Saturday, March 18, 2023

Claw vs. Claw! Mulligan vs. Raschke in 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 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 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 in March of 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ric Flair was the original Big Boss Man

Original Title: Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's own Big Boss Man
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When word came out recently about the Big Boss Man, the infamous prison guard from Cobb County, Georgia being selected for inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame, it got me to thinking about another Big Boss Man in professional wrestling. While Ray Traylor’s Big Boss Man character was the most famous under that moniker, it’s probably been forgotten or is a well kept secret, that Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had a “Big Boss Man” of their own in the late summer of 1974. And the man using that name to describe himself was none other than a young Ric Flair!
Yes, before he was the “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair was the self-proclaimed “Big Boss Man!” Flair only referred to himself as the Big Boss Man for around a month or so, but Ric was at his obnoxious best while he was doing it. Flair wasn’t posing as a renegade prison guard; it was just Ric being loud-mouthed Ric!

In the summer of 1974 Ric Flair teamed up with the legendary Carolina’s veteran Rip “The Profile” Hawk, and they soon became the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on August 14, 1974, Flair and Hawk were interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. The rambunctious Flair told Caudle, “Let me tell you something daddy…I’ve got a new name for myself! Everywhere I go the people are shouting, WOOOOO, there goes the Big Boss Man!! You know why? Because every BOY like Conway and like King, they gotta have a boss! And when they see me they say, ‘WOOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man,’ that’s what they say to me! When they get in the ring with me they say, ‘WOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man?’ They say, ‘Please Big Boss Man don’t hurt me; please don’t hit me too hard.’ Ain’t that right, Mr. Hawk?” Naturally, Rip agreed!

Of course, back in 1974 professional wrestling and society in general was much different than it is today. The “Conway” and “King” Ric referred to were two beloved African American wrestlers, Tiger Conway, Jr. and Sonny King. Both Conway and King had arrived in the Mid-Atlantic territory in the early summer of 1974. Conway came in as an athletic high flying newcomer, while King came in to challenge the “bad guys” that injured his brother, Bearcat Wright. Both of these great black stars, particularly Conway, were pitted frequently against Flair, who at the time was also a relative newcomer to Jim Crockett Promotions.

The racially tinged “Big Boss Man” comments in 1974 certainly did not then, and do not now, reflect the feelings of the man Ric Flair. However, the professional wrestling character Ric Flair at that time was able to generate lots of “heat” with black and white fans alike, by going down what would be called today a politically incorrect road. Racial stereotypes were utilized, insinuated and implied regularly in professional wrestling in 1974, and Ric Flair playing the role as the “Big Boss Man” had its existence within the culture of that day in time. No matter what we may think of the propriety of Ric Flair anointing himself as the Big Boss Man, one thing is for sure, it gave the Mid-Atlantic fans in 1974 yet another reason to hate this young “bad guy” star on the rise!

The shelf life of Ric Flair, the Big Boss Man, as mentioned above was actually quite short. Within a month or so, Ric gradually stopped referring to himself by that name in the fall of 1974. Interestingly, Flair didn’t “boss” around Tiger Conway, Jr. or Sonny King much in the ring! Conway’s first run in the territory lasted until February of 1975, and Tiger fought Ric on pretty much even terms. Ditto for the in-ring results between Flair and King, with Sonny leaving the area in July of 1975.

Ric Flair as the Big Boss Man is certainly well housed in the moth balls of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history. I’m glad the contemporary Big Boss Man, Ray Traylor, was brought back to the forefront recently. It jogged my memory to go back in time and reflect on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling’s Big Boss Man, and a vastly different era in professional wrestling.

Previously published in March 2016 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Poster: Superstar/Mulligan battle Jones/Igor in Pilot Mountain (1977)

By Brack Beasley
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

The spot shows in Jim Crockett Promotions offered some of the more intriguing match-ups that one may not see at a big Coliseum event. An example is this poster that promotes a card held at the East Surry High School gym in Pilot Mountain, NC on December 3rd, 1977. 

The main event was a tag team match pitting The Masked Superstar and Blackjack Mulligan against Paul Jones and The Mighty Igor. No doubt, it must have been quite an exciting bout for the fans in Pilot Mountain this Saturday night. 

