Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dream Team: Flair and Valentine (Part 5)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Before you jump into Part 5, get caught up in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on April 5, 1978, Jim Crockett, Jr., President of Jim Crockett Promotions, appeared on the set at the beginning of the program. The “head honcho” of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling told the fans:
“I just recently attended a Board of Directors meeting of the National Wrestling Alliance. Mr. Ric Flair and Mr. Greg Valentine in a recent match for their World Titles did not show up; in two recent matches in this area they left the ring before a decision was reached. The NWA has ruled that they are no longer the World Tag Team Champions, and a tournament will be held in the very near future to select new champions.” 

A visibly shocked announcer Bob Caudle said, “Gee Jim, that’s blockbuster news, really! It doesn’t happen very often that champions are stripped of their belts that way!” Jim Crockett replied, “No, it doesn’t, and Mr. Flair and Mr. Valentine are not happy about it. But when you don’t show up to wrestle an opponent because you’re afraid of him…or, they claim they missed their plane, they left the ring on two separate occasions; they are no longer the champions.”

Valentine and Flair were livid at being stripped of their World belts, and loudly claimed that it only happened because the NWA “powers that be” were jealous of their success and that they missed a plane, which was totally out of their control. A mega one night tournament was set on April 23, 1978 in the Greensboro Coliseum to crown new World Tag Team Champions. Ric and Greg were scheduled to face the tandem of Wahoo McDaniel and Andre the Giant in the first round of the tournament, but lost by forfeit as they no-showed in the ring for that match. The popular duo of Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat ultimately prevailed in the grueling tournament, and became the new World Tag Team champs.

After the tournament in Greensboro, Flair and Valentine continued to team, though less frequently, over the next month or so. And the results were not good for Ric and Greg, as the NWA taking their World belts clearly took the starch out of them. The World Champions Jones and Steamboat took the measure of Ric and Greg nearly every week in May of 1978, whipping the “Dream Team” on May 14th in Asheville, May 21st in Hampton, and May 28th in Greensboro. The trend continued into June, where Jones and Steamboat prevailed again at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on June 6th. Several days prior to the loss in Raleigh, Greg and Ric did notch an exciting win by disqualification over the “M & M Boys,” Blackjack Mulligan and Dick Murdock, in Asheville, North Carolina.

During this same time frame from late April to early June of 1978, Ric Flair was again the United States Heavyweight Champion, having regained the belt on April 9, 1978 in Charlotte. And on June 7, 1978 at the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, Greg Valentine was a “mystery partner” with Baron von Raschke, and that new duo upset Jones and Steamboat to become the new World Tag Team Champions. This victory by Valentine and Raschke effectively shut down the “Dream Team,” who wouldn’t team again with any frequency until early 1979.

Events that occurred at the tail end of 1978 provided the “Dream Team” one last chance to team up and go after the World Tag Team Championship. Unfortunately for Ric and Greg, this final opportunity came about because they lost their respective singles championships within days of each other! On December 26, 1978 in Richmond, Valentine and Raschke lost their World belts to the new combination of Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka. Only four days later in Greensboro, Flair dropped the United States belt to Ricky Steamboat in a vicious Fence match, where Steamboat put his hair up against Flair’s Title.

The short reformation of the “Dream Team” in January and early February of 1979 was not successful at all as far as wins and losses, but did result in exciting matches and gave credibility to the young and relatively unknown new World Champions, Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka. Ric and Greg didn’t regain the World Tag Team Titles, but they definitely made Snuka and Orndorff work hard to retain their newly won belts!

Flair and Valentine first squared off with Snuka and Orndorff for the World Tag belts in the Richmond Coliseum on January 5th, and three days later the same two teams went at it again on the other side of the circuit in Greenville, South Carolina. While Jimmy and Paul got the dukes in both those bouts, the matches were hyper-competitive and it looked like the program could go either way when the four met again for the World Titles on January 13th in the Greensboro Coliseum!

In promoting the Greensboro World Tag Team Title match, Flair’s first match in Greensboro since his U.S. Title loss to Steamboat, Ric told announcer Rich Landrum, “You know, a lot of guys that just got stuck with a setback would rather crawl in a hole. But the whole world knows that no one on their best day could beat Ric Flair…it was pure luck! Now I’m comin’ back to Greensboro, and this time guess who I’m comin’ with, huh?! Snuka and Orndorff, the new champions, huh?! Couple of young punk kids, huh?! Wanna be big stars, wanna walk around looking good, huh?! Well let me tell you boys something, Greensboro Coliseum, you gotta wrestle VALENTINE AND FLAIR!! You heard that name, everybody knows that team, NOBODY EVER BEAT US! The NWA took those belts! I’ve gotta have a belt, you understand, I’ve gotta have a belt!! I say so!! Greensboro, Valentine and I are gonna take the World belts!! WOOOO!!!”

Jimmy Snuka also had some strong thoughts when he promoted the Greensboro match on TV, saying, “There’s one thing we’re gonna have to get settled. We may not have been the greatest in the world, but we have beat the ex-World Tag Team Champions which makes us the World Tag Team Champions…myself and Paul Orndorff. So Valentine and Mr. Blondie, come and get it, brother. It’s up to you to come and get it, and it’s up to us to defend these belts and keep ‘em.”

The match lived up to the hype, and Ric and Greg probably came closer to recapturing the “gold” here than in any match they would have with Orndorff and Snuka. There were several moments in the bout where it appeared Valentine and Flair were going to add to the impressive list of Greensboro Coliseum title changes, but it ultimately did not come to pass. The “Superfly” and Orndorff edged out the former champs, and left Ric and Greg pondering a number of missed opportunities.

After the Greensboro loss, Flair and Valentine appeared on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television as a team on January 17th, and were as confident as ever. Ric and Greg were at their dominating best as they easily dispatched their TV opponents, the veteran Abe Jacobs and the youngster Herb Gallant. The “Dream Team” followed up on their TV appearance with one of their best efforts in the program with Snuka and Orndorff, battling the Champions to an ultra-physical double disqualification in the Norfolk Scope Coliseum on January 25th. But the rest of January was forgettable for Valentine and Flair, as they dropped decisions to Orndorff and Snuka almost daily; on January 26th in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 27th in Savannah, January 28th in Greensboro and January 30th in Columbia, South Carolina.

Things did not improve for the Flair-Valentine team in February of 1979, but as Greg Valentine was set to head north and wrestle in the WWWF full-time, the program with Orndorff and Snuka for the World Tag Team Championship was mercifully almost over. February 1st saw a rematch in Norfolk, following up on the wild double disqualification finish from a week earlier, but Jimmy and Paul controlled the action in this one. Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on February 6th, Charleston’s County Hall on February 9th and Spartanburg’s Memorial Auditorium on February 10th were home to the final bouts of this program, which were all wins by World Tag Team Champions Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka. These were also the last bouts ever featuring Ric Flair and Greg Valentine as a regular tag team. But it did not spell the end of Ric Flair and Greg Valentine attempting to team up, and even teaming up on several rare occasions in the future. Some very interesting interactions between Ric Flair and Greg Valentine were definitely looming down the road!

Stay tuned for PART 6 of "The Dream Team!"