Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Johnny Valentine Made a Lasting Impression

by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Gateway

I have been a wrestling fan for over 40 years. While I readily admit that I do not follow the product today like I once did, the fan inside me still burns with a passion when I look back at the memories that hooked me as a child.

Johnny 'The Champ" Valentine
Pro wrestling may very well not be everyone’s bonding moment with their Dad, but indeed mine was. Sitting in the balcony on Friday nights for a bell time of 8:15 was a very special time in my childhood. The venue was the historic County Hall located in Charleston, SC. To look back now and consider the number of legendary figures from the world of professional wrestling that I witnessed in person, it is truly amazing. They all, at some time, came through the hallowed Hall.

Today the fans may not recognize names like Brute Bernard or Swede Hanson, but to me they are like names of old friends. Those special moments were times of escape for a kid who had a pretty rough time in school, who had very few friends and a very shy personality. It was those Friday nights that I looked forward to the most. My entire week was built around the trip to Charleston and being able to see my heroes in person. Unlike many who found their heroes on the big screen and could only see these “characters” on TV or in a movie, I could go see mine live, in person, every week. They were real, you could touch them, get their autograph and in so many ways, it was as real as it could be.
I cherish that time of my life. However, the greatest thrill over time has been literally getting to know so many of my childhood heroes and truly being able to call them friends. I am thankful for what Dick and David do here on the Gateway and indeed, they “keep the memories alive.”

I was looking through some pictures recently and came across one of Johnny Valentine. I was blessed to see several matches with him and Wahoo McDaniel in person. For anyone who doubted pro wrestling, that doubt was extinguished during the matches between these two. Hard hitting was the norm in a Valentine/McDaniel match. If I close my eyes I can still see and hear the very real moments that took place between the ropes when these two legends faced each other. It was magic.

In 1998, I was blessed to bring so many of the greats from the past back to County Hall for a reunion. The first of its kind, and I am proud of that fact. Many reunions have followed and many still take place to this day. I am always glad to see the legends remembered for all they gave to entertain us. My moment, however, was nearly 20 years ago, and to pull it off was an enormous task. I was blessed to have the help of Mike Mooneyham and I will be forever grateful for his help and I am honored to call him one of my best friends.

Back to Johnny Valentine: we were blessed to have him as one of our special guest that weekend. I vividly remembered the plane crash that ended his career and I knew that he did not make many appearances. It was awesome when we received word back that he had accepted the invitation to come to Charleston. I was elated, it was like stepping back in time to know that once again County Hall would see Johnny Valentine in person.

I was at the airport when he arrived and although many years had passed and a wheelchair was now his mode of transportation, there was no doubt Johnny Valentine was still a larger than life figure. It was an old-school wrestling fan moment that I remember with great joy.

Johnny Valentine at the Charleston
County Hall Reunion in 1998
The reunion weekend was incredible. The cast of characters we had there was a dream come true. At that time, I was in the beginning stages of promoting and running shows. I had formed a company and was trying to bring classic wrestling back to the Charleston area. During the reunion weekend, Johnny Valentine and I really hit it off. He asked about my plans and told me he would love to help me, if possible. I could not believe my ears, a true wrestling legend was interested in what I was doing and on top of that, he was willing to help me make it happen.

After the reunion, Johnny returned to Texas, but he and I remained in contact. It would not be that long, he would return to Charleston for a meeting and a show. We talked over many ideas and about making a real run with the promotion. I had secured some dates with a local venue and had one more chance to run County Hall.

In my book, I mentioned how incredible it was to be in a match that night and having Tommy Young as the referee. I was a kid all over again, but there would be one more moment that would take place later that year and one that I will never forget.

I was planning my next show, Johnny Valentine was scheduled to be there, Swede Hanson was also making an appearance. While speaking with Johnny, he asked me if he could book the show. It was not a hard decision and I gave him all the information he needed and left it in his most capable hands.

What I did not know was his plans for the heel character that I portrayed, called the Masked Unknown. It would be on that night that Johnny Valentine decided I should win the title and create the classic babyface-chasing-the-champion scenario. So with Swede Hanson as the special referee, I, (with maybe a hand full of tights) won the match and was crowned champion. The little kid in me was turning flips. It was one of the most special and most fun times of my life.

