Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Gateway Interview: Baron Von Raschke (Part 3)


PART THREE

Need to get caught up?
Check out Part 1 and Part 2 


PART THREE

Chappell: After that program with Johnny Weaver, you were pretty much a tag team specialist for most of the rest of your run in the Mid-Atlantic area. Greg Valentine was the first of your really big-time partners. 

Raschke: Right…the Hammer!

Chappell: You all had the famous TV angle in June of 1978 where you put up your TV Title against Paul Jones, in exchange for a shot at the NWA World Tag Team Titles. You lost the TV belt to Jones, but you and Greg won the World Tag Team Belts from Jones and Steamboat! And all this happened on one TV show! 

Raschke: Yes… Greg and I made a real good team. He was a great partner for me. 

Chappell: Describe Greg as a partner, if you would. I spoke with Greg a couple of months ago, and he was very complimentary of you. He said you taught him how to be patient in the ring. 

Raschke: (laughs) I don’t know if I taught Greg too much! He was always a really good performer, and he was just a good hard worker. He was very steady. It was a pleasure for me to be with a partner of his stature. He was great.

Chappell: Greg was very similar to his Dad (Johnny Valentine) in a lot of ways, wasn’t he? 

Raschke: Well, they looked just like each other---picture images. They were both very well built people, and they both worked really, really hard. Fortunately, Greg didn’t have his Dad’s weird sense of humor! (laughs) 

Chappell: (laughs) I don’t think Greg could have ever topped his Dad in that category.

Raschke: (laughing) 

Chappell: Besides Jones and Steamboat, another team I remember you and Greg up against during your title reign was Blackjack Mulligan and Dick Murdock. 

Raschke: The old M & M Boys…they were quite a combination! 

Chappell: Yes, for sure. I told Blackjack I would be talking with you tonight, and he wanted me to be sure and tell you ‘hello’ for him. 

Raschke: Please give him a ‘hello’ back from me! 

Chappell: I definitely will. Well, the title reign of Baron Von Raschke and Greg Valentine came to an end at the tail end of 1978…to newcomers Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka. Tell us about the Orndorff/Snuka tandem. 

Raschke: They were two great athletes. There was nobody like Snuka, as far as flying around. He could climb those ropes, and leap further than anybody I’d ever seen. He was like a kangaroo going across the ring! 

Chappell: (laughing) Snuka was unbelievable with those dives. 

Raschke: And Orndorff had a terrific athletic background. He was a real horse in the ring. They both were very impressive…to the fans and to us. 

Chappell: What was going through your mind when Snuka was preparing to jump across the ring onto YOU? 

Raschke: I got very tense and my eyes got extremely large when I would see Snuka climbing those ropes on the other side of the ring, getting ready to make that big dive! 

Chappell: I can only imagine! And for that time period, Baron, that was an almost unheard of move. 

Raschke: It certainly was. And in the late 70s, Snuka weighed 30-40 pounds more than he would into the early 80s. 

Chappell: And those 30-40 pounds were all muscle! I always thought Snuka and Orndorff got over pretty much on their athleticism. They weren’t much on their interviews but they were new and so athletic, the lack of mic skills didn’t really hurt them all that much. 

Raschke: And, David, they looked good too! 

Chappell: Exactly. 

Raschke: And they really were good. 

Chappell: After you and Greg went your separate ways, you actually teamed up in early 1979 with you former enemy, Paul Jones. 

Raschke: Imagine that! 

Chappell: (laughing) Actually, Baron, it WAS pretty hard to imagine! You two even won the NWA World Tag Team Titles. 

Raschke: That we did. 

Chappell: But I tell you, the thing I remember most about you teaming with Jones was when you two wrestled Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat during the summer of 1979. You and Paul were in large part responsible for Flair really getting over as a babyface for the first time. 

Raschke: Oh yeah…that was a great series! I think that’s when we sold out your hometown.

Chappell: You’re absolutely right! For the first match of that series, I don’t think the Richmond Coliseum was ever packed with more people…or had more people turned away at the door. 

Raschke: I believe we sold [ Richmond] out several times. We kept selling that match out. That was a great run with Paul and myself against Flair and Steamboat. 

Chappell: Tell us about the dynamics of the Raschke/Jones team. In a lot of ways you all seemed to be total opposites, but boy did that team ever work! 

Raschke: You know, Paul and I had the same phenomenon like I was mentioning before…it was a lot like Mad Dog Vachon and Baron Von Raschke. Paul was a little shorter than I was…I was the tall one of the team. I’m not the best looking guy. It was automatic heat. 

Chappell: In that time frame, I remember Paul briefly putting a blonde wig on you and saying that the only thing people could call you then was ‘handsome!’ I also recall Paul saying with that blonde wig on, you got ALMOST as many girlfriends as Paul did! (laughs) 

Raschke: All that wig did was make matters worse! (everybody laughs) 

Chappell: How did Paul rank as a tag team partner? 

Raschke: Very high. Paul and I really clicked…it was just great. Paul and I also had a great time traveling together. 

Chappell: You and Paul rode the Mid-Atlantic highways together? 

Raschke: Yes…usually by ourselves. Paul had been around the territory a long while, so he knew his way around very well. 

Chappell: Before we leave the subject of you and Paul against Flair and Steamboat, I’m curious about one thing… 

Raschke: You’re a very curious fellow… 

Chappell: I’m not quite sure how to take that Baron! (everybody laughs) At any rate, was there any thought of putting the World Tag Team Belts on Flair and Steamboat? They were so hot as a team for that brief period of time. 

Raschke: I really don’t have any idea about that. Belts were really never that important to me.

Chappell: There seems to be a split of opinion with your colleagues as to whether holding a title was all that significant. From the wrestlers I’ve talked with, there appears to be about an even split of opinion on that subject. 

Raschke: Belts were something to talk about; they gave the fans something to talk about. But I could work in the ring whether I had [a belt] or not. 

Chappell: It was funny, they never put the belts on Flair and Steamboat, but later that summer in 1979, they put the Titles on Flair and Blackjack Mulligan. I come back from summer vacation that year, and you and Paul had lost them and already won them back! 

Raschke: David …you HAVE to pay attention to these things! 

Chappell: I know…always keeping the people guessing. Can’t ever miss an episode! 

Raschke: There you go! (everybody laughs) 

Chappell: Your final major tag team program in the area was a very memorable one, in the fall of 1979. You and Paul battled the new duo of Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. Steamboat and Youngblood would become one of the Mid-Atlantic area’s top teams for four more years. 

Raschke: They were another young upcoming team. We had some really good, really serious, matches with them. 

Chappell: At that time, Jay Youngblood had never gotten a serious push. Even teaming with Ricky, there had to be some concern about him getting over. And the program as a whole getting over. 

Raschke: You see what happened there, was they teamed up Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood…a couple of guys that were kind of so-so looking. Then, you have Paul Jones and myself…two very attractive and handsome men… 

Chappell: Huh? 

Raschke: All the young girls were just going crazy over Paul and I. When the girls would come to see Paul and myself, of course, they saw Youngblood and Steamboat too. So there were a few, a small number, that started liking Jay Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat. Can you imagine that? 

Chappell: Baron, I’m having a hard time imagining any of this! (laughs) 

Raschke: It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? 

Chappell: You might say so! But all of this sounds a little backwards to me… 

Raschke: The passage of time can twist things sometimes, you know? Anyway, some of our young attractive fans … Paul Jones’ and Baron Von Raschke’s attractive fans ... had the gall to go over to Ricky Steamboat, who looked so-so, and to Jay Youngblood, who looked so-so. So, Steamboat and Youngblood got a few more fans. 

