Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jim Crockett Scholarship Fund (1973)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Ticket stub from Thanksgiving Night in Greensboro 1973

The Territory's Biggest Night

When Jim Crockett passed away in 1973, the family decided to establish a scholarship in his name. According to a report in the Greensboro News & Record, the traditional Thanksgiving night event in the Greensboro Coliseum was the first in a series of scholarship events to be held in the coming weeks to honor the legacy and memory of James Allen Crockett, Sr. Proceeds from the event would go to that fund.

The Thanksgiving event in Greensboro, which was always a big affair and one of the biggest shows of the year in the entire territory, was particularly loaded that evening. The NWA world champion Jack Brisco was booked to defend the ten pounds of gold against former champion Dory Funk, Jr. in what was another in a series of classic battles between the two wrestlers who defined pro-wrestling in the 1970s. Jack had defeated Harley Race in July of that same year for the title, and the angle now was that Brisco had never defeated his arch-rival Funk, Jr. in a title match.  This was a huge deal at the time and billed as a special event selected for Greensboro. To add even more star power to that main event, former legendary champion Lou Thesz was brought in to act as special referee for the title contest.

A number of other big names were brought in from outside the area for the show, which wasn't that unusual for big shows in Greensboro. Terry Funk was in to challenge Eastern heavyweight champion Jerry Brisco in a battle of the younger brothers who were in the main event that night. Indeed, Thanksgiving night in Greensboro was a Funk vs. Brisco showcase.

Also in were the father and son combination of Eddie and Mike Graham. Eddie and Mike were top stars for Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Eddie was also the promoter of that territory. They squared off against one of the Mid-Atlantic territory's top legendary heel tag teams Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson. What a classic brawl that must have been.

Another top star in for the big card that didn't wrestle regularly in the territory was Cowboy Bill Watts. A regular in Georgia and Florida, Watts had made several special appearances in Greensboro that year, but was not a regular member of the Crockett roster.

The newspaper clippings are shown above and transcripts of the articles follow.

Studio Wrestling Updates

Mid-Atlantic TV Show Wins Awards (1976)
Jim Crockett's television crew takes home the lion share of the 1976 NWA awards.

Bill Connell with Steamboat and Youngblood (1981)
Bill Connell appears with Johnny Weaver and Jay Youngblood at an annual Christmas Parade.

Television Wrestling History: WRAL-5 Raleigh NC

Sound Bytes: Ring Introduction by Carl Murnick

The Wonderful Voice of Joe Murnick
Our favorite TV ring announcer makes one of his classic intros of Blackjack Mulligan and Big Bill Dromo at WRAL in Raleigh.

Plus these updates from earlier in the week:

Theme Music: Raleigh Intro to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1973)
A custom into for the Raleigh version of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" featuring an introduction for host Elliot Murnick

Ed Capral in Atlanta (1972)
Prior to his stint for Jim Crockett as host of "Wide World Wrestling," Ed Capral was the longtime voice of wrestling wrestling in Georgia.

The Local Promos on Briarbend Drive featuring Tony Schiavone

Man Behind the Mike: Scott Clark from Wrestling Revue 1970

George Scott & Andre the Giant at WRAL in 1976

The Jerry Lawler Post Card from 1985

The Studio Wrestling Scrapbook is part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tough Kid

Edited From the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives / Cokes & Popcorn

Roddy Piper once described what old-timers did to protect the business back in the day. In his day, they sometimes would go to extremes to make sure fans completely bought into an angle. it was all about "protecting the business."

Roddy is discussing the famous 1982 angle where he and Ric Flair engaged in an amateur wrestling contest. After Piper embarrassed Flair by pinning him both amateur and professional style, Flair and Greg Valentine attacked him and ground his face into the cement floor of the WPCQ TV studios in Charlotte.