I will never forget the special time I spent with Johnny Valentine. The wonderful stories he shared, the laughs and his advice. He even did an interview on local television and announced himself as the creative consultant of my promotion.

Looking back on that time I can say, without hesitation, that I had the time of my life. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling, I still hear the voice of Bob Caudle on Saturday mornings, I still smell the popcorn and beer at County Hall, I still see the incredible matches and legendary figures of a time that has gone by, but to be able to say I shared personal time with my heroes is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Johnny Valentine has since left us and stepped into Eternity, but his memory still lives on in this fans heart, thanks Champ!

 * * * * * * * * * *


Order your copy of "Reunion at County Hall" on Amazon.com
Black & White Version   |   Color Version

Read the review by Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier
Wrestling Book Takes a Look at County Hall 



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Gateway Interivew: Tony Schiavone (Part 5)

It's Sunday, so it's Schiavone time on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, where we talk with Tony about his days as a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling before he went to work for Jim Crockett Promotions.

This week on WHW: The Great
American Bash '88 in Baltimore!
With the launch of his podcast "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) on the MLW Radio Network where Tony and Conrad Thompson will discuss Tony's career with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, we thought it would be fun as fans to hear Tony talk about his experiences before he got started in a career that would eventually lead to him becoming one of wrestling's most recognizable broadcasters. These are Tony's memories as a fan.

So now enjoy PART 5 of what we like to call "Sundays with Schiavone." And be sure to check out the earlier installments of David Chappell's interview with Tony: PART 1  PART 2   PART 3   PART 4

- Dick Bourne

* * * * *

PART 5  

David Chappell: The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV shows were the absolute best…I would go to great lengths to never miss a show.

Tony Schiavone: David, I can tell you this…I remember this. My father passed away in ‘74 like I said, and I graduated from high school in ’76. Before he passed away, we talked about me going to college at Penn State, because that’s where he was from and we had relatives in Pennsylvania and I was going to go up there and live with them...

Chappell: I think I may know where you’re going with this.

Schiavone: Well, he passed away in ’74 and I started watching wrestling and I remember my Mom saying, ‘Now that your father’s passed away, I don’t know if we can afford to send you to Penn State.’ And I remember thinking in my mind at that time, ‘It’s okay Mom, I don’t think I would want to leave this area, because I want to see Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling!’ (laughs)

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: (laughs) That’s how big it was in my eyes! I really thought; I didn’t want to leave the area. Of course, I probably could have gotten into the WWWF up there back then, but I remember thinking, ‘Man, I don’t want to leave Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling!’

Chappell: I had the EXACT same thought process when I went away to law school outside of the Mid-Atlantic area in the fall of 1984. Luckily, that was about the same time Crockett began to expand outside of the Carolinas and Virginia so I really didn’t miss anything for those three years.

The Greensboro Coliseum (1988)
Schiavone: Yeah! Then of course my life really changed after I graduated from college. I get a job in Greensboro, which to me was fantastic, that’s where I watched wrestling, right?

Chappell: The Mecca of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling...

Schiavone: I’m going to go down there and watch wrestling! Oddly enough, I go to Greensboro, get a job, meet Lois…then we fall in love and I get married. And all of a sudden with Lois and baseball, wrestling kind of gets pushed to the back.

Chappell: Real life enters the equation.

Schiavone: Here I am in Greensboro, where I saw all those great matches, right? I remember, one of her brothers, Dan; we went to the Greensboro Coliseum and we saw Flair and Steamboat in a cage, and it was a long match.

Chappell: Bet it was a classic!

Schiavone: It was, but I remember sitting down with Dan thinking in my mind, ‘Here I am again, but my life has changed dramatically…I’m not with the gang; I’m not hanging out with my friends. I’m just kind of going here, like, why not?’

Chappell: I’m with you 100% on that, Tony. For me in the 70s, wrestling was the biggest thing in my life…I think that’s why I remember it so well. But as you get older and real life starts to kick in and you have adult responsibilities, then wrestling is no longer the be-all-end-all. It’s just not the same. But you know even as the many years have passed, I’ll still see something at wrestling shows at the Richmond Coliseum that will remind me of the Blackjack-Flair split, or some other classic angle from the Mid-Atlantic days.

