Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mid-Atlantic September 1981 TV Episode plows new ground for WWE

Earliest Mid-Atlantic show listed for WWE Network precedes previously aired shows on the defunct WWE Wrestling Classics 24/7 channel.

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The WWE Network recently announced they would begin carrying early 1980s episodes of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (expected to debut on 1/8/17 per the WWE Network News website) as part of their "Vault" section of their streaming service. They also indicated there would be 10 selected episodes that would be included in the "Collections" section of the service in advance of the major 100-episode drop.

The first of those selected episodes has an air date listed as 9/12/81 and the following description:

Mid-Atlantic Television Champion Ron Bass partners with Jay Youngblood for a tag team match main event. Roddy Piper leads Abdullah the Butcher into action against Ron Ritchie. Plus Sgt. Slaughter, Jake Roberts, and many more in action.

There are lots of things interesting to note about this episode as it related to the context of the times as well as a peek into what the WWE library of Jim Crockett tapes includes.

First of all, this episode predates the episodes that previously aired on the defunct WWE Wrestling Classics 24/7 pay channel back in the 2000s. Their episodes began with the 11/18/81 (taping date at WPCQ studio) show. It's nice to see them include in this early show on their list: it predates the first show from the 24/7 network by over two-months.

I'm hoping since this is simply a "selected" episode, the library goes back a bit further. There is some indication that it might, as indicated by a brief clip of Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver with Roddy Piper from a summer 1981 episode of "World Wide Wrestling" that aired as a clip on one of the WWE Wrestling Classics round-table shows. (That round table show is probably on the WWE Network now.)

In the summer of 1981, Jim Crockett Promotions moved the location of their TV studio wrestling tapings from the classic confines of WRAL studios in Raleigh, NC, to the cramped and awkward setting of WPCQ in Charlotte. The first taping took place on Wednesday night, August 5, with the original air-date of Saturday, August 8. So it's worth noting that this 9/12/81 episode in the WWE list is very early into JCP's tenure at WPCQ.  We're hoping that perhaps some of the final episodes from WRAL are part of the WWE's library, especially given that the aforementioned clip with Landrum, Weaver, and Piper exists from that studio.

Ric Flair first won the NWA World title on September 17, 1981, so there will be at least this one episode where Rhodes is till champion, and hopefully a few more. This also means we should see the episode in late September where Ric Flair is introduced as the new NWA World Champion.

The other champions as of this program:
  • World Tag Champs: Gene and Ole Anderson
  • United States Champion: [VACANT - Wahoo Stripped of Title]
  • Mid-Atlantic Champion: Ivan Koloff
  • Mid-Atlantic Tag Champs: The Russians (Volkoff and Markoff mgd. by Lord Al Hayes)
  • Mid-Atlantic TV Champion: Ron Bass
  • World Jr. Champion: Les Thornton

From some notes we made back in 1981 while watching wrestling here is what it looks like will be on that 9/12/81 show.
  • The tag team of Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts open the show.
  • The team of the Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin) and The Grappler (Len Denton) face Scott McGhee and Don Kernodle in another tag team event.
  • Ivan Koloff and the recently-arrived Sgt. Slaughter wrestle in singles action.
  • Newly crowned TV champion Ron Bass and Jay Youngblood tag up to finish the show.
  • The referee for the show is Stu Schwartz.
  • Austin Idol appears on an interview segment. 
  • This show may include a tape of the infamous match where Wahoo McDaniel was attacked by Abdullah the Butcher and the footage had to be video-distorted for blood. There is at least some footage of Abdullah in action, accompanied by Roddy Piper, as indicated in the WWE"s short description of the show (see above.)
  • The Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin) wins for his team with a vertical suplex from the second turnbuckle, a move he called the "superplex." As hard as it is to fathom in this day and age, that was a revolutionary move for its time, and no one had really seen anything like that in our area up until then. We had seen flaying body-presses from the top rope (ala Ricky Steamboat) and flying body splashes from the top rope (ala Jimmy Snuka), but never a suplex delivered from the turnbuckles. This was considered cutting edge for its time. 

It will be great to see this show for the first time since it originally aired over 36 years ago.

Stay tuned for more on our WWE Network updates.