Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gateway interview: Tony Schiavone (Part 4)

Previously in PART THREE of our interview, David and Tony talked about Tony's first time hosting "World Wide Wrestling", his feelings about David Crockett and Bob Caudle, pitching himself to Pete Apostolou, the Schiavone family taking up a whole row ringside, and much more. Great memories and observations by one of the biggest fans ever of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.

And now enjoy part four of what we call "Sundays with Schiavone."

Be sure to check out the earlier installments of our interview with Tony:

A reminder that the timeline covered in our interview with Tony only runs up to the very early days of his work with the wrestling side Jim Crockett Promotions in 1983. Tony's career beyond that will be part of the ongoing discussion on his new podcast on the MLW Radio Network called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) where fans and listeners vote each week on WHW Monday's Twitter page for the following week's topic from Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s and WCW in the 1990s.  -D. Bourne

* * * * *


David Chappell: Spot shows in the Mid-Atlantic area were great, but nothing beat going to a live show at a coliseum or a building in a bigger town, wouldn’t you agree?

Tony Schiavone: I didn’t know they were called spot shows then, but at the spot shows Butchie and I never saw a title switch and we never saw blood…and that’s what we wanted to see. I guess they just wouldn’t bleed for those spot shows!

Chappell: (laughs) It’s a shame you had to travel further to see blood!

Schiavone: So, we would go to Roanoke and we would see blood and we would see triple main events. (laughs) I remember Butchie the first time we saw blood saying ‘TONY, WE SAW BLOOD…WE SAW THEM BLEED!’ We were so excited!

Chappell: (laughs) And we’ll be coming back to the Roanoke Civic Center!

Schiavone: (laughs) That’s right! But we would never see a title switch, so then we would go to Greensboro…

Chappell: You definitely saw title switches there!

Schiavone: Yes, then we saw title switches. I know I saw Wahoo beat Greg Valentine for the Mid-Atlantic Championship.

Chappell: Right, the payoff in early 1978 from when Greg broke Wahoo’s leg. But then Wahoo lost it right back to Ken Patera.

Schiavone: I saw the U.S. Title and the World Tag Team Titles switch hands in Greensboro.

Greensboro ring announcer Tom Miller and RicFlair
Chappell: Going to Greensboro back in those days, you saw some of the greatest matches put on anywhere in the world. Do you have a favorite that comes to mind?

Schiavone: David, I’ll tell you the greatest match I’ve ever seen. The way we found out about the match, because we didn’t live in the Greensboro market, was that Tom Miller would announce it on the show before.

Chappell: Right, Truckin’ Tom Miller, the legendary ring announcer in Greensboro!

Schiavone: Right! Truckin’ Tom would say, ‘Fans coming to the Greensboro Coliseum, our next event will be October 23rd' or whatever. So one time he announced, ‘And you will see, the World Tag Team Champions DUSTY RHODES AND DICK SLATER defend their tag team belts against Ric Flair and Greg Valentine!’

Chappell: Yes, I remember Rhodes and Slater, who weren’t in Jim Crockett Promotions then, originally being billed as the champs for that match!

Schiavone: All right, now here’s what happened. We came back [to Greensboro], and it wasn’t Slater and Dusty, it was the Anderson Brothers.

Chappell: Yep!

Schiavone: Which kind of pissed me off!

Vintage Audio: Greg Valentine and Ric Flair promote their scheduled match with Rhodes and Slater

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: (laughs) But, nevertheless okay, that match… [the Anderson Brothers] dropped the straps to Valentine and Flair, that match was like the greatest match I had ever seen!

Chappell: And to be there in person for that historic October 30, 1977 title change…unbelievable. I believe Gene Anderson was injured in that match.

Schiavone: I remember I had a friend of mine with me, named Tommy, and we went to the event and as the event was going on I remember looking at Tommy and saying, ‘This is the best match I’ve ever seen!’

Chappell: What made that match the absolute best in your mind? 

Schiavone: (pauses) I guess because we had four great workers, right?

Chappell: For sure.

Schiavone: But the fact of how they would get heat on each other, and they would go down on the floor and they would bleed…

Chappell: (laughs) I figured you’d mention the blood!

Schiavone: Yeah, and the other team would make a comeback, and then they would stop the heat.

Chappell: I bet the ebb and flow was tremendous, and you had a title change to boot.

Schiavone: You know, Flair and Valentine weren’t babyfaces back then…

Chappell: They were definitely heels back then. This was a “Battle of the Bullies” type deal.

Schiavone: Yeah, it really was. And then I remember later on, Tommy and I…his nickname was ‘Hippie.’

Chappell: (laughs) You mean like the 1960s hippies?

Schiavone: Everybody had nicknames when I was growing up! He would always go with me to Greensboro…others would always come up with some excuse, but Hippie would always go.

Chappell: Smart man, that Hippie!

Schiavone: Hippie and I would always try to get the ringside seats that were at the end zone where the wrestlers came out. And we would always try to get the ringside seats, you know where the first eight or nine maybe ten rows were on the floor but then they would have risers, that would go up a little bit…

Chappell: Better sight lines.

Schiavone: Right, so we would get seats that were on the risers so like you said David, we didn’t have to look around people’s heads!

Chappell: Certainly makes for a better viewing experience.

Schiavone: And we tried to get the ones on the end, where the heels came out…because we wanted to see them up close and we wanted to boo at ‘em!

Chappell: (laughs) Of course!

Schiavone: And I remember we went to Roanoke one time and all these heels came out and we booed ‘em, and Angelo Mosca came out and we were too afraid to boo him!

Chappell: (laughs) Completely understandable! They didn’t call him “Big Nasty” for nothing!