Schiavone: One of my fondest memories was the split between Blackjack and Flair. When Blackjack had that bag and pulled all that stuff out of the bag…the pantyhose and all that stuff?

Chappell: Yes, from the van that Blackjack said they owned together and he was cleaning out after the split!

Schiavone: Flair came out with the hat and tore up his hat, and [Blackjack] came out with Flair’s robe on and tore up Flair’s robe!


Chappell: Classic stuff! We have a very in-depth piece on that whole story and angle on the Gateway.

Schiavone: To me, in the Mid-Atlantic days, that angle is number one.

Chappell: I don’t think you’ll get much of an argument on that pick!

Schiavone: The old adage was back then David, or the old adage has always been since I’ve been in the business, the best time to turn a heel babyface is when he’s red-hot as a heel.

Chappell: Yes…

Schiavone: Blackjack was a tremendous heel. I loved the way he talked. We liked Blackjack…we wanted him to turn babyface and he did. We really loved him, and I remember a couple of things about that angle that were kind of odd.

Chappell: What were they?

Schiavone: It seemed like Blackjack was kind of turning babyface before he and Flair did the split. There was an interview that the Masked Superstar did, I think it may have been done in Japan, and he was coming back to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling for one reason, and he kind of drug out the interview. And the reason he was coming back was to get vengeance…

Chappell: I remember that well because it was the last time I recall Superstar appearing on television with his manager, Boris Malenko. The deal I think was that Superstar was in a world tournament overseas. Superstar said an ex-friend that he used to confide him had caused Malenko’s suspension. It turned out the ex-friend was Mulligan.

Schiavone: Another part I remember about the Blackjack turn…was at the Richmond Coliseum.

Chappell: Near and dear to my heart!

Schiavone: We would sit in Richmond, David, we didn’t sit ringside but we would try to sit where the heels would come out…they would come out under us.

Chappell: I know the exact location you’re talking about.

Schiavone: Okay, that’s where we would sit. I remember Blackjack was wrestling as a heel, but heels came in and jumped him. Not so sure who they all were, but they ran out and jumped on his ass. And one of them was Baron von Raschke…

Chappell: Oh yeah, I remember that!

Schiavone: And Blackjack fought them off, and Paul Jones came out to help him…

Chappell: Paul Jones, who was his great rival over the U.S. belt in all those amazing matches. Man, Tony, that’s great recall!

Schiavone: (laughs) Yeah, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday! So, Paul Jones helped him and Blackjack reached his hand out to shake Paul Jones’ hand, and like you said he and Paul Jones had all those great matches, and Paul Jones did what he always did…he kind of looked around and said, ‘Should I shake his hand, should I shake his hand?’

Chappell: Asking the crowd for guidance…

Schiavone: Then Blackjack reached his hand out again…and Paul Jones shook it!

Chappell: That was an amazing moment…for that to happen after all the matches they had against each other.

Schiavone: I remember that night, and one of the things I remember about it was Baron von Raschke running out and Hippie said, ‘Here comes that flatfooted son of a bitch…I can hear him running!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: (laughs) I don’t know why that sticks out…'that flatfooted son of a bitch!'

Chappell: It’s funny how little things like that will stick out and you’ll remember them years later…the same things happens with my Mid-Atlantic memories from the Richmond Coliseum. Do you have any other wrestling memories from the Richmond Coliseum?

Schiavone: We were also in the Richmond Coliseum when Snuka and Orndorff won the World Tag Team Championships.

Chappell: Right, that was around Christmastime 1978 when they beat Greg Valentine and Hippie’s buddy, Baron von Raschke. That was huge! I think that card was on a Tuesday night, rather than Richmond’s normal Friday night slot.

Schiavone: Yes it was.

Chappell: If a Richmond Coliseum card wasn’t on Friday, it usually meant something was up. In this instance, I think they wanted the title change on Tuesday so they could announce the change at the Wednesday TV tapings. I remember they brought Snuka and Orndorff out as the new World Tag Team champs the next night, which was the TV taping for the 1978 year in review show.

Schiavone: I was kind of unfamiliar where TV was taped then. I do remember they had Joe Murnick as the ring announcer on TV?

Chappell: Oh yes…he was outstanding! Great voice!

