Monday, August 17, 2015

Almanac History - April 1980

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
April 1980

Stevens & Snuka Destroy Official NWA Film

The first Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show of the month of April, taped in Raleigh, North Carolina at the WRAL TV studios on April 2, 1980, had one of the most memorable segments in many years to lead off the program. The brand new NWA World Tag Team Champions, Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens, were introduced to the viewing audience. Then, former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood came on the scene, and that’s when things got really interesting!

Steamboat and Youngblood possessed a film of the match where Stevens and Valentine defeated them for the World Tag Team belts, and asked announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett to play the film for the fans during the TV show. Valentine and Stevens both went off on the prospect of the film being showed on television. Valentine said showing the film would “be an easy way out” for Steamboat and Youngblood, while Stevens called the tape “a Mickey mouse piece of film,” and that there was “no way that you’re going to show that to anybody.”

Announcer David Crockett made the mistake of trying to keep the film away from Greg Valentine, who proceeded to snatch it away from David and knock Crockett over the head with it! Then Stevens could be heard muttering, “Let me get my knife out of here.” Ray then sliced up the film with his knife until it was in a shredded heap, and clearly it was completely and utterly ruined.

At the end of the show, Steamboat and Youngblood said the tape would have shown “dirty” tactics by Valentine and Stevens, but they may not have even asked the NWA powers that be to review the film. David Crockett also apologized to Ricky and Jay for the fiasco, and promised to do what he could to help them get the belts back. Everyone agreed that it wasn’t Crockett’s fault, and that nobody could have anticipated Valentine yanking the film from him and knocking him to the floor!

Andre the Giant Visits the Area

The April 2nd Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling program and the World Wide Wrestling TV show of the same date also had a lengthy interview with none other than the “Eighth Wonder of The World,” Andre the Giant. Vincent K. McMahon conducted the remote interview. Andre would appear in the Mid-Atlantic area during the early part of the month, and big Blackjack Mulligan was the principal beneficiary of the Giant’s arrival, particularly in Mulligan’s feud with the Masked Superstars # 1 and #2.

On April 6th at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, Andre and Blackjack Mulligan dominated the Superstars in route to a satisfying victory. The same outcome repeated itself in Greenville, South Carolina on April 7th and Columbia, South Carolina on April 8th, with Superstars #1 and #2 unable to handle the size and power of Blackjack and the Giant.

“Nature Boy” Ric Flair joined the festivities with Andre on April 6th at the Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia, teaming with the Giant and Mulligan to topple the formidable trio of the Superstars I and II along with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka.  Andre’s stint in early April ended on April 11th at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia, where he toyed with the “Wildman” Jimmy Snuka.

Blackjack Mulligan's Issues with the Masked Superstars I & II

The Masked Superstars #1 and #2 thought they were pulling a fast one on big Blackjack Mulligan, but the masked men were the ones who ended up in big trouble! On the taping date of April 9th for the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, the Superstars came out taunting Mulligan and his injured hand, saying Blackjack couldn’t even crush the marshmallows they brought out with his hurt hand. The Superstars even got Blackjack to sign contracts against Superstar # 2, and if Mulligan lost those bouts he would agree to never wrestle again in those cities. Superstar #2 happily signed those contracts as well!

Blackjack shocked the Superstars by banging the cast off of his supposedly injured wrist on the TV desk, proclaiming he was 100% fit and ready to unmask Superstar #2 and expose his identity! The Superstars tried to pull back the signed contracts saying they had been suckered by Mulligan, but the masked men were stuck and the showdowns between Mulligan and Superstar # 2 were set.

Mulligan began getting his revenge against the Superstars later in the month, where he had contracts signed against Superstar #2, but with the added stipulation where Superstar # 1 would be locked in a small cage at ringside! While he could not interfere, Superstar # 1 got to see up close and firsthand the carnage Blackjack was heaping on his partner. On April 20th in Greensboro, April 25th in Richmond and on April 27th in Charlotte, Superstar #1 had to watch in horror from his cage as Blackjack Mulligan defeated Superstar #2 decisively in each of those bouts.

The Iron Sheik Arrives in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling

Another noteworthy event that occurred during the early portion of April was the long awaited appearance of the Iron Sheik. The first match in the area for the Sheik was at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 8th. In the bout, the Sheik systematically destroyed the ever-popular, Johnny Weaver. The next night in the WRAL TV studios, the Sheik dominated Ronnie Sexton in his first area television match. Hailing from Tehran, Iran, the Sheik brought all kinds on anti-American sentiment with him, and seemed to revel in teasing the fans about it. With hundreds of American citizens held hostage in Iran, the Mid-Atlantic wrestling fans weren’t about to give the Iranian any break whatsoever!

