Monday, March 08, 2021

Jim Crockett, Jr. Makes a Rare Appearance in Madison Square Garden (1982)

Madison Square Garden, January 1982: (L-R) Jim Crockett, Jr., Hiashi Shinma, Ken Tajima, Vince McMahon, and Frank Tunney. (Photograph by George Napolitano)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It was quite the gathering of dignitaries during an intermission at the WWF wrestling event at New York's Madison Square Garden on January 18, 1982. The president of the WWF, Hisashi Shinma (second from the left) was making the announcement of the first annual I.W.G.P. (International Wrestling Grand Prix) Championship Tournament to be held in 1983 in Japan. Shinma, along with being the recognized president of the WWF was also a top official with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). 

Shinma was flanked by his interpreter Ken Tajima, and joined by National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) president and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling promoter Jim Crockett, Jr., WWWF promoter Vincent J. McMahon, and Toronto promoter (and NWA Vice President) Frank Tunney. It's also worth noting that Tunney and Crockett were business partners at this time, as Tunney was booking a majority of talent for his Maple Leaf Garden shows through Crockett's Charlotte, NC, office. 

It was a rare appearance for Crockett in Madison Square Garden. The WWF at this time was still a member of the NWA.

This gathering was captured by famed wrestling photographer George Napolitano who had the foresight to document the occasion. I've never seen any other photos from this rather historic gathering of wrestling dignitaries.

On the MSG Network broadcast of this show, the announcement was not covered. You could see this happening in the background of a wide camera shot, but announcer Vince (K.) McMahon was rambling on about something else while this was taking place. 

The 1/18/82 show was the first Madison Square Garden show I ever saw on TV. It was broadcast on delayed basis on the USA Network which had just been added to our local cable system in Kingsport, TN, where I grew up. The main event on that show was a really good WWF title defense by Bob Backlund against Adrian Adonis, where Adonis actually got the win, but not the title, when the match was stopped for blood. 

Mid-Atlantic stalwart Greg "The Hammer" Valentine was also on this show, defeating Pedro Morales, during one of Valentine's two big WWF stints during his 1976-1984 Mid-Atlantic period. Other regular Mid-Atlantic alumni on this card included former Mid-Atlantic champion Tony Atlas and perennial journeyman Charlie Fulton.   

According to the excellent reference book "Wrestling in the Garden: The Battle for New York" (by Scott Teal and J. Michael Kenyon, Crowbar Press), the show drew 18,301 and was simulcast live via closed circuit TV at the adjoining Felt Forum. While that book is an incredibly detailed compendium of all things related to the history of wrestling at Madison Square Garden, Teal and Kenyon oddly left out the gathering of these wrestling dignitaries at that January 18, 1982 show.

Thanks to Kyle Rosser for sending the photo clipping.