Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dream Team: Flair and Valentine (Part 3)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

(Before you jump in, get caught up in Part 1 and Part 2

A mere two days after the bout in Richmond, Flair, Valentine, and the Anderson brothers went at it again in Charlotte, NC for the World Tag Team Title with Wahoo as the special referee, but this time in a dreaded Fence match! In a fabulous match with a multitude of momentum swings, and lots of blood and guts, Ole and Gene won the World belts back, but the decision wasn’t without significant controversy. And, yes, special referee Wahoo McDaniel was at the center of the controversy!

Part Three
On the first Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that aired after their Title loss, Flair and Valentine were in surly moods as they came out to be interviewed by announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett. Watching the announcers’ facial expressions as they announced Gene and Ole as the new World champs, Flair said, “What are you two guys smiling about? You know, we’re gonna play a film in a short while here that’s gonna show everybody, and I’m standin’ here not cryin’, not a tear comin’ from my eye because I know, and everybody out there knows, and you know as well as I do, Wahoo McDaniel…and Ole and Gene Anderson, both, all three of ‘em, will pay the price for gettin’ in the way of greatness. A combined greatness that’s so great, we were steppin’ on your toes, and your toes and everybody’s toes, so they ganged up on us, put us in a cage match, with Wahoo McDaniel as the referee.”

Flair continued, “You know, I know, Valentine knows, and you and your brother know…the odds were against us. We lost; we’re admitting it. But not from our own mistake! Wahoo McDaniel tripped me, Ole Anderson landed on top of me, and Wahoo McDaniel counted us out…one, two, three. So I’m tellin’ you, and everybody out there, that’s right, all you suckers that think McDaniel and Ole Anderson are big men…that they will pay the price for gettin’ in the way of greatness!”

Valentine was then finally able to speak his piece, saying, “Let me say something right here, now. All the fans can see, if you watch real closely, that we had full control, full control, all through this match, maybe 85% of the match. The Anderson brothers were tough, but they were bleeding, bleeding a lot worse than us. We had full control, and as you will see the tide turn when that big fat Indian gets in the way. The man shouldn’t have been the referee; we should have had a regular NWA referee. He was prejudiced all the way…”

Despite Ric and Greg’s displeasure with Wahoo’s role as special referee, the Charlotte decision stood. The Andersons again took the World Tag Team Titles back to the Georgia territory, and primarily defended them in the “peach state.” At the same time over the next month and a half, Flair and Valentine continued to team, but also did a great deal of singles wrestling. Particularly noteworthy, on June 11, 1977 Valentine beat Wahoo for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, while on June 15, 1977, Flair dropped his Mid-Atlantic Television Title to Ricky Steamboat.

Valentine and Flair unquestionably had a tag team “hangover” after dropping the World belts on May 8, 1977. They only wrestled twice as a team the rest of the month of May.  In those bouts, Ric and Greg lost two disqualification decisions, in Spartanburg, South Carolina on May 14th and in Raleigh on May 17th, to the reigning Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions, Dino Bravo and Tiger Conway.

In the month of June 1977, the Flair/Valentine team picked up considerable steam as the month wore on. On the first two days of the month, Greg and Ric battled the Mighty Igor and Bobo Brazil to two wild double disqualification finishes, in Roxboro, North Carolina and Anderson, South Carolina respectively. The “Dream Team” disappointingly lost to Igor and Tiger Conway on June 7th in Raleigh and to Wahoo and Igor on June 13th in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, but in that same early June time frame impressively beat Wahoo and Bobo Brazil on June 3rd in Charleston, South Carolina and defeated the stellar team of McDaniel and Steamboat on June 14th in Columbia, South Carolina.

As June wore on, Valentine and Flair really hit their stride. After a perplexing loss to Wahoo and Tiger Conway on June 21st in Lynchburg, Virginia, the “blonde bombers” went on a major roll. On June 23rd at the Scope Coliseum in Norfolk, Virginia, Flair and Valentine whipped Wahoo McDaniel and Ricky Steamboat and the following day demolished the duo of Wahoo and Johnny Weaver, then crushed the tandem of McDaniel and Igor on June 28th at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena. Sandwiched in between was a terrific bout at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina on June 26th where Greg and Ric dominated the World Tag Team Champions, Gene and Ole Anderson, but settled for a double disqualification result which meant they didn’t capture those coveted belts.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on June 29, 1977 Valentine standing next to Flair told announcer Bob Caudle, “You know, we may not be the World Champions anymore, but our friendship means more than those belts did. And another thing, we may not have the gold around our waist, but everybody out there knows that we are still the true champions!” However, as things would work out, it wouldn’t take but one more day for Ric and Greg to capture championship gold! The Anderson Recreation Center in Anderson, South Carolina hosted a Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship match to close out the month of June, on June 30, 1977. The Champions, Dino Bravo and Tiger Conway acquitted themselves well, but the “buzz saw” that was Valentine and Flair continued on their tear, and they aced the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team belts that very night!