Schiavone: I can remember him doing some ring announcing. You’re absolutely right, what a great voice!

Chappell: The title switch to Snuka and Orndorff was right about the time Joe Murnick stopped doing the ring announcing on TV, and they just had Bob Caudle announce the wrestlers in the ring with a split screen.

And in the Richmond Coliseum title switch to Snuka and Orndorff, didn’t the Baron attack the referee after the match?

Schiavone: Yeah, he sure did!

Chappell: And I think the Baron got suspended for 30 days or something like that for striking the ref.

Schiavone: You’re exactly right.

Chappell: The Richmond Coliseum had so many incredible Mid-Atlantic cards.

Schiavone: Yes…we went to the Richmond Coliseum a lot!

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for PART SIX of our ongoing interview with Tony Schiavone. And don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Some links to things talked about in Part 5:
The Legend of the Hat and Robe by Dick Bourne
The Wonderful Voice of Joe Murnich on the Studio Wrestling website
Top 15 Cards in Richmond - #2 by David Chappell (on the Gateway Archive website)

Previous installments in this series: PART 1  PART 2   PART 3   PART 4

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday


Friday, February 24, 2017

Anticipation Building for Mid-Atlantic Wrestle Expo in Richmond

http://www.wrestleexporva.com(Note: We have been notified that the Wrestle Expo event scheduled for May 19-20 in Richmond has been cancelled. ) 

Anticipation continues to grow for the first ever Mid-Atlantic Wrestle Expo in Richmond, VA this May. The event takes place May 19-20 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center downtown, right next to the famous and historic Richmond Coliseum that hosted many great Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions events over many years.

The list of talent appearing at the Wrestle Expo continues to grow and includes:

Demolition (Bill Eadie and Barry Darsaw), Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson of the Rock & Roll Express, James J. Dillon, Nikita Koloff, Jimmy Valiant, Road Warrior Animal, Greg Valentine, The original Patriot (Del Wilkes), Bushwhacker Luke, Jim Cornette, Tommy Dreamer, the Barbarian, CW Anderson, Vader, Tommy Rich, Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics, George South, Nikolia Volkoff, Magnum T.A. and many others!

Plus former WWE executive Bruce Prichard and former WCW executive Eric Bischoff will be making appearances, along with legendary referees Tommy Young and Earl & Dave Hebner. The Crockett Foundation will also be there.

And don't miss Richmond's own Rich Landrum, the voice of "World Wide Wrestling" for Jim Crockett Promotions from 1978-1982, who will also be a big part of the event.

The event features a big dinner Friday night, special Q&A sessions on Saturday, and a wrestling event that Saturday night. Plus autograph sessions and photo-ops throughout the day on Saturday. 

A full list of wrestlers and talent scheduled to appear as well as a full schedule of the event and ticket information can all be found on the official Wrestle Expo website.

Don't miss the biggest fan event of the spring - - the Mid-Atlantic Wrestle Expo in Richmond!


SI Media Podcast interviews Conrad Thompson

Richard Deitsch interviewed our friend Conrad Thompson on his SI Media Podcast for Sports Illustrated. It is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the enormously successful podcasts that Conrad developed and co-hosts with Bruce Prichard (Something to Wrestle With) and Tony Schiavone (What Happened When Monday) on the MLW Radio Network.

As most of you know, Conrad was an instrumental part of helping me research and put together my book "Big Gold" about wrestling's most famous and storied championship belt. 

This podcast is also a nice look at Conrad's background and how a Huntsville, Alabama mortgage banker wound up developing two of the nation's most popular pro-wrestling podcasts (ans two of the most popular sports podcasts, period.)

Deitsch and producer Lou Pellegrino do an outstanding job with this bonus edition of the SI Media Podcast. We've embedded it above via Soundcloud, or you can download it on all major podcasting platforms.  - Dick Bourne


Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Embarrasement of Riches for Paul Jones in 1975

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In the illustrious Jim Crockett Promotions career of “Number 1” Paul Jones, a career that spanned from the late 1960s through the late 1980s, Paul experienced an untold number of high water marks. But there was probably no higher high for Paul than in the late autumn of 1975, immediately after Jones defeated Terry Funk for the United States Heavyweight Championship on November 27, 1975 in the Greensboro Coliseum.