Chappell: (laughing) And a tag team rivalry for the ages was born! You know, when I interviewed Paul Jones he insisted to me that Ricky Steamboat turned on him in 1978, about a year before all of this happened. I’m starting to understand now why you and Paul got along so well! (laughs) 

Raschke: (laughing) 

Chappell: At the risk of dredging up some painful memories for you, do you remember when Steamboat and Youngblood painted the yellow streak down your back on TV… 

Raschke: HEY!!! 

Chappell: (laughing) I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’ 

Raschke: How come you had to remember THAT? 

Chappell: You have to admit, that angle is pretty hard to forget! Here’s your chance, all these years later, to explain that to all of us fans! 

Raschke: Well, it was a terrible, terrible thing that they did. Young punks…and their screaming, hollering fans---yelling and screaming and enjoying something like that. 

Chappell: (laughing) Sounds like your memory might be improving, Baron! I remember on the TV interview right after it happened, Paul said he couldn’t get the paint off of him. When I interviewed Paul in Charlotte about a year ago, I should have asked him if he had any remnants of that yellow paint still on his back! 

Raschke: That wasn’t easy to wash off…we’d probably still have to check his back! (everybody laughs) Yeah…that was quite a deal! 

Chappell: Without having you and Jones to start off with, do you think Steamboat and Youngblood would have become the superstar team they eventually became? 

Raschke: They were good talents…they would have eventually gotten there anyway. 

Chappell: Well, Baron, nothing lasts forever…and neither did your partnership with Paul Jones. You two had a falling out in early 1980, and had some heated matches against each other. And you were actually cheered in those matches! 

Raschke: (laughs) Yes…I was.

Chappell: I’m not quite sure why, but I cheered for you then also! 

Raschke: To know me…is to love me! (everybody laughs) 

Chappell: How could such a great team have had it all end like that? 

Raschke: You want to know why? 

Chappell: Yes, I would. 

Raschke: That Paul Jones was a sneaky coward…he was manipulative. You know, he would give me a medal every time something would happen…and I would go for it. Then I found out that he was just using me… 

Chappell: Using you? 

Raschke: He kept using my nice personality, and my good looks… 

Chappell: (laughs) A man can only take so much of that abuse! 

Raschke: But, yeah, Paul and I had some terrific cage matches. And then I was off to a different territory. 

Chappell: Was it difficult facing Paul again as an opponent, after the great run together as World Tag Team Champions? 

Raschke: I look back on that, David , and it’s all good memories. I enjoyed what I was doing, and Paul enjoyed what he was doing. We went our separate ways there for a while, but we got back and saw each other in Las Vegas recently, and it was a great feeling on both sides, I think. 

Chappell: That’s terrific…had you seen Paul anytime recently before the Cauliflower Alley Club event? 

Raschke: No, not since the time I came back to Charlotte in the mid 80s and wrestled for a while there then. I’m not a real good person about calling and writing people, so seeing people in Las Vegas was really great. 

Chappell: When you left the Mid-Atlantic area in early 1980 after the matches against Paul, you went to Georgia and the AWA and some other areas. But in the fall of 1983, you briefly came back to the Carolinas with Gary Hart as your manager…attempting to unmask Charlie Brown. Why was that stint back in the Mid-Atlantic area so short? 

Raschke: Then, my daughter had started into college and my son was in high school…so we didn’t want to move. At that time, my family wasn’t with me and I got to be a very, very lonely guy---and I didn’t like that. So, I needed to get back to where my family was. That’s why I didn’t stay in Charlotte any longer than I did.

CONTINUED IN PART FOUR

Monday, August 29, 2022

Poster: Flair & Mulligan vs. Piper & Valentine

by Jody Shifflett
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

This poster was from Valentine’s Day 1981 and took place at the farthest northern point that Mid-Atlantic wrestling covered at the time which was Culpeper, Virginia. 

What a main event  for the small venue which featured four of the greatest wrestlers of all time and I can only imagine what the atmosphere was like inside the Culpeper Junior High School gym as these four Titans went to war in the ring. 

Pretty good under card led up to the main event and I would imagine that was a good match between Ole Anderson and Dewey Roberson because these were both respectively tough men, which most of the Mid-Atlantic stars were anyway. 

Features great sunrise colors and the classic 8:15 start time!

NO. 6 IN THE SHIFFLETT POSTER SERIES

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Gateway Interview: Baron Von Raschke (Part 2)

PART TWO

Miss something? Get caught up with PART ONE

PART TWO

David Chappell: Who were the guys that were most influential to you when you first broke in? 

Baron Von Raschke: After three or four months of setting up the ring, I was refereeing and Mad Dog Vachon noticed me. Mad Dog was getting ready to leave the AWA for a while, and go up to Quebec , Canada …the Montreal area. He wanted a partner, and took a liking to me. Mad Dog was on the Canadian Olympic team…two Olympics before I was almost on the U.S. team. So, he had a natural inclination to take me under his wing…and he did. 

Chappell: Did Mad Dog help you develop the ‘Baron’ persona? 

Raschke: [Editor’s Note: The Baron Is In Character Voice Here!] Mad Dog said to me, ‘YOU WOULD MAKE A VERY GOOD GERMAN!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Raschke: I told him, ‘I AM A GERMAN! MY PARENTS MADE ME A GERMAN!’ (everybody laughs)
He said, ‘WELL…COME TO CANADA WITH ME AND BE MY NEW PARTNER!’ So, I took my new bride, the lovely Bonnie, and we got in our little Mustang with the trailer on the back and headed for adventures unknown. 

Chappell: What made Mad Dog see the ‘Baron’ from Jim Raschke? 

Raschke: I think I looked the part to him, so I just went with it. It turned out that ‘Baron Von Raschke’ was always there, even though he was inside me…he was my alter ego. 

Chappell: Wasn’t Mad Dog injured in a car wreck fairly soon after you all started teaming up? 

Raschke: Yeah, I went up to Montreal and teamed with him. For people that don’t know Mad Dog, he wasn’t a tall man…he was quite a bit shorter than I am. And, he probably isn’t the best looking man now, but he was quite handsome then. And I was this big and tall bald guy…and for some reason the crowd automatically didn’t like us from the get-go. He would play up to that, and I’d follow suit. Pretty soon, the crowds didn’t like us at all…but we were filling up all the arenas! 

Chappell: I recently interviewed Ivan Koloff, and he was up there in Montreal about this same time. Weren’t the Rougeaus the big fan favorites up there then? 

Raschke: Actually, [Ivan] was the next guy they had in after I left. The territory popped with the Mad Dog and I. Regarding the accident…for some reason I was in another town in a different area that day. Mad Dog was coming back from Chicoutimi …which is way up north---about 350 miles north of Montreal . As you can imagine, it’s very icy there in the winter, and the car slipped off the road and went into the ditch. Anyway, it wound up that Mad Dog separated his pelvis… 

Chappell: I guess he was fortunate that the accident wasn’t any worse? 

Raschke: They had midget wrestlers on that same card, and the midgets found the wreck and were able to help. Mad Dog didn’t know if they were angels or devils, but there they were! 

Chappell: He was no doubt glad to see them, whoever they were! 

Raschke: (laughs) Yeah…they were able to get him to the hospital. Mad Dog was out of business for several months. In the meantime, Hans Schmidt was in the area, so we teamed up and were just as hot as Mad Dog and I were. 

Chappell: Ivan told me he teamed with Hans Schmidt up there too, and it got pretty wild! 

Raschke: It was pretty intense. We had riots all the time. We’d leave the ring, and often times the fans would fill the ring with chairs… 

Chappell: That’s what Ivan told me! But I figured it was probably a one night only incident… 

Raschke: [Editor’s Note: The Baron Is Again In Character Voice Here!] ‘IT WAS NIGHT AFTER NIGHT AFTER NIGHT!!! THEY WERE HANGING FROM THE RAFTERS…AND I DON’T MEAN THAT AS AN IDIOM…THEY WERE ACTUALLY SITTING ON THE BEAMS GOING ACROSS THE TOP OF THE BUILDING!!!!’