One of the first top tier Mid-Atlantic stars to get a taste of the wrath of the Iron Sheik was the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, Jim Brunzell. However, earlier in the month on consecutive days “Jumpin’ Jim” had to turn back several spirited attempts by the rugged Ox Baker to take his Title away. On April 5th in the border city of Savannah, Georgia, Jim survived a Baker “heart punch” to emerge with his belt intact. The next day in Asheville, North Carolina, Brunzell again took the measure of Ox Baker, and his extremely unstable style. Finally, on April 7th in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Brunzell seemed to have figured out the unorthodox Baker, and prevailed in a more decisive fashion.

Brunzell’s Title challenge from Ox Baker certainly paled in comparison to the one that was brewing with the Iron Sheik. On April 20th in Greensboro, it appeared that the Sheik was well on his way to defeating Brunzell, but the Sheik pushed the envelope just a little too far, and the “bad guy” was disqualified. The same scenario took pace nine days later in Columbia, South Carolina, where a disqualification finish again saved Brunzell’s championship. It was clear Jumpin’ Jim was having trouble dealing with the Sheik’s combination of strength, wrestling technique and his flat out ruthless aggression.

Ric Flair Regains the United States Championship

The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on April 9th had some major news on the status of the United States Heavyweight Championship belt. Jim Crockett, Jr., the President of Jim Crockett Promotions, made a rare television appearance to tell the area’s fans that the U.S. Title had been held up by the National Wrestling Alliance.

Interestingly, Gene Anderson filed the protest that led to the NWA taking action, though Gene’s actions contributed to the decision. The match in question was a United States Title bout on April 6th in the Greensboro Coliseum, where controversy ruled when Ric Flair walked out of the ring with the United States Title from Jimmy Snuka. Jim Crockett told the viewing audience that he would set up a match between Flair and Snuka, two undefeated champions, in the near future to settle the issue.
Ric Flair then came on the TV set and narrated over a film clip of the match in question. The match went about 27 minutes, and was a wild and bloody affair. Referee Stu Schwartz was knocked out of the ring, which led to much of the confusion. Gene Anderson nearly stole a win for his man Snuka by knocking Flair’s legs out from underneath him with his cane as Ric was attempting a suplex…but there was no referee to count Ric out when the “Superfly” fell on top of him!

The “Nature Boy” somehow recovered, got Snuka into the figure four leg lock and soon thereafter into a pinning predicament. But referee Schwartz was still out of commission, so there was nobody to count Snuka’s shoulders down. That is until Johnny Weaver (not a sanctioned referee) arrived on the scene! Johnny counted Snuka out with a count of three, and Ric Flair was awarded the U.S. Heavyweight Title belt to the fans’ delight!! Flair said he wasn’t disappointed that the belt was later being held up, and that he was confident he would emerge victorious when he and Snuka met again.

The Nature Boy didn’t have to wait long! The battle for the United States Heavyweight Championship between the “two undefeated Champions,” Jimmy Snuka and Ric Flair, took place at the Greensboro Coliseum on the night of April 20th. A see-saw encounter, again with lots of blood, saw Flair once more capture a pinfall on the Superfly. This time, the pin was counted by a sanctioned NWA referee, so Ric Flair was the undisputed United States Champion!

World Tag Champs Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens

The last segment of the April 9th TV show saw Greg Valentine complaining about he and Ray Stevens having to jump on a plane to St. Louis and answer to the NWA about their attack on David Crockett. Valentine said he gave Crockett “the hammer” because David fought with him over the tape. Greg was clearly concerned that David Crockett would be pushing the NWA for a fine and/or suspension. Ray Stevens chimed in that the competition in the Mid-Atlantic area was too stiff, and that it was too much of a risk for the World Tag Team Champions to wrestle on television anymore!

Despite their self-imposed ban from wrestling on TV during the month of April, Stevens and Valentine had a significant run of successful Title defenses in April. Other than a successful defense against Jim Brunzell and Blackjack Mulligan on April 21st in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Champions faced former Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood for the remainder of their Title defenses during April.

Two towns in the area got to see these four go at it twice during the month! Raleigh’s Dorton Arena witnessed Stevens and Valentine defeat Steamboat and Youngblood on April 8th with the help of some chicanery by the champs. A week later in Raleigh with a “2 Referee” stipulation, Ricky and Jay almost pulled out a win but settled for a one hour draw. Charlotte, North Carolina also saw two bouts between these teams during the month. Much like Raleigh, the first bout on April 13th was a win for the “bad guys,” but in the second meeting in Charlotte, on April 27th, the two teams fought to an exciting draw!

During April, Stevens and Valentine also survived Title matches against Steamboat and Youngblood on April 2nd in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in Asheville, North Carolina on April 6th, in Richmond, Virginia on April 11th, in Roanoke, Virginia on April 20th, in Columbia, South Carolina on April 22nd and in Charleston, South Carolina on April 25th.

Here & There

This month’s foray of the stars of Jim Crockett Promotions into the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada took place on April 13th. An action packed card saw NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race retain his Title by holding Canadian Heavyweight Champion Dewey Robertson to a draw. Also, Andre the Giant took care of Ox Baker with limited resistance. Further down the card, the Iron Sheik demolished the youngster Ron Ritchie.