Paul’s first interview as the new United States Champion on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television was conducted on December 3, 1975. Having just aced the U.S. belt, Jones was considered the number one contender for the NWA World Heavyweight Title in many circles. And at that time, Paul was also the reigning Mid-Atlantic Television Champion. Truly, an embarrassment of riches for Mr. #1!

Announcer Bob Caudle began the show, telling the fans, “First of all, we have a guest right here with a new championship belt…the new U.S. Heavyweight Champion Paul Jones, and Paul, you defeated Terry Funk.” Jones slipped onto the set and emotionally replied, “Well, that’s right. I’m so proud of this belt, I’m lost for words. But I want to say, I want to thank the people that stood behind me, the long fight to get this belt, and finally I won it, and I just feel great all over.”

However, not all of Paul’s news was good. Jones continued:

“But I also have some bad news tonight. You know, this Mid-Atlantic TV belt here…I’ve won this belt three times. It’s real close to me, and I feel like…the U.S. belt, I’m going to have to travel all over the United States to defend this belt in every city every state, so I feel like I won’t be able to do justice to the TV belt, which I have a lot of respect for and I’m real proud of it.” Paul then broke the bad news about his TV belt, explaining, “But what I’m going to have to do; I’m going to have to put it up for grabs. As much as I hate to, with all the hard matches I’ve had to win this belt. So I hate to do it, but I feel like I wouldn’t be doing the TV belt any justice by keeping it and carrying it around the country with me, and I’m just going to put it up for grabs.”


Caudle commiserated with Jones, commenting, “Well Paul, I know you hate to do that, like you say you’ve had it for a long, long time and it’s a beautiful belt.” Jones replied, “It really is, and I hate to part with it, but this belt here, I have to defend it all over the United States…and I just don’t have time.” Caudle countered, “Well, Paul, you’re going to be a great champion, a great U.S. Heavyweight Champion, I’m sure of that, and congratulations to you again.” Jones answered, “Thank you Bob,” as he exited the interview area.

Before running down the television card, Caudle interjected, “So Paul Jones, the new U.S. Heavyweight Champion, and David, he is relinquishing this TV championship belt.” Color commentator David Crockett offered, “And one thing, Paul has made this Mid-Atlantic TV championship belt mean more than any other TV championship belt in the whole United States.” Caudle added, “No doubt.” Crockett continued, “And also, when Paul Jones won the United States Heavyweight Championship from Terry Funk, he had to go through the whole Funk family, so that’s a great accomplishment, because Terry Funk is one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, and Paul Jones has the right to win that belt…he’s something else.”

‘Something else’ was the right way to phrase it, as Paul Jones was unquestionably on top of the wrestling heap in December of 1975, to the point he gave up an excess title! An embarrassment of riches for sure, but wrestling wealth that was well-earned and well-deserved in the minds of his legions of Mid-Atlantic fans.

Re-published on August 16, 2020.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Moving Video Honoring the Life of Ivan Koloff

Highspots.com and HighspotsWrestlingNetwork.com have released a free video in memory of wrestling legend Ivan Koloff titled "The Russian Bear" Honoring the life of Ivan Koloff. It's one you shouldn't miss seeing.

"Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff
Mid-Atlantic Champion
Ivan Koloff, one of pro wrestling's biggest stars passed away on Saturday February 18 at the age of 74 after fighting liver disease for a decade.

The video can be found here:

Ivan is best known as a Russian bad guy who did the impossible in Madison Square Garden in 1971 when he defeated WWWF World Champion Bruno Sammartino in one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history as it ended Bruno's 8 year reign as champion. That match is a moment that Bruno will never forget.

"That night in the Garden when Ivan beat me I really believe that was a first in the history of wrestling. Because people were so stunned that night there was a fear of a riot but it was the complete opposite." said Bruno. "You could hear a pin drop. We had twenty-two thousand people paralyzed. They couldn't believe it because as you know I had been champion for eight years."


Ivan was also famously remembered for his role in Jim Crockett Promotions as "Uncle" Ivan to his nephew "Nikita" (seen in the graphic above) and later in life Ivan shed his mean Russian gimmick to be known by fans as a gentle man who put his lord and savior Jesus Christ first.