Chappell: (laughing hard) Man, that was unbelievable up there! 

Raschke: We had to take care of ourselves! 

Chappell: Everyone from the Mid-Atlantic area remembers your devastating ‘Brain Claw’ hold. Did you develop the Claw hold during these early years? 

Raschke: Yes. I was wrestling against Pat O’Connor in St. Louis , and we had a talk after the match. He suggested that I use the Claw, and I told him I didn’t even know what it was! I hadn’t seen it up to that point. I was only in St. Louis for that one night. I was working in Detroit for Eddie Farhat then…this was shortly after I was in Montreal

Chappell: So, you were just in St. Louis at that point for a single shot? 

Raschke: They had a call in for a guy to go in and work against O’Connor…so they flew me into St. Louis from Detroit . We were in the old Kiel Auditorium. 

Chappell: A great venue. 

Raschke: Yes…and O’Connor and I had a pretty decent match. He kind of liked me, and took me under his wing and asked me about the Claw. But then I sort of forgot about [the Claw] for a while, because I was doing other things. 

Chappell: So you didn’t start using the Claw immediately? 

Raschke: No, actually, because after I left the Detroit territory I went down and wrestled for Fritz Von Erich… 

Chappell: You probably weren’t allowed to use the Claw in Fritz’s territory! (laughs) 

Raschke: Well, I still didn’t really know what the Claw was all about…even then. So I didn’t look to use it there, particularly down there! I had my own things I could use. 

Chappell: Did the Claw come naturally for you? I remember when you first came into the Mid-Atlantic area, they had you crush an apple with the hand you used for the Claw. You must have had terrific hand strength. 

Raschke: Well, you go with what you got. I had some abilities that maybe some other people didn’t have…and some other people certainly have abilities that I don’t have. But, I suppose I had a fairly good grip at that time. But, yeah, the Claw seemed to be a natural fit for me. 

Chappell: And when you had an opponent in the Claw, your facial expressions were priceless! I think those put the move over as much as anything.

Raschke: Well, David , I did the best I could. Speaking of my face, I get asked for autographs all the time---people think I’m Ben Affleck… 

Chappell: (laughs) Oh really? 

Raschke: Oh yeah…all the time! 

Chappell: Well, I want a current picture of you that we can put up on the site. We’ll create a ‘ Hollywood ’ section, and put you right in there! 

Raschke: There you go…is it Ben or is it Memorex? (everybody laughs) 

Chappell: But back to the Claw…I guess it was a combination of things that got that maneuver over so well. But that maniacal and diabolical look of yours was a big part of it for me! But, I digress…. 

Raschke: Well, yes, you do…(everybody laughs) But, it was a good hold for me…it worked well for me. 

Chappell: Where did you head after your stint in Texas with Fritz Von Erich? 

Raschke: I went to Indiana with (Dick The) Bruiser’s group. That’s where I started using the Claw. And I used it a different way than Fritz Von Erich did. 

Chappell: What was the distinction? 

Raschke: Well, [Von Erich] would throw it on very, very quickly without doing much to set it up. Basically, I would have to work to set it up…and then when the time was right, I would put it on. That made a lot of difference. 

Chappell: Oh…no doubt. Now, you had a good long run in Bruiser’s territory in the early 70s. Is it fair to say that was when Baron Von Raschke really took off? 

Raschke: Yes…there was a lot of great talent around that area. 

Chappell: Didn’t they put the WWA World belt on you pretty quickly there, and then you and Bruiser battled back and forth over it for a number of years? 

Raschke: Yeah…that’s what happened. 

Chappell: And I believe late in your run there, you and Ernie Ladd were the Tag Team Champions? 

Raschke: Yep…we had some of the best in the business in there then. 

Chappell: We’re into the mid 70s now, Baron. Where did you campaign before you ended up in the Mid-Atlantic area in the summer of 1977? 

Raschke: I went back to the AWA…I spent about two and a half years with Verne and Wally Karbo. Then I got a call from Vince McMahon, and I went up to New York for several months. Then, I went to Crockett. 

Chappell: You were working in the WWWF right before you entered the Mid-Atlantic area? 

Raschke: Yes, that’s right. 

Chappell: Well, we have you up to July of 1977. Tell us about how you came to enter the Mid-Atlantic area. 

Raschke: It came about in a kind of roundabout way. A bunch of people from Japan were going through the U.S. The top guy over there was Giant Baba… 

Chappell: Right… 

Raschke: Big, tall guy…about seven feet tall. Anyway, he needed an opponent in Greensboro . It was kind of the same story as with me and Pat O’Connor back a number of years before.


Chappell: Yep…I know exactly the Greensboro card you’re referring to---I collect event posters. It was March 20, 1977 . I always thought it was odd you were on that card, because you didn’t start in the Mid-Atlantic area for four more months. You were wrestling Baba for the ‘Pacific Wrestling Title!’ I seriously doubt that Title was defended much in the Mid-Atlantic area! (laughs)  

Raschke: (laughs) Yeah…and I had never met the Crocketts and hardly knew (the booker) George Scott. Anyway, I went there and worked with Giant Baba…because the Mid-Atlantic didn’t want to sacrifice one of their own guys at that juncture. 

Chappell: That’s a pretty tough assignment, for your first appearance in the territory! 

Raschke: He wasn’t the easiest guy to work with…but I wrestled him. And it went over really, really good. Next thing you know, I was booked to work in the Mid-Atlantic area full time. You said the Baba match was in March, so I started for Crockett in July. 

Chappell: Interesting! So as I understand it, your match with Baba in Greensboro impressed the ‘powers that be’ and they took notice of you, and wanted you to come into the Mid-Atlantic area full time?

 Raschke: Right…I think that’s how it worked out. 

Chappell: When you came in initially, you surely dealt with George Scott a lot in his capacity as the area’s booker. What did you think of George? 

Raschke: He was all business, but I liked him. 

Chappell: I remember that when you first came in, George put you over fast. You were annihilating everybody with your Brain Claw! I also remember the TV announcers mentioning that you were one of a very few guys to have beaten Bruno Sammartino, which was very unusual for our announcers to say something like that. So you were clearly a big deal! 

Raschke: I don’t know what they were thinking there, David . I just tried to come in and do what I did best. 

Chappell: Overall, what were your initial impressions of the Crockett territory? 

Raschke: I had never really been to the South before, and I fell in love with the area.

Chappell: Really? 

Raschke: It was beautiful country. I lived in Charlotte, and that was a great place to live. Unfortunately, the business kept us on the road seven days a week…almost every day of the year. I’m glad I had a good strong family that stood behind me, because the schedule didn’t allow you much time to be at home. And when you were home, you were tired! 

Chappell: Baron, you certainly have hit on something that everybody from that time frame echoes…working for George Scott back then was VERY hard work! 

Raschke: Oh yeah! Work and travel was horrendous. 

Chappell: Was it worse in the Mid-Atlantic area than any other place you had been…or would go to in the future? 

Raschke: It was as bad as any place I’ve been. Actually, it was worse driving winter roads for a couple of weeks in northern Manitoba, Canada. Those are roads that nobody can take except for in the winter when it freezes up…because part of them are lakes! That was the only time they could get supplies to the villages overland. 

Chappell: Gee…the travel had to be unbelievably dangerous way up in northern Canada. At least you didn’t have to deal with that REALLY frigid weather down here!

Raschke: You’ve never driven in an ice storm, huh? 

Chappell: Nothing like you have, I’m sure! Everybody down here goes berserk at the sight of the first snowflake! You know…you’ve been down here. 

