The Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship was one of the great regional territory titles in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of the greatest names in wrestling history held that championship including Johnny Valentine, Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Dory Funk Jr., Jack and Jerry Brisco, and many others.
The forerunner of the Mid-Atlantic title was the Eastern Heavyweight Championship, which was established in 1970. While Jim Crockett Promotions had featured a singles title before, the Southern Heavyweight title during the 50s and 60s, the Eastern title was a more focused effort to push a singles championship in what had traditionally been a tag-team oriented territory.
|The Eastern Heavyweight Championship Belt|
In the fall of 1970, it was announced on television that the Missouri Mauler (Larry Hamilton) had defeated Pat O'Connor in New York for the Eastern States Heavyweight Championship. This was a fictitious title change, as was occasionally done when establishing a new title in a wrestling territory. It does, however, establish Pat O'Connor as the first recognized Eastern title holder, even if he never actually held the belt.
Newspaper clippings for Mauler's early Eastern title defenses in the Mid-Atlantic territory also mentioned him winning the title from O'Connor. One such newspaper report was printed in the January 6, 1971 edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times promoting a card at the Asheville City Auditorium.
|The New York Story: Newspaper accounts reported The Missouri Mauler|
winning the Eastern Heavyweight Title from former NWA world champ Pat O'Connor.
As early as March 1972, Jim Crockett began to establish the brand “Mid-Atlantic Wrestling”, although for well over a year it only appeared sporadically in newspaper ads and on event posters. The names of TV shows taped in Raleigh ("All-Star Wrestling" and "Championship Wrestling") were changed to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling some time during 1972. The final transition really took place in the final quarter of 1973, when the Mid-Atlantic titles, and their new belts, were established.
|A rare black and white photograph of the first Mid-Atlantic belt.|
The Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title evolved from the Eastern Heavyweight Championship on September 6th, 1973. It was on that night in Greensboro, NC, that reigning Eastern Heavyweight Champion Jerry Brisco was presented with the new Mid-Atlantic championship belt (seen above), and the Eastern Title was officially retired.
Our friend Carroll Hall of the All Star Championship Wrestling blog, a long time fan of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, was in Greensboro that night. "Jerry wasn't defending the Eastern title that night," Hall told us. "He was teaming with Cowboy Bill Watts against Brute Bernard and Jay York." But Hall explained that after ring announcer (and WGHP High Point NC television broadcaster) Charlie Harville had finished making several announcements about changes in that night's card, he called Jerry Brisco out to the ring. They announced the change of the name of the title, and I don't remember exactly how many people were in the ring, but I believe it was Jim Crockett, Jr. who handed him the new belt.
|The first Mid-Atlantic Champion Jerry Brisco|
Brisco's last Eastern title defense in Greensboro took place the month before, August 9th, against Gene Anderson. His first defense of the new Mid-Atlantic title in Greensboro was Thanksgiving night, November 22, 1973 against Terry Funk. Jerry's older brother Jack defended the NWA World title against Terry's older brother Dory on the same card.
It took a couple of months for Jim Crockett's many local promoters to all sync up with the name change. Some newspaper ads and event posters still continued to promote matches as Eastern Heavyweight title matches, even into November.
History isn't clear about what happened to that first Mid-Atlantic title belt presented to Jerry Brisco in September of 1973. Brisco, Johnny Valentine, and Paul Jones were the only three men to wear it. At some point between 3/9/75 and 6/29/75, Johnny Valentine began wearing the old Eastern Heavyweight belt again, which would be recognized from that point forward as Mid-Atlantic championship. Those two dates are a window of time we've developed based on the date Jones was photographed with the original belt in Charlotte and the date Wahoo McDaniel won the belt in Asheville, by which time we know the Eastern title belt was being used again to represent the Mid-Atlantic title. The Mid-Atlantic belt that had originally first been presented to Brisco simply disappeared. Perhaps it was stolen. But Valentine and successive Mid-Atlantic Champions in 1975 and 1976, which included Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair, also wore the old Eastern title belt and were recognized as the Mid-Atlantic champion.
|Replicas of the three versions of the championship belt that said "Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion"|
for Jim Crockett Promotions. L-R: 1973-1975, 1977-1985, 1985-1986
In early 1977, a new Mid-Atlantic title belt was finally ordered to replace first Mid-Atlantic belt that had disappeared. (Replica seen in the middle photo above.) Wahoo McDaniel was the first to wear it. This is this belt that is most closely associated with the title, as 18 wrestlers over 9 years carried it to the ring. It was last worn by Buzz Tyler in 1985. Tyler left the promotion while still champion and never returned the title belt. A new belt (3rd of three) was ordered. Khrusher Khrushchev defeated Sam Houston at Starrcade '85 to determine a new champion, and Khrushchev was presented with the 3rd and what would be the final version of the belt.
The title was vacated by Ron Garvin on December 27, 1986, after Garvin and partner Barry Windham had won the U.S. tag titles weeks earlier. Promoter Jim Crockett announced that a tournament would be held for the vacant title, but no such tournament was ever held, and the title was never mentioned again.
This was the last in what was a series of sad events for fans of the Mid-Atlantic territory. Earlier that same year, the television show that bore the name "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" had changed names to "NWA Pro Wrestling". Now, with the title and belt bearing the Mid-Atlantic name being dropped by the promotion, the great era known as "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" had quietly come to an end.
Originally posted October 2004
Updated August 2009, June 2010
Copyright © Mid-Atlantic Gateway
The Iron Sheik
Dory Funk Jr. / The Outlaw
Rufus R. Jones
Angelo Mosca, Jr.
EASTERN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS (1970-1973)
The Eastern Heavyweight title is the forerunner of the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight championship. Eastern Heavyweight champions were recognized by Jim Crockett Promotions as former Mid-Atlantic Champions, and are here as well.
Missouri Mauler (Larry Hamilton)
*First recognized champion in a fictional storyline.
Photo of Jerry Brisco holding Mid-Atlantic belt (above) by Gene Gordon. Mid-Atlantic belt (1973) photo by Gene Gordon.
Photo of the replica belt by Dick Bourne © Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
Thanks to Bill Janosik and Scooter Lesley for providing photos for this article.
Photo of the original Mid-Atlantic Belt © Ditch-Cat Photography; Modified graphic version © Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
Special thanks to Carroll Hall for his assistance with background for this article.