Friday, April 29, 2016

Hart and Ringley on a "Championship Wrestling" Special

"Playboy" Gary Hart and JCP's John Ringley (1972)

In 1972, John Ringley hosted a special episode of "Championship Wrestling" that aired on WBTV-3 in Charlotte that focused on Rip "The Profile" Hawk. Ringley and Hawk's manager, "Playboy" Gary Hart were situated on a set in the WBTV studio. They reviewed 16mm film footage shot at the Charlotte Coliseum and Greensboro Coliseum featuring Hawk against various opponents including Jack Brisco in a battle over the Eastern Heavyweight Championship.

Matches included:
  • Rip Hawk and Swede Hansen vs. Johnny Weaver and Argentina Apollo
  • Rip Hawk and Swede Hansen vs. Johnny Weaver and Art Nelson (Greensboro)
  • Rip Hawk vs. Jack Brisco (Hawk wins Eastern title) (Charlotte)
  • Rip Hawk vs. Art Nelson (taped fists match) (Greensboro)

We recently had a conversation with Mr. Ringley about booking changes back during this very time period. That article can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway by clicking this link.

This post was originally published on the Studio Wrestling website, a sister-website of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
Republished on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway 11/7/19.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ric Flair: The "Drug Store Wrestler"

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

“In your area” promos that Paul Jones and Ric Flair cut for a match at the Richmond Arena in Richmond, Virginia in the spring of 1975 would bring about two new monikers for Flair that I had never heard Ric called before. One name would become synonymous with Flair to this day, while the other was probably never heard again after this Richmond match.

The promos were done on April 23, 1975 promoting a championship bout in Richmond for the Mid-Atlantic Television Title between the champion Flair, and his bitter rival and former TV champion, Paul Jones. The TV announcer for these Richmond promos was the legendary Bob Caudle.

May 2, 1975   Richmond VA
Paul began his promo, “You know Bob, you’ve heard of drug store cowboys…dressed up like a cowboy sitting on a bar stool at a drug store? Well, Flair, I wanna know one thing. Are you a drug store wrestler, or are you a wrestler that has the ability to be a champion? Well, you gotta do one thing; you gotta prove it to me! Where’d you get that big belly at, from eating banana splits? Where’d you get those 22 inch arms, from drinking cherry cokes? I think you are a drug store cowboy; I mean a drug store wrestler!”

A fired up Jones continued, “But you gotta prove it to me that you aren’t, Flair. And let me tell you something else, I guarantee you I’m goin’ to be in Richmond early. And I guarantee you that I’m gonna walk around town, and if I’m gonna check every drug store and if I see you on that bar stool I’m gonna knock you right off that bar stool right there. And then that night, I’m gonna get you in the ring where I can win the belt in front of everybody.”

Paul finished up his promo by saying to Flair, “You’ve embarrassed me, you’ve harassed me…you’ve caused me to lose sleep at night! Just because you STOLE that belt from me! The people don’t wanna see you wear that belt; the people wanna see Paul Jones, Number One, wear that belt. And after Friday night in Richmond, you’re gonna see right wear the belt belongs…right around ‘Number One’s’ waist. So let me tell you something you drug store, soda jerk…you better be ready!"

A very angry Ric Flair a little later in the show responded back to Paul saying with lots of venom, “I want to answer Jones; I was sittin’ in the back and heard Jones shooting off his mouth. Well let me tell you something Jones, if you call having blonde hair that Elke Sommer likes running her fingers through; a body that looks like it was carved out of granite by Michelangelo, and a body that Raquel Welch would give her right arm to rub suntan oil on every day…YES, I am a drug store wrestler! That’s my answer to you!”

Ric wasn’t through, as he then told Jones, “Let me tell you something else Paul Jones. Along with this belt…the day I won this belt I went out and bought a Cadillac. I went out and bought a house. I bought a whole new wardrobe, and I bought a couple of my girlfriends a whole new wardrobe. And you know why? Because this belt right here is 100,000 big ones a year; that’s just sittin’ home, that’s not goin’ out the front door. Just owning this belt makes me a very wealthy young man. It brings my life style way up here, high in the sky, just the way I like it! I like pretty ladies coming by early in the morning, pretty ladies coming by in the afternoon, pretty ladies coming by at night.”

Flair concluded his promo by having Bob Caudle hold his TV belt exclaiming, “Jones, I like everything I got right now because I’m wearing that belt and because I’m the champion. And if you think for one minute that you’re gonna get in that ring with me Friday night and do me damage, pound knots on my head, mess with my body, mess with my mind, mess with anything about me you’re wrong! Jones, I’m gonna take you like any bare wild animal would, and I’m gonna break one of your arms and then maybe you’ll be walking around drug stores looking for somebody else to beat up on, because it won’t be the Nature Boy! WOOOOO!"