Schiavone: He looked big AND bad, okay?

Chappell: No doubt…

Schiavone: (laughs) Yeah, then after I got to know him years later I really got to like him. He was kind of a jovial old big guy and I remember telling him, ‘You scared the hell out of me one day, and now look at you!’

Chappell: (laughs) I’d be interested to hear what you think made Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling one of the best, if not the best, territory in the professional wrestling world.

Schiavone: Well, I didn’t watch any of the other territories. The only way I heard about the other territories was reading about them in the magazines.

Chappell: Right…

Schiavone: The magazines were how you found out about the other territories…

Chappell: It’s hard to believe, now that we’re in the Internet age, but that was very true back in the 1970s.

Schiavone: But I think what made [Mid-Atlantic] great was the great workers. Like Flair and Mulligan, like the Andersons…like Tim Woods, like Ricky Steamboat.

Chappell: We were blessed to see some phenomenal talent over the years.

Schiavone: David, that’s kind of a hard question. I just knew that I loved it.

Chappell: I think maybe a better way to have phrased the question would be what did you enjoy most about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Because you’re absolutely right, most of us didn’t see the other territories back then to compare Crockett to.

Schiavone: I think back then the Crockett’s knew how to make you want to watch them. And it’s an art that’s long gone…because they show everything on TV now.

Chappell: Yep, very true.

Schiavone: But you would watch those TV shows knowing that you would not necessarily see a good match, you’d see a squash match or a job match, whatever we’d call it now.

But you’d still watch it because you’d watch it for the interviews; you’d watch it for those two and a half minute interviews to see where Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was coming to your town…

Chappell: Yes…

Schiavone: And sometimes you would tune in and you’d see Ricky Steamboat win the television title or see a title switch or see some sort of angle. But to me back then, the angles and the interviews were what drew you in and made you watch, and not necessarily a great match between two guys.

Chappell: The TV show was done to get you out to buy a ticket for the arena shows, but it was still must see TV.

Schiavone: Exactly…it was just the way they packaged it, and the characters they had, that made me come back week after week!

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for PART FIVE of our ongoing interview with Tony Schiavone. And don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Read all about the world tag team title match that never was - -Rhodes & Slater defending the NWA World Tag Team titles against Ric Flair and Greg Valentine in Greensboro - - and how that led to the greatest match Tony ever saw as a fan: Rhodes and Slater defend the World Tag Team Titles in the Mid-Atlantic Area - - Almost by Dick Bourne.

See also:

Memories of Pro Wrestling That Will Never Grow Old by Tony Schiavone
Conrad Thompson Announces New Podcast with Tony Schiavone

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday

Check out Tony's new T-Shirts and support the WHW Monday podcast!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ivan Koloff: Rest in Peace

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway is saddened to learn of the death of Ivan Koloff, who has passed away following a battle with liver cancer.  He was 74 years old.

Ivan was one of the true legends in professional wrestling and also one of the nicest people we ever met, in or out of the business.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the great Ivan Koloff.

by Mike Johnson, PWInsider

Saturday TV: World Wide Wrestling 2/27/88

United States Heavyweight Championship
Steel Cage Match
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes 
vs. Bobby Eaton

Friday, February 17, 2017

NWA Champions for Jim Crockett Promotions - Summer 1978

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In the mid-1970s, one of the weekly rituals on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" each week was when Bob Caudle or Les Thatcher would read over the list of current champions as recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance. Ed Capral would do the same thing on "Wide World Wrestling." It was one of my favorite parts of the program and was a tradition in those days. The practice ended sometime in the late 1970s.

In by the late 1970s when I finally got to attend some of the Crockett shows in Asheville, NC and Spartanburg, SC, I started buying "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine" which was published by the promotion and served as a program at the local arena events. I was delighted to see that each issue featured that same list of champions that they once read on television. 

Below is a sample of that list which always filled a page of those magazines and featured photos of the champions, along with their height, weight, hometown, and who they defeated for their title.

It's usually the smallest things I miss the most, and the roll call of champions is near the top of that list. It was important who held the championships. The championships (and the belts that represented them) were important in those days, and presented in an important way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Road Jackets for Jim Crockett Promotions (1985)

It would be pretty cool to have a complete collection of these satin jackets today. They were sold by Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985 and 1986, primarily through mail order out of their in-house magazine.

The jackets feature some of the earliest designs for JCP as they worked to get merchandising off the ground in those years.

The wrestlers featured included a team jacket for "America's Team" Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A., as well as individual logos for each of them. Also featured were Ric Flair, Manny Fernandez, and the Rock and Roll Express.

The jackets sold for a whopping $50, which was a lot of money back in the mid-1980s. I'm guessing not a whole lot of them were sold. However, those same logos appeared on caps and t-shirts as well, which likely sold better, especially at the arenas.

My personal favorite, strictly from a design standpoint, was the logo for Dusty Rhodes, which had a great western look and evoked an image that just said "TEXAS" with the star in the center of the letter "O" in Rhodes. The Ric Flair design is great looking, too, and a variation was used in the famous "I Do It With Flair" t-shirt of the same era.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gateway Interview - Tony Schiavone (Part 3)

Previously in PART TWO of our interview, David and Tony talked about how Tony got his job with Frances Crockett and the Charlotte O's,how he first got noticed on the wrestling side of the Crockett family business, his earliest assignments doing local promos with "Big" Bill Ward, and continued to talk about some of the wrestlers he remembered most in those days.

Be sure to check out PART 1 and PART 2 if you missed them. Our discussion continues in Part 3 below.