In 2011, Piper discussed what we didn't see during the commercial break to make sure fans bought into the angle:

Roddy Piper discusses Gene Anderson
Rock 100.5 Atlanta's Rock Station 

Piper mentions he was taken to the back after the angle during the commercial break, and Gene Anderson rubbed sandpaper on his face to create the abrasion you see in the photo below and to help sell the angle to fans. Anderson looked at him and said, "Tough kid." Piper said it was one of the greatest compliments he had ever received.

Roddy Piper 1982

This photo above (taken by magazine photographer Eddie Cheslock in Richmond, VA) was shot in 1982 following the angle between Ric Flair and Roddy Piper which led to the sandpaper treatment he describes receiving in the video from Gene Anderson.

Ricky Steamboat 1978

The 1982 Flair/Piper angle was basically a repeat of an angle four years earlier between Flair and Ricky Steamboat in 1978 (except the 1978 angle didn't involve an amateur wrestling contest.)

On a recent appearance on Ric Flair's podcast (WOOOOO! Nation), Steamboat recounted how the same thing has been done to him to help get the angle over.

- Dick Bourne
From the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives
Cokes & Popcorn

Want more watered-down Cokes and stale popcorn like we used to get at the wrestling shows? Visit the Cokes & Popcorn page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives. 
These are little stories of respect I want to hang onto.
FB Video

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Main Event Memories: The Anderson Family (1976)

by Dick Bourne
From the "Main Event Memory" Series

Tonight's "Main Event Memory" on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway is from the early fall of 1976 and reflects back on a trio of individuals running roughshod through the Mid-Atlantic area that entire year - The Anderson Brothers and their young cousin Ric Flair.

The Anderson family prepared to battle Wahoo McDaniel, Dino Bravo, and Rufus R. "Freight Train" Jones. The big six-man battle was the main event on a card at the Scope Coliseum in Norfolk, VA, and would be fought under "Lights Out" rules: the match was not sanctioned by the Mational Wrestling Alliance -- Anything goes!

One side of this main event was carrying all the championship gold. "The Minnesota Wrecking Crew" Gene and Ole Anderson were the reigning NWA world tag team champions. The Nature Boy" Ric Flair was in the middle of his year long feud with Chief Wahoo McDaniel over the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight championship. He had regained the title from Wahoo after hitting him in the head with the broken table-leg in the infamous match in Charlotte that resulted in Wahoo going to the hospital legit and getting 53 stitches over his eye. The Andersons and Flair had issues with Wahoo, Rufus, and Bravo individually and were hoping to settle all of the issues in this one night where there were no rules. Lights out!

As Ole says, how can these three hope to compete with the "Anderson family" under those circumstances?

Listen as Les Thatcher interviews the Andersons and Ric Flair about their big upcoming bout on September 9, 1976!

Classic Newspaper Ad from Florida

A great looking ad from "Championship Wrestling from Florida" featuring NWA Champion Jack Brisco and "the ten pounds of gold."

What a loaded 10-match card! Not only was Jack defending the title against Terry Funk, but two former world champs were also meeting in the semi-final as Terry's brother Dory Funk, Jr. met Harley Race. Plus Eddie Graham, Jim ("J.J.") Dillon, Johnny Weaver, and others.

The card was held at the beautiful Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. For my money on of the most beautiful arenas in the most perfect setting of any venue in Florida.

We love the old newspaper ads and this one features all the components of a perfect promo ad: a cool looking marquee header, the old traditional NWA logo, old-school wrestler-artwork, great photo of the champ and his belt, all in a well designed package. Belltime 8:30!!

This ad was first featured on our sister-website, The Domed Globe

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Charlie Harville: Remembering His Remarkable Journey

by Wayne Brower
Exclusive to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives

In the spring of 1954 Jim Crockett spoke before an audience in the City of Lexington, North Carolina to publicize the debut of professional wrestling at the local YMCA gymnasium. He announced an agreement that he had entered with the organization whereby a portion of the proceeds would go towards funding the newly constructed arena. Crockett also told the assembled group about his plans for weekly shows if the initial matches drew adequate crowds.