"Everyone knew Ivan as "Uncle Ivan" and I called him that as well but we here at Highspots knew Ivan as a friend. Ivan was someone we loved working with and enjoyed hearing his stories about his career and life." said Michael Bochicchio, owner of Highspots. "We wanted to honor the life of Ivan by sharing his stories and the stories of others who knew him well. That's why we put a free video on our website highspotswrestlingnetwork.com for everyone to enjoy. We we blessed to work with Ivan one last time this past November as he shared his stories about Dusty Rhodes with our cameras. Ivan deserves all the respect in the world from wrestling fans and we want to show our respect by keeping his memory alive anyway we can."

You can view the free hour long tribute for Ivan at highspotswrestlingnetwork.com 


Blooper! Ricky Steamboat Wrestles Ricky Steamboat!

Hampton, VA  April 20, 1980

Holy cow! Not sure if this counts as a blooper or if this is the result of a late-night desk editor's acid trip.

Check out these results in the Newport News Daily Press from an April 1980 card at the Hampton Coliseum.

We always knew Paul Jones was really the devil; the Daily Press just confirmed it for us. Plus, he lost a "fench" match - - whatever the heck that is.

And it is no mean feat to wrestle yourself - - and get disqualified against yourself - - as was apparently accomplished by Ricky Steamboat.

Ray Stevens was actually Steamboat's scheduled opponent that night in Hampton. Perhaps he no-showed and Steamboat put himself in a choke hold and failed to break by the count of five.

And having nothing to do with these bloopers, but could there have possibly been a slower moving tag team in 1980 than Ox Baker and Brute Bernard? I actually kind of dig that combination. Slow, yes, but don't let them catch you!

Thanks to Mark Eastridge for the clipping and Mike Cline for the line about Steamboat. You can view more classic newspaper bloopers by clicking here.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Remembering the Crazy Koloff/Valiant Feud

by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Hearing the news of the passing of Ivan Koloff was sad. Ivan was one of those characters from the wrestling world that was always believable. The memories are far too many to record in one writing. The phenomenal electricity/anger he could muster from a crowd by just entering the arena is something that cannot be taught. Ivan was truly a natural.

Just as powerful of a character as Ivan Koloff was, those he feuded with equally made the matches something special. Today, while reflecting, I remember the truly special times Ivan shared with the one and only “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant, another “one of a kind” talent in his own right. The feud was red-hot that year and the local promos for the upcoming matches were always a favorite time of mine during the weekly broadcast. (I sure do miss those.)

The show was coming to Sumter, SC. The hook for me was the New York City street fight between The Russian Bear and the Boogie Man. It was must-see for me. The promos back then, were ones that sold tickets. Ivan promised to hand a very clear defeat to Jimmy, but the Boogie Man had a different kind of promise. He told everyone that he was going to strip “the Bear” naked. I can still hear it right now.  “Wooo! Mercy daddy, I’m gonna strip ya naked, like the day you was born, yeah!”

So, not only did the Boogie man promise a good old fashion whipping, he promised to embarrass the Russian villain for all he had done and his terrible attitude toward America. No one expected a classic Lou Thesz-style match that day. Instead, everyone came to watch a fight and I can tell you -- they both delivered.

There were fists, chains, chairs, blood and chaos as both had promised to bring that day, but there was also the other promise Jimmy Valiant had made: stripping Ivan naked. Little by little as the match proceeded, Jimmy began to tear off the clothes of the Russian Bear until he was down to his wrestling singlet. The crowd was cheering every moment. The back and forth match seemed to be going Ivan’s way, but the Boogie Man brought out his trusty chain (hiding in his boot) and got the knockout punch on Ivan for the 1-2-3.

The cheers were deafening, but the promise to strip the bear “bare naked” had not been completed, so as Ivan was still reeling from the effects of the chain, Jimmy, indeed grabbed Ivan’s tights and pulled them down. Instantly Ivan grabbed his crotch (covering himself) and dashed toward the dressing room, with his naked butt shining for all to see. It was a truly funny moment and being true to his word, the Boogie Man, sent the crowd home happy.