A reminder that the timeline covered in our interview with Tony runs up to the very early days of his work with the wrestling side Jim Crockett Promotions in 1983. Tony's career beyond that will be part of the ongoing discussion on his new podcast on the MLW Radio Network called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) where fans and listeners vote each week on WHW Monday's Twitter page for the following week's topic from Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s and WCW in the 1990s.  -D. Bourne

* * * * *


David Chappell: Do you recall the first time you were a TV commentator for Crockett? 

Tony Schiavone: The first show I did, I think the first time I did commentary; we were in Shelby, North Carolina.

Chappell: Lots of TV tapings were done in Shelby.

Schiavone: I think they stuck me on with Tully Blanchard; I think that was in ’84.

Chappell: Right, Tully came into the Mid-Atlantic area in February of ’84.

Schiavone: I remember to this day, Tully and I did the commentary…it was the first show I did the commentary on.

Chappell: How did you graduate from doing TV interviews to doing actual commentary?

Schiavone: I don’t know if David couldn’t do it, and I can’t remember if that was the beginning of me working World Wide [Wrestling] regularly. I just remember Tully and I doing that show.

Chappell: How did you do in your first commentary shot?

Schiavone: I remember walking in the back after we did the show, and Ricky Steamboat said to me, ‘Boy, you are tremendous! Your voice, and the way you talked and the way you put things over made me want to listen!’

Chappell: High praise from one of the greats!

Schiavone: My wife says I have a defeatist attitude, but I think what I have is a very realistic attitude. I was very appreciative of what Ricky said, but I remember thinking in my mind, ‘No, Ricky, I’m not really that good…I’m just new.’ You know, I was a new voice.

Chappell: Yes, something different.

Schiavone: Something different. So in my mind I was thinking, ‘I appreciate that but I’m not so sure I’m as good as you think I am…I just think I’m something different.’ And of course, David and I started doing World Wide regularly at some point.

Tony Schiavone and David Crockett
World Championship Wrestling on WTBS (1986)
Chappell: You’ve mentioned David Crockett several times, and I would be curious to hear your thoughts about David as an announcer. He was certainly the excitable one, and Bob Caudle and later yourself were the ones that sort of kept the announcing on an even keel.

Schiavone: I loved David. We named our last son after David…

Chappell: Wow, that pretty much answers that question! Have you seen David recently?

Schiavone: (laughs) It’s funny, David came upstairs to the [broadcast] booth when they had a day at the Charlotte baseball ballpark where they recognized the Crocketts. And I was kind of the master of ceremonies there.

Chappell: Oh, I didn’t realize you were part of that.

L-R: Jim Crockett, Jr., Frances Crockett, Tony
Schiavone, and Jackie Crockett at BB&T Ballpark
in Charlotte
Schiavone: Yeah, and David came up to the booth and did a couple of innings with me. And I told him, I said, ‘Our last son, which is Timothy David, the David is named after you.’ And he said, ‘Really?!’ When I told him yes he said, ‘Are you telling me the truth or are you just blowing smoke up my ass?’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I said, ‘No, it’s true!’ Lois and I wanted to buy a house because we had been renting for so long. We wanted to buy a house, and we went to David and asked for a loan from the family to be able to afford a down payment. And they gave me a loan. It was a loan, around $5,000 or something like that, and they just took money out of my paycheck every week, and it was an interest free loan, to be able to put a down payment on a house.

Chappell: No question that would have made an impact on you.

Schiavone: They were so nice to me, and David was always so nice to me and he and I looked forward to working with each other all the time.

You know, David wasn’t an announcer per se; that wasn’t what he studied to be. That’s what I studied to be…that’s what I wanted to be. David was just kind of put in that role.

Chappell: David certainly got fired up at the announcer’s desk!

Schiavone: I always thought David’s enthusiasm was genuine.

Chappell: It certainly came off that way to me.

Schiavone: Yes! And as over-the-top as it was and maybe as crazy as it sounded sometimes, I knew that it was David’s money on the line…

Chappell: (laughs) If anybody should be enthusiastic, it ought to be a Crockett!

Schiavone: Damn right! When it’s your money, you take it up a level.

Chappell: No doubt!

Schiavone: To me David, that’s the backbone of why Vince [McMahon] succeeded and Turner didn’t, because it was always Vince’s money and it was never Eric Bischoff’s money and it wasn’t Jim Herd’s money and it wasn’t Kip Frey’s money.

Chappell: Very true…that’s a great way to look at it.

When talking about David Crockett, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about David’s announce partner for many years, the great Bob Caudle.

Schiavone: I can remember first working with Bob, I’m thinking it was in Spartanburg, and we were standing there holding those long microphones and just kind of talking, and I just marked out on him!

Chappell: (laughs) I understand that…I mark out for Bob every time I see him or hear his voice!

Tony reunites with Jim Ross and Bob Caudle
at the NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte 2016
Schiavone: (laughs) I said, ‘You don’t know how big a moment this is for me Bob, to be standing here with you, getting ready to announce with you, when I watched you all these years. This is one of the great moments of my life.’ And he was such a gentleman and so nice about it.

Chappell: I’m sure he downplayed that it was anything you should have been so excited about!

Schiavone: He sure did! But I can remember standing there with him thinking, ‘What the hell…I’m standing here with BOB CAUDLE!’ You know, the guy I watched all these years.

Chappell: I know, that must have been a surreal moment for you. As a fan, did you ever go to the Mid-Atlantic TV tapings that Bob did in the WRAL studios in Raleigh?

Schiavone: No, we would only go to the house shows. They would really sell us on the house shows.

Chappell: The Mid-Atlantic arena shows were tremendous, and you’ve already talked about traveling to the biggest venue in the territory, the Greensboro Coliseum. Do you have any thoughts about any of the other towns you took in Crockett house shows at as a fan?

