksgiving traditions, one of which was STARRCADE.




 
Our well-received series on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's "Texas Connections" continues with three installments so far and more coming next week. These include great newspaper clippings and vintage audio clips. History lives on the Gateway!
PART ONE   Hailing form the Great State of Texas
PART TWO  Crockett's Texas Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling (1978)
PART THREE Crockett TV in Texas in 1977-1978 (including US Champ Ric Flair in Amarillo)
PART FOUR (Coming Next Tuesday) Terry Funk takes Crockett's U.S. Championship back to Texas




http://www.mlwradio.com/jj-dillon-show.html
Did you know you can buy the FOUR HORSEMEN book directly from James J. Dillon wherever he is making appearances? Get all the details here and check out JJ's appearance schedule hereAnd don't miss the popular J.J. Dillon Show podcast dropping each Thursday on the MLW Radio Network.


http://bookstore.midatlanticgateway.com