Raschke: You have to be careful wherever you drive. 

Chappell: Absolutely. Well, when you came into the Mid-Atlantic area, your first real significant match was against the youngster, Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat was getting pushed to the hilt then, and you were really the first guy to beat him in a meaningful match. You took the Mid-Atlantic TV Title from him in October of 1977. 

Raschke: Ricky was a great performer… 

Chappell: As a veteran coming in, I’m curious of what you thought about a young guy like Steamboat getting such a major push?

Raschke: I was tremendously impressed with Ricky Steamboat. He had a knack for the business…he picked it up right away. He was a young man that was going to go far---and he did. You know, he gave 100% in the ring…which is what I liked. That’s how you got a match over. He was a very, very good wrestler and colleague. 

Chappell: The first long running program you had in Crockett was against ‘Mr. Wrestling’ Tim Woods. This was set up by an amateur rules wrestling match that you all had on TV. That was a terrific angle…even though you lost the amateur rules match by a couple of points! (laughs) 

Raschke: I did? You sure about that? (laughs) 

Chappell: (laughing) I’m thinking you did…but it was nip and tuck all the way! Regardless of the outcome, I thought it was a great concept…something very different. 

Raschke: It was a wrinkle that George Scott thought up. He thought it would be interesting to the fans…a different kind of wrestling. I guess the midgets weren’t available that day! (everybody laughs) 

Chappell: So George thought that angle up? I would have thought with the amateur wrestling backgrounds of both you and Tim, that you all would have come up with that idea. 

Raschke: I think both Tim and I realized at that time that amateur wrestling was way too hard…to go through all the training and stuff. We were in our pro groove then! (pauses) You know, actually, maybe Tim suggested it. I don’t really remember… 

Chappell: But you know YOU didn’t suggest it! (laughs) 

Raschke: That’s right…I know I didn’t! Tim probably had something to do with it, though. 

Chappell: After you attacked Mr. Wrestling with the ring bell after that amateur rules match, you all had a strong program that lasted through 1977. Tell us about Tim Woods. 

Raschke: I learned to love the guy. He was just a great competitor, and a great guy. He was a very, very smart man. We always used to have real good matches…we had a real good rapport in the ring. I can’t say enough good things about him---I’m sorry he’s gone. 

Chappell: You held onto your Mid-Atlantic TV Title throughout that feud, and then early in 1978 the Mid-Atlantic TV Title became the NWA TV Title. The promotion said you went out and won a tournament to become the new NWA Television Champion. Funny thing, there were never any highlights shown of that tournament! Care to comment on that big tournament? (laughs) 

Raschke: I don’t remember that tournament! (laughs) 

Chappell: Actually, I’d be pretty worried if you did remember it Baron! (everybody laughs) This was the time frame that they put you together for a while with Johnny Weaver, and you all traded the TV Title. And as part of that, you all had the great TV angle with the Challenge Match of the Claw hold versus the Sleeper hold. How did that angle come about? 

Raschke: I don’t really recall all the details of how that came about. Sometimes, I have trouble remembering yesterday! But we used to have a meeting at the Office, and it might have been something we suggested there. John was a terrific performer, and I think we had really, really good matches. But that [angle] was a good one. It was something that kind of built off of a thing I used to do with Pat O’Connor in St. Louis…he had the Sleeper hold out there.

Chappell: There have certainly been some good Hold versus Hold angles over the years in wrestling, and this was definitely one of the best!

Raschke: You’re right…the Hold versus Hold is kind of a natural thing in wrestling.

Chappell: John actually won the Hold versus Hold contest, which was a little surprising…

Raschke: [Editor’s Note: The Baron Is Again In Character Voice Here!] ‘HE CHEATED…DON’T EVER FORGET IT!’

Chappell: (laughing) Yeah…I seem to remember you complaining that the Sleeper was actually a choke-hold!

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Gateway Interview: Baron Von Raschke (Part 1)

The following is an interview conducted back 2004 with the great Baron Von Raschke. Of course a lot has happened in the past 18 years that won't be reflected here, including the 2021 documentary "The Claw", but this interview stands the test of time because of the subject matter it does cover. For us, that means always looking back fondly. It is presented here in four parts, just as it was on the old Mid-Atlantic Gateway 18 years ago. - D. Bourne

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

INTRODUCTION BY DAVID CHAPPELL
 

When Baron Von Raschke entered the Mid-Atlantic area during the summer of 1977, his national reputation clearly preceded him. Most Mid-Atlantic fans had already seen the Baron’s picture plastered all over the national wrestling magazines. But one still had to wonder, when he actually arrived in Charlotte , would the Baron be as good as advertised? It didn’t take long for that question to be answered with a resounding…YES!

Tearing through his early opponents in 1977 with his feared ‘Brain Claw’ hold, the Baron quickly established himself as a major star to be reckoned with in Jim Crockett Promotions. That star would shine brightly straight through into 1980. Even after leaving the Mid-Atlantic area, the Baron came back to Charlotte for two shorter visits years later. But even when he left the area, no Mid-Atlantic fan could forget Baron Von Raschke.

In this interview, the Baron talks about his early amateur wrestling days, including an unfortunate injury that kept him out of the 1964 Olympics. He takes us through his early professional wrestling transformation from Jim Raschke to the infamous Baron Von Raschke. And we’ll find out the origins of his Claw hold, and some of the wrestling areas he competed in before he finally landed in Charlotte. 

The Baron talks at length about all of his major angles, feuds and championship reigns while in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. He chats about many of the personalities we remember so fondly from the Mid-Atlantic days, including Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Paul Jones, Greg Valentine, Tim Woods, Johnny Weaver, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Jim my Snuka and others.

And speaking of personalities, stay alert at all times during this interview, as the Baron will jump into character at a moments notice. You have been warned!

Special thanks to the Baron’s son, Karl Raschke, for all of his assistance and help with this interview.

And thanks most of all to Baron Von Raschke for being so generous with his time, and allowing the Mid-Atlantic Gateway to do a bit of reminiscing with him. Through the Gateway, it was great having the Baron back in the Mid-Atlantic area, even if it was only for about 90 minutes on the telephone!

Baron…you are a true wrestling legend in the Carolinas, and you will always be fondly remembered by all the fans in the Mid-Atlantic area. And as someone might have once said, "That is all you need to know!"

- David Chappell, 2004 

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

INTERVIEW- PART ONE  

David Chappell: Baron, thank you for speaking with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway this evening. It’s great to talk with you. 

Baron Von Raschke: Okay, David . I’m glad to talk with you. 

Chappell: First off, congratulations on your recently being honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club. Your former Mid-Atlantic partner Paul Jones was honored at the same time, I understand. 

Raschke: Well, thank you very much. Yeah…Paul was out there, and a lot of my good old friends. 

Chappell: How was it out there in Las Vegas for the CAC event? 

Raschke: It was nice to get together with a lot of guys that I hadn’t seen for a long, long time…catching up on the news of different people around the country. There were also a lot of great fans out there…and people I had never met in the business. It was great! 

Chappell: What was it like seeing your old partner Paul Jones again? 

Raschke: [Paul] really enjoyed being out there this year, and I understand he went out there last year for the first time and really had a good time then. This year, he was honored also…and his brothers and his son were there. So, it was really very nice. 

Chappell: That’s great….and particularly nice that both of you were honored in the same year! Well, leaving the present and heading back in time for a bit…despite the ‘Baron From Germany’ wrestling persona that so many people know you from, you actually grew up in Nebraska , I believe? 

Raschke: I was raised in Nebraska …yes. 

Chappell: You were an outstanding wrestler in Nebraska from an early age, weren’t you? 