Schiavone: I think the first event I went to was at the Augusta Expo…

Chappell: That makes sense; it was certainly the closest venue to you.

Schiavone: And when I was in college I started working for a radio station part-time, which became my full-time job as soon as I graduated from college. And I remember a guy I worked with at the radio station, we went to the Augusta Expo together and we talked to Peter Apostolou…

Chappell: The Crockett promoter in the Roanoke, Virginia area.

Schiavone: Yes, and I brought a tape recorder and interviewed some of the wrestlers, and he was very nice to me. And I remember telling Peter, ‘I would love to do this! Who do I talk to?’ He didn’t give me anybody’s name, but he told me that I just needed to work hard and get to know the right people and sooner or later it would happen.

Chappell: Sage advice! Who were you able to interview that night at the Expo?

Schiavone: I remember we interviewed Ricky Steamboat. I think I interviewed Tommy Young. So, I went to the Augusta Expo a couple of times. While I was in college, I was going to James Madison, JMU, and they had wrestling at the Harrisonburg High School Gymnasium.

Chappell: They had some great cards there, Tony. I remember some of those match promos aired on WTVR in Richmond.

Schiavone: I gathered up money from my relatives, because they all wanted to go, and I walked from JMU to the high school athletic office and when tickets went on sale I talked to the athletic director and asked for 15 ringside tickets! And he said, ‘FIFTEEN?’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: He said, ‘You want FIFTEEN ringside tickets?’ I think he sold me the entire front row or something like that of ringside!

My Uncle John, who I used to watch wrestling with all those years, and he was very old and had arthritis and he had two canes that he would wrap around the arms, you know those?

Chappell: Yes, right.

Schiavone: Okay, he sat down at the other end of the row from me and my cousin Butchie. It was Ric Flair and Greg Valentine against Johnny Weaver and somebody…maybe Paul Jones. But I remember Johnny was definitely in it. (laughing) So, they spilled out of the ring, and this one guy jumped out of his chair at ringside and jumped on the back of Flair!

Chappell: Uh oh, not a good move by the fan!

Schiavone: No, so the s#*t was on then!

Chappell: (laughs) I bet! As J.R. would say, business was about to pick up!

Schiavone: (laughing) Exactly! This was the first time I’d witnessed something like this. All of a sudden I realized that this was a real fight. Okay, and they beat the s#*t out of this guy! They beat him mercilessly.

Chappell: You got an extra match, Tony!

Schiavone: (laughs) All of a sudden, [the fan] is trying to get away now, and they are pounding on him! Valentine is hitting him with those sledge-hammer blows he used to use. So the guy finally gets away, and Valentine wheels around and my Uncle John, God bless him, picked up one of those steel canes and cracked Valentine over the head with it!

Chappell: (laughing) Oh my God!!

Schiavone: BAM! Valentine wheeled around and could see it was Uncle John, an old man, so he didn’t hit him…

Chappell: Thank God!

Schiavone: So they finally got away from us. Now remember, I was at the other end of the row from Uncle John. We called my Uncle John “Baby” back then…his name was Baby. My cousin Butchie said, ‘Tony, did you see what Baby did?!? HE JUST HIT GREG VALENTINE WITH A CANE!!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: So that was the main event, so the show was over. And my Aunt Frances called me over to come help Baby out because he’s all fired up!

Chappell: (laughs) No joke!

Schiavone: (laughs) He was shaking and everything, so Butchie and I helped Uncle John out of the arena…what a night!

Chappell: Whew! A lot of those Mid-Atlantic spot shows didn’t have much security, and things could pretty easily get out of hand…glad the Schiavone clan made it out in one piece!

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for PART FOUR of our ongoing interview with Tony Schiavone. And don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

See also:
Memories of Pro Wrestling That Will Never Grow Old by Tony Schiavone
Conrad Thompson Announces New Podcast with Tony Schiavone by Dick Bourne
Wrestling: The Gospel to its Fans (Article about the Harrisonburg show Tony mentions)

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday

Check out Tony's new T-Shirts and support the WHW Monday podcast!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jaws 2: The Mystery of Charlotte's Land-Shark

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Photograph by Jackie Crockett
© Crockett Foundation. Used with permission.
Back in January, we posted on the Gateway about an unusual wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic area in 1977 by the name of JAWS. He was for a very short period of time under the managerial direction of one "Professor" Boris Malenko, who, as head of 'The Family', managed the Masked Superstar and the "Korean Assassin" Kim Duk.

In the spring of 1977 Malenko's "family" was in the middle of a big feud with the Mighty Igor, and Malenko brought in a paid assassin in attempt to eliminate Igor from the wrestling scene. He was a masked wrestler named Jaws.

You can read all about the details of Jaws in our original post. There are rare photographs of him in the Crockett Foundation's book "When Wrestling Was Wrestling."  Recently, we even thought we'd even figured out who he was under that mask.

But that mystery remains. 

A fellow on Facebook by the name of Barry Hatchet posted a photo of Jaws wrestling in Japan on our Facebook page and informed us it was the legendary Danny Miller under the hood. A quick text to Danny's daughter Corinna from mutual friend Peggy Lathan confirmed it was indeed Corinna's father in the photo from Japan.

Danny Miller as Jaws in Japan
(Photo courtesy of Corinna Miller)
"Yes," she replied to Peggy in a text message, "it was Dad. He was Jaws."

So we momentarily thought we had solved the mystery of who was under the mask in the photo taken by Jackie Crockett in Charlotte in 1977 (seen above.)

