Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Opposites Attract: Masked Superstar vs. Mighty Igor


by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Mighty Igor cover
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine
One of the more entertaining feuds during the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling era occurred during eight months in 1977, and it featured the Masked Superstar battling the Mighty Igor. These two grapplers couldn’t have been more polar opposites, but their stark differences made for compelling theater from February through September of 1977.

The Superstar entered the Mid-Atlantic area in September of 1976, and was a force to be reckoned with from the get-go. Extremely articulate, the Superstar came to the area boasting of having two doctorate degrees, and a gold medal from the Olympics! With his vicious “clothesline” move, and “cobra” finishing maneuver, the Superstar got off to a great start in the territory during the remainder of 1976. Along with his wily manager, “Professor” Boris Malenko, this dastardly duo put up $5,000.00 and the Superstar’s mask if any wrestler could defeat him by pinfall or submission in a single match. By the end of 1976, no consistent challenger had emerged for the Superstar.  But that was about to change.

At the tail end of 1976, a colorful newcomer entered the Mid-Atlantic area named the Mighty Igor. Wearing unusual ring attire, this bundle of muscle from Krakow, Poland was a particular favorite of younger fans. Coming to the ring dancing the Polish polka, carrying his garlic laden kielbasa, professing his love for his “momma” and kissing unsuspecting television announcers, the smiling and child-like Igor was certainly a unique addition to the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling scene. Initially, Igor was accompanied by a manager, Ivan Kalmikoff, who assisted Igor in performing some impressive feats of strength. Kalmikoff would exit the area after about a month, leaving Igor to fend for himself.

The Mighty Igor and the Superstar squared off for the first time in Asheville, North Carolina as part of an afternoon card that was held on February 6, 1977. The first bout between the two was not particularly eventful, but the next meeting would define the feud in stark terms. The two combatants met each other in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 21, 1977 at the Park Center. The match was a tag team elimination match, where Igor and Wahoo McDaniel battled the Superstar and his partner, the “Korean Assassin,” Kim Duk, accompanied by their manager Boris Malenko.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on February 23, 1977, NWA “troubleshooter” George Scott came on the set with announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett, along with the “Malenko family,” the Masked Superstar, Kim Duk and Boris Malenko.  Scott was there to show the fans a film from the match in Charlotte two days earlier, where the Superstar badly injured the Mighty Igor by sticking Malenko’s lit cigar in Igor’s eye, causing serious eye damage. The “troubleshooter” began, “There’s been a lot of conferences going on about this the last couple of days. I believe we have some film that we want to show, and I think these gentleman better watch it because there’s gonna be some decision coming up that you’re gonna know about.”

The Masked Superstar and Kim Duk
with manager Boris Malenko
George Scott started commentating over the arena footage saying, “As you can see, Igor is in the ring here with Superstar, and he’s got the bear hug on him, and I think Superstar was beat. And if you’ll watch here; here comes Kim Duk in. This was a match that occurred in Charlotte, North Carolina, that took place last Monday. As we go along here, he took that cigar right out of Malenko’s mouth, deliberately stuck it in Igor’s eye. And which caused, we don’t know the damage yet, the extents of the damage, but it could have blinded this man.”

Scott clearly believed the egregious actions called for discipline against Superstar explaining, “And to me, this is uncalled for in professional wrestling. Which we’ve been doing, as the time goes on, we take a lot of these films and they go down in front of Eddie Graham of the National Wrestling Alliance, and they come back, and through Jim Crockett Promotions, and myself; you can see here Igor is in definite, definite pain…definite pain. And I feel if these men gotta resort to tactics like this, I feel we do not need them in the National Wrestling Alliance, or in the Mid-Atlantic area. As you can see, Igor was finished for the night, now he’s wearing a patch on his eye, and the pain this man has gone through is unbelievable.”

Bob Caudle chimed in, “And the film doesn’t lie, George. It shows exactly what happened, and how it came about, and just who did it…and how it happened to him.” Scott continued, “Ah, yes, and as you can see, this was the end of the night for Igor.” Caudle agreed, noting, “The pain here has to be unreal; this guy is so big and so strong, he can stand a lot of pain anyway, George. But here, this must have been tremendous pain for him.”

George Scott then turned his attention to the wrongdoers. “Now, Boris Malenko, I’ve talked to Eddie Graham, I’ve talked to the National Wrestling Alliance, Superstar has been suspended indefinitely…” A flabbergasted Superstar interrupted, stammering, “Wait, wait, wait a minute!!”  Undeterred, Scott continued, “Wait a minute, you just be quiet, or a $10,000.00 fine.” Superstar shot back, “What do I have to pay a $10,000.00 fine for, it was an accident, I didn’t do anything on purpose!” Scott was not convinced by Superstar’s explanation, and matter of factly said, “Yes, it was done on purpose.”

The Superstar continued to try to state his case. “If I pay a fine, I’d be admitting I’m guilty, and I’m not guilty of anything!” Scott remained unmoved, contending, “The film shows it.” A combative Superstar then boldly exclaimed, “We won’t pay a fine!” Scott had an answer for that saying, “Well, then you’re definitely suspended. All we ask is that you finish…”   Superstar again interrupted, and noted, “I’ve already got some matches; I’ve already signed a contract for two matches.” A now exasperated George Scott responded, “Well, you finish them then you can get out of here…you’re finished.” The masked man then hollered, “Wait a minute…wait a minute!”

Professor Malenko joined the fray, asserting, “This is a miscarriage of justice, and my lawyers…” But Superstar was so angry that he interrupted his own manager, pleading, “I’m not gonna pay a $10,000.00 fine for something I didn’t do purposely! It was an accident; I did not do it on purpose. If I paid $10,000.00, I’d admit to something I didn’t do.” Trying to reassure Superstar, the Professor stated, “My lawyers will take care of the National Wrestling Alliance and George Scott too; this was an accident, it was not done intentionally!” Superstar concluded by alleging, “They’ve tampered with this film, they’ve tampered with this film. They’ve been trying to get me out of this area for some time now, and they come up with some fabrication. I’m not gonna pay a fine, they can’t suspend me indefinitely, what am I supposed to do?” Malenko, trying to calm down the situation, ended by saying, “My lawyers will take care of that.”

At the end of the same show, Igor appeared on the set with a patch over his injured eye, and he told Bob Caudle that he did not want Superstar suspended, that he wanted to wrestle him. Igor continued, “My mother taught me to wrestle fair, and I never dream or think a man would put cigar in a man’s eye. With that Malenko too…he help him. But Star I will get you somewhere, the people will support me so you will give me a match. Because that’s the only way I’m gonna get it. Look at my eye…look at my eye!! Doctors say maybe I cannot see again. I maybe lose part of vision.  This is something that my mother’s crying all the time, and I just don’t know what to say…I want match with this Star!”

Igor’s match with Superstar would have to wait, as the suspension of the masked man lasted for five and a half weeks into early April of 1977, before Malenko’s lawyers were able to get Superstar reinstated.

What happens when the Superstar returns? Find out in "Opposites Attract: Part Two."