Marketing the wrestling matches would be through advertisements in local newspapers, along with display cards in store fronts and on utility poles at strategic intersections. Since locally affiliated wrestling was not televised in the immediate area, Crockett described the need for a strong connection with the population in the Piedmont section of the state. He then advised the attendees about his new association with a prominent sports authority who would play a significant role in providing a major event atmosphere, while drawing sports fans not previously interested in wrestling. That prominent authority was Charlie Harville.

Charles Edward Harville was born December 15, 1918 in High Point, North Carolina. From an early age he had a tremendous interest in playing various sports that progressed into his college years. Not being as successful as he had envisioned in football, Charlie turned to baseball but failed to make the High Point College team. Showing his lifelong ability to overcome setbacks through trust in his own self-reliance, he would later tell a newspaper reporter that being cut during the baseball tryouts made him strive to succeed in his second ambition – being a sports broadcaster.

So while still in college, Charlie went to his hometown WMFR radio and boldly offered his services as a substitute play-by-play announcer for the Thomasville Tommies baseball games. The station manager was impressed by the articulate young man and decided to give him an opportunity in an on-the-job audition on April 28, 1938. The next day he was hired as their full time play-by-play announcer for baseball and football games.

World War II interrupted his career, but after an honorable tour of duty in the Army Air Corps, Charlie reemerged in radio working at stations in Martinsville, Virginia, Goldsboro, North Carolina and then LaSalle, Illinois. During his time at WLPO in LaSalle he created the unique closing phrase that would always end his future sportscasts: “That’s the best in sports today.”

In 1949 WFMY Radio in Greensboro provided an opportunity for him to return to his home area. The station had made the effort to broadcast the new medium of television and obtained the license to do so later that year. Charlie was selected as host of what is believed to be the first live local sports show broadcast in North Carolina. Almost fifty years later he would tell a staff writer for the Greensboro News & Record “It was a gamble on the part of the station. I practiced by pretending I was looking at a camera during my radio broadcasts. I had no doubt I’d succeed at it, but I didn’t know if it would go over with the public. I was surprised at the speed and breadth of its acceptance. By 1953 WFMY’s venture into TV was so successful that it closed the radio station.”

However, radio continued to be a significant part of Charlie’s career. Through the late 1940s and into the 1950s, he was a part of the Tobacco State Network that broadcast big four Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. For the next three decades he was the play-by-play announcer for numerous universities’ football and baseball programs, including East Carolina, Appalachian State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

* * * * * * * * * *

On Saturday night, May 1, 1954 Charlie Harville walked toward the ring, through the then record setting attendance of 4,300, for the first professional wrestling matches ever held at the Lexington YMCA. Neither he nor those in the arena knew that they were a part of events that would significantly impact him and wrestling in the region for the next thirty years.

Studio Wrestling Updates

Theme Music: Raleigh Intro to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1973)
A custom into for the Raleigh version of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" featuring an introduction for host Elliot Murnick

Ed Capral in Atlanta (1972)
Prior to his stint for Jim Crockett as host of "Wide World Wrestling," Ed Capral was the longtime voice of wrestling wrestling in Georgia.

Plus these updates from earlier in the week:

The Local Promos on Briarbend Drive featuring Tony Schiavone

Man Behind the Mike: Scott Clark from Wrestling Revue 1970

George Scott & Andre the Giant at WRAL in 1976

The Jerry Lawler Post Card from 1985

The Studio Wrestling Scrapbook is part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Dusty Rhodes Photo Memories

A great collage of Dusty Rhodes images that Mike Cline (of Mid-Atlantic Grapplin' Greats) put together for us for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway's career results page for big Dust.

So many great memories of Stardust, the plumber's son, the outlaw from Austin Texas, the American Dream.

Part of our ongoing tribute to the memory of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

James J. Dillon & The Limousine

Honoring photographer and friend Robert Riddick, Jr.

One of Rob Riddick's favorite photographs that he shot was of James J. Dillon outside of his hotel in Baltimore the weekend of the second Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup tag team tournament. It was April of 1987, and J.J. was waiting for Ric Flair and the rest of the Four Horsemen to join him as they prepared to depart in their limousine.  Rob was shooting for George Napolitano and his series of pro-wrestling news stand magazines at this time.