In the last sentence of his promo, Ric referred to himself as the “Nature Boy” for the first time that I had ever heard. That name, of course, has stuck with Flair though the next 41 years. The “drug store wrestler” nickname bestowed on Ric by Paul Jones, luckily didn’t stick!

The May 2, 1975 TV Title bout between Ric Flair and Paul Jones was a hot battle that saw Flair leave Richmond with his belt still intact, but it was tough for any match to live up to those two incredible promos preceding it. The promos that I will always associate with the “Nature Boy” reference that I heard for the first time of thousands upon thousands more times to come, and the “drug store wrestler” reference that I never heard again!

Republished April 18, 2021 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Crockett Cup Anniversary

April of 2016 is the 30th Anniversary of the first Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup tag team tournament, honoring the memory of one of the great wrestling promoters in the history of the business.

The first Crockett Cup tournament took place on April 19, 1986 at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA. The Road Warriors defeated Magnum T.A. and Ron Garvin in the finals.

In the photo above, Jim Crockett, Jr. and Bill Watts stand with the Crockett Cup trophy in front of the seedings board for the tournament.

Learn about the history of this special and rare photograph on this earlier post on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway:
Robert Riddick: Crockett and Watts at the Crockett Cup

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NWA Title History (Japanese Magazine)

The Japanese magazines still do an excellent job of remembering the old NWA champs. These are images from a special section of a magazine in Japan that looked back at the history of the NWA World title and presented a special interview with Harley Race.

 Republished July 2021 and April 2022 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wahoo Warns: A Decade Better Be 10 Years

Fresh popcorn!

Wrestlers can be a bit sensitive about their age.

Don Holbrook related a story to me about a fellow named Jim McNerney in Greenville who was writing and submitting articles to the wrestling magazines back in the day. He had done one on Wahoo McDaniel, and wanted to show it to Wahoo before submitting it. So one Monday night at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, he handed it to him and asked him to look it over. Wahoo took it downstairs to the locker room.

A bit later he came back up and walked over to Don and asked him, "How long is a decade?" Don told him it was 10 years.

Wahoo paused for a moment, as if thinking about this and then said, "I thought it was 25 years." Don laughed and told him he was pretty sure it was 10 years, so Wahoo handed the paper with the article back to McNerney and told him he thought it was OK.

Turns out one of the first lines in the article read something like, "For more than a decade now Wahoo McDaniel has been a top star in professional wrestling."

After McNerney walked off happy that Wahoo had blessed his article, Wahoo came close to Don and said "I don't want people thinking I'm older than I already am! You better be right; that decade sh*t better mean 10 years and not 25!"

From the Mid-Atlantic Archive Series
Cokes & Popcorn
Republished in April of 2022 on the mid-Atlantic Gateway.

"Cokes and Popcorn" are little stories of humor and respect that I come across along the way of putting this website together, and they are little stories I want to hang onto. Not sure where the name of the section comes from; I just find these little stories refreshing.
More Cokes & Popcorn: "Never Let 'em See You Sell, Kid."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hearing Art Nelson for the Final Time...Sort Of

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When I started to follow wrestling in Jim Crockett Promotions semi-regularly in the early 1970s, Art Nelson was one of my favorite grapplers. Barrel-chested and rock solid at 250 pounds and in terrific shape, Nelson was truly a rugged competitor. His “ground and pound” style in the ring was very Anderson Brothers-like. And the Atlanta, Georgia native was demonstrably noisy in the squared circle, with his growling and grunting being unmistakable! On interviews, Art was very believable in a straight forward style, with a rough and gravelly voice that was very distinctive.

Art was a stalwart for Jim Crockett Promotions in the early 70s, whether he was a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” I recall the infamous Gary Hart, the one-time manager of Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, always refer to Art as Art Neilson, which was Nelson’s real name. I particularly remember a vicious feud in the middle of 1973, when Johnny Weaver and Art battled the notorious Royal Kangaroos over the Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title. Nelson remained a main event performer for Jim Crockett Promotions through January of 1974, when he took about a six month hiatus from the Mid-Atlantic area. When he returned to the Mid-Atlantic territory in mid July of 1974, Nelson was still a good guy, but soon turned on his partner Johnny Weaver in a television match.

At this juncture, much like a number of other older Jim Crockett Promotions’ veterans, Nelson’s role was deemphasized by booker George Scott. Art and Johnny Weaver had a short upper-mid card program after Nelson double-crossed Weaver on TV, and then Nelson settled into a mid card slot that continued into the spring of 1975.

By April of 1975, I started getting addicted to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling to the point that I began recording the audio from the TV shows on my cassette recorder. The first complete Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show I recorded was taped at the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 23, 1975. Coincidentally, this show happened to be the last Mid-Atlantic TV show that Art Nelson was interviewed on, as by this time Nelson had slipped far enough down the pecking order that he was deemed not to require any mic time.

Nelson’s final Mid-Atlantic TV interview was conducted by announcer Bob Caudle, and included Nelson’s semi-regular tag team partner at the time, the devious Mr. Fuji. Also included in the interview segment was mid-carder Doug Gilbert.

