Friday, December 14, 2018

My Secret Charlotte

by Kyra Quinn
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published December 14, 2013

I live in Charlotte now. I just moved here after having spent most of my life in Pennsylvania. During repeated visits over recent years I slowly fell in love with Charlotte's tree-lined streets, distinctive neighborhoods and New South charm. But what drew me here initially and continues to captivate me is wrestling - the gritty, compelling wrestling of Jim Crockett Promotions from the mid-1980s.

I discovered Crockett wrestling one Saturday morning in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1985 when I was 8 years old. Immediately I became hooked, captivated by what I now understand to have been the perfect mix of athleticism, drama, and charismatic personalities working together to near perfection. The result was wrestling so gripping and so real that people truly believed. I certainly did. I believed in the hatred between Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. I believed that the Four Horsemen were trying to permanently maim Dusty Rhodes. And I believed without question that Ric Flair was the best wrestler alive in what he always referred to as the "greatest sport in the world".

I quickly became an avid fan and was even able to see wrestling in person when the NWA came to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. But they didn't come to Pittsburgh very often, and it didn't take me long to realize that the wrestling I loved was centered in the faraway and, to my young mind, exotic states of the Carolinas and Virginia. As a 4th grader in 1985 my knowledge of United States geography was undoubtedly broader than that of my classmates because each week I watched as Tony Schiavone promoted upcoming shows in places like Greensboro, Raleigh, Richmond, Norfolk and, of course, Charlotte. The names of these cities - and their venues - took on an almost mythical status for me. But Charlotte - home of Charlotte Coliseum, Memorial Stadium, Jim Crockett Promotions and the "Nature Boy" himself - was clearly the center of it all.

That, though, was all decades ago. The Charlotte of 1985 could scarcely have imagined its present-day self. The Queen City has grown exponentially in the years since Jim Crockett Promotions grossed millions of dollars working out of a tiny office on Briarbend Drive. Charlotte is now the country's 17th largest city. It is home to professional sports teams, a vibrant cultural scene and a continually growing and diversifying population. Charlotte is a modern boomtown that continues to carefully craft and cultivate its burgeoning identity as a cosmopolitan New South city. But professional wrestling is no longer part of Charlotte's reality or self-image. Although it was a mainstay of the city for decades, wrestling simply slipped away. Jim Crockett Promotions was sold off, the wrestlers left town, and Charlotte didn't look back. These days, the only official recognition of the importance of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions is located at the exceptional Levine Museum of the New South in uptown Charlotte. There, as part of the main exhibit, a small display educates visitors about the storied history of Mid-Atlantic wrestling and its cultural significance to the city and the region. Beyond that, there are sporadic references in the local media to the glory days of Charlotte wrestling. And the city still has a healthy independent wrestling scene. But that grand tradition - the sold-out arenas, the white-hot feuds, the rabid fan base - seems to have been relegated to a footnote in the story of Charlotte.

The Grady Cole Center, once known as the Charlotte Park Center, home to weekly Monday night Mid-Atlantic Wrestling cards from the late 1950s through early 1980s

And so there are no physical markers here, virtually nothing to indicate the hold wrestling once had on this place. But if you know where to look, reminders of Charlotte's rich wrestling heritage are all around. In a city that often seems to demolish rather than retain its history, the key venues are, incredibly, still standing. Memorial Stadium and the adjacent Park Center (now Grady Cole Center) are both still in use and appear largely as they did during their wrestling heydays. I am not old enough to remember the days when Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling filled the Park Center every Monday night. But I do recall the sight of Memorial Stadium in 1985 and 1986 when it hosted the Great American Bash. I only got to see clips of the Bashes on television, but that was enough for me to sense the magic: stadium lights blazing against a velvet Charlotte sky... tens of thousands packed into the bleachers... and at the center of it all, the ring, bathed in light, with the wrestlers giving it all they had on those hot July nights. Even through TV the excitement was palpable. As for the other primary Crockett venue, the old Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles Coliseum) still proudly stands on Independence Boulevard. Instantly recognizable by its silver roof and glass fa├žade, the Coliseum somehow remains in operation, though long gone are the days when it hosted all of the city's major events. Because of their historic and cultural importance to the city, both Charlotte Coliseum and Memorial Stadium have been designated as historic landmarks by the City Council of Charlotte. In all of the documentation that accompanied those designations I found only one reference to wrestling. But it made me smile. Buried deep in the lengthy historical essay which was prepared for Charlotte Coliseum as part of the designation process was the following elegantly understated sentence: "Professional wrestling also flourished." And so it did.

The Charlotte Coliseum in the early 1960s. The facility was known as Independence Arena during the 1980s heyday for Jim Crockett Promotions. It is now known as the Bojangle's Coliseum.

It is not, however, only the venues which serve as connections to Crockett Era Charlotte. There is Price's Chicken Coop, where George South was once a regular customer, buying up boxes of the legendary fried chicken; he bought it not for himself but for the Four Horsemen, among others, who were stuck at the Crockett office on Tuesdays during marathon taping sessions for local promos. And there is the classic South 21 Drive-In on Independence Boulevard, just down the road from the Coliseum and a long-time wrestling program sponsor. Obscure as they are, these connections evoke a time when wrestling was a fixture here, part of the fabric of Charlotte. And there is one other location of note, the aforementioned Crockett office. Although the building has long since been demolished, its place in wrestling history is secure for what happened there on an overcast fall day in 1986. It was there, of course, in the parking lot, that the Horsemen cornered and attacked an unsuspecting "American Dream". It was shocking, and it was perfect, and it is now the stuff of legend.

Ric Flair and Nikita Koloff square off at the Great American Bash at Memorial Stadium

I encounter at least one of these history-laden sites on an almost daily basis, and each time it is a thrill. Charlotte is a magical place for me. When I drive through the city, I feel like Charlotte and I share a secret. I live in and enjoy the Charlotte of the present, but I also see a Charlotte most people don't. When I drive the same stretch of road that the Horsemen did as they followed Dusty that day, I imagine his little red sports car up ahead, delivering him to that masterful ambush. When I pass Memorial Stadium at night, I see it with the lights still blazing and the World Champion making his triumphant helicopter entrance. And when I ride by Charlotte Coliseum, I hear the echoes. The echoes of a wild "Rock-and-Roll!" chant; of the majestic 2001 theme; of the gasps as Baby Doll turned on Dusty.

When I come across native Charlotteans - which is not the common occurrence one might think here in Charlotte - I always try to work wrestling into the conversation, just to see if they remember. They usually do. They remember and they smile and then casually toss out a memory of the Bash they saw at Memorial Stadium, or nonchalantly recall how they used to live on the same street as Ricky Morton. I listen, and I wonder all over again what it must have been like to live here then, when wrestling was so much a part of this city.

Much has changed, but wrestling will always be part of the story of Charlotte. And for those of us who listen - for all who remember and all who believed - the whispers of magic will never cease.

Charlotte's Memorial Stadium in the distance, much as it might have looked on a hot July night in 1985 at the Great American Bash.    (Photo credit - Flickr: Compulsive Collector)

Originally published December 14, 2013 in the Smoke Filled Rooms section of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
Republished here as part of our 'Best of the Gateway" series, the 5th anniversary of it first being published.
The original article, with additional supporting links and material, can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives.


This article was written during my brief but meaningful stay in Charlotte in 2013. Since that time I moved back to my home state of Pennsylvania. I love Pennsylvania, but I miss Charlotte; most of all, I miss my near-daily encounters with the city's magical wrestling relics. But I know that wherever I am, the whispers will continue.
 - Kyra Quinn, June 2015

Feedback From a Friend
by Dick Bourne

A good friend of ours, Linda Ostrow, gave Kyra Quinn (the author of the above article) some positive feedback on "My Secret Charlotte" that I thought I would include here. While Linda is admittedly not a wrestling fan, she has a strong connection to wrestling, Charlotte, and to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway as well.