But Corinna poured cold water on us when she also told Peggy that the man in the photo from Charlotte wearing the Jaws mask was not her father. She and her mother Karin said the Charlotte Jaws had a different physique than Danny. "He always had his gear with him, though" she told Peggy, "and might have loaned that to someone else."

She forwarded on another photograph of her father (seen at right), a shot that she found in his personal scrapbook wearing the Jaws gear while in Japan.

Despite the fact that the identity of Jaws in the Charlotte photo remained a mystery, this was some exciting news for us. We never knew that Danny Miller wrestled in Japan as a land-shark!

Danny Miller
The legendary Danny Miller wrestled here in the 1960s and 1970s and was one of our childhood favorites. He held championships here, including the Eastern Heavyweight Championship that was the forerunner to the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title. He was a frequent tag partner of Les Thatcher and Jerry Brisco, and later worked for Jim Crockett Promotions as one if its locla promoters on the ground in Greenville, SC.

Our original Facebook post is embedded below, which includes the Japan photo shown us by Barry Hatchet and related discussion.

Thanks to Barry for the tip and Corinna for the information regarding her Dad and his secret alter-ego in Japan. We will, however, continue to seek out the identity of the man who wrestled under that hood in Charlotte - - one of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's most obscure and long forgotten characters - - JAWS!

* * * * * * * * * *

A Salute to Les Thatcher

With Les Thatcher at the very first NWA Legends
Fanfest in Charlotte in 2004.
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In our minds, there is no more a complete or "total package" in wrestling than Les Thatcher. He truly has done it all in pro-wrestling.

He was a top-notch competitor in the ring in his day and transitioned into one of the most recognizable voices in wrestling as a broadcaster on such programs as "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling", "Southeastern Championship Wrestling", "Smokey Mountain Wrestling" and many others through the years.

He's been a photographer, journalist, magazine publisher, television producer, trainer, promoter, podcaster, and probably a half dozen other things I'm forgetting. And in each of those roles, he has been among the best that there is in whatever he's done.

He is wrestling's modern day renaissance man. And we are proud to call him our friend here at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. He has been a big supporter of this website since we began publishing the Gateway way back in 2000.

We don't see him often enough, but we always want him to know that we support him in everything he does.

All our best to one of the all-time greats in the pro-wrestling industry!

Saturday TV: World Wide Wrestling 2/20/88

NWA World Heavyweight Championship
Ric Flair vs. Sting

Friday, February 10, 2017

Charlotte's C. J. Underwood

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I recently came across a nice memorial to Charlotte news personality C.J. Underwood on the BT Memories website (link at the bottom of this post), a website devoted to memories and memorabilia from WBTV-TV and WBT radio in Charlotte over the years. It got me to thinking about the one time I had a brush with C. J. as a teenager going to matches at the old Charlotte Coliseum

C.J. was the longtime ring announcer at the Charlotte Coliseum in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was very friendly with fans at the shows. Once between matches, I walked up to ringside and asked him for his autograph. He had just stepped back into the ring, but he took a moment and got down on one knee and signed the table of contents page of my copy of "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine."

"Are you having a good time tonight?" he asked as he signed his name.

He had a great smile and was a favorite local personality on the Charlotte TV airwaves. For many years he hosted a segment on WBTV news called "Carolina Camera" which was a human interest piece in the tradition of "On The Road" with Charles Kuralt.

In early September 1981, following a big labor day show at the Charlotte Coliseum, and only weeks before Ric Flair would win the NWA World Heavyweight championship, Underwood did a "Carolina Camera" profile on the "Nature Boy" that was one of his most popular segments ever. (Video embedded below.)

The segment is included below, and includes footage from a show at the Charlotte Coliseum earlier that summer featuring Flair against Roddy Piper is 'Texas street fight." Plus, you'll also get a glimpse of future wife Beth and his son David, who was only 2 years old at the time. 

Check out this fond farewell to C.J. from his good friend and fellow WBTV alumni Bill Ballard on the BT Memories website:  First Person | C. J.'s Last Days (BT Memories / Bill Ballard)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ricky Morton Revisits His Mid-Atlantic Roots

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Soon to be WWE Hall of Famer Ricky Morton is known best to fans of Jim Crockett Promotions for his tremendous run as part of the Rock and Roll Express from 1985-1988. When the Rock and Roll Express entered the Crockett territory in July of 1985 and immediately captured the NWA World Tag Team Titles, the territory was still “Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling” and Ricky was able to wrestle in the major Crockett towns in Virginia and the Carolinas as the promotion was morphing into a more national entity.

Morton will be returning to two of those venerable and historic Mid-Atlantic towns this weekend when he appears at the Big Time Wrestling mega events at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on Friday February 10th and at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina on Saturday February 11th. Ricky will be wrestling “Broken” Matt Hardy in a “Final Deletion Match” in both venues, in loaded cards that include rare appearances by “The Icon” Sting.

When thinking about Ricky Morton revisiting his Mid-Atlantic roots this weekend, it reminded me of Ricky’s earliest appearances in the Mid-Atlantic area, well before there was a Rock and Roll Express. While likely not remembered by many fans, Ricky made a quick pass through Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in March of 1983. Morton said, thinking back, “I only went there for a week or so. I was working for the Jarrett’s and Dutch Mantell, and they were trading talent back and forth. Dutch Mantell was supposed to go there, but Dutch couldn’t go.”

Like many fortuitous circumstances that have occurred in wrestling, Morton was sent to the Mid-Atlantic area in lieu of Mantell. Ricky noted, “Jerry Jarrett sent me there for a week or two and, wow, I was young in the business then…and green!” Morton’s first contact in the Crockett territory was with former NWA World Champion Dory Funk, Jr., who was wrestling but also booking at the time. “When I got there Dory Funk was the booker and it was one of the first times I ever met Dory Funk,” Morton explained.