Caudle began the interview, “Fans at ringside right now, and I can’t think of any more dangerous place for a person to be than I am right now, between three really notorious wrestlers, like Art Nelson here on my left, Doug Gilbert, and then Mr. Fuji.” Nelson responded, “Let me say, not notorious, well conditioned athletes. Let me say this, when you get in that ring, then you would have to be worried. As long as we’re on the floor here, we don’t bother anybody. When you get in that ring, if you’re not in condition, you can’t take it, then you’d have to be worried about it.”

Nelson continued, “This is a man’s business, we’re men, and we go in that ring and we don’t fool with babies. You know, Fuji and I were here a few weeks ago and we were talking about wrestling top talent. Where are they? Where’s the Indian? Where’s little boy blue, the guy with the belt…where’s he at? Where’s the strong man? I don’t see them around.  I hear ‘em, but I sure can’t see ‘em. But as long as they’re scared to get in the ring with us, nothing we can do about it. Because we said we’d meet all comers; we would wrestle anybody.”

After Bob Caudle talked with Mr. Fuji, he questioned Doug Gilbert on his lack of sportsmanship in his win earlier in the program over young Kevin Sullivan. Gilbert responded that sportsmanship wasn’t important, what was important was that he won his match, and that Nelson and Fuji won their match. Nelson chimed in to end the interview, “Green power is what’s important; green power. That’s the dollar bill; ten dollars, a hundred dollars…”

Nelson continued to wrestle in the Mid-Atlantic area into the fall of 1975, slowly dropping into the lower card ranks. Towards the end of his tenure with Jim Crockett Promotions, he was wrestling preliminary matches in the territory’s arenas, and putting over the main eventers on television. Art’s last match in the Mid-Atlantic area was participating in a Battle Royal in Spartanburg, South Carolina on November 1, 1975.

Art Nelson’s last Mid-Atlantic TV interview in April of 1975 wasn’t significant to me at that moment, but it grew to be so with the passing of time. Initially so, as the months passed and it became clear he wasn’t going to be a featured performer for Jim Crockett Promotions any longer, and I knew there wouldn’t be any more interviews from him.

Art would pass away less than eight years after his last Mid-Atlantic match. It then dawned on me that my first audio recording of a full Mid-Atlantic TV show, by sheer happenstance, was the same show that featured Art’s last Mid-Atlantic interview. How fortunate I was to have an audio clip of a grappler that began his professional wrestling career in another era, back in the late 1940s, and was a legendary bad-ass in the squared circle. And, selfishly by having that fortuitously captured audio clip of Art Nelson, I can still hear that rough and gravelly voice I grew up hearing for as long as the tape will play.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

John Ringley in the Mid-South

Check out this little article from Little Rock, Arkansas from 1977. The article features quotes from John Ringley, who was one of the key figures in Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1960s and early 1970s.

After leaving JCP, Ringley worked for promoter Leroy McGuirk out of the Tulsa (Oklahoma) territory that included central Arkansas and other surrounding areas.

Contributor Mark Eastridge came across the clipping from the Arkansas Gazette and sent it to us. We love coming across articles from that era that involve promoters at Jim Crockett Promotions or their alumni.

Newspaper article courtesy the collection of Mark Eastridge.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Featured Photo: Johnny Weaver vs. The Super Destroyer

We love old black and white wrestling photos. And no one shot them better in the 1970s than Richmond area photographer Bill Janosik.

This classic photo shows The Super Destroyer (Don Jardine) applying his feared claw hold to the head of Johnny Weaver in the old Richmond Arena.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I Broke Wahoo's Leg - Revisited

Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in 1977 (inset) and 2005.
(Blake Arledge Photo)

One of the most enduring images from Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1977 was Greg Valentine's simple black t-shirt that read: "I Broke Wahoo's Leg." (On the back it said "No More Wahoo")

At a Wrestling Legends show booked by George South in Spartanburg in 2005, Greg Valentine re-enacted that scene that had taken place 28 years earlier.

Greg wore a nearly identical t-shirt to the ring and also sported a replica of the old Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship like the one he took from Wahoo during the very match where he broke Wahoo's leg.

That belt was briefly recognized and defended as the Mid-Atlantic Heritage Championship from 2005-2009. It was retired by the Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie.)

Greg really seemed to enjoy that night in Spartanburg. Seeing him come down the aisle with that belt and that t-shirt took you straight back to 1977!

* * * * *

In some ways, you can say that 1977 angle was culturally relevant. It became the title of a wonderful song about various dastardly deeds of the devil on singer/songwriter Sweet G.A. Brown's album "Wordsmith." Give his brilliant song a try; it's deliciously twisted and the chorus is addictive. We wrote about it earlier on the Gateway.


It also became a talking point by Lucha Underground commentator Matt Striker when attempting to explain the frame of mind of luchadore Pentagon Jr.  We wrote about that, too.