Rob once told me the context of the photo, but I don't recall when during the weekend this was or where he said the Horsemen were headed. He told me he had taken this photo for himself. 

Twenty six years later, in the summer of 2013, my friend Conrad Thompson was looking for a unique photo he could have enlarged and signed by J.J. at a private gathering in Huntsville, AL. I suggested Rob's limousine photo and Conrad thought it was perfect. He had the photo of J.J. and the limousine blown up into a nice 16 x 20" foam-board poster. Since Rob allowed us to use his photograph, I asked J.J. to sign one for him, too, and explained to him that it was Rob who had taken the photo all those years ago and that it was one of his favorites.

J.J. took great care in signing the print to Rob. The inscription read:

"To Robert: 
Thanks for the great photo. 
J.J. Dillon
The Leader of the Four Horsemen forever!"

I was so excited to be able to get this for Rob.  J.J. was one of his favorite wrestlers and managers. The photo of J.J. and the limousine had been used on the cover of one of J.J.'s recent shoot-interview DVDs, which Rob was very proud of all these years later. I called him and told him I had it for him and that I would mail it to him, but needed to get the right packaging for it because it was on foam-board and could not be rolled up. He told me not to worry with it, as we were planning on trying to see each other soon, and I could give it to him then. I sent him a photo via e-mail of the signed print so he could see what J.J. had written. But even with that, I had every good intention to go ahead and mail it to him.

I believe it was Thomas Edison who once said something like "Good intentions, with poor execution, often lead to poor results.” Rob passed away a short time later, before our planned get-together. I had not yet mailed the signed photograph to him. I still feel bad about that to this day.

As mentioned earlier, I am featuring some of photographer Rob Riddick's personal favorite pictures to honor his memory as part of an ongoing series here on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
- Dick Bourne

"MatLands" - New Book by Jim Brunzell

While most of the wrestling world might remember him as either one half of the AWA world tag team champions with Greg Gagne or one half of the WWF tag team "The Killer Bees" with B. Brian Blair, we at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway prefer to tout "Jumpin'" Jim Brunzell as the former Mid-Atlantic heavyweight champion from his time working our territory in 1979 and 1980.

Brunzell has a new book out titled "MatLands: True Stories from the Wrestling Road." It is independently published and available now at Blurb.com. A 15-page preview of the book is available there as well. (The preview doesn't get you far enough to see any of the wrestling material, but looking at the table of contents, "MatLands" is all about the wrestling.)

From the publisher:
Hall of Fame member, Jumpin' Jim Brunzell chronicles his journey through the uncertain and sometimes dangerous road of professional wrestling. Some forty plus true stories that give a snapshot into the zany life that Jim and his "Blood Brothers" lived everyday in the very real world of "MatLands."

Brunzell had a nice run in the Mid-Atlantic territory, which included big feuds with Ken Patera, Ray Stevens, and the Iron Shiek. Jim held the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight championship twice, winning it the first time from Ken Patera in Richmond, VA. on 9/14/79.

He lost the title to "The Crippler" Ray Stevens in Greensboro on 11/22/79 but regained it from him on Christmas day in Charlotte.

Brunzell lost the title a final time to the Iron Sheik on 5/11/80 in Charlotte.

Brunzell worked with a great crew during his time in the Carolinas and Virginia including Ric Flair, Blackjack Mulligan, Jimmy Snuka, and many others. He was also fortunate enough to be in the territory when the legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers made a brief return to the ring and one of the stories in his book is about the legendary world champion of both the WWWF and the NWA.

There is a chapter titled "Ed Wahoo McDaniel" which alone is enough to get a thumbs up from us.

And lastly there is a chapter titled "The Magic Rat Drove His Sleek Machine" which has us wanting to spend time with barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain. But that's just us.

"MatLands" is available through Blurb.com.