In addition to Funk, Morton was exposed to other great talent that occupied the Mid-Atlantic roster in early 1983. “I remember Dick Slater was there; it was the first time I ever met Dick Slater. Mike Rotunda was just a young kid there. You know, Jack and Jerry Brisco were there, too. Dizzy Hogan was there, which is Brutus Beefcake…he wrestled as Dizzy Hogan then,” Morton recollected. To Morton, it was an impressionable time in his young career and he soaked in all of the wrestling knowledge that was unexpectedly at his fingertips in Charlotte. In fact, Morton got to witness firsthand one of the great tag team programs in Mid-Atlantic history, between Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood and Sergeant Slaughter and Don Kernodle.

“What was cool was that I just went there to be on the cards, didn’t know anybody, and there was Ricky Steamboat…he was the top babyface. And a matter of fact, he and Jay Youngblood were the top babyface team. And they were against the heels Sergeant Slaughter and Don Kernodle. What a great experience I had there to see that,” Morton reflected.

During his short stint with Jim Crockett Promotions in March of 1983, Ricky wrestled on television and in the territory’s arenas so he got a flavor of how things operated in the Mid-Atlantic area. Morton said, “I had a great time there. I wasn’t really well known; I was just a young babyface in the business.” Particularly at his young age and with his lack of experience, Morton knew his place and came to Charlotte not looking to make any waves. “I worked hard there, and wasn’t a problem…a lot of bookers looked at that. I came in and did what they asked me to do,” Ricky recalled.

While Morton was still honing his craft, he nevertheless made an immediate favorable impression on Crockett’s booker, Dory Funk. And that paid dividends at a TV taping on March 16, 1983 in Charlotte. It was Ricky’s only television taping during this micro short Mid-Atlantic stay. Morton explained, “I didn’t do everything good, but they watched my matches. And Dory liked me; he liked the way I worked. And I’ll never forget this, when we were doing the TV, the matches went too short and he still had like 20 minutes on the TV and he just walked back there and said, ‘Come on kid, me and you we got to go.’ I was just a young babyface, but what a match we had there on TV…we went about 20 minutes!”

Morton had a busy evening during that night’s taping at the WPCQ studios. That evening in Charlotte, Ricky also wrestled two tag team matches with partners Ron Rossi and Frank Monte against the stellar team of Funk and Dick Slater. According to Morton, it was right after the match where Funk and Slater defeated Ricky and Frank Monte that he got his moment to wrestler Funk one-on-one, and the youngster made the most of it. “We had that tag match and I was leaving, but they had time left so Dory Funk came out and said, ‘Come on kid, we got 20 minutes we got to fill in on this TV thing.’ Boy, I’m out there and I’m head scissoring him and all kinds of stuff,” Morton exclaimed. “I was just a young fresh meat babyface,” Morton remembered with a chuckle.

Ricky was able to wrestle in many of the major Mid-Atlantic arenas during his short stay, including dropping a decision to the mysterious Ninja on February 18, 1983 at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia and two days later in the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina being upended by the double-tough Red Dog Lane.

“I hit all of the big towns; I wrestled every night,” Morton recalled. But one of Ricky’s most memorable moments occurred in South Carolina’s capital city. “You know, I did Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina. I remember Ricky Steamboat when I was coming in the back, it was the first time I really ever talked to Ricky Steamboat. He was just sitting back there on the steps, and I come walking by and he said, ‘What’s up?’ And I sat down beside him…we didn’t talk about wrestling. We just talked about other stuff for a few minutes. That was the first time I really had a conversation with Ricky Steamboat. Ricky was the top babyface, but he was just a good guy. He knew I was young in the business, he was there and he was just messing with me,” Morton recalled.

When Ricky Morton returns to Dorton Arena and to the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium this weekend, it will be nearly 34 years since he started wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions during that week or two way back in March of 1983. His short “cup of coffee” stay in the Mid-Atlantic area in 1983 was even well back in the recesses of Ricky’s mind. “That was just an era of my time in the business that I had forgot about,” Morton candidly stated. All the more reason to come out to see Ricky Morton, version 2017, this weekend in Raleigh and Spartanburg, when he revisits his Mid-Atlantic roots. Baby, he’s come a long way!

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See also: "Big Time Wrestling" Returns to Raleigh and Spartanburg This Weekend

"Big Time Wrestling" returning to Raleigh and Spartanburg This Weekend

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway"Big Time Wrestling" makes its big return to the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC and the Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, SC this coming weekend.

The same group that drew huge crowds last fall (featuring the reunion of Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat) will be hitting these two classic Mid-Atlantic Wrestling venues with the return of WCW legend STING.

The first show is this Friday night, February 10, and will take place at Raleigh's famous Dorton Arena. The second big show will take place the following night, Saturday February 11, at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.

Both shows feature a "meet & greet" with all the stars of the show that begins at 6 PM, with the matches starting both nights at 8 PM. Ticket information on their website at the links above.

Other stars on these shows include Broken Matt Hardy, Ricky Morton, the Great Khali, Billy Gunn, Buff Bagwell, Tony Atlas, George South, and many others.

For complete details, visit their website at

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Part 2)

In PART ONE of our interview, David and Tony talked about how Tony first became a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, plus many of the wrestlers he remembers during that time, and other early memories. That discussion continues in Part Two below.

A reminder that the timeline covered in our interview with Tony runs up to the very early days of his work with the wrestling side Jim Crockett Promotions in 1983. Tony's career beyond that will be part of the ongoing discussion on his new podcast on the MLW Radio Network called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) where fans and listeners vote each week on WHW Monday's Twitter page for the following week's topic from Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s and WCW in the 1990s.  -D. Bourne

* * * * *


David Chappell: Who are some memorable Mid-Atlantic wrestlers that worked underneath that come to your mind?

