Thursday, November 03, 2016

Almanac History - May 1980

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
May 1980

The beginning of the month of May 1980 marked the final matches in the Mid-Atlantic area of the Masked Superstar #2. In a continuation of matches from the end of April, Blackjack Mulligan battled Superstar #2 in “anything goes” matches with Superstar #1 locked in a small cage at ringside. At County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on May 2nd, Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina on May 6th and at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina on May 10th Mulligan defeated Superstar #2 and unmasked the mass of humanity as his old adversary John Studd. The Masked Superstar #1 watched on in horror as his partner was unmasked. Superstar # 2 would leave the territory, and Blackjack vowed to turn his attention to Superstar #1 after the Spartanburg unmasking. However, the very next night at the Charlotte Coliseum a new thorn would emerge in Mulligan’s side.


May 11, 1980 in Charlotte, North Carolina Mid-Atlantic fans would get their first glimpse of one of the strangest characters in the rich history of Jim Crockett Promotions, Enforcer Luciano. Billed at 265 pounds from Las Vegas, and sporting a patch over one of his eyes, the Enforcer easily dispatched Coco Samoa in Charlotte. He then made his first television appearance in the area on the May 14th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling show taping. Announcer Bob Caudle asked the Enforcer, “The Enforcer Luciano, what brings you to the area?” The menacing Luciano replied, “In the first place, that’s Mr. Luciano…the Enforcer. And what brings me into this area is money, more money. I have millions now, and I want to add to my fortune. I hear there’s a bounty on Mulligan’s head. Well, I’m the world’s number one bounty hunter. I am 100 percent successful, every single time! That’s what I’m here for.”

This new development led Mulligan to get on a plane and head to Texas to get some help. This help was in the form of Blackjack’s cousin, “Crazy” Luke Mulligan! Blackjack told Bob Caudle on that same May 14th TV taping, “I’m leaving on a plane very, very shortly. I’m going to the Big Springs hospital, checking out on a pass, maybe a two week pass, my cousin Crazy Luke Mulligan! He ain’t a bad man, he never was a bad man, drank a little bit of whisky, got messed up in a couple of wrong deals, and got violent one night…his old lady went off with a rock and roll band. Found the bus about three days later, everything all messed up, and they haven’t seen the van since. Very violent man when he gets upset! I’m gonna have him here next week on television; never been on television before. It ain’t funny; ain’t nothing to laugh about. Enforcer Luciano, you have NO idea what kind of trouble you’re in. Superstar #1, you have no idea what kind of trouble you’re in!”


Blackjack was true to his word! On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on May 21st, the area’s fans got to see Crazy Luke Mulligan up close and personal! Mulligan had his hands plenty full in a match with the sadistic Ox Baker, but Blackjack brought Cousin Luke to ringside to observe. Well, it wasn’t long before Luke got into the action, coming into the ring with a bag of popcorn! Caudle commented, “Uh oh David, getting into the ring…here’s Luke! He goes right into the ring. And he’s in there just clappin’ with Mulligan, as Mulligan’s got Baker down, got him in the headlock. He’s got popcorn all over the ring.”

As Blackjack tried to escort Luke out of the ring, Ox was able to hit Mulligan from behind and threw him out of the ring. Luke got back in the ring and was none too happy with how Baker had treated Blackjack. But Baker got hold of Luke while Mulligan was out on the floor. Caudle exclaimed, “We’ve got popcorn all over the ring. Here’s Baker, here goes Luke, and Baker’s got him! He knocked his chewing tobacco right out of his pocket, David. He took a boot off! You could hear that one everywhere! He took his boot off, and he hit Baker right in the head with it! Baker’s down on his back in the ring! And now [Luke’s] gonna get out with his hat, his popcorn and everything…and Baker’s gonna be counted out!” The fans in the studio audience couldn’t believe their eyes. What a memorable TV debut for Cousin Luke!


Mid-Atlantic Champion Iron Sheik
The super spectacular card in Charlotte on May 11th was also quite significant because it hosted a match for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title where the Iron Sheik defeated “Jumping” Jim Brunzell for the championship. Brunzell and the Sheik rapidly developed a bitter feud in advance of the Charlotte title-change bout. In Welcome, North Carolina on May 2nd and again in Fayetteville, North Carolina on May 5th, Brunzell and Ric Flair battled the Iron Sheik and Jimmy Snuka in tag team bouts. These tag matches in reality became two singles battles, with Brunzell and the Sheik tearing into each other with the same thing occurring between Flair and Snuka!

Leading up to the Charlotte title-switch on May 11th, the Sheik was gaining momentum in bouts with Brunzell in Asheville, North Carolina on May 4th, at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on May 6th and in Charleston, South Carolina on May 9th. While “Hussein the Arab” came up short in these early May bouts, he was clearly getting in Brunzell’s head with his Iranian suplexes and seemingly being impervious to pain while in Jim’s best maneuver, the spinning toe hold.