Meanwhile, on the Gateway, we knew Jim Brunzell was talented, we just didn't know how talented.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Remembering Dusty Rhodes

My First Impression Was the Most Lasting
by David Chappell

Like most Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling fans, I felt tremendous sadness when I learned that the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes passed away recently. While I never considered Dusty a true “Mid-Atlantic” guy, he nevertheless cast a large shadow over the latter years of Jim Crockett Promotions and the professional wrestling world in general.

Everybody that ever saw Dusty over the course of his career likely has a lasting memory of him…one match, card or interview that really stands out. I’m no different, though mine might be a bit obscure to some. It occurred on September 4, 1976, which was Dusty’s first appearance in my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Two weeks before that big event, it was clear that something unusual was up. TV promo announcer Les Thatcher told the Richmond viewing audience to be sure to tune in next week “for a special announcement of interest to all Richmond area wrestling fans.” During the Mid-Atlantic years, I never remembered a “tease” like that during a Richmond promo for our upcoming Friday night matches. Sure enough, when the next week rolled around, Les Thatcher announced that the American Dream Dusty Rhodes would be challenging “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for Flair’s Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship on a special Saturday night card at the Richmond Coliseum!

Studio Wrestling Update

Recent Updates to the Studio Wrestling website:

The Local Promos on Briarbend Drive featuring Tony Schiavone

Man Behind the Mike: Scott Clark from Wrestling Revue 1970

George Scott & Andre the Giant at WRAL in 1976

The Jerry Lawler Post Card from 1985

The Studio Wrestling Scrapbook is part of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Andre the Giant

It was always an exciting time when the "Eighth Wonder of the World" Andre the Giant came into your territory two or three times a year. Andre was a special attraction that toured the world of pro-wrestling much like the touring world champions of that era did.

The image in this ad was similar to an image used on a big stand-up poster of Andre that was always featured on television during the local promo segments when he was coming to our town.

This newspaper ad, from Knoxville, TN, in September of 1974, touts Andre in a handicap match with the top heel brother combination in Tennessee wrestling history - Ron and Don Wright.

Chilhowie Park was the traditional home to some of Knoxville's greatest pro-wrestling cards. This one was so big, they only needed to advertise one match. The main event in Knoxville that night was the only match that mattered!

Claw vs. Claw in 1978

Our friend Carroll Hall has tons of old clippings on his All-Star Championship Wrestling site. These span many decades, from the 1930s  to present time.

It's a great blog with tons of interesting things to check out.

The clippings at right are from 1978 and include the ad for a show in Dobson, NC featuring a claw vs. claw confrontation between Blackjack Mulligan and Baron Von Raschke. The accompanying photo from the day after the show says it all!

Be sure to check out All-Star Championship Wrestling!

A Visit with Ole Anderson

From the Desk of Dr. Andy McDaniel

In the wake of recent wrestling deaths I wanted to share something special. I have proudly been a professional wrestling fan for over 40 years. My love for what Ric Flair always called the “greatest sport in the world” started in 1974. The number of matches I have attended, honestly I have lost count. The memories are so plentiful that when reading articles on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway or ones by Mike Mooneyham I can almost always find a connection somewhere that I was either there or vividly remember the event or the feud.

Needless to say wrestling has been a major part of my life for most of my life. I was blessed to even give it a try for a season of my youth and certainly found it to be so much harder than it looked on television. I learned to respect not just the performance, but indeed I learned to respect the performers. These men and women were real life superheroes. They were not like the movies where they could not be seen beyond the silver screen, you could see them nearly every night in an arena somewhere across the Mid-Atlantic territory. For me it was Charleston County Hall located in Historic Charleston, SC. I was hooked at the first show and for so many years it was what I looked forward to the most on Friday nights. So what is my point? Why would I want to share this little story with anyone?