Raschke: I was high school state champion in wrestling my senior year. Also, during my junior year, we won the state high school championship in football. From there, I went to the University of Nebraska …I went there originally on an academic scholarship. I walked on, and later got a football scholarship.

Chappell: How long did you play college football for the Cornhuskers? 

Raschke: I played football for my first three years. 

Chappell: Great football fans at Nebraska … 

Raschke: Oh yeah…great fans! They follow them everywhere. Lincoln probably doubles in size on football Saturdays! 

Chappell: I didn’t realize you had such a football background at the University of Nebraska ! I have to ask you about (former Oakland Raider coach) Bill Callahan, your new coach out there? 

Raschke: (laughing) I don’t know him…I’ve just read a little bit about him in the paper. That’s Big 12 country now, and I live in Minnesota now which is Big 10 country…we don’t get too much Big 12 coverage here. It’s kind of like being on the west coast and not hearing much about [ACC] basketball…but you still know it’s the best! 

Chappell: (laughing) That’s right! Now…you continued to wrestle when you attended the University of Nebraska , didn’t you? 

Raschke: Yes, I continued my amateur wrestling there. Luckily for me, they hired a wrestling coach named Bill Smith before I got there, who was an Olympic Champion. He taught me a lot of good stuff about amateur wrestling. I had some good years there. 

Chappell: Didn’t you win a wrestling Championship in college as well? 

Raschke: Right, I placed second in the Big 8 (Conference) my sophomore year…freshmen weren’t eligible. I was in it my junior year, and won it my senior year in 1962. 

Chappell: And, your wrestling accomplishments continued to build after you graduated from Nebraska

Raschke: Yeah, after college I was drafted into the Army. After boot camp, they heard about my wrestling and talked to me and sent me to Brooklyn , New York …so I was able to continue my amateur career and represented the Army for two years. In between, by the way, I did make the U.S. team in the World Games and won a Bronze Medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. The World games were held in Sweden then…this was 1963. I was the second American to ever place in the World Games in Greco-Roman.

Chappell: Impressive! You also collected some accolades when you wrestled in the Army, didn’t you? 

Raschke: I won Gold Medals in the Army Wrestling Championships…these were in 1964 and 1965. In ‘64, I also won AAU National Championships in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman. 

Chappell: 1964 was also an Olympic year. I understand that you made the 1964 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, but through some incredibly bad luck you were not able to travel to Tokyo and participate. Please tell us what happened. 

Raschke: I made the Olympic team, but I got injured at the training camp in Annapolis …at the Academy. I got a hyper-extended elbow two days before the plane was to leave for Tokyo …so, I didn’t get to go. 

Chappell: Wow…I guess ‘disappointment’ doesn’t even begin to describe what you felt at that point? 

Raschke: To say the least. You remember the old show on ABC called the Wide World Of Sports? 

Chappell: Yes…definitely. 

Raschke: ‘The thrill of victory, and the agony of de-feat.’ My ‘feet’ hurt real bad! (everybody laughs) It was a bit of bad luck…but that’s life. I’m over it now! (laughs) 

Chappell: (laughing) Well, that’s good to hear! As they say, time heals all wounds. How did you rebound from that setback with the Olympics? 

Raschke: Actually, while I was in the Army I was working out and messing around with a smaller guy, about a 145 pounder, and I got my leg stuck in the mat the wrong way and it popped. So, I had to go in for knee surgery… 

Chappell: Baron, you really did have a run of bad luck in the mid 60s! 

Raschke: I was in the Naval Hospital in Queens , New York . I was in the Army, and they put me in a Naval Hospital ! 

Chappell: (laughing) 

Raschke: Anyway, a guy off of an atomic submarine was in [the hospital] with me…his name was John Cunningham. He was about my age, and John had the same operation on the same morning I had mine. So, being next to each other in the hospital, we got to be pretty good friends because we were going through a similar experience. 

Chappell: That’s understandable. 

Raschke: At that time, I wasn’t a wresting fan…a pro wrestling fan---but John was. So, every weekend he would drag me down to the TV room to watch wrestling…from Madison Square Garden or wherever it was from. 

Chappell: What were your first impressions of professional wrestling? 

Raschke: I said, ‘Gee, that might be something I’d be able to do.’ 

Chappell: Despite being a great amateur wrestler, professional wrestling didn’t mean anything to you until John got you to start watching it on television? 

Raschke: No, I wasn’t interested in [pro wrestling] at all before that. 

Chappell: Being such an outstanding amateur wrestler, did you look down on the professional side at that time? 

Raschke: I basically had no opinion about it then… 

Chappell: But obviously, you eventually took a liking to the professional side of wrestling.

Raschke: Yeah…John got me to watching it on TV, and before too long I wrote to the promoter in Omaha, Joe Dusek. I sent him a list of my credentials, and he wrote a nice letter back to me.

Chappell: What did Joe tell you? 

Raschke: He said he didn’t have the facilities to train anybody, but told me to come and see him later on after I got out of the Army, and he would introduce me to Verne Gagne. Meanwhile, I got my first teaching job. When I first got out of the Army, I decided I was going to teach school…and I did for about a year after I got out of the Army. 

Chappell: What did you teach, Baron? 

Raschke: Biology and general Science. That was the only year I taught full time. I taught fifteen or so years as a substitute (teacher)…not wanting to be tied down with it. But after the year of teaching, I thought I would see what I could do about trying professional wrestling. 

Chappell: Did you get back up with Joe Dusek then? 

Raschke: Yes…I contacted Joe Dusek again. They used to have a live television taping in a studio in Omaha…Verne Gagne came down from Minnesota, and Joe introduced us then.

Chappell: Did Verne show immediate interest in you? 

Raschke: Verne told me if I wanted to come up (to Minnesota ), he’d train me. So…right away I jumped in my brother’s car and drove up there. I got a hotel room, and contacted the Office. They let me sit there for six or seven days! 

Chappell: (laughing) 

Raschke: Finally, I got Verne cornered enough to where he started to train me. And, after a couple of months of training, I got to get with guys like Wilbur Snyder. Verne had a ring set up at a farm where we would train. After a few months of that, they gave me the job of hauling the ring around and setting it up in the different towns and for TV. And they also had me refereeing some of the matches then. So, that was sort of my introduction to the business.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Claw vs. Claw: Raschke vs. Mulligan (1978)

by David Chappell 
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

By the late summer of 1978, two of the biggest names in professional wrestling, Blackjack Mulligan and Baron von Raschke, had been for the most part going their separate ways in the Mid-Atlantic area for about a year. That was all about to change during an eventful edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on September 6, 1978.


The beginning of that TV show started off with a figurative "bang," as Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat were shockingly forced to relinquish their World Tag Team Title belts to Raschke and Greg Valentine on the program's first segment via a pronouncement by NWA President Bob Geigel. But following that blockbuster announcement, Baron von Raschke hung around to give the show a literal "bang" immediately following. Unfortunately that loud bang was a blow to Blackjack Mulligan's noggin.

Announcer Bob Caudle summoned the big man from Eagle Pass, Texas saying, "I have Blackjack...come on out here Blackjack. All right fans, this is Blackjack Mulligan, Blackjack come on in because we've got a special presentation to you...David." Color commentator David Crockett  reappeared on the set with a large trophy and approached Mulligan saying, "On a much pleasanter note, Jack, it says from the fans of the Mid-Atlantic area, to Blackjack Mulligan, Outstanding Wrestler of 1977-78. Blackjack, from the wrestling fans of the Mid-Atlantic area."

Mulligan appeared to be very moved by the award and began to comment, "I tell you what, thank you very much David..." Then in a split second, Raschke and Greg Valentine appeared back on the set and attacked Mulligan viciously. The Baron was the primary aggressor, grabbing the trophy and breaking it squarely over Blackjack's head!  The crowd in the studio audience was almost in riot mode at this shocking turn of events!