Brunzell addressed his Mid-Atlantic Title defeat by the Sheik to the fans in the territory on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV program that was taped on May 28th. Jim told Bob Caudle, “This is the first opportunity I’ve had to come on TV and tell my side of the story. I don’t want to belabor that, but I’m tired of having Gene Anderson and the Iron Sheik come out here, Bob, and downgrade me when that was on Mother’s Day in Charlotte; I had him beat until he loaded that boot. And believe you me, I’m going to change my style, because I know that’s the only way that I can beat him. He is tough, he’s got a hard body, and he’s got vast knowledge, but believe you me, I’m gonna do it.”


The night before that mega May 11th Charlotte card, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, another feud was set to take a major turn. The card on May 10th in Greensboro featured a bout for the NWA World Tag Team Titles pitting champions Greg Valentine and Ray Stevens against former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. The match had the unusual stipulation of being a best two-out-of-three falls contest. But the most unique facet of this bout was that color commentator David Crockett was serving in the position of special referee! Crockett had gone this route after having been assaulted by Valentine in April in a fracas over a video tape of the match where Valentine and Stevens won the titles in controversial fashion from Steamboat and Youngblood.

Controversy reigned in the May 10th match, and not surprisingly, it involved David Crockett! According to Stevens and Valentine, Crockett showed favoritism in the deciding fall, allowing an illegal man in the ring to capture the fall giving back the World Titles to Steamboat and Youngblood.

On the May 14th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, Ray Stevens told the fans, “Let’s just clear one thing up here. You’ve got some new World Tag Team Champions, but they didn’t win the thing. They won it because of this man right over here, David Crockett. He knows that the illegal man was in the ring. No way in the world they should have won the thing. But I’ll guarantee you, it won’t take us very long, we’ll have them belts right back.” They were forceful words by Stevens, but this defeat seemed to take a lot of the starch out of the Valentine/Stevens duo, and this formidable team was unable to recapture the World belts despite multiple opportunities during the remainder of the month of May.

Bob Caudle talked to Jay Youngblood on the May 28th Mid-Atlantic TV show taping saying, “The competition is really, really getting tough. When you look at the Superstar, you look at Luciano, you look at Snuka and you look at the Iron Sheik…and you go on and on.” Jay agreed, “Bob I tell you what…not just them. I know there are a lot of kids that are upcoming grapplers right now, that would give their right hand to be in my shoes or Rick Steamboat’s shoes. Rick and I are trying our hardest, and our darnest, and with the support of these people right here, we’re gonna try our hardest to keep these World belts.”

Youngblood continued, “You know, you talk about the competition here. There’s not only competition here, there’s competition like in New York, Los Angeles, Japan. But I tell you the truth, right now the two hardest guys Rick and I, and I’m sure Rick will agree, are Valentine and Stevens. These guys have put up one of the hardest fights we’ve ever come up against.”


Earlier in the month of May, a newcomer with much promise made his first television appearance in the Mid-Atlantic area. Ric Flair had earlier told the fans that he had recently seen Sweet Ebony Diamond in St. Louis, and that the 6 foot 2 inch 250 pounder was on his way to Jim Crockett Promotions. On the May 7th television taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, the masked “Diamond” was impressive in his TV debut against the roughhouse Billy Starr. After a series of magnificent dropkicks, Diamond subdued Starr with color commentator David Crockett exclaiming, “He got him! Very impressive win!”

Diamond was equally as impressive in his second outing on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television, on the show that was taped on May 14th. Sweet Ebony told Bob Caudle, “You know, that’s what I like is rough and tough competition. I’ve been all around the world once, and some places twice. And they told me right here, daddy, this is where all the action is, this is where all the happenin’ is, this is where all the gettin’ down is, and that’s what I want brother.” At that point, Diamond’s good friend Ric Flair appeared on the set and said, “We talked about it, we told ‘em about it, the Ebony Diamond, brother! There’s only one like him, anywhere in the world. One of the real studs that can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk!”


The United States Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair had a multitude of ferocious battles in May over his prestigious belt. The most taxing bouts were against former champ Jimmy Snuka, and his nefarious manager Gene Anderson. Snuka and Anderson hijacked one of the Nature Boy’s priceless ring robes, and vowed to hold it hostage until Ric gave the “Superfly” a suitable number of U.S. Title bout rematches.

Also featured on the May 14th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV taping, Jimmy Snuka along with his manager Gene Anderson were talking over a film clip of where Ric Flair defeated Snuka for the U.S. belt. Anderson was claiming, not overly convincingly, that Flair pulled Snuka’s tights to win the title. Anderson and Snuka also gloated at having possession of one of Ric’s cherished ring robes! Anderson chuckled, “The Superfly is still the uncrowned United States Champion. And you can see Ric Flair’s robe. And Ric Flair, you said you’re not gonna give us any more return matches. This is gonna force you into return matches, and you’re only gonna get it back after we hold that belt.” Flair was furious at that tactic, but had no problem giving Snuka his United States Title rematches.