All wrestling fans who enjoy history know that over the years we have lost many of the greats. Johnny Valentine, Tim Woods, Wahoo McDaniel, George “Two-Ton” Harris, Swede Hanson, Rip Hawk and the list is honestly too long to write. I was so blessed to have each one of those men at the reunion I promoted in 1998 except Wahoo, but he would later make an appearance for me at one of my house shows. To say it was a fans dream event would honestly be an understatement. I cannot speak for one other person beyond myself, but I had the time of my life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Terry Funk on Ric Flair Podcast

Ric Flair gets together with the hardcore legend, WWE Hall of Famer, and former NWA world champion Terry Funk on the latest edition of WOOOO! Nation, which dropped today.

From the website:
EP 08:
Ric welcomes his friend and HOF'er Terry Funk!
Be a fly on the wall as old friends and two of the best to ever lace up the boots talk about the old times, the hard times of their contemporaries, remembering Dusty and having a few laughs along the way. This is one you don't want to miss! Instant Classic!

Join Ric with Conrad Thompson as they welcome Terry Funk to WOOOOO! Nation. Check it out via iTunes or directly download from the WOOOOO! Nation page at the Play.it website.

Flair vs. Landel: Sold Out in Raleigh

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Ric Flair vs. Buddy Landel - July 31, 1985 Dorton Arena, Raleigh NC

During the summer months of 1985, Jim Crockett and booker Dusty Rhodes gave the Ric Flair vs. Buddy Landel feud a little test run to see if they had anything with the two of them. Landel, relatively new to the territory, was getting a great heel reaction everywhere and the "Nature Boy" vs. "Nature Boy" battle was bound to be big box office at some point.

However, Flair was in the middle of a big national run against Magnum T.A. off of WTBS, and back home in the Mid-Atlantic area he was the monster babyface against the Russian monster Nikita Koloff coming off the huge Great American Bash match at Charlotte's Memorial Stadium. Later that fall, Flair would be embroiled in a feud with Dusty Rhodes leading up to Starrcade 85, the same supershow where Landel would win the National heavyweight championship from Terry Taylor. So booker Dusty Rhodes wasn't ready to pull the trigger yet on the full blown Flair/Landel feud. He would save that for early 1986.

"Landel, managed by J.J. Dillon, was set for a major push in Jim Crockett Promotions, including a potential NWA title run or at least a major feud with Ric Flair," wrote Dave Meltzer on the Wrestling Observer website. "The two had set a record in Raleigh, NC, in a tryout match."

Buddy Landel holds up the NWA title belt
after an earlier title match in Greensboro
The Raleigh match Meltzer was referring to took place July 31, 1985 at the Dorton Arena on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. It had been set up by an earlier match between the two in Greensboro, NC on July 13 where Landel actually pinned Flair and was handed the NWA world title belt before the decision was overturned. Video of that match and angle was shown on Mid-Atlantic television and the local promos between Landel and Flair leading up to the rematch in Raleigh were white hot.

The result was a turn-away sellout of the Dorton Arena that stunned the Crockett front office. If you look closely in the photo up top, you'll notice fans jammed into every entrance way from the concourse into the arena and every seat taken in the building.  It was truly "standing room only."

James J. Dillon told the Gateway during a conversation in the summer of 2013 that he and Landel were in a car traveling to the building and were stuck in traffic the last couple of miles. "I wondered if maybe the State Fair was in town that week," remembered Dillon, "but then it just dawned on us; they're trying to get to wrestling."

Buddy Landel 1962-2015
Dusty put that plan in his back pocket and let it simmer for six months. The longterm plan was for Flair and Landel to have their series after the first of the year. The urban legend, as Meltzer alluded to above, has always been that Landel was going to get a brief run with the NWA title in early 1986. One can only imagine how the NWA/Crockett landscape might have changed if  that had taken place.

But we never had a chance to find out. Landel had his demons and missed a key television taping that was to set the angle with Flair. He was fired and Flair was programmed with Ron Garvin instead for the short term.

But there was always magic in the air when Flair and Landel got close to each other, and sparks flew when they had their handful of matches the summer of 1985. They just never had a chance to catch fire. And we'll always be left to wonder "what if."