The April 16th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show featured a very interesting segment with the area’s newcomer, the Iron Sheik. Along with his manager Gene Anderson, the Sheik challenged anyone to swing his 75 pound Persian clubs overhead in a swinging motion. The Sheik promised to pay out $1,000.00 if he couldn’t swing the clubs at least twice as many times as any challenger could. The Sheik also made it clear that he believed he was superior to all the American wrestlers, and that he was targeting all the area’s top flight stars on the “good guy” side of the ledger, but he particularly appeared to be after Jim Brunzell.

The NWA Television Champion, the Masked Superstar #1, focused primarily on tag team bouts during the month, but he did put his TV Title on the line on several occasions. In addition to a TV taping victory over Ron Ritchie on April 23rd, on April 15th in Columbia, South Carolina the Superstar and Blackjack Mulligan went to a double disqualification that ended up in a near riot! Ric Flair and Superstar # 1 had a near riot themselves in Charleston, South Carolina on April 18th, with Flair taking the match, but not the belt, by disqualification. The Superstar had a bit easier time of it on April 21st in Greenville, South Carolina, as the masked man took the measure of popular “Freight Train” Rufus R. Jones. The next week in Greenville, South Carolina, the ageless Johnny Weaver challenged Superstar #1 and prevailed when the masked man was disqualified. A similar result happened the next night between these two at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, with the Superstar again emerging with his title belt intact.

The end of a long running saga around the Mid-Atlantic area finally concluded for good during the month of April. Former World Tag Team Champions Paul Jones and Baron von Raschke spent the first two months of 1980 trying to regain their Title belts, and when they couldn’t get the job done, they begin fighting with each other! March of 1980 saw bitter battles between the two former friends, and their exit from the Mid-Atlantic area. However, these two had one more match left in them! On April 12th at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, these two went at it one final time! While the Baron won the match which was every bit as brutal as the ones that occurred in March, what was truly significant about this bout is that it marked the official end of lengthy runs by both of these great wrestlers in the Mid-Atlantic area.

The final Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that aired during the month of April saw the announcement of Ric Flair as the new United States Heavyweight Champion to the viewing audience! This April 23rd taping had Ric describing how tough the title bout was, and that he couldn’t have pulled the win out without the support of the fans. This “love fest” was short lived however, as Jimmy Snuka, Gene Anderson and the Iron Sheik came out and interrupted Flair. Luckily for Ric, Jim Brunzell and Blackjack Mulligan were in the ring for a match and were ready to come to the Nature Boy’s aid if needed.

Gene Anderson reported to the fans watching on TV that he had protested the result of the match where Ric Flair won the U.S. Title, sending the film of the bout to NWA President Bob Geigel and was waiting for a ruling. Gene claimed the referee was biased, gave Snuka fast counts and made the Superfly break holds for no reason. Flair scoffed at the allegations, and said he loved seeing Anderson throw around one baseless excuse after another.

By the end of April there had been no official ruling from President Geigel, and Ric Flair went about the business of defending his new Title. In his two defenses in April, Ric walloped Snuka in Greenville, South Carolina on April 21st and handled Jimmy again on April 29th in Columbia, South Carolina. As the month of May was about to roll around the corner, the Nature Boy was definitely riding high!

1. Ric Flair---The “Nature Boy” finally regained the coveted United States Title during the month of April. Doing that meant that Ric had to get the best of Snuka AND his manager, Gene Anderson. No small feat!
2. Blackjack Mulligan---The big man from the badlands of Texas shocked the Superstars by revealing that his injured wrist was functioning just fine! Then Blackjack gained a quick advantage against Superstar #2 in their bouts.
3. Iron Sheik---This talented Iranian hit the Mid-Atlantic area by storm during the month of April, and had his vicious Iranian suplex ready for a host of the area’s good guys.

1. Ox Baker---After challenging Jim Brunzell for the Mid-Atlantic Title several times early in the month, the big Ox started fading from the Title scene and squarely into the mid card ranks.
2. Jimmy Snuka---Losing the U.S. Title was a blow to the Superfly, and he was unsuccessful in his attempts to regain the belt from Ric Flair.
3. Superstars I and II---Blackjack Mulligan got the best of these two during the month of April, whipping Superstar II in several bouts where Superstar I had to watch the beatings from a small cage at ringside!

Champions Roll Call


Jimmy Snuka
Held Up (Effective April 6, 1980)
Ric Flair (April 20, 1980 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina)

WORLD TAG TEAM---Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine

CANADIAN---Dewey Robertson

MID-ATLANTIC---Jim Brunzell

NWA TELEVISION---Superstar #1

MID-ATLANTIC TAG TEAM---Superstar #1 and Superstar #2

Copyright © 2015 David Chappell • Mid-Atlantic Gateway