Tony Schiavone
Tony Schiavone: You know, I don’t necessarily remember the names of the job guys but [the announcers] Bob Caudle and later with Rich Landrum and David Crockett…those guys did a good job of making you think those guys were good wrestlers, even though they were going to lose.

Chappell: For sure…

Schiavone: I remember Bill White was one, if I recall. There was this little, kind of a spark plug/fire plug type kid, a guy named Tony Russo?

Chappell: Yes, Tony Russo was actually involved in the famous Hat and Robe TV angle we mentioned a minute ago!

Schiavone: And I remember Klondike Bill; I got to know him very well.

Chappell: Yes, I was going to ask you about Klondike Bill. He was with the Crockett’s for MANY years! Any other names of Mid-Atlantic wrestlers, regardless of where they appeared on the cards that come to mind off the top of your head?

Schiavone: Let’s see, I remember Jay Youngblood. Of course I remember Paul Jones and Angelo Mosca, who was there for a time.

Chappell: Jones and Mosca had a great program in 1976 that I loved. We’ve also mentioned some of the 1970s Mid-Atlantic announcers. Wasn’t Big Bill Ward from Charlotte back doing some announcing right when you started on TV in 1983? Can you take us back to how you made your way into the fold as a wrestling announcer for Crockett?

Schiavone: Yes, Bill Ward had come back and was doing the local inserts…local interviews.

David, I got the job [with the Crockett’s] after the ‘81 [baseball] season. I got the job; I was doing the Greensboro games, the Greensboro minor league team. They were the Hornets then, in ‘81.

Chappell: I didn’t realize you called baseball games for Greensboro.

Schiavone: Yes, and I found out from a friend of mine, named Bob Jamieson, who was the play-by-play guy of the Double A Nashville team…I found out that the Charlotte job was opening up, so I went down and interviewed for it.

Chappell: This would have been the Charlotte Orioles minor league baseball team, which the Crockett’s also owned, right?

Schiavone: That’s right. Now I had kind of known that the Crockett’s owned the baseball team, because I remembered Frances Crockett being named like General Manager of the Year by the Sporting News.

Frances Crockett
So I went down and interviewed with Frances Crockett, and she hired me that day. So my baseball career, in my mind, was off and running. I was two years out of college, my first year was in Single A and now I moved up to Double A…

Chappell: went to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, correct?

Schiavone: Yes I did. So I talked to Frances, and as I got the job I would continue to talk to Frances about letting me do wrestling…which nothing ever came about for the whole year.

But I remember one time going to a TV taping, I think they had it at the channel 36 studios in Charlotte. And I remember talking to David [Crockett], and he was very nice to me. He was the first one that I met there, and I told him what I’d like to do. He said he appreciated that, but there wasn’t anything available.

Chappell: But you continued to try to move into the wrestling side of things?

Schiavone: Yes, and eventually I did the interview with Flair. Then they called me in to do the interviews…the local insert interviews, is what I called them.

Chappell: Now, when you say the interview with Flair, what interview are you referring to?

Schiavone: This was the announcement, his reaction to being part of the “Flair for the Gold,” having the World Title match with Harley Race.

Chappell: Oh, okay, the announcement for Starrcade ’83. In the early fall of 1983…

Schiavone: Yes.

Chappell: So after the Starrcade announcement, you started appearing regularly on the Crockett wrestling shows?

Schiavone: I did that with Ric, and then the following week Frances Crockett brought me into her office and she said, ‘Well, I knew this would happen. Now they want you to come and do some more interviews.’ She said, ‘You’re going to be pulled between me and them.’ Them being her brothers.

Chappell: Right…her wrestling brothers.

Schiavone: And she was right, I mean. You know, they would want me and she would want me.

Chappell: Geez…a real tightrope walk for you.

Schiavone: Oh yeah! She threatened to fire me a couple of times!

Chappell: Clearly you had a love for baseball at that time but the wrestling side of things was still on your mind. When or how did wrestling win out in this tug of war? Was there a particular event that pushed you to the wrestling announcing side?

Schiavone: Well financially it did, David, because I was making more with wrestling. I was doing wrestling part-time, and was making twice as much doing wrestling part-time as I was in baseball.

Chappell: That’s a significant difference, no doubt.

Schiavone: Baseball paid nothing, but back in those days we had a son Matt and we had our second child, our daughter in ’84, so I needed both…I needed both incomes.

Chappell: Understandable.

Schiavone: Okay, so I remember I went to a match at the Charlotte Coliseum, and I remember talking to David Crockett…

Chappell: During a live show?

Schiavone: Yes, I remember talking to David and letting him know I was there and everything…I got a ticket, or they gave me a ticket, and I went down and sat in my seat. And I remember the matches were getting ready to start and nothing was happening…thank you for jogging my memory on this! ...

Chappell: Yes sir!

C.J. Underwood
Longtime ring announcer at
the Charlotte Coliseum
(Photo -
Schiavone: I remember David came out and was looking up in the stands, and I knew instantly he was looking for me. And I went down and he said, ‘C.J. Underwood, is not here. Can you do the ring announcing for us?’ So I did the ring announcing that night in the Charlotte Coliseum.

Chappell: Wow!

Schiavone: And they gave me a 100 dollar bill, okay? And the reason I remember this is because I went home to my wife Lois, and we were living in this old rickety house in Charlotte…and I showed her this 100 dollar bill. We were so excited about it, that I got paid 100 dollars for doing the ring announcing.