Raleigh, North Carolina saw three classic confrontations between Flair and Snuka over the U.S. belt during the month of May at Dorton Arena. On May 6th, an enraged “Nature Boy” completely lost his cool and was disqualified for his actions saddling him with a DQ loss. The following Tuesday night Flair and Snuka returned to the Dorton Arena, this time with Ric capturing the win despite the best efforts of Gene Anderson! A “rubber match” of sorts was set in Raleigh between Ric and Jimmy on May 27th, but this time with a “lumberjack” stipulation to hopefully prevent Snuka from running and Gene Anderson from interfering. Flair prevailed, but this hotly contested program carried on for several more weeks.

Flair also had a number of bitter U.S. Title bouts during the month of May against the Iron Sheik. On May 3rd at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on May 12th, the Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum on May 16th and at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on May 23rd, the Nature Boy had his hands full but managed in each instance to hold the U.S. Title out of the Sheik’s reach.

But Ric’s most noteworthy United States Title defense of the month likely occurred against old friend Greg Valentine on May 25th at the Greensboro Coliseum. On the World Wide Wrestling television show that was taped on May 28th, Valentine referenced the Greensboro match when he called Flair out and pleaded for Ric to be his tag team partner again. Greg told Flair that he was the most fantastic wrestler of all time, and that he had changed his ways and wanted to be on the side of good with Ric. The Nature Boy wanted to believe that Valentine was sincere, but told him he would give Greg’s offer “some serious thought.” Thus fans on May 28th were left with a bit of a cliffhanger as to whether Valentine and Flair would reunite their top-flight tag team.


Since Superstar #2 was unmasked and left the area for all intents and purposes early in the month, Superstar #1 was simply referred to again as the Masked Superstar as the month of May progressed. Superstar continued his hold over the NWA Television Championship during the month of May, but the hold was tenuous at best. After beating Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones handily in Charleston, South Carolina on May 2nd and in Columbia on May 6th, the road got rockier. Back in Charleston on May 9th, Superstar was defeated by Blackjack Mulligan, but retained the title. A week later in the port city in a Lumberjack match, the results were the same. Still later in the month, Mulligan defeated the masked man by disqualification in Greenville on May 19th, and then again in Charlotte on May 24th. However, as there was no pinfall or submission, the Superstar left both towns with his NWA TV Title belt in tow.

The final Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show of the month, taped on May 28th, began with a clip of the antics of Cousin Luke Mulligan from the week before. When Bob Caudle interviewed Enforcer Luciano about the escapades of Luke, the Enforcer noted, “Yeah, I’m aware, I’m very much aware. Did you see what that character did? Cuckoo Luke is what I call him. He’s in the ring, outta the ring. He’s not even supposed to be here to wrestle! Why was he in the ring? Why did he do what he did? I have a lotta questions about this character. This guy has a hole in his marble bag, there’s no doubt about it!”

Caudle told the Enforcer that Luciano and the Superstar were ganging up on Mulligan, and that Blackjack needed help from his family. Luciano didn’t want to hear any of it, saying, “Mr. Mulligan, I respect you. You’re a big man; you’re a tough man. I’m a big man; I’m a tough man. You’re a brawler; I’m a brawler. But this Cuckoo Luke, Cousin Luke, is ridiculous! He doesn’t belong anywhere near a wrestling ring. This man could do any kind of damage he wanted to do, just because he doesn’t know any better. There’s no reason for him to be near a ring!”

Toronto Ontario, Canada saw two noteworthy cards at Maple Leaf Gardens in the month of May involving the stars from Jim Crockett Promotions. On May 4, 1980 the then-World Tag Team Champions Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine lost by disqualification to Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, but retained their belts. On that same show, Blackjack Mulligan and the Canadian Champion Dewey Robertson defeated Superstars #1 and #2. At the next Maple Leaf Gardens show on May 25th, Blackjack Mulligan unmasked Superstar #2 as being John Studd, several weeks after a number of unmaskings had already taken place in the Mid-Atlantic states. And on that same card, in a title change, the Iron Sheik bested Dewey Robertson for the Canadian Heavyweight Championship.

With Superstar #2 being unmasked and leaving the Mid-Atlantic area during the month of May, it cast a shadow over the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship which was held by the Superstars #1 and #2. The promotion came up with an answer to that quandary, vacating the title belts and setting up a one night tournament to declare new Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium was selected as the tournament venue, and the date of the tournament was set for June 2, 1980. June of 1980 in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was thus assured to get off to a red-hot start!




WORLD TAG TEAM---Ray Stevens and Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood (May 10, 1980 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina)

CANADIAN---Dewey Robertson,  Iron Sheik (May 25, 1980 at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto Ontario, Canada)

MID-ATLANTIC---Jim Brunzell, Iron Sheik (May 11, 1980 at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina)

NWA TELEVISION---Superstar #1

MID-ATLANTIC TAG TEAM---Superstar #1 and Superstar #2, VACANT (Title becomes vacant when Superstar #2 leaves area; tournament set for June 2, 1980 to crown new champions)