Caudle exclaimed, "Hey, [the Baron] just went wild and is tearing it up! He hit Blackjack across the head with it David, and they're both on him, slammin' him around over there." Crockett yelled in response, "Raschke's just gone completely berserk!" Caudle continued, barely audible over the boisterous crowd, "He said what do you mean, [Mulligan's] not the outstanding that he is the outstanding and that he is the champion. And he continues to stomp and kick at Blackjack Mulligan!" A hysterical Raschke then interjected maniacally, "That will give me part of the $10,000.00 bounty, Blackjack Mulligan!"

As Mulligan attempted to gather himself, Caudle repeated, "He says that will give him part of the $10,000.00 bounty, David. And Blackjack, who is reeling...and I tell you, that is one of the lowest blows I have ever seen anybody get! What a blow, just to walk in and grab you that way!" Blackjack still woozy and staggering from the blows to the head managed to say, "Raschke, you're gonna pay for this like you've never paid before...I'll tell you right now." Caudle ended the segment, concluding, "David, you have to call that a sneak attack in any way you look at it...a sneak attack! Trophy in pieces!"

On the final segment of that September 6, 1978 Mid-Atlantic TV show, concerned fans were gratified that Mulligan returned to the set to address them. Bob Caudle began, "Fans with us right now at ringside and a fellow I'll tell you that has taken more than his share of punishment in the last hour or so...it seems like everybody in the world wanted to stomp and kick and cut and rip at you, Blackjack Mulligan." Blackjack answered, "Let me tell you something Bob Caudle; I want to talk to the people right now."

Mully continued as he held up the pieces of his destroyed trophy noting, "Everybody in television-land looking at me right now, I know this is a very nice gesture and I certainly appreciate it and I know there was probably a lot more deserving people in the world of wrestling. But I appreciate what you tried to do; what you tried to give me. But I seem to be a marked man in the world of wrestling . Everything I do, everything I try to do, Ric Flair or Raschke or Superstar or some of their henchman are right in the way. I appreciate this trophy being given to me by the people of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling."

Blackjack concluded the segment with a dire warning for the big German threatening ,"And I wanna tell you something Raschke...my head, I've never had a rougher hour in my whole life. But I wanna tell you something right now...I'm still standing here. I need my head sewed up, but I haven't fell yet! And Baron von Raschke, believe what I say, if it takes Claw against Claw my friend...your day is coming! We're marking von Raschke as NEXT!"

During the remainder of September and during October of 1978, these two world renowned grapplers who both used the dreaded Claw hold as their respective finishing maneuvers, battled frequently around the territory in a spirited but short program. Some of the bouts were even billed as Claw vs. Claw matches. Mulligan emerged victorious in a majority of these fiercely contested battles, and was the clear winner in the Texas Death Matches and Bounty matches between the two. The Baron scored his wins mainly in straight up bouts without stipulations.

The confrontations between the masters of the Claw were cut short when Big John Studd entered the Mid-Atlantic area in October, and became Blackjack's primary adversary as John pushed hard to collect the long-standing $10,000.00 bounty on Mully. The Baron was also pulled away from the program with Mulligan when Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka entered the Mid-Atlantic area at the end of October and made an immediate push for the Baron and Greg Valentine's World Tag Team Titles.

While Blackjack Mulligan got a measure of revenge for Baron von Raschke destroying his trophy upside his head on TV, I always wished that these two would have had a longer program against each other. While Claw versus Claw was red hot for a short time, these two developed other irons in the fire with Mid-Atlantic newcomers that would ultimately define the Claw versus Claw program as a transitional bridge on the roads to even bigger Mid-Atlantic feuds for these two Jim Crockett Promotions mega-stars.




 
Originally published March 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.


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

Monday, August 22, 2022

Poster: Valentine and Wahoo Headline Stacked Card in Greensboro (1975)

by Brack Beasley
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor


This poster takes us back to Sunday, September 28th, 1975 and features an absolutely loaded card at the Greensboro Coliseum. 

Johnny Valentine defended his United States Heavyweight title in the main event against perennial foe Wahoo McDaniel in what was sure to be a hard hitting, violent affair. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Valentine's last match in Greensboro due to the Wilmington, NC plane crash less than a week later. 

In the semi, Gene and Ole Anderson put their NWA World Tag Team belts on the line against the exciting duo of Dusty Rhodes and Paul Jones, while Ray Stevens came into town trying to collect Valentine's bounty on Tim Woods. 

The mid-card match had Ric Flair vs. Tiger Conway Jr. and the undercard included Ken Patera, The Avenger (Reggie Parks), Great Malenko, Spoiler No. 2, Danny Miller, and Steve Keirn. 

The poster's horizontal layout has red and black print over a two tone hot pink and yellow background. In addition, images of seven wrestlers adorn both sides and are accompanied by the signatures of Wahoo and Ole. 

Oh, what we wouldn't do to go back maybe just once and experience an event such as this one, professional wrestling as it should be.

NO. 37 IN THE BRACK BEASLEY POSTER SERIES

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Orville Brown and the First NWA Title Belt (1948)

PART THREE IN THE 1948 NWA WATERLOO HISTORY SERIES
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The NWA's early history with the various belts that represented their world heavyweight title is a bit odd, because even though the organization was formed in 1948, they didn't actually own their own title belt until 1959, as outlined in the book Crown Jewel (available on Amazon and from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Book Store.) Before that, they used various belts that belonged to others.

In an earlier article, I wrote about my pilgrimage to the Hotel President in Waterloo, Iowa, and the historic events of July 18, 1948 at a wrestling card in that same city.  July 18, 1948, is a day that holds a special place in pro wrestling history, as a group of five Midwest wrestling promoters led by Iowa promoter Paul "Pinkie" George met at the Hotel President to forge the documents that chartered the National Wrestling Alliance. Later that night, they all attended a card at Waterloo's Electric Park that featured a heavyweight title defense by Orville Brown against Joe Dusek, a match which I argue was the first de facto defense of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

THE BELT
The first belt used as the NWA Heavyweight title belt was actually a modified belt created in 1936 that had been used to recognize an earlier claim to the world championship. It was the Midwest Wrestling Association (MWA) belt, and it was the belt worn into the ring in Waterloo on July 18, 1948 when champion Orville Brown defended against Joe Dusek. Brown was the MWA Heavyweight Champion at that time as recognized by the MWA based in Kansas City. But because of the events at the Hotel President earlier in that day, it was in a practical sense the first defense of the new National Wrestling Alliance title.

 

Screen capture / pbs.org
 

The MWA championship belt (seen in this late 1930s photo above with champion John Pesek's photo) was modified to represent the name of the new NWA organization by placing new plates that said "National" and "Alliance" over "Midwest" and "Association," the the original words cast on the belt.

Screen capture / pbs.org


If you look closely at the image above, you can see the two new National Alliance script plates attached where Midwest and Association were. That's champion Orville Brown's photo in the center oval.

ORVILLE BROWN AND LOU THESZ
Brown wore this modified belt as NWA World Champion until his career was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in late 1949, just weeks before a scheduled title unification match with Lou Thesz, who was also a claimant to the world title out of St. Louis. At that point Thesz was recognized as NWA champion. He began using his own world title belt that he had been presented by St. Louis promoter Tom Packs in 1937 (known commonly now as the "Thesz belt") to represent the NWA world title belt from that point forward. 

The "Thesz belt" was recognized as the NWA title belt until 1957 when Thesz stepped down as NWA kingpin, losing the title to his handpicked successor Dick Hutton. Thesz owned his belt and did not allow the NWA to keep using it as their title belt, taking it with him on tour of the far east. Hutton, known as the champion without a belt, briefly used promoter Al Haft's WLW-TV title belt as his championship belt during his reign. The NWA finally had their own belt made in 1959 (the belt covered in my book Crown Jewel), the first belt the NWA actually owned, presented to then champion Pat O'Connor.


