Saturday, July 09, 2016

Dream Team: Flair and Valentine (Part 2)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Before you jump in, get caught up in Part 1)

Ric Flair and Greg Valentine's first match as World Tag Team Champions saw them drop a non-title bout at the Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina on January 3, 1977 to the duo of Wahoo McDaniel and “Mr. Wrestling,” Tim Woods. But, Flair and Valentine were impressive in early title defenses, battling combinations comprised of top-flight talent including Wahoo, Paul Jones, Rufus R. Jones and Tiger Conway during the month of January 1977.

Another wild match involving the new champs occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 16, 1977 when Ric and Greg joined forces with the mammoth Blackjack Mulligan to battle the Andersons and Wahoo McDaniel! The roof nearly came off the building when Gene, Ole and Wahoo were awarded a victory in a match where all of the participants were bloody messes.

The tandem of Flair and Valentine hit a bump in the road when Ric was out of action the whole month of February 1977 recovering from surgery. Flair sent in a tape from Florida to the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on February 23, 1977 to explain his absence. In the film, Ric said, “I’ve told you for years that I’m the greatest, that nothing could ever go wrong with the greatest thing alive today, but ladies and gentlemen it did, I admit it, there was one flaw… mother nature did miss a stroke. As you can see right here, zoom in right here, I did have to have surgery, which is keeping me out of wrestling indefinitely. Now, being one half of the World Tag Team Champions I feel an obligation, even though I don’t like to be hassled by reporters when I’m on vacation…”

Flair went on to say, “But because I do feel an obligation, being one half of the World’s Tag Team Champions, I’ve consented to do an interview, to take time away from all my sweethearts, to talk to all these people in the Mid-Atlantic area that keep hassling me. Crockett keeps calling on the phone; George Scott calling me saying ‘Nature Boy, when are you coming back? You have to defend your title.’ Well, as you can see, I’m recuperating! I need the sun; I need the attention from all my little sweethearts right here! I’m not capable of gettin’ in the ring and defendin’ that Title. Now, I see that you’re puttin’ stipulations down; you’re tryin’ to give me a time limit. You’re tryin’ to say I gotta be back in two weeks doin’ my thing…”

The Nature Boy then turned his attention to two of his biggest rivals at the time, explaining, “And Ole, Ole Anderson, Wahoo McDaniel thinkin’ for one minute that I might be less the man they are after surgery. Well, let me tell you something. One of my little sweethearts right here, little Diane is gonna tell you something about the Nature Boy, and if you think for one minute that I’m any less the man I was prior to my little surgery right here, I’ll let Diane tell you about it!” Diane then cooed, ‘Nature Boy, you’re more of a man than Wahoo or Ole could ever be!’ A grinning Flair quickly responded, “Ah that’s right, I like to hear it from my babies!”

Ric concluded his taped update to the fans by saying, “When the Nature Boy, when the greatest thing alive today is ready to come back to the Mid-Atlantic area, ready to defend his Title, he will arrive in his limousine dressed as only he can look, like Mr. Magnificent, and then, and only then, will I come back and defend those World Titles. Greg, I’m thinkin’ about you baby!”

The “Dream Team” started back defending their World Tag Team belts on March 5, 1977 at the Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia against the formidable duo of Paul Jones and Rufus R. Jones. For the remainder of the month of March, 1977, Valentine and Flair successfully defended against several teams that included the great Mid-Atlantic veteran, Johnny Weaver. This happened principally because Valentine had injured Weaver several months previously, and Johnny was seeking his revenge on Greg.

Valentine and Flair dominated the March matches that involved Weaver, whipping Johnny and Paul Jones at the Charlotte Park Center on March 7th, and Weaver and Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones twice, at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on March 15th and at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on March 21st. Though lopsided result-wise, the bouts were very entertaining as Johnny was after Valentine throughout, and several times nearly put “The Hammer” to sleep with his vaunted sleeper hold!

