Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Main Event Memories: Blackjack Mulligan vs. Rufus R. Jones (1976)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the hottest feuds in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in 1976 was between Rufus R. "Freight Train" Jones and the then reigning United States champion Blackjack Mulligan. It didn't last long, but it was white-hot while it did.

There were several issues leading to the brutal battles between the two:

First there was the fact that Blackjack had put Rufus's cousin Burrhead Jones in the hospital by leaping off the top turnbuckle onto the neck of the prone wrestler several times.

Secondly, Blackjack had performed a similar maneuver onto the crown that was one of Rufus's most prized possessions. It was, after all, given to him by his fans on TV; they had proclaimed him "the King of Wrestling!"

Left: "The King of Wrestling" Rufus R. Jones
Right: Rufus's crown after Blackjack trashed it in the ring.

Blackjack even attacked Rufus after a match on television when the Freight Train's back was turned. Mulligan jumped him from behind, but Rufus got the upper-hand in this confrontation when he not only whipped up on the big Texan, but stripped off his shirt as well. Color commentator Tom Miller got so excited he exclaimed "Have mercy, Mama!" as Rufus was having his way with Blackjack. It is to this day one of my favorite TV moments in my years watching Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. And it is preserved forever thanks to David Chappell's audio tape.

Check out this audio clip featuring the call of the Mulligan/Jones brawl by Bob Caudle and Tom Miller (with a transcript below):

Transcript of audio:

Bob Caudle: Here's Blackjack Mulligan! Blackjack Mulligan diving into the ring, trying to get Rufus R. Jones from behind. And Rufus is going to now lift him high into the air! Blackjack's got his street clothes on, his t-shirt and his pants. Rufus is going to tear that t-shirt off of him...

Tom Miller: I don't believe it!

Bob Caudle: ....his cowboy boots on .....

Tom Miller: I don't believe it, he's ripping his clothes to shreds! HAVE MERCY, MAMA!

Bob Caudle: Mulligan with his cowboy boots.....

Tom Miller: Boy! Look at that!.....

 Bob Caudle: .... and his street clothes....he's going to get out of the ring, he's trying to get out.....

Tom Miller: Rufus is getting his revenge now!

Bob Caudle: ...and Rufus R. Jones is just going to whip him to death! Mulligan out of the ring, down on the floor.....Well, Blackjack Mulligan was going to try and hurt Rufus Jones, and it's Blackjack that really winds up in trouble as he not only got a few licks from Rufus, but he lost his shirt in the deal.

End Transcript

All of the events described above happened over the course of 1976 and led to several main event matches between Blackjack and Rufus for Mulligan's U.S. title. One of the epic battles between the two took place in Wilson, NC at venerable Fleming Stadium. Wilson Times sports editor Paul Durham wrote nostalgically about that match in an article published Friday 7/24/15 in advance of the premier of the documentary film "Mid-Atlantic Memories" at the Mid-Atlantic Legends Fanfest in Charlotte. (Be sure to check out Paul's great article here: Those Mid-Atlantic Memories Still Vivid.)

It was Durham's article that got me to thinking about this feud for Main Event Memories.

Rufus Jones battles Blackjack Mulligan

I don't have the newspaper clipping for that match in Wilson, so I thought I'd include one from around the same time in nearby Raleigh, NC at Dorton Arena.

Blackjack told the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in an interview several years ago that he suggested to booker George Scott and promoter Jim Crockett that they put the title on Rufus for a short period of time because of how hot the feud had become. Scott, regrettably, declined the suggestion. But can you imagine the celebration in the arena where that might have taken place?

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PS - A couple of notes about the undercard in Raleigh:

Sgt. Jacques Goulet and Mike "The Judge" Dubois were one of my favorite tag teams that year. Not only were they an excellent combination, I loved the way Joe Murnick would introduce them on television. I'll have to find one of those introductions for a future installment of "Sound Bytes."

Also of note on this card was Burrhead Jones, the aforementioned cousin of Rufus Jones. And the opener featured a young kid from Japan named Dr. Fujiani. His real name was Tatsumi Fujinami, the future Japanese legend who would go on to have multiple reigns as IWGP champion in Japan, and even a short run as NWA world champion, defeating Ric Flair in the Tokyo Dome in 1991. Fujinami was recently inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame.