Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Mid-Atlantic's Dick Murdoch was "Sensational"

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

For about eight months in 1978, fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had the good fortune of watching the ring escapades of “Sensational” Dick Murdoch from Waxahachie, Texas. Despite his very brief tenure in the territory, Murdoch made his presence felt, and left a lasting impression on everybody that saw him wrestle while he was in Jim Crockett Promotions.

Murdoch was a fan favorite during his 1978 stint in the Mid-Atlantic area, but interestingly he first appeared in the territory for several appearances around the Thanksgiving holiday in 1977, and wrestled as a “bad guy.” Dick must have gotten the “evilness” out of his system, because when he reappeared in February of 1978, he was a salt of the earth and good ol’ country boy “good guy.” In fact, Murdoch embraced being called a “redneck,” and the fans couldn’t get enough of it!

From his entry into the area in 1978, the promotion christened Murdoch with the “Sensational” moniker, and if you only looked skin deep at Dick, you might have wondered how or why. However, the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover definitely applied to Dick Murdoch. Ken Patera once described Murdoch as having “buggy-whipped arms, concave chest, a toothless mouth, spindly legs and a pot belly.” That description belied the fact that Dick was deceivingly strong, tremendously agile for a six foot four inch 285 pound man and could cut a promo with the best of them.

Dick’s coming out party for Jim Crockett Promotions came on a March 15, 1978 television taping, where fellow Texan Wahoo McDaniel had been left without a tag team partner due to the absence of Ken Patera. Wahoo went out of the TV studio and came back with Murdoch, who screamed out, “This ain’t gonna take long!” The opponents, NWA World Tag Team Champion’s Ric Flair and Greg Valentine dismissed Murdoch’s involvement as just a redneck off the street. The champs were in for a big surprise!

Murdoch ran circles around Flair and Valentine for much of the match, and then was able to catch Ric in his patented “brain buster” finishing hold. Dick dropped Flair right on his head, stunning the “Nature Boy” and leading to a quick three count! The Texans were riding high, while the World Tag Team Champions were left in stunned disbelief. Dick Murdoch had made believers of the Mid-Atlantic fans on this night!

As the calendar moved to April of 1978, Murdoch made amends with a former adversary from Texas, big Blackjack Mulligan. Blackjack and Ric Flair had split in the famous “Hat and Robe” angle, and Mulligan became the immediate target of a $10,000.00 bounty put out on him by the “Nature Boy.” In time, Murdoch came to Mulligan’s side, and the two were partners in many a tag team bout where the Bounty was at stake through the spring and early summer of 1978. Mulligan and Murdoch’s bond became so tight,that they in time started to call themselves the “M & M Boys,” after baseball’s Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

During the summer of 1978, Murdoch turned to doing some sporadic TV announcing with George Scott as the permanent new host for the World Wide Wrestling television show had not been finalized. Dick was both informative and entertaining in this short broadcasting stint, but he made it clear to the fans that his forte was wrestling in the ring, not talking about it.

The summer of 1978 also saw Murdoch make a strong bid for Ric Flair’s United States Heavyweight Title. Murdoch and Flair went around to the territory’s big towns, and put on action-packed and highly entertaining championship bouts. Flair held onto his prized title, but often times only by the slimmest of margins.

As great as the Flair-Murdoch U.S. Title bouts were, the verbal lead-up to them was nearly as good. Dick, wearing a “Tri-County Fertilizer” baseball cap, said Flair reminded him of one of those words, and it wasn’t Tri-County! Ric responded that Murdoch was a “dirt farmer,” and further that he was “a redneck personified.” Dick responded the Flair looked “like a bellman at the Waldorf Astoria.” And on and on it went!

After Murdoch’s U.S. Title run petered out, the M & M Boys turned their attention to the new NWA World Tag Team champions, Baron von Raschke and Greg Valentine, and Dick also wrestled tags with other partners. The M & M Boys also turned Virginia Beach, Virginia into their own personal playground in the summer and early fall of 1978, where Murdoch earned the nickname “hammer-head.” When his Virginia Beach escapades got mentioned on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, Murdoch told announcer Bob Caudle with a gleam in his eye, “Yeah, the M & M Boys kinda found a home up there.”

When October 27, 1978 rolled around, Baron von Raschke and Greg Valentine put up their World Tag Team Titles against the M & M Boys at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Everything suggested pre-match that this could be a monumental night...a title change was in the air! Unfortunately, it was monumental but not for the reasons many thought going in. Instead, it turned out to be Dick Murdoch’s last match in the Mid-Atlantic area. An injury to Murdoch at the hands of Raschke and Valentine forced Mulligan to carry Murdoch back “across the Red River” into Texas to heal up. Dick Murdoch never wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic area again.

The self-proclaimed “King of the Rednecks” whose favorite food was “Lone Star beer” had a much too short run in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. But nobody squeezed more exciting wrestling, entertainment and all around good times into such a tiny window of time. Dick Murdoch may have only registered as a “blip” overall on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling radar screen, but he was a SENSATIONAL “blip” that I will never forget.