Linda wrote Kyra:
"So moving and touching. Your writing brought tears to my eyes. I was taken back to what I thought was a great movie about second chances...Field of Dreams. If only to go back to that time, even for just a day. But dust is slowly covering memories and nothing seems  as glorious. Even though I never got hooked, wrestling touched everyone [in Charlotte] and I think it had a lot to do with putting Charlotte on the map. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.  - Linda"

Linda has been a good friend of Ric Flair's ever since the "Nature Boy" moved to Charlotte in 1974. She is the person to whom he entrusted the original 1973-1986 NWA world title belt that Ric maintained possession of, after it was retired, from 1986 until it went to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. (It current hangs in the office of WWE executive Paul Levesque, a.k.a. "Triple H.") She designed a custom frame for it, and had always been the person responsible for removing and replacing it in the intricately designed custom case when Ric would need to have it with him on WCW or WWE television. The belt today is still in the frame she made as it hangs on the wall at WWE headquarters.

Her story, as it regards that wrestling connection, is documented fully in "Ten Pounds of Gold", the book written about the history and construction of that belt.

When I first took Kyra by to meet Linda years ago at her Queen's Gallery studio in Charlotte, we learned Linda is originally from Pittsburgh as is Kyra. The two immediately struck up a friendship and have enjoyed occasional visits now that Kyra has moved to the Queen City.

Linda Ostrow's art gallery and frame shop are located at 1212 The Plaza, Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit

- Dick Bourne, Jan 2014, Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Photograph by Dick Bourne from the book "Ten Pounds of Gold"

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

NWA Champion Harley Race and Sylvester Stallone (1978)

This is one of or favorite images from the late 1970s in the Stanley Weston ("Apter") magazines. NWA World Heavyweight champion Harley Race stands with "Rocky" franchise star Sylvester Stallone. Sly looks like he's ready to take on the champ right then. He knows a good lookin' championship trophy when he sees one.

There are certain photos from the old wrestling magazines that have always stuck out in my mind. This is one of them.

The photo is thought to have been taken in Houston, TX in 1978.

(Originally posted in Feb. 2018 on our sister-website The Domed Globe.)

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods' Last Stand (Part 8)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Catch up on this entire story in:

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At the World Wide Wrestling television taping on October 24, 1979 Tim Woods and Buddy Rogers had their final dueling TV interviews before the bombastic in-ring action between Woods and Jimmy Snuka finally occurred. Announcer Rich Landrum opened the program with Tim Woods standing beside him holding one of his "Wanted" posters. Landrum told the fans, "Tim Woods, Mr. Wrestling,  joining us... what have you got there?"

Woods answered, "Well, all it is, is just a 'Wanted' poster...I've been distributing these to all the arenas and to anybody that will take one from me. This is at my expense, they are free of charge to the people. I just want 'em to know, and I want especially Rogers and Snuka to know that I want 'em out of wrestling, and I'm gonna put 'em out of wrestling."

Tim then pulled out his baseball bat with Snuka's name on it, that he now referred to as his "ding-bat," and continued, "All I want is my hands on either one of 'em anytime I can get, and I will be carrying an equalizer here. It's not baseball season anymore as far as I'm concerned..." Landrum then interrupted, "It's a Louisville Slugger though!" Woods agreed, "It's a Louisville Slugger and I assure you they hurt me once, they hurt me twice, but they're not gonna do it again!"