For more on the Midwest Wrestling Association / National Wrestling Alliance belt, see this feature from the Antiques Roadshow on PBS.
  Thanks to William Murdock for his assistance with this article. And thanks as always to Tim Hirnbaker and his book "National Wrestling Alliance."

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Crown Jewel

 

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

A special thanks to my friend Andy McDaniel who presented me with this replica of the 1959-1973 NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt. It was the version of the NWA belt held by Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk, Jr., Harley Race and even briefly by Jack Brisco. I chronicle that belt and its history in my book Crown Jewel.

Andy wrote me a nice note, too. "I am so proud of your Jim Melby award and hated I had to miss that moment," he wrote. "I hope the detail of this belt is a great homage to your last book."

It was a generous and thoughtful gift and I treasure having it. Thanks Andy!

Melby Award  |  Crown Jewel

Action Figure Friday: Paul Jones

 
"Number One" Paul Jones, the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, stands in front of the Mid-Atlantic set and watches action in the ring. The image calls back to 1982 during which Jones had his long running feud with Jack Brisco over the Mid-Atlantic title. 

Action Figure Friday returns!

The figure is custom-made and a gift from Matty Montcalm at @Wrestlingwclass who surprised me with it when were both at the Tragos-Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend in Waterloo, Iowa in July. Thanks so much, Matty!

The photo was staged by the Mid-Atlantic Gateway using a custom designed backdrop of the famous studio set used by JCP from 1977-1983. The custom backdrop was a gift from Mike Simmerman, who provided lots of great images for our old Action Figures Friday series.

Check out our entire series of action figure photos from Mike Simmerman, Matty Montcalm, Scottie Richardson, Jeff Jewett, and others. Plus some of our own!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Blackjack's Crew: At The Ranch (and In the Mud)


by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

This photo was sent to us back in the 2000s by Blackjack Mulligan when we were working on a website with him. We used it in a contest on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, the challenge being to see who could identify all the wrestlers in the picture.

What an amazing and rare photograph this is, taken in 1973 at the Headlock Ranch. It looks like these guys had been ridin', ropin' , wranglin', workin' or playin' in the mud!

There are five wrestlers in this photo. Can you name them all?



"THE CREW"

It was a bit of a trick question because one of the adults in the photo wasn't a wrestler. But the young kid in the photo later was.


Here are the identities of everyone in this 1973 photo:

1. Dusty Rhodes
2. Ray Stevens
3. Pat (last name unknown, was the ranch foreman at the time)
4. Dustin Rhodes
5. Dick Murdoch
6. Ric Flair

In the note that accompanied the photo, Blackjack affectionately called this group his "crew."

At the time of the contest on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, we had some folks who argued the fellow on the far right couldn't possibly be the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. But indeed it is. This photograph was taken in 1973, many months before Ric would come to the Mid-Atlantic territory. He was heavier then, and really didn't lose the bulk of that weight until after the 1975 plane crash.

What an incredible group of talent in that one photo!

* * * * * * *

Here is another fun photo Blackjack sent us from around that same era - -

Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, and Blackjack Mulligan from the early 1970s.

Edited from a post originally published October 28, 2015
and republished in 2019 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/origins-of-mid-atlantic-title.html

Monday, August 15, 2022

Bob Caudle T-Shirt

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Waterloo: The First Ever NWA World Heavyweight Title Defense

PROMOTERS ATTEND CARD OF "NATIONAL IMPORTANCE"
PART TWO IN THE 1948 NWA WATERLOO HISTORY SERIES
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It certainly wasn't official, but I enthusiastically put forth the argument that the first ever defense of the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight championship was on the very evening following the formation of that alliance.

In an earlier article, I wrote about my pilgrimage to the Hotel President in Waterloo, Iowa, while attending the 2022 Induction Weekend of the Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Hotel President holds a significant place in pro wrestling history.  On July 18, 1948, a group of five Midwest wrestling promoters, led by Iowa promoter Paul "Pinkie" George, met there where they forged the documents that chartered the National Wrestling Alliance. But that wasn't all the group did on that historic day.  

That very Sunday evening, this group attended a wrestling card in Waterloo promoted by Pinkie's brother, Andy George. That card featured a world heavyweight title defense (Midwest Wrestling Association version) by Kansas City's Orville Brown against the top contender, Nebraska's Joe Dusek.  

The Waterloo Courier newspaper had several mentions in the week leading up to July 18 of the gathering to attend the matches at Warerloo's Electric Park, but no mention was made of the real reason they gathered along the shores of the great Cedar River, which was the meeting to discuss forming an official alliance.

SPECIAL GUESTS RINGSIDE
On the Friday before the Sunday wrestling card, the Courier reported that attending the matches would be a group of distinguished promoters including Fred Kohler of Chicago, Pinkie George of Des Moines, Max Clayton of Omaha, Sam Muchnick of St. Louis, George Simpson of Kansas City, and Wally Karbo representing Tony Stecher of Minneapolis. Karbo got a booking out of the trip, too, as the referee for the world title tilt between Orville Brown and Joe Dusek.

As it turned out, Simpson was not at the Waterloo combine, but Orville Brown was. Brown, while as champion, was also a partner in Simpson's Kansas City office. It isn't clear why Simpson wasn't there, but he would later be a signatory at the second meeting of these same promoters in Minneapolis in September.  

Fred Kohler also did not attend due to a prior commitment, but consented to the agreements made that day by telegram.

FIRST NWA TITLE DEFENSE
One of the covenants agreed to at the Waterloo meeting was that the allied promoters would recognize one single world heavyweight champion, Orville Brown. It is fair then to say that Brown's heavyweight title defense that night can be considered the first ever title defense of the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship. It surely was not declared officially as such, but it was - - in essence - - exactly that. The Alliance had been formally founded and Brown had been named its champion only hours earlier. Brown walked into the ring against Dusek that night at Electric Park with the official recognition of the allied promoters as NWA world champion, even if the five people that met earlier in that Waterloo hotel conference room were the only ones who knew it at that point. 

Brown successfully retained his title that night. The undercard included Jr. Heavyweight champion Billy Goelz of Chicago topping Mashall Estep out of Missouri. Otto Kuss of Minneapolis took the opener from Nebraska's Danny Plechas. 

Promoter Andy George had called this event "a card of national importance" in the hype leading up to the July 18 program at Electric Park. Most of that hyperbole regarded the dignitaries attending the world title event. But even Andy was likely unaware of the significance of the main event that night in Waterloo. 


COMING UP NEXT
In my final post in this series, I'll take a look at the belt that likely was used as the first NWA title belt, modified from the Midwest Wrestling Association belt Orville Brown wore at the time of the chartering of the NWA.

See also: Walking with Ghosts: A Visit to the Birthplace of the NWA
 

* * * * *

BULLDOG PLECHAS
In an unrelated side note, I was delighted to see the name of "Bulldog" Danny Plechas on this card. Pleachas must have been somewhat of a memorable character throughout the years as Blackjack Mulligan would occasionally mention him in his local promos in the Mid-Atlantic area in the 1970s. Occasionally Plechas would sarcastically be included on a list of challengers Blackjack claimed he was willing to face for his U.S. title. Other times he would mention him as someone he'd had a fight with out behind the Mesquite Club at 1:00 AM on a Saturday night. For some reason, I remembered Bulldog Plechas and was happy to come across his name on such a historically significant card, even if the true historical significance really wasn't known at the time.   

*****

Special thanks to Tim Hornbaker and his book "National Wrestling Alliance."