 * * * * *

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Big Swede's Defining Moment

Swede Hanson
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

My earliest professional wrestling memories came about from watching All-Star Wrestling, the precursor to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, on television in the late 1960s. Two of the most noteworthy stars of that time were Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, the dastardly duo that ran roughshod in Jim Crockett Promotions through the 60’s into the early 1970’s. These two villains were almost inseparable, with Rip being sly and sneaky with the gift of gab, while Swede was the silent partner, and a big brutish enforcer.

By late 1973, the winds of change were blowing in the Carolinas territory which was by then called Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Rip Hawk exited the area for about a three month period in December of 1973. While the “Ripper” was gone, Swede had his contract purchased by none other than the notorious Super Destroyer! The Super D. “managed” and had Swede in tow as his enforcer, and big Swede’s first major target was Johnny Weaver, as Hanson interfered in a huge match between Weaver and the Destroyer on December 28, 1973 at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Swede saved the Destroyer from losing his mask in that bout, with his antics giving Weaver an unsatisfying disqualification victory.

In January of 1974, Swede Hanson and the Super Destroyer formed an imposing tag team combination, dispatching such high-end “good guy” tag teams as Johnny Weaver and Art Nelson, and Nelson Royal and Sandy Scott during that month. In early February, Swede took to wearing a hood as “Mr. X” when teaming with the Destroyer. This chicanery came to an end after a couple of tag team bouts, when Mr. X was unceremoniously unmasked by Danny Miller and Johnny Weaver as being big Swede Hanson under the hood.

The unholy alliance between Swede Hanson and the Super Destroyer began showing cracks almost as quickly as it began. For the many years that Swede teamed up with Rip Hawk, the Ripper did not always treat Hanson with a boatload of respect. But Swede was the “good soldier,” never really challenging Rip even when Hawk was condescending to him. However, when the Super Destroyer started talking down to Swede and chastising him for supposed inadequacies in the ring, the big 300 pounder from Newark, New Jersey didn’t care for that treatment in the least. The slights mounted, and an inner rage started to build in the big Swede. A defining moment in the career of Swede Hanson was about to happen!

On February 13, 1974 at the television tapings for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Swede Hanson reached his breaking point. During a televised bout the Destroyer not only berated the big Swede verbally, but had the audacity to SLAP him in front of the TV studio audience and all the thousands of fans watching at home! Swede Hanson finally had enough! After being content to stay in the background and take the snide insults for many years, Swede decided to control his own destiny. His defining moment in Jim Crockett Promotions had arrived!

Announcer Elliot Murnick said, “I’m up at the ring now and Swede Hanson is pacing around here.” Hanson interrupted, “Let me tell you something Murnick. You don’t pull something like that with me. I’m not a whipping dog for these people! If this guy thinks I’m a whipping dog for him he’s out of his mind! I don’t know what’s the matter with this character. He’s not gonna get away with it with me. I’ve had enough of this stuff. For years, I’ve had enough of garbage like him!”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Meeting Abe Jacobs

by Don Holbrook
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in April 2013 

Last weekend my wife and I were in Charlotte for some shopping. I was sitting on a bench inside the mall and suddenly I saw a familiar face. It was Abe Jacobs.

I said aloud, "Well, if it isn't Abe Jacobs."

He stopped, looked at me and smiled. I knew he had no idea who I was, but he stepped toward me with his hand extended. I introduced myself and told him I remembered him from Greenville Memorial Auditorium. He said it had been a long time and I said to him, "Abe, you look just like you did 20 plus years ago." He smiled and said, "I still work out, lift weights and I try to stay in shape."

Main event: Gene Kiniski vs. Abe Jacobs
June 6, 1966  Greenville, SC
I asked if he ever saw any of the guys and he said, no not very much. He said he saw Rene Goulet at a charity golf tournament, and Nikita Koloff.

He talked to me for probably 15 minutes about the old days and the guys he worked with. He said that he had both his knees operated on but otherwise was in good health. I jokingly said to him, "Abe, I guess you had to have those knees done because of all those "kiwi rolls" you did all those years." He laughed!

He told me about making an appearance at a wrestling convention someplace and a guy was in the autograph line and handed him a big copy of a newspaper ad for a wrestling show he was on. He said it was a big card with Johnny Weaver and George Becker against Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson and a lot of other big matches and the main event was Gene Kiniski defending the NWA title against Abe Jacobs!

He said he looked at it and showed it to his wife and said, "Well, I will be the next to go." She asked, "What do you mean?" Abe said, "I will be the next to die." His wife asked, "How do you know that for sure?" He replied to her, "Because everyone else on the card is already dead."

Abe was really a nice guy and I enjoyed our brief visit.

Newspaper clippings from the collection of Mark Eastridge.
Additional research by Carroll Hall.
Original article published April 7, 2013

Baby Doll

Slam Wrestling
One of the most storied support characters in the great group of talent that was Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid-1980s was the "Prefect 10" Baby Doll.