Tim Woods holds up "Ding Bat"
with Snuka's name written on it.
Landrum then commented on Woods' recovery, "Well, I see you don't have the collar on and I'm glad of that; you must be progressing fairly well." Tim responded, "I'm comin' along real fine, I've taken the mask off and I said I'd leave it off until I settled the score. And if nothing else maybe that should make you believe that I mean what I say. I WILL settle the score. I'm a firm believer in doing unto others as they have done unto you. And Rogers and Snuka, you've got something coming and I'm gonna give it to you...that's all I've got to say." Rich then concluded the segment, "Thank you Tim Woods, Mr. Wrestling, glad to see him recovering too, and I know he means what he says."

Later during the same World Wide Wrestling television taping, Snuka and Rogers got equal time. Landrum addressed the fans as Rogers stood next to him holding one of the posters Woods had left behind."Jimmy Snuka, U. S. Heavyweight Champion, is here and his manager Buddy Rogers, and Tim Woods, Mr. Wrestling, was out here on the opening of the program...yeah, he had one of those 'Wanted' posters," Landrum stated.

Rogers countered about the 'Wanted' poster, "Well, I don't know if you people seen this thing but just imagine, this would be about the lowest thing you could do to a man in his livelihood. We've put a whole lifetime in wrestling, Snuka and I, and by golly we come in this business to be square shooters, straight guys, all the way. Well let me tell you, when a man can do what this man did, this is trying to deprive him of a livelihood, and trying to hurt him..."

That prompted a quick rebuke from Landrum, "Well that's exactly what you tried the do!" Rogers fired back, "Wait a minute! We hurt the man because he came out here and challenged us. Well, we got news for him, he'll wait a long time before he ever gets a shot at this man's title, because as long as I'm this man's manager I will guarantee you that he will never get that shot at the title...this man will have to be next to dead before he gives him that title shot."

Rich replied, "Well, I tell you Tim Woods has assured me that he's on his way back and he's gonna get some kind of revenge." Rogers scoffed at that idea laughing, "Like I said, I don't care where he's at...we don't fear him, we're ready for him anytime at all but before he gets a title shot, which I know he wants, he'll wait a long, long time. As far as Snuka and I are concerned, he'll never do nothin' to us...we're just too much for him to handle!"

The October war of words in this feud were boiling red hot, but they had finally reached their zenith. Tim Woods would return to the ring in a week's time, and the time for talking would be done. In November it would be action time!

Tim Woods returns to in-ring be continued in Part 9!

(Special thanks to Brack Beasley for the photos!)

Friday, December 07, 2018

Favorite Promos: Drinkin' and Leg Divin'

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"From the time I was born, I was runnin' bad, Jack. I mean they had to chase me around the 'hawspital', you understand, trying to get me to calm down. 
I was throwing elbows on nurses, and leg divin' doctors, Jack!"

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Nick Aldis makes some Mid-Atlantic Magic in latest episode of NWA's "Ten Pounds of Gold"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

There is so much to love about this video recently released by the NWA. It's another in an ongoing series called "Ten Pounds of Gold" produced by David Lagana.

NWA President Billy Corgan and reigning NWA World champion Nick Aldis walk us through everything currently going on with the NWA, including an announcement about things upcoming.

But the real magic for me was hearing Aldis talk about what it was like driving down I-85 and passing all those great old Mid-Atlantic/Crockett cities like Raleigh and Greensboro. As the man currently holding the NWA title you could feel how keenly aware he was that he was literally traveling in the same pathways of the giants that came before him, those who had held that same title.

There was also a magic moment (thankfully captured on video) where Aldis and former legendary champion Harley Race reunited. Aldis was a trainee at Race's wrestling academy many years ago, but they met again that night with Aldis now holding the title that Race himself held for so many years. Seeing how gracious both Aldis and Race were to each other was priceless. One man showing respect for the other who had laid the foundation; the other showing respect for the man who now carries the torch.

There is also nice footage of Aldis's recent defense against Jake Hager (aka Jack Swagger in the WWE and Jake Strong in Lucha Underground) at the annual WrestleCade event in Winston-Salem over the traditional Starrcade weekend of Thanksgiving. Hager takes care to put over the NWA title, too.