Following three preliminary matches, the semi had fan-favorite Dino Bravo taking the challenge of The Missouri Mauler.

With a vertical layout, the poster has all black print over a striking tricolor background and images of Superstar, Jones, and Igor.


Mid-Atlantic Gateway Notes:
Like Brack, we loved the spot-show main events that would often combine two singles feuds into a grudge tag team match. In this case, Paul Jones was battling the Superstar in a white hot feud (you may remember the famous haircut?) and Blackjack Mulligan and the Superstar both had issues with the Mighty Igor. Plus Blackjack had a long running feud with Jones that went back to late 1975 over the U.S. Heavyweight title. Good stuff in Pilot Mountain, NC, just down the road apiece from my hometown of Mount Airy (aka, Mayberry.) - D. Bourne


Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Argentino Apollo Arrives in JCP (1970)

By David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Argentina Apollo

While November 14, 1970 predates the time period that encompassed Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (by name), that date nevertheless carries some significance for me. It is the Saturday afternoon program of “Championship Wrestling” taped at the Channel 5 studios in Raleigh, North Carolina that represents the oldest program in my Jim Crockett Promotions audio collection. This program is also important to me as it introduced a newcomer to the Carolinas that I have many fond memories of.

In what was the second bout of that show, TV ring announcer Joe Murnick told the studio audience, “Now ladies and gentlemen, the second bout is also one fall and a 15-minute time limit, for the first time for our viewers, at 222 pounds from the Argentine, Buenos Aires, here is the sensational jumping jack of the ring, Argentina Apollo…Apollo!

Apollo, quick as greased lightning and wrestling barefooted, made quick work of the journeyman Joe Soto in the show’s second match with a rapid-fire backbreaker, and he received a strong and favorable reception from the studio audience in attendance. Soon after the bout concluded Apollo came out to the interview area and chatted with play-by-play announcer Nick Pond.

Pond began, “At ringside once again, it’s our distinct pleasure to have with us our winner of this afternoon’s second bout here on Championship Wrestling, a newcomer to our show, Argentina Apollo. You’re like a jumping jack Apollo!” The muscular newcomer responded, “Well, it’s like everything, you’re supposed to be in good shape to do things in the ring.” Pond interjected, “Tell us about that hold that you finished off Joe Soto with, it looked like a backbreaker of some kind.” Apollo explained, “Yeah, I call it Argentina backbreaker. It’s my hold. It’s not too easy to do, you need to be in very good shape to do a hold like that.”

The announcer continued and marveled at the acrobatic abilities of the area’s newest grappler. Nick gushed, “You did some moves up there we hadn’t seen, in fact we’d never seen before! You jump around a lot, and it looked like you kind of befuddle and mix up your opponent some.” Apollo agreed and noted, “Well, that’s why I say to be a wrestler you need to train very, very hard like I do. I get up early every morning and I train very, very much. I eat well; but I try to stay in good shape.”

Apollo then chuckled, “I’m in the best country in the world, and eat good, and try to keep in better shape even when I eat good! Of course, it’s very important for everybody, mostly the young generation, to train like I do and be in better shape than I do.”

Pond then segued to Apollo’s first arena bout in the territory saying, “Alright Argentina, you’re going to go against a tag team Tuesday night here in Raleigh, you’re going to be teamed with a great wrestler, the U.S. Negro Heavyweight Champion Luther Lindsey and you’re going to meet Chris Markoff and Bronco Lubich, two tough guys from Yugoslavia.” Apollo answered, “Well, it will be my first time over here in Raleigh, and I’m very proud and happy to be over here and I have in mind to be here a long, long time. As I told you these two men are very tough men Chris Markov and the other man, I’ll do my best to beat these men.”

Argentina Apollo's debut in Raleigh for Jim Crockett Promotions

 Apollo concluded, “I want to tell all of you people over here in the South, I’m very proud to be over here. I have never seen so many friendly people like I see over here in the few days I’ve been over here. I say ‘Thanks’ very much and I will repay you people the best I can and do everything I can to beat these men.” 