Back in 2010, Brian Elliot wrote and excellent piece for "Slam! Wrestling" on the life and times of one of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's most fondly remembered personalities. We missed it then, and thought we'd highlight it now.

Most famously, Baby Doll was the manager and valet for Tully Blanchard in 1985 when Jim Crockett Promotions was exploding as a national promotion. She also was paired up at different times with Dusty Rhodes, the Four Horsemen, Larry Zbyszko, and the Warlord.

The article covers her life and career, including her famous wrestling parents.

"Baby Doll: From star attraction to single mom"
Canoe Slam! Wrestling

Since the article was published, Baby Doll has become a "tag team partner" of the Crockett Foundation, "tagging in" and helping out that philanthropic organization with fund raising and awareness.

Thanks to website visitor Jeff Lane for sending us the link to the Baby Doll article. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

John Wayne, Waylon Jennings, and a touch of Bugs Bunny

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In Mike Mooneyham's recent column following the death of Blackjack Mulligan, he quoted New York area writer (and long time Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan) Richard O'Sullivan:

“Jack was an iconic, larger-than-life character. Like John Wayne and Waylon Jennings rolled into one with a touch of Bugs Bunny. Simultaneously heroic, scary and hilarious. I learned more about storytelling from a Blackjack Mulligan interview than I ever learned from a school book."

I loved this quote and laughed out loud when I read it. I think Blackjack would have loved this characterization because many years ago, we had this long telephone conversation about .... Bugs Bunny!

For the life of me, I can't tell you how we got off on that subject. The conversation was actually more about the Looney Tunes cartoon characters in general, especially one of our mutual favorites, Yosemite Sam. But the thing I remember most about this phone conversation was his impression of Bugs Bunny.

Yes, when I was 14 years old and watching him fight Paul Jones and Baron Von Raschke, I could have never imagined the day I'd hear Blackjack Mulligan do a Bugs Bunny impression. Richard O'Sullivan nailed it for me with that quote in the Mooneyham article.

We continue to mourn the passing of the great Blackjack Mulligan who was one of the true legends of professional wrestling, and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in particular. Check out this collection of links to many of his related posts on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Blackjack Mulligan on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Over the 16 years of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, Blackjack Mulligan has been one of the key guys we've focused on here and on the old website. He was one of the main players during the time we got hooked on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. He's on our "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Mount Rushmore."

We continue to mourn the passing of the great Blackjack Mulligan who was one of the true legends of professional wrestling, and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in particular.

The easiest way to see everything related to Blackjack on the site since we relaunched a year ago is by clicking his tag-link at the bottom of any story in which he is featured. You can also see all posts in which he is tagged by clicking here.

We both wrote short pieces after Blackjack's passing:
Gone on the West Texas Wind
Remembering Blackjack Mulligan

Mike Mooneyham wrote a wonderful column reflecting on Blackjack after his passing. It can be found on the Charleston Post & Courier website.

Here are some of our favorite posts on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway related to the big Cowboy from Eagle Pass, Texas:

The Legend of the Hat and the Robe
Blackjack and Ric Flair Reflect on the "Hat and Robe"
Main Event Memories: Blackjack Regains the U.S. Title
Memories of "the Claw" at the Dobyns-Bennett Dome
1975 U.S. Title Tournament Audio: Blackjack Mulligan vs. Dusty Rhodes
More Audio: U.S. Title Tournament Fallout (Blackjack interview with Bob Caudle)
The Eagle Pass Biographies
The Jack Mulligan Fan Club & Richmond Wrestling Landmarks
Main Event Memories: Blackjack Mulligan vs. Rufus R. Jones
Main Event Memories: Mulligan vs. Flair on a Hot July Night (1978)
Photographs on Blackjack's Bar-B-Que

Friday, April 08, 2016

Remembering Blackjack Mulligan

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It was with great sadness that I learned of the recent passing of Blackjack Mulligan. Blackjack’s professional wrestling legacy spans the entire world, but his impact on wresting in the Carolinas and Virginia was enormous. As a professional wrestler, he was a hero of mine. That was true whether his wrestling persona was that of a “good guy” or a “bad guy,” roles he was equally and expertly adept at playing.

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was one of the top, if not THE top, territory in professional wrestling from the mid 1970s into the early 1980s. At that same time, Blackjack Mulligan was either the top or one of the very top stars for Jim Crockett Promotions. That these two things occurred simultaneously was no coincidence.

When Mulligan entered the Mid-Atlantic area in February of 1975, he came in as one of the scariest wrestlers I had ever seen! Billed as the “Pride of the Prairie,” Blackjack bullied his way over all comers. That is, until Wahoo McDaniel jumped in the fray! The “Cowboy vs. Indian” matches between Blackjack and Wahoo were memorable in the spring of 1975; with Wahoo getting the best of things with a win in an “Indian Strap Match” on May 30, 1975 in Richmond, Virginia which effectively ended Blackjack’s run in the Mid-Atlantic area.