The Title change was announced on the next Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on July 6th. Bob Caudle commented to Flair, “Ric, you and your partner have some championship belts back by the way, I hear.” A giddy Nature Boy replied, “That’s right, did you think anything else? Did you suspect anything else? I told you, that anytime we have to start making examples of people, we go right at ‘em. We don’t just talk about it. Someone said, ‘Nature Boy, you and Greg Valentine are on your way out.’ Valentine knocked off McDaniel, and we both knocked off Bravo and Conway. Now we’ve got the championship belts of the Mid-Atlantic area. But that’s just the start!”

Despite Ric’s confidence, the new Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champs had a tough month of July 1977. Perhaps some of that was due to Valentine and Flair’s commitments to singles wrestling. Valentine was having brutal battles with Wahoo McDaniel to hold onto his Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. And Flair would start chasing the United States Heavyweight Championship in July, and won the U.S. belt from Bobo Brazil on July 29th in the Richmond Coliseum.

Ric and Greg did have a successful defense of their Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles in July, knocking off the former champs Bravo and Conway in a rematch on July 14th in Anderson. Other than that match, Ric and Greg struggled mightily during the month of July. Early in the month, the team of Andre the Giant and Wahoo gave Ric and Greg fits during bouts in Asheville, North Carolina on July 3rd and at University Hall in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 8th. Things didn’t go much better towards the end of the month for Valentine and Flair, when Wahoo switched to Ricky Steamboat as his partner. The Chief and Steamboat controlled matches in Roanoke, Virginia on July 16th and in Charlotte on July 25th, though Ric and Greg still maintained the Mid-Atlantic tag belts at month’s end.

Flair and Valentine’s rather unimpressive reign as Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions ended on August 22, 1977 at Charlotte’s Park Center, when Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat upset the “Dream Team.” The prior week at the Park Center, Ric and Greg had scored a solid victory against Paul and Ricky. The fact that the Nature Boy dropped another title to the upstart Ricky Steamboat within the span of about two months, was a particularly bitter pill for Flair to swallow. Also, before the loss of the Mid-Atlantic Tag belts, Valentine dropped the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title to arch-rival Wahoo McDaniel on August 9th at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena.

Over the next two months after their August 22nd upset loss, the Flair and Valentine team wrestled the team of Mid-Atlantic Tag champs Jones and Steamboat almost exclusively. The results of these bouts were not good for Ric and Greg. Though for much of the same time frame, Ric and Greg were also busy defending important singles belts in the Mid-Atlantic area. On September 7th on Mid-Atlantic TV, Valentine defeated Wahoo for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, breaking Wahoo’s leg in the process. Flair held the United States Title until he was defeated by Ricky Steamboat on October 21st at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ricky Steamboat & Paul Jones
Though they ended in defeats for the “Dream Team,” there were two memorable battles against Jones and Steamboat in Virginia that took place in September of 1977! Not at all accustomed to being in a “cage,” the young Ricky Steamboat acted like a man possessed in the Fence match with Ric and Greg on September 9th in Richmond. Steamboat’s out of character antics clearly threw Valentine and Flair off their respective games, and certainly contributed to the loss. More of the same occurred at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia on September 24th. Steamboat continued to show an aggressive side of himself that Ric and Greg still had trouble effectively contending with, which resulted in another bruising loss for the “bad guys.”

For much of October of 1977, there was more disappointment for the Valentine/ Flair team as they continued to have great difficulty with the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions, Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat. Dispiriting losses to Jones and Steamboat on October 2nd in the border city of Savannah, Georgia and on October 10th in Greenville, South Carolina seemed to place the “Dream Team” in a deep abyss. Ric and Greg began digging out of that hole with a better performance against Paul and Ricky in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on October 12th. Then following that up on October 20th, Flair and Valentine showed tremendous fortitude in a blistering hot Texas Tornado match against the Mid-Atlantic champs at the Scope in Norfolk. Ric and Greg’s revival of sorts couldn’t have been more timely, as their despised rivals, Gene and Ole Anderson, were about to come back to town!

Stay tuned as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew returns in PART 4. Coming soon.
Until then, "so long for now!"