The November 17, 1970, card at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh saw Apollo’s career in the area’s arenas get off to a flying start as he and Luther Lindsey polished off Markoff and Chris Tolos, who was subbing for Bronco Lubich. Despite the constant interference by the bad guys’ manager Mr. George “Two Ton” Harris, Apollo and Lindsey got the dukes when Lubich and Tolos were disqualified in the third and decisive fall. 

The high-flying Argentina Apollo was off to the races and would have a strong year and a half run in Jim Crockett Promotions after these initial days in Raleigh that are memorialized on my oldest “oldie but goodie” wrestling tape!

Saturday, March 04, 2023

The Big Gold Nameplate Exchange


By Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Take a look at the image above and just imagine Klondike Bill’s workbench in his shop behind the office on Briarbend Drive a few days after the Great American Bash in Greensboro, July 26, 1986.

Yes, that's the Dusty Rhodes nameplate on the original 1986 Big Gold belt. It was rumored to not have existed. Jim Crockett told us on television that next Saturday afternoon that a nameplate for Dusty had been ordered and would be on the belt soon. But we never saw it, and most of us never believed it. As fans, we all were pretty confidant Ric Flair would get the Big Gold belt back soon and his iconic nameplate would go back on the belt. So we figured, why would they go to the trouble and expense behind the scenes of ordering a new nameplate?

But the Dusty nameplate was indeed ordered. And it was delivered. It just didn't make it in time for Dusty to have it on the belt when he was NWA champion for the third and final time. 

We verified the order later with the actual Crumrine order form and art work (it's all in the Big Gold book by the way - - thank you Teddy Srour.) But what we didn't know when the book was published was that the Dusty nameplate had actually been made until Cody Rhodes posted about it on Twitter several years ago. (See that story: American Dreams Come True.) Cody found it in a cigar box when going through his dad's belongings after Dusty had passed.

The original photo above was taken by Clint Beckley, and we created the special fantasy image above.   

See also: Big Dust, Big Gold

Edited and expanded from an original Twitter and Gateway post in September 2022.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Mooneyham Reviews "United States Championship" (2015)

Another special thanks to Mike Mooneyham for his great 2015 review of "United States Championship", our book on the history of the Jim Crockett Promotions version of the U.S. title and the five belts that represented it. The review was posted on the Charleston Post & Courier website.

The book is available via links in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Book Store or go directly to

Bourne strikes gold with new book on U.S. wrestling title
Oct 25 2015
by Mike Mooneyham, Charleston Post & Courier

Dick Bourne has done it again.

Bourne, who runs the popular Mid-Atlantic Gateway site, has followed up his “Ten Pounds of Gold” and “Big Gold” books with an informative and entertaining volume on “Jim Crockett Promotions’ United States Heavyweight Championship.”

The book, which takes a comprehensive look at one of pro wrestling’s most revered titles, just might be Bourne’s best effort yet.

A lifelong follower of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, Bourne explores the five classic U.S. title belts that were worn by some of the profession’s greatest performers over a 13-year period.

Just the images — more than 100 photographs of both the champs and the belts — are worth the price of admission....

Read the full review on >>>


Just the images — more than 100 photographs of both the champs and the belts — are worth the price of admission.

Examined are every title change, the stories behind the angles, and even every scratch and dent on the various championship belts and replicas.

“The book focuses on two main areas,” notes Bourne. “First, it looks at the five different physical belts that represented the Crockett championship from 1975 until 1988 (when the company was sold to Ted Turner.) Secondly, it chronicles the long title history of the championship, exploring every title change and tournament during those years, and all of the exciting angles and storylines.”

Bourne’s fascination with the territory — and the title — prompted him to write the book.

“The United States title was the main title for Crockett Promotions in the 1970s and 1980s, and was my favorite championship as a young fan of Mid-Atlantic wrestling. I also loved the belts. But what makes it relevant today is how it is the sole survivor from the territory days. This is the only championship from that great era to still be recognized today.”

While there were other regional U.S. championships under the NWA banner, the version recognized by the Charlotte-based Crockett Promotions was the biggest and most widely recognized of them all, and it served as the historical foundation for the U.S. championship recognized by WWE today.