The “Dream Team” didn’t fare nearly so well at the end of March and early April of 1977, when the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” Andre the Giant made a pass through the Mid-Atlantic states! Andre teamed up with Wahoo McDaniel, and those two made life miserable for Ric and Greg! The champs were often seen running for their lives when they dropped non-title decisions to Andre and Wahoo on March 27th at the Charlotte Coliseum, and then again on April 1st in the Richmond Coliseum. Sandwiched in-between was a frenzied no contest result between the same four at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina on March 27th.

April of 1977 saw Valentine and Flair continue their mastery of teams that included the revenge-seeking Johnny Weaver. During the month of April, Ric and Greg defeated Johnny and a slew of his partners that included Rufus R. Jones, Thunderbolt Patterson, Wahoo McDaniel and Bobo Brazil. But speaking of Brazil, the World champs had a much tougher time when Bobo teamed up with “Chief” Wahoo. On April 23rd in Spartanburg, South Carolina and then again in Fayetteville, North Carolina on May 2nd, Valentine and Flair dropped hard-fought decisions to Wahoo and Bobo, but still emerged from those battles with their World belts intact.

The immediate past NWA World Tag Team Champions, the Anderson Brothers, came up from Georgia a couple of times during the month of April to try and reclaim the belts they lost on December 26, 1976. On April 2nd at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia and on April 10th at the Charlotte Coliseum the four arch-rivals squared off again for the biggest prize in tag team wrestling! The two bouts were again classic confrontations, with Greg and Ric eking out bloody wins. As great as these matches were, they paled in comparison to what was to come early in the month of May 1977 between these two top teams.

The specter of Wahoo McDaniel again loomed large as the Andersons once more headed north, in early May of 1977, in another bid to reclaim the World Tag Team Titles. On May 6th in Richmond, Virginia the Andersons were again able to secure the services of Wahoo McDaniel to be the special referee for two upcoming Title matches against Flair and Valentine! As expected, the Champions thought the selection of Wahoo as the referee was an out-and-out conspiracy to take their World Titles away from them.

Ole Anderson seemed almost gleeful that McDaniel had been assigned as referee in the Richmond match, telling the fans in a local promo, “We’ve got a little extra surprise for you Greg, a little surprise for you Ric, and I want that surprise to come in here right now! Chief Wahoo McDaniel is gonna be the referee! He’s the man that’s gonna keep order. And when it comes to a tough team you’ve got the Anderson Brothers, and when it comes to a tough referee, a man that can handle a match like this, nobody can do it better than Wahoo McDaniel.”

Wahoo, attempting to project an air of impartiality, commented, “Well, first I want to ease Flair and Valentine’s mind a little, and I want to ease the Andersons. I didn’t take this match by choice. I took it because no one else would take it. They couldn’t get a referee for no amount of money to take it, because they didn’t think they could handle it. Well, I said, I can handle it. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if the Andersons win; I don’t care if Flair and Valentine win. But I’m like the people, once and for all, I want to see who the best team is. They can go out there and beat each other to death…it’s not gonna bother me one way or the other. But I can promise you one thing, I’m gonna referee right down the middle 50-50, and ya’ll are goin’ by the rules.”

The Champions, of course, were not convinced at all that Wahoo was going to be a fair referee. Greg Valentine told the Richmond fans that, “You know, the men can’t beat us in a regular match, they can’t beat us with a regular referee, so they gotta go out and get Wahoo McDaniel. Now, I heard what you said Wahoo McDaniel, you’re gonna go right down the line, right down the middle…you don’t care who wins. You don’t care if myself and Flair win, or the Andersons. But I think, I have a sneaking suspicion, that you’re gonna be in there helping them out. Well let me tell you something Wahoo McDaniel, Ole Anderson, Gene Anderson…we beat you time and time again. It’s gonna be the showdown of 1977, because these World belts, they mean everything to me and the Nature Boy! And that’s where they’re gonna stay. And Wahoo McDaniel, if you get in the way, you’re gonna feel the hardest elbow in wrestling come right down between your eyes!”

While Wahoo’s actions didn’t directly result in the final decision in the Richmond bout, which went to a draw, his presence was definitely felt and it seemed clear that the “Chief” was going to come into play further if he was ever involved with these four again as a special referee. And it didn’t take long at all for that scenario to come to pass in a very big way!