After that Richmond match, there was nothing to suggest that Mulligan was going to be anything more than a “footnote” in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history. But that all changed on October 4, 1975, when United States Heavyweight Champion Johnny Valentine suffered career ending injuries in the infamous Wilmington, North Carolina plane crash. Booker George Scott brought “Mully” in to essentially take Valentine’s place.

Blackjack took the territory by storm, and held the prestigious U.S. belt for lengthy stretches from 1976-1978, in the process having memorable programs with “good guys” Paul Jones, Rufus R. Jones, Burrhead Jones Dino Bravo, Bobo Brazil, Ricky Steamboat and “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods. Mulligan’s loquacious interview style, including references to family members like “Crazy Luke” Mulligan, along with his fast paced and vicious in-ring style, packed fans in the territory’s areas during his “bad guy” run.

By the time April of 1978 rolled around, the famous “hat and robe” angle brought about the cataclysmic split between Blackjack and Ric Flair, and ushered in Mulligan’s “good guy” persona. From that time until early 1982 he battled villains such as the masked Superstar, John Studd, Superstar #1 and #2, Enforcer Luciano, Bobby Duncum and the Iron Sheik.

A highlight of Mulligan’s fan favorite run occurred in August of 1979, when the big Texan made amends with Ric Flair, and they had a brief run as the NWA World Tag Team Champions. After leaving the area in April of 1981, Mully returned at the end of the year into early 1982 and teamed with his son, Blackjack Mulligan, Jr, battling old nemesis John Studd and a new foe, the nefarious Sergeant Slaughter.

After that short stint, fans in the Mid-Atlantic area didn’t see Blackjack again until August of 1984. At this juncture, Ric Flair enlisted the assistance of Mulligan to counter the wicked Tully Blanchard and the recently turned heel, Wahoo McDaniel. A famous vignette aired promoting this, with Ric finding Blackjack deep in the woods around a fire with his “family,” one member of which looked suspiciously like Dusty Rhodes! Blackjack accepted Flair’s plea for help, but his final Mid-Atlantic appearances only lasted into early September of 1984, as BJ accepted an offer to join the World Wrestling Federation, a decision Blackjack later said he regretted making. My hero was gone…seemingly for good.

Fast forward to the year 2000, and there was no longer any such thing as Jim Crockett Promotions’ Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. The Internet was still in its infancy, and my new buddy Dick Bourne and I wanted to do something to preserve the rich history of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. We created the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, and thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia of reliving Mid-Atlantic Wrestling moments online. We never expected, nor sought, any dialog from our wrestling heroes themselves.

Gone on the West Texas Wind

My fond memories and tearful farewell
 to the great Blackjack Mulligan
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The sad news of a legend's passing always leaves us hurting. Some, though, depending on how they affected your life or love of wrestling, just simply take your breath. It was that way for me with Gene Anderson, Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Weaver, and Dusty Rhodes.

And now it is Blackjack Mulligan. The west Texas wind howls this cold night mourning the passing of one of wrestling's truly unique characters.

Bob Windham was the first person in the business that reached out to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in our early years. Before the days of social media, he had simply stumbled onto our little website while surfing the internet. He wrote David Chappell and I a very short email that contained one of the nicest compliments we've ever gotten from anyone, especially someone in the business we so revered: "You guys get it."

The email address was from "bj windham", and we didn't believe it was him at first. We thought maybe it was someone pulling our leg. But it was indeed him. And we were star struck. After all, Blackjack Mulligan was one of the cornerstones of the era in wrestling we loved the most. He was one of the main players in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in our youth. 

I think he particularly liked the way David Chappell wrote the historical narratives for the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Almanac. He liked that we presented it just as it played out on TV and in the arenas. He saw it as a record of the work that was done then, a chronicle of their performances and their creativity. And he liked that we always treated the business with respect and stayed in the positive. "There is enough out there dwelling on the negative," he once wrote me. "You guys are positive ions." We've worn that as a badge of honor ever since.

With Blackjack at his home in Florida
In June of 2005, George South took me with him to visit Blackjack at his home in Florida, and we had a wonderful time. Blackjack's sweet wife Julia, who really made the whole thing happen for us, brought us Subway sandwiches for lunch. When I was 14 years old and watching him fight Paul Jones for the U.S. championship, would I have ever thought I'd be sitting in Blackjack's Mulligan's den eating Subway sandwiches? To this day I still smile when I think about that afternoon. Little memories are often the sweetest to savor.

David told Blackjack about his old audio tapes of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling from the 70s and he asked us for copies. I put together a special CD we called "The Best of Blackjack Mulligan" and sent it to him. I asked him how he came up with all those characters he used to mention in his promos and he told me that most were based on real people. That led to a feature we later did for his website when he was selling his book, something called "The Eagle Pass Biographies" where he gave a humorous twist to the background on all those characters. It is now a special part of the Gateway.