Friday, August 12, 2022

Flair and Valentine at WRAL

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Photographs from the Bleachers at WRAL by Ric Carter



We've been featuring a series of rare photographs taken by photographer Ric Carter from the bleachers of the studio during an hour of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" in July of 1975.





Now we take a second look at the team of Johnny Valentine and Ric Flair in a great photograph in the moments after their victory over Kevin Sullivan and Bob Bruggers. (See more photos from that match here.)

At left, Sullivan kneels over his partner who had just taken a vicious suplex and elbow drop from "The Champ" Johnny Valentine.  Referee Johnny Heidmann checks up on the losing team as well.

Johnny Valentine had taken Flair under his wing somewhat during this time and the two teamed frequently on TV. Valentine was the reigning United States Heavyweight champion and Ric Flair held the Mid-Atlantic Television title.

In another great photo from the bleachers, Ric Cater grabbed a shot of the new United States Heavyweight title belt as it lay on the ring apron before the match, just moments before ring attendant scooped it up. You can see the ring attendant in the background, just placing Flair's TV belt over his left arm. This was the first time the new U.S. title belt, with its sparkling gold plated cast plates and shiny red crocodile leather, had been seen on T.V.

 
http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/us-title-book.html
The story on every title change and every belt from the Crockett Promotions years.


As mentioned in our earlier post on this match, it was Johnny Valentine's first TV appearance as United States Heavyweight champion. He had just defeated Harley Race six days earlier for that title in Greensboro. During Valentine's TV match, Les Thatcher told fans that they would be reviewing tape of the title change from Greensboro on next week's show.

Champions At This Time:
NWA World Champion: Jack Brisco
World Tag Team Champions: Gene and Ole Anderson
United States Champion: Johnny Valentine
Mid-Atlantic Champion: Wahoo McDaniel
TV Champion: Ric Flair

This show was taped Wednesday, 7/9/75 and aired on Saturday, 7/12/75. Other matches on this show included Chief Wahoo McDaniel vs. The Blue Scorpion, "No. 1" Paul Jones and Rufus R. "Freight Train" Jones vs. "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell and George "Two Ton" Harris, plus Ole Anderson vs. Bob Burns.

This is the fifth and final installment in our series of photos from WRAL studio in 1975. 

1975 Photo Feature Summary
1. Wahoo McDaniel vs. The Blue Scorpion (Part 1)
2. Wahoo McDaniel vs. The Blue Scorpion (Part 2) 
3. Johnny Valentine & Ric Flair vs. Sullivan & Bruggers (Part 1)
4. Paul Jones & Rufus R. Jones vs. Blackwell and Harris 
5. Johnny Valentine & Ric Flair vs. Sullivan & Bruggers (Part 2) (This post)

All photographs in this series by Ric Carter, © CartersRXd.net. Used with permission.
Vintage audio provided by Gary Wray.

Edited from an original post in August 2018.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Walking with Ghosts: A Visit to the Birthplace of the NWA

PART ONE IN THE 1948 NWA WATERLOO HISTORY SERIES
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

THE TIES THAT BIND
Waterloo, Iowa, stands as a beacon of history for both amateur and professional wrestling. It is the birthplace of the most famous and decorated American amateur and Olympic wrestler Dan Gable, and is the home of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. The Dan Gable Museum is also home to the George Tragos - Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame which recognizes wrestlers with an amateur background that went on to make a substantial contribution in professional wrestling. 


The Hotel President building in downtown Waterloo, Iowa.
Photograph by Dick Bourne



Waterloo is also the birthplace of the National Wrestling Alliance, once professional wrestling's largest coalition of cooperating promoters across the United States and around the world. In 1948, Iowa promoter Paul "Pinkie" George and four other Midwest promoters met in the Gold Room of the beautiful Hotel President in downtown Waterloo and formed the articles that chartered the National Wrestling Alliance. That building, near the banks of the Cedar River, still stands today.


Park Avenue entrance into the Main Lobby of the Hotel President
Photograph by Dick Bourne



There is an ironic link tying the Hotel President to the Dan Gable Museum, and therefore linking both the amateur and professional sides of Waterloo's wrestling history. The manager of the hotel at the time of the promoter's gathering in 1948 was a man named Lark Gable, who was Dan Gable's grandfather. That unlikely connection just blows me away.


Vintage ashtray and promotional tourism flyer from the Hotel President, both circa 1940s.
Notice the hotel manager's name, Lark Gable, grandfather of legendary wrestler Dan Gable.

Photograph by Dick Bourne



THE FOUNDING FATHERS & THE CRADLE OF THE ALLIANCE

The Hotel President, on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1928 and first opened on January 10, 1929. It is no longer a hotel. It has been redeveloped as a federally subsidized apartment complex for senior citizens. Los Angeles based Huntley Witmer, the company that most recently redeveloped the building in 2015, had the wisdom to change the name back to the name of the original building, with restoration of the original lobby, helping to preserve its spot in pro wrestling history, even if that history is largely lost through the sands of time.

The lobby of the Hotel President in the 1940s.
Photo from a vintage promotional tourism flyer.


The lobby looks much as it did in the 1940s, with the lobby atrium largely untouched and the wood railing around the second floor mezzanine thought to be original, standing just as it was on July 18, 1948 when the small group of Midwest promoters met there.

Lobby of the Hotel president after 2015 renovations and restoration.
Photo courtesy ApartmentGuide.com

 

That group in 1948 was led by Iowa sports promoter Paul "Pinkie" George, based out of Des Moines, who organized this meeting and hosted it as well. As a result, he is considered by historians as "the father of the NWA." George was a successful promoter in many different areas, including professional basketball, baseball, boxing, and wrestling. 

Joining Pinkie George that day in Waterloo were:

Max Clayton (Omaha, Nebraska)
Orville Brown (Kansas City, KS)
Sam Muchnick (St. Louis., MO)
Wally Karbo (representing Tony Stetcher, Minneapolis, MN)

Fred Kohler, the promoter in Chicago, IL, was part of the group but did not attend the July 18 meeting, but consented to the agreements made at the meeting by telegram. 

The group voted approval to several statutes, including recognizing one world champion, Orville Brown (who was also the promoter in Kansas City.) Brown is therefore recognized as the very first heavyweight champion of the NWA. (It's worth pointing out that the NWA traces its title lineage from Brown all the way back to George Hackenschmidt in 1905, generally regarded as the first ever professional wrestling champion.)

Sadly, there is no designation or commemoration on the site of this historically significant event that changed the course of pro-wrestling history. I would imagine that not a single person living or working in that building today has any clue of that history. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

WALKING WITH GHOSTS
While attending the 2022 Tragos-Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, I took the opportunity to travel just across the Cedar River to see and photograph the Hotel President. I wanted to get inside if possible, but my first attempt made late one evening proved futile, as all the doors were locked. The next day, I, along with my buddy Matty Montcalm made a second attempt and this time we were able to enter the lobby and make our way up a side staircase that led to the second floor mezzanine and the entrance to what remains of the original Gold Room, where the promoters met in 1948.

Looking out through the doors of the only room left that has a connection to the spot
where the NWA promoters gathered in 1948, across the mezzanine into the atrium
of the Hotel President lobby.

Photograph by Dick Bourne

 

As we entered that room, walking through the large wooden doors, I will admit I got cold chills, thinking about those five men gathering in that very place and making agreements that would literally change the course of professional wrestling history. it was a cool moment.



COMING UP NEXT
In my next story in this series (Waterloo: The First Ever NWA World Heavyweight Title Defense), I'll take look at the professional wrestling card that took place later that same evening at historic Electric Park in Waterloo. It was attended by the group of promoters who earlier that day formed the National Wrestling Alliance, which made the local news.

 ***

Special thanks to Tim Hornbaker and his book "National Wrestling Alliance"