We continue to enjoy and look forward to these great videos and particularly like the feel of tradition and respect (as well as a bit of warm nostalgia) involved in making the NWA great again.

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Follow the "Ten Pounds of Gold" series on the NWA's YouTube Channel.
You can also follow the principals on Twitter: @nwa (National Wrestling Alliance), @billy (Billy Corgan), and @Lagana (David Lagana.)

From the video description on YouTube: The return to provenience of the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance in 2018 is tied to the legacy created by men like Harley Race and others who held the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship (AKA The Ten Pounds of Gold).   Current reigning NWA Champion Nick Aldis has carried the tradition as well as the President of the NWA - William Patrick Corgan.  

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Peggy's Mid-Atlantic Photographs and Memories

by Peggy Lathan
Special for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Peggy Lathan Photo
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I went to wrestling almost every week in Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina. Over the years, I got to be good friends with many of the wrestlers, friendships I maintain to this day. We had lots of fun hanging out with Ric Flair and many of the other wrestlers out behind the Spartanburg Auditorium where the wrestlers entered the building, sometimes throwing frisbee and just killing time.

I was able to take lots of photos over the years, many of which I have shared on my facebook page. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway has presented many of them, too, and Dick Bourne has even featured several of my photos in his books.

Here are links to two online photo albums the Gateway has presented of my photos. I hope you enjoy; these are such great memories of a special time in my life with such special people.

Photos include Roddy Piper, Ole and Gene Anderson, Greg Valentine, Tommy Young, Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair, Scott McGhee, Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka, Paul Orndorf, The Hollywood Blondes (Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown), Ray Stevens, Dick Murdoch, Don Kernodle, Bill White, Doug Somers, Lanny Poffo, and Blackjack Mulligan.

(Originally published on the Gateway 1/19/2016)

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Mid-Atlantic Hidden Gems from Charlotte in the WWE Network Vault

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

If you are a WWE Network subscriber, you'd never know they've added a few new Hidden Gems from Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in 1983 unless you just swerved into them.

The WWE Network itself does a terrible job in making folks aware of what has been added to the Vault section of the site. A great resource, however, to keep up with new additions is the unaffiliated WWE Network News website. That's how we recently learned that the network had added two new raw footage Jim Crockett Promotions matches from the Charlotte Coliseum in the summer of 1983.

Back in May, they added a match from Charlotte on July 9, 1983 between then United States Champion Greg Valentine and arch-rival "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. (We mentioned it on our Facebook page.) The two new matches are from the same big Charlotte card, making three matches in all (the three main events) from that show.

Here is a list of the three matches and a direct link to them on the WWE Network.

WWE Network Link:

WWE Network Link:

WWE Network Link:

Interesting to note these three main events in Charlotte on 7/9/83 would be the three main events for Starrcade '83 four months later. Jim Crockett Promotions was getting ready to move TV production out of the studio and into arenas a month later, and theri new production truck was taping lots of material from shows in Charlotte during this time.

For additional context, Race had just regained the title for a record breaking seventh time less than one month earlier. Race was making his first tour as new champion in the Mid-Atlantic area, and was defending against now-former champion Flair across the territory beginning on July 2 in Greensboro, followed by Savannah, Greenville, Raleigh, Sumter, Norfolk, Richmond, and finally July 9 in Charlotte.

These matches are great to watch, especially if you attended matches live during this era. They bring back great memories.  Without commentary and featuring great ambient sound, you get a good feel for what it was like to attend shows then. I love that there was no entrance music, no pyro, no video screens. Just warriors making their way through the crowd and up into the ring.

If you have have never subscribed to the WWE Network, its easily worth the $10/month to get the old Mid-Atlantic shows they currently have up from 1981-1983, plus hidden gems like these. New subscribers can try the network free for one month.

Very cool to see these "Hidden Gems" and we are hopeful for more coming down the line.