I took this photo of the custom CD before mailing it to Blackjack in 2003
He had a softer side. He used to always ask me to email him and tell him when it snowed where I lived. Living in Florida, he missed the snow. It seemed to me he just liked hearing about it. It was the neatest thing. He loved getting pictures from David and his wife Diana of their cocker-spaniel named Zack. He frequently would email David out of the blue and ask "How's Zack?"

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Robert Windham (1942 - 2016)

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway extends our heartfelt condolences to all of Blackjack's family and friends.

Blackjack Mulligan dead at 73  SLAM! Wrestling    
WWE Report

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Crockett Family autographs Limited Edition Photo for Crockett Foundation Fund Raiser

It's the first time ever all four
have autographed one photo together.
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The Crockett Foundation is selling a limited edition autographed photo signed by all four children of Jim (Sr.) and Elizabeth Crockett. The Foundation is a philanthropic organization and 100% of the proceeds for the sale of this autographed photo go towards their charity to help veterans and retired service dogs in need.

I asked Debbie Ringley Mrozinski, president of the Crockett Foundation and a granddaughter of the late Jim Crockett, Sr., how this project came about.

"I came up with the idea when I saw the (collage image) they wound up signing," she told me. "And you mentioned in one of our earlier conversations how folks had hoped that Jimmy would have been with the rest of the family at the convention last year in Charlotte." So Debbie saw an opportunity to get them together in a different way.

This image from the Crockett Foundation website shows one of the limited edition autographed prints.
(The watermark across the photo you see here will not appear on the print you order.)

The 5x7" image features a collage of photographs of the four siblings surrounding a photo of their late father and scattered across vintage memorabilia from the 1970s and 1980s. Each of the four have autographed the image by their own photo.

"Because of their different roles in the company, I suspected that they had never signed anything together," Debbie said. "Once I confirmed that with my mom, I decided to get them all to sign the picture."

Her Mom agreed right away. Debbie then had to get her uncles on board.

"Jimmy was the first to say yes. David wanted to know who was going to sign for granddaddy," she said with bit of humor. "Jackie finally came around."

It then took some effort on Debbie's part to round them all up.

"I had to fly to Dallas to get Jimmy’s autograph, and then the following weekend I drove to Spartanburg to get Jackie's. Mom signed the following weekend while I was in Florida and then Sunday I flew home and took them to David, who is also in Charlotte. It took quite a lot of foot work, but all for a good cause."

It really is a remarkable thing, having something signed by all four of Jim Crockett Sr.'s children who all played such an important part in the success of the family business in many different ways over many years. And as Debbie mentioned, it is the first and only time it has ever happened.

You can have your own keepsake of one of the most powerful and influential families in the history of professional wrestling by purchasing one of these limited edition autographed prints. 100% of the proceeds go towards the Crockett Foundation charity to help veterans and retired service dogs in need. There are lots of other very cool items in their store that help the Foundation, too, including t-shirts, caps, baseballs, key chains, and much more.


For more information on the mission of the Crockett Foundation, visit their website at

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

James J. Dillon "tags in" for the Crockett Foundation

James J. Dillon is as first-class a guy as you will ever meet. A bonafide legend in the wrestling business, not only in the ring and as a manager, but behind the scenes as well. He will be a wonderful ambassador for the Crockett Foundation.

Visit the Crockett Foundation on Facebook!

Tag in! Help Out! Make a donation.

Purchase items in the Crockett Foundation Store that help support the work of the foundation - - autographed photos, t-shirts and more!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Wahoo Pins World Champ Terry Funk - - on TV!

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As much as I enjoyed watching the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show in the 1970s, it wasn’t a show that featured what you would call “main event” matches. Which was perfectly okay with me; just watching my favorites wrestle whoever they were matched with was absolutely fine. But it was certainly a special treat when that rare occasion occurred when “main eventers” squared off in a television match.

It was an even rarer event when the NWA World Heavyweight Champion appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV program. Rarer still, was when the World Champion actually WRESTLED on television. For the World Champion to wrestle a top contender on television, well, that was just about unheard of! But on April 21, 1976, that’s exactly what happened when NWA World Champion Terry Funk squared off against “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel in a non-title bout taped in the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina! Color commentator David Crockett remarked, “This is Christmas early!” And he was right on the mark!

Play-by-play announcer Bob Caudle opened the commentary on the bout, with a reluctant Terry Funk leaving the ring before the opening bell even rang. Caudle exclaimed, “Wahoo McDaniel, definitely the favorite of the crowd, and this has got the World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk, a little mad. He says he’s not going to wrestle him!” Terry grabbed the ringside mic and loudly bellowed, “I am going to refuse to wrestle this man, because I am the World’s Champion! I don’t need to go in there with an overbearing, overweight egomaniac, that is on the downhill side of his career! And I am refusing to wrestle the Indian right now!”