“The WWE U.S. title traces its lineage all the way back to the beginning of Crockett’s U.S. title in 1975 — exactly 40 years ago this year,” says Bourne. “When you factor in that over 60 percent of the guys that held it are WWE Hall of Famers today, it makes the title — and its history — very relevant to fans today.

Credit for the formation of the Crockett U.S. title goes to George Scott, a longtime main-eventer-turned-booker who helped transform the Mid-Atlantic area from a tag-team territory to one built around singles competition.

With Scott bringing in some of the top talent in the country during the mid-’70s, he wanted a singles title that would be seen as the biggest prize in the territory and a nationally recognized one as well.

To that end, Scott brought in former NWA world champion Harley Race and billed him as the U.S. heavyweight champion, having defeated longtime Mid-Atlantic favorite Johnny Weaver in a phantom title change in Florida.

Johnny Valentine, at the time the territory’s most recognized national name and the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight champion, was tabbed as Race’s first challenger on July 3, 1975, at the Greensboro Coliseum. Valentine would defeat Race in a classic encounter, and the Crockett version of the U.S. heavyweight championship would begin its remarkable journey.

Twenty-one different men held the Crockett U.S. championship. Thirteen of them are current members of the WWE Hall of Fame.

The illustrious list of titleholders includes Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods), Wahoo McDaniel, Roddy Piper, Paul Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Magnum T.A.,Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger.

Flair would hold the record for longest combined reigns with five over 651 days, closely followed by Mulligan’s 541 days (four reigns) and Greg Valentine’s 541 days (three reigns).

Longest U.S. title reign would go to Nikita Koloff, who held the belt 329 days, from Aug. 16, 1986, to July 11, 1987.

Shortest? That dubious distinction would go to “No. 1” Paul Jones with a six-day run in 1976.

The belt continues to evoke memories, as Bourne discovered when he showed “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka a replica of the U.S. belt he won from Flair in 1979. 

“Bruddah, this is old days!” Snuka said with a huge grin on his face. “Good times! Me and the Nature Boy!”

Bourne says Snuka likely hadn’t thought about the belt in 30 years, but the memories seemed to be flooding back.

“Mr. Gene Anderson, bruddah! Good times!” exclaimed Snuka, referring to his manaher at the time.

“I think he was surprised to see this because I’m guessing that most fans want to talk about his time in the WWF,” says Bourne. “But the sight of that distinctive-looking center plate on the belt from his Mid-Atlantic wrestling days definitely connected with him. He seemed almost nostalgic. He posed for a photo holding the belt, a genuinely happy smile on his face. ‘Very nice, bruddah,’ he said as he handed the belt back to me. ‘Very nice.’”

The book, says Bourne, was a learning experience.

“I thought I had a good memory on most of the title history, but it was amazing all the little details I had forgotten over the years. It was fun to piece that all together again.

“As a young fan, I didn’t realize that there were many other United States championships recognized in other territories. I wanted to put the Crockett U.S. title in context with the rest of those titles. It was very interesting researching those titles and looking at their histories for comparative purposes. I summarize the other titles in the book.

“I also didn’t realize how many times the Crockett title was defended outside the Mid-Atlantic territory, particularly in Georgia. During the 1970s both Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan were booked on a number of occasions out of other offices with the belt. Promoter Paul Boesch recognized the title in Houston on several occasions in 1984 and 1988.”

There isn’t much about Mid-Atlantic wrestling titles that Bourne, a longtime resident of Mount Airy, N.C., doesn’t know.

“Dick Bourne is the Indiana Jones of belt archaeology,” wrote Mike Johnson of PWInsider.

A mystery Bourne admits he didn’t solve: “What happened to the original belt (1975-1980 version)? Where is it today? Greg Valentine claims to have once had possession of it, which makes sense because he was the last person to hold it. But when I contacted him, he claimed to longer have it and couldn’t recall what happened to it. I still hope to find that original belt one day, it’s a holy grail for me.”

Oct 25 2015
by Mike Mooneyham, Charleston Post & Courier

Originally published October 2015