In 2005, I had a short series of interactions with Landel. A mutual friend had introduced us and Landel had inquired about some video he thought I might have. He was looking for the aforementioned clip that aired on Mid-Atlantic television of the match where he had pinned Flair and was briefly handed the NWA belt. I had that original show on VHS and dubbed it to DVD for him, along with some other clips from that year-long run with Jim Crockett Promotions. For the next several years, every time our paths crossed, he would thank me for the DVD. Buddy was a nice guy. I think he enjoyed being able to show his family a glimpse of what might have been had it not been for those personal demons. Perhaps he was trying to pass on some hard lessons learned.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Buddy Landel passed away on Monday, June 22, 2015. He was 53 years old.
Rest in Peace.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Smooth Operator

Rest in Peace. June 22, 2015

Buddy Landel Passes Away

"Nature Boy" Buddy Landel in 1985
(Eddie Cheslock Photo)

The Wrestling Observer is reporting that Buddy Landel passed away today.

Their report is here: Wrestling Observer

Our condolences to the family and friends of Buddy Landel, who was just 53 years old.

Greg Oliver at SLAM! Wrestling has an excellent obit on his website.

Buddy Landel Dead at Age 53

My Secret Charlotte

by Kyra Quinn

from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives

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

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

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

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

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

And so there are no physical markers here, virtually nothing to indicate the hold wrestling once had on this place. But if you know where to look, reminders of Charlotte's rich wrestling heritage are all around. In a city that often seems to demolish rather than retain its history, the key venues are, incredibly, still standing. Memorial Stadium and the adjacent Park Center (now Grady Cole Center) are both still in use and appear largely as they did during their wrestling heydays. I am not old enough to remember the days when Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling filled the Park Center every Monday night. But I do recall the sight of Memorial Stadium in 1985 and 1986 when it hosted the Great American Bash. I only got to see clips of the Bashes on television, but that was enough for me to sense the magic: stadium lights blazing against a velvet Charlotte sky... tens of thousands packed into the bleachers... and at the center of it all, the ring, bathed in light, with the wrestlers giving it all they had on those hot July nights. Even through TV the excitement was palpable.

As for the other primary Crockett venue, the old Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles Coliseum) still proudly stands on Independence Boulevard. Instantly recognizable by its silver roof and glass fa├žade, the Coliseum somehow remains in operation, though long gone are the days when it hosted all of the city's major events. Because of their historic and cultural importance to the city, both Charlotte Coliseum and Memorial Stadium have been designated as historic landmarks by the City Council of Charlotte. In all of the documentation that accompanied those designations I found only one reference to wrestling. But it made me smile. Buried deep in the lengthy historical essay which was prepared for Charlotte Coliseum as part of the designation process was the following elegantly understated sentence: "Professional wrestling also flourished." And so it did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published December 14, 2013 in the Smoke Filled Rooms section of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
The original article, with additional supporting links and material, can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives.


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

Feedback From a Friend
by Dick Bourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sister-Website Updates

Here are links to a few items recently posted to some of our affiliated websites:

The Jerry Lawler Postcard

Les Thatcher Schools Us on WRAL Local Promo Tapings

A Classic Newspaper Ad from Florida (1975)
Brisco, Funks, Race, Grahams, Backlund, others.

Coming up later today on the Gateway:
A look back at one of our most popular articles: "My Secret Charlotte".

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Crockett & Watts at the Crockett Cup

Honoring photographer & friend Robert Riddick, Jr.

Rob Riddick once told me that one of his favorite trips was to New Orleans in April of 1986 for the inaugural Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup tag team tournament. George Napolitano, through the assistance of Tony Schiavone in the Crockett office, made it possible for him to get credentials.

Ironically, it would be an event where he wasn't allowed to shoot many of the matches, since they limited the number of photographers that could shoot ringside, and those would be the guys like Napolitano, Bill Apter, and the photographers from Japan. But what made the trip so memorable for him was that he was able to get this shot.