Chappell: Tony, that’s reminiscent of others I’ve talked with that got their break when they were at the matches, somebody didn’t show up and they filled in, and the rest is history. I believe Rich Landrum got his break in a similar fashion.

Schiavone: And you know, I did the interview with Ric and I started doing the local interviews with Big Bill Ward. They brought me in, and Bill would do a couple and I’d do a couple. I remember Bill was so nice…

Bill Ward hosted "Championship
Wrestling" on WBTV-3 in Charlotte
from 1958-1974. He returned to
wrestling in 1982 to host the local
promos during JCP shows.
Chappell: He sure came off that way on TV.

Schiavone: You know, he said, ‘You need to wear some comfortable shoes because you’re going to be standing all day!’

Chappell: I’m sure that was true!

Schiavone: He kept saying, ‘Boy, I’m glad you’re here to help me out. Anything I can do just let me know.’ He was just a genuinely nice man, but David I kind of knew what was going on…I knew that eventually it would just be me. And that’s not arrogance. I could just see what was happening then…I was young and kind of moving into his role.

Chappell: Bill had been around for a real long time. In fact, when we both started getting into watching Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1974, Bill pretty much seemed to be winding it down then, and lo and behold he pops back up nearly a decade later.

It’s nice to hear that he was helpful to you in your very early TV wrestling announcing days.

Schiavone: Yes, he really was and he was such a nice man.

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for PART THREE of our ongoing interview with Tony Schiavone. And don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday

Friday, February 03, 2017

Memorabilia: Collecting the "American Dream"

From time to time, we want to spotlight some of the great memorabilia that is out there related to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions. One of the biggest collectors of wrestling memorabilia in general that we know is Josh Watko, who shares his collection online at his website and on various social media platforms. Josh collects from all eras and territories, and included in that collection are a lot of things related to our primary area of interest - - Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions.

I recently asked Josh to share with us some of his memorabilia related to "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, as well as his stories related to collecting it.

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Dusty Rhodes JCP Memorabilia - Some of My Favorites
by Josh Watko
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
It's always an honor for me to write about "The American Dream," but it has a bit more meaning when those words appear on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. This site is the living history of Jim Crockett Promotions. To be invited to share my memories on here is a true pleasure.

I'll always have five all-time favorite wrestlers, but I think anyone who knows me knows that if I were forced to pick one, it would be Dusty Rhodes. As with so many fans worldwide, Dusty just resonated with me. He carried himself like a legend before he even earned the label. He was one of those individuals who took hold of a room and announced "I'm somebody" just by walking through the door.

I was lucky enough to meet Big Dust several times in the span of just over a decade. Each time was memorable as were the various items that he signed for me. The last time that I saw him, he even remembered me from the previous encounter, but we'll get to that.

The first time that I met The Dream, I brought along two items from the JCP era: the War Games VHS video and the 1987 Great American Bash program. I had found the program at a local library fundraiser book sale here in Western Pennsylvania in the mid-1990's. It was a "pay-by-the-pound" sale and, since the program didn't weigh very much, the kind ladies in charge didn't include it on the pile that we were purchasing and instead just gave it to me. I never imagined that I would load it up with autographs, but that's exactly what I ended up doing. Dusty was the first, and he signed it with a big bold signature.

Dusty made the cover of tons of magazines over the years, but some of the nicest feature the original "Stardust" in his signature robes. A publication featured on this site many times is the fabled "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine," and a 1984 issue proudly displayed "The Dream" in a silver and white robe that would rival anything ever worn by a guy named Flair.

One item that I never ended up getting signed but does feature a facsimile signature is the Dusty Rhodes Great American Bash souvenir cup from Fast Fare convenience stores. A number of JCP stars were featured, but who can beat the one featuring the star and creator of the event?

If you've read Dick Bourne's book chronicling Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?), you've already seen my all-time favorite wrestling collectible, Dusty or otherwise. It's a larger-than-lifesize cardboard stand-up of The American Dream. Originally part of an in-store display advertising Mello Yello, it's unknown how many still exist. I stumbled upon it years ago in an eBay auction that apparently not many people took note of. No one else bid, and the price was insanely low at around fifteen or twenty dollars.

It was always a "dream" to get it signed, and I actually lugged it around on several trips before Dusty got to see it. Since the Gateway is a family-friendly site, I will refrain from using his actual words when he saw it, but I think it's safe to say that he was blown away. Dusty gave it an incredible, large signature and posed for a great photo with it and myself. What a trio!

The next time that I saw Dusty was at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest. At that event I had him sign the Mello Yello can that "cardboard" Dusty is holding in the standee. He remembered the standee and said that he had actually found one. I have no idea where he found one, but if anyone could it would be The Dream. Little did any of us know that day that we were in the presence of a dying legend. That weekend would host my last encounters with the legend, in person.

That being said, I've often felt that I had one more experience with the spirit of "The Dream." As I was preparing to attend the debut of NXT here in Pittsburgh, PA, I was informed by a friend that Dusty had passed away. With nearly everyone involved in the show either a friend or student of The Dream, the event ending up being the first public memorial for Dusty Rhodes. Just as in the many times that I met him or saw him wrestle, I felt that Stardust magic looking down...with a million dollar smile.

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Josh's website is J.W.'s Wrestling Memorabilia at
You can follow him on Twitter at @JWsWrestlingMem and on Facebook at He updates all of those quite frequently.

Josh has written many posts about Dusty. One of our favorites is here:
That's Funky! That's The American Dream!

The book that Josh mentioned in his article is "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship." It is full color, lavishly illustrated, and includes information never previously published elsewhere.  It can be found on and through the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website. (Thanks to Josh for his contribution to the book!)