David Crockett ranted that Funk was afraid of Wahoo, and Caudle insisted, “He’s gonna have to wrestle; he’s gonna have to fight! Because Wahoo’s gonna go right in after him.” And Funk did eventually enter the fray. And as the match actually began, David Crockett foreshadowed later happenings in the bout saying, “There’s something in the air. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in the air.”  Caudle responded, “You can cut it with a knife, is what you can do right now! That’s the tension in this studio!”

Wahoo took early control of this match with consecutive picture-perfect arm drags. Funk took quick refuge outside the ring on the floor. Caudle explained, “He’s gonna rest that back for a minute; he got a couple of good arm drags from Wahoo McDaniel.” When both men faced each other again in the center of the ring, Caudle said, “Look at the stare from those eyes; Wahoo looking him right in the eye, and you can almost see the daggers fly.” Crockett added, “Neither man is backing up an inch; each man is giving 110%.”

Very soon, the punches and chops started flying. Then Funk did something that wasn’t real smart. Caudle exclaimed, “There’s a little slap; that’ll really get that Indian mad! Oh, Wahoo’s gonna lose that Indian temper of his!” David Crockett then indicated that he thought that was part of Terry’s strategy, to try and get Wahoo to lose control of his emotions. After the slap, the two grapplers continued to knock away at each other. “Big hard left hand; and he’s left-handed. He’s got a lot of power in that left,” Caudle commented about the World champ. “It’s like that wrong arm coming at you, and it’s got so much power in it. Another big hard straight left.” Funk dominated briefly during the middle portion of the bout.

Of course, Wahoo was going to fire back in time. And it didn’t take long! Crockett loudly said, “A chop by the Indian…another chop!” Caudle added, “Wahoo with those big hard chops of his, he’s gonna chop him right out of the ring. That time Terry Funk did a complete flip.” The two continued with their bar room brawl, and as they both got near the ropes, they became entangled and fell through the ropes simultaneously. Outside on the floor, the two continued to battle out of control. Referee Tommy Young then called for the match to end via a double disqualification, which deeply angered the studio fans and both wrestlers!

Then, surprisingly, referee Young made a startling announcement. Caudle explained, “He said hit the bell and let ‘em go! He said let ‘em go! Somebody could lose a head right here! They’re gonna slug it out!” And slug it out they did. Wahoo quickly got the advantage in the re-started match, catching Funk in a high vertical suplex. The Chief got a two count, and the champion saved himself in the nick of time by putting his foot on the bottom rope. After Terry escaped that close call, he was able to roll Wahoo up in a small package hold, but Wahoo rolled through it and caught Funk for a quick three count and the win!!!

The studio crowd went bonkers with joy! A deliriously happy David Crockett yelled at the top of his lungs, “WAHOO WON; WAHOO WON!! Just think if this had been a championship match, Wahoo would’ve won the World’s Heavyweight belt!!” Bob Caudle added, “You would’ve had a new champion right now!” As the crowd chanted, “WA-HOO, WA-HOO” Caudle focused on the fallen champion. “Look at Funk, he’s out of his mind…out of his mind,” Caudle observed.

After this amazing outcome, newcomer Dino Bravo was introduced to the Mid-Atlantic fans in his television debut on the same TV show, and commented, “That was quite something we just saw, Wahoo McDaniel pinning the World Champion. If he ever has a championship match, I know the people will be behind him.” Wahoo in fact wrestled Funk for the title in Norfolk, Virginia the next night, and won via disqualification in a bloody brawl. The Chief got another shot at Funk for the championship on April 25th in Asheville, North Carolina, but could not ace the belt then either as Terry completed his pass through the territory.

To this day, it’s still amazing to think back to Wahoo defeating the World Champion Terry Funk on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV on that Saturday afternoon in April of 1976! Even with it occurring after the match had seemed to end on a double disqualification, and that it didn’t really lead to a red-hot program between the two. Over the years the TV announcers would often say about matches, “anything could happen.” As skeptical as I might have been about hearing that phrase, this result from April 21, 1976 TV always stuck in the back of my mind as proof that the unexpected REALLY could happen on my favorite Saturday afternoon television program.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Brothers in Paint

Road Warrior Hawk, Sting, manager Paul Ellering, and Road Warrior Animal

A classic Robert Riddick photograph from 1988, one my my very favorites that he took. Not sure exactly when or where this was taken but it appears that Ellering may be joining Sting and the LOD for an 8-man tag team match-up.

This is another in a series of favorite photographs taken by my good friend Rob who sadly passed away several years ago. I miss him so much. (Read more about Rob here, featuring a classic photo of the Legion of Doom with Dusty Rhodes.)

Here are a couple of other posts with Rob's great photography:

James J. Dillon and the Limousine
Jim Crockett and Bill Watts and the Crockett Cup

Rest in peace, big man.