Rob told me he was walking through one of the long hallways in the Super Dome before the evening session and noticed Jim Crockett and Bill Watts having a conversation in front of a set where they had the Crockett Cup trophy on display in front of a huge board with the tournament brackets. He worked up the nerve to interrupt them and ask them could he get a picture, sensing the brief opportunity to get them together in such a setting. Watts told him, "I don't have my jacket with me." Rob assured him that wasn't a problem in the slightest.

Without being asked, the two reached up and each held the trophy for the photograph which Rob told me was one of his all-time favorites given these two giants in wrestling together for that rather historic show.

As mentioned earlier, we are featuring some of Rob Riddick's favorite photographs to honor his memory as part of an ongoing series here on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Magazine Covers in 1975

In 1975, Jim Crockett Promotions began publishing a program in the form of a magazine that could be sold at the arenas where the local matches were held. The in-house publication was designed, edited, and written by Les Thatcher, who by that time was a major support player in the Crockett front office.

These four issues made up Volume 1 and were all published in 1975. Volume 2 began in 1976.

Robert Riddick

Back around 2009, I was blessed to make the acquaintance of a wonderful fellow named Rob Riddick. Our mutual friend George Pantas introduced us, and from the moment Rob and I began talking on the phone regularly, we became good friends. He once told me he was convinced we were "brothers from different mothers."

Robert Riddick, Jr.
Rob was a great guy who shared his laughter and good cheer with me over the relatively few years I knew him through our many hour-long telephone conversations, many of them while he was sitting high atop his crane at the Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary's, GA. We shared the same love of music, TV and movies, NFL football, food, but most of all of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. We had the same childhood heroes - Blackjack Mulligan, Dick Murdoch, Rufus R. "Freight Train" Jones, Wahoo McDaniel, and the Anderson Brothers.

He was able to start taking photographs at the matches in Norfolk and Hampton when he was a teenager, and through good fortune and a little help from some friends, was able to begin taking photographs for the wrestling magazines, particularly for George Napolitano.

Rob shot Crockett cards professionally from around 1984 through 1990. He mostly shot in Norfolk and Greensboro, but also at some big shows outside his geographic area, for example the Great American Bash at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, as well as the Crockett Cups in New Orleans and Baltimore. His photographs graced many of the pages and even a few of the covers of the Napolitano magazines.

Dusty Rhodes with Paul Ellering and the Road Warriors
Rob credited Napolitano and Tony Schiavone for helping him out and opening doors for him. Particularly Schiavone, who set him up nicely at the Greensboro shows and got him access.

Sadly, Rob Riddick passed away in December of 2013. He was 48 years old. He was way too young to leave us, and he and I had way too much wrestling left to talk about. I think about him often and miss him very much.

During my few brief years knowing Rob, he was kind enough to send me some of his photographs to post on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Many of those are on Rob's pages at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives. But some have never been posted or seen, and I plan to begin posting a select number of those here for all of us to enjoy. In all cases, these will be pictures that Rob told me were some of his personal favorites. I post these to honor his memory. Look for them to begin soon.

When Rob died, a friend of his posted online that the world was a lot less funny place that day. I found that to be so true. Rob made me laugh every time I spoke with him, and that's one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Thanks for that, Rob. Rest in peace, big man.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flair & Anderson vs. Rhodes & Garvin (1986)

This is the match "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was talking about on his podcast this week when thinking of his favorite Dusty Rhodes moments. The spot he raved on about is at the 3:11 mark in this video, where Dusty gets so excited he gives Babydoll a kiss...and then kisses Ron Garvin!

Check out the Steve Austin Show on PodcastOne.com. 

Better Days

What a wonderful photograph of Wahoo McDaniel, Andre the Giant, and Dusty Rhodes from the 1970s. I have no idea the origin of this photo. It looks like something that was probably published in one of the Japanese magazines, as the U.S. magazines would have never published such a cool photograph. (Anyone with info on the origin/location/photographer of this photo, we'd love to know it.)

I just love it, all three looking happy and healthy during a great time in their lives and their careers.