Later in life, I was blessed to be at a ministry event with Ivan. We shared some wonderful memories and our mutual love for the Lord. I reminded Ivan of this story with Jimmy and he laughed while saying “Oh, that Jimmy, there is only one.” Indeed, Jimmy is a unique character and Ivan certainly was too. These great characters from our childhood will live on forever in our memories. When we lose one, it is absolutely like losing an old friend.

Thanks for the memories, Ivan, you will be missed. Until we meet again in Heaven.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Part 4)

We all remember what it was like to be a fan of wrestling when we were young, no matter what area of the country you lived in or what wrestling territory you first discovered. Tony Schiavone grew up in Virginia a big fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, watching with his Uncle John as a kid and later driving the 6+ hour round trip to Greensboro to see classic matches that took place there.

So with the launch of his podcast "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) on the MLW Radio Network where Tony and Conrad Thompson will look back on memorable moments in wrestling through his career with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, we thought it would be fun as fans to hear Tony talk about his experiences before he got started in a career that would eventually lead to him becoming one of wrestling's most recognizable broadcasters. There are Tony's memories as a fan.

After all - - David Chappell and I are the same age as Tony and we grew discovering Mid-Atlantic Wrestling during the exact same time period as he did. So this is the most fun for us, getting his memories and perspective on things that we love talking about.

So now enjoy PART 4 of what we like to call "Sundays with Schiavone." And be sure to check out the earlier installments of David Chappell's interview with Tony: PART 1  PART 2   PART 3

- Dick Bourne

* * * * *


David Chappell: Spot shows in the Mid-Atlantic area were great, but nothing beat going to a live show at a coliseum or a building in a bigger town, wouldn’t you agree?

Tony Schiavone: I didn’t know they were called spot shows then, but at the spot shows Butchie and I never saw a title switch and we never saw blood…and that’s what we wanted to see. I guess they just wouldn’t bleed for those spot shows!

Chappell: (laughs) It’s a shame you had to travel further to see blood!

Schiavone: So, we would go to Roanoke and we would see blood and we would see triple main events. (laughs) I remember Butchie the first time we saw blood saying ‘TONY, WE SAW BLOOD…WE SAW THEM BLEED!’ We were so excited!

Chappell: (laughs) And we’ll be coming back to the Roanoke Civic Center!

Schiavone: (laughs) That’s right! But we would never see a title switch, so then we would go to Greensboro…

Chappell: You definitely saw title switches there!

Schiavone: Yes, then we saw title switches. I know I saw Wahoo beat Greg Valentine for the Mid-Atlantic Championship.

Chappell: Right, the payoff in early 1978 from when Greg broke Wahoo’s leg. But then Wahoo lost it right back to Ken Patera.

Schiavone: I saw the U.S. Title and the World Tag Team Titles switch hands in Greensboro.

Greensboro ring announcer Tom Miller and RicFlair
Chappell: Going to Greensboro back in those days, you saw some of the greatest matches put on anywhere in the world. Do you have a favorite that comes to mind?

Schiavone: David, I’ll tell you the greatest match I’ve ever seen. The way we found out about the match, because we didn’t live in the Greensboro market, was that Tom Miller would announce it on the show before.

Chappell: Right, Truckin’ Tom Miller, the legendary ring announcer in Greensboro!

Schiavone: Right! Truckin’ Tom would say, ‘Fans coming to the Greensboro Coliseum, our next event will be October 23rd' or whatever. So one time he announced, ‘And you will see, the World Tag Team Champions DUSTY RHODES AND DICK SLATER defend their tag team belts against Ric Flair and Greg Valentine!’

Chappell: Yes, I remember Rhodes and Slater, who weren’t in Jim Crockett Promotions then, originally being billed as the champs for that match!

Schiavone: All right, now here’s what happened. We came back [to Greensboro], and it wasn’t Slater and Dusty, it was the Anderson Brothers.

Chappell: Yep!

Schiavone: Which kind of pissed me off!

Vintage Audio: Greg Valentine and Ric Flair promote their scheduled match with Rhodes and Slater

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: (laughs) But, nevertheless okay, that match… [the Anderson Brothers] dropped the straps to Valentine and Flair, that match was like the greatest match I had ever seen!

Chappell: And to be there in person for that historic October 30, 1977 title change…unbelievable. I believe Gene Anderson was injured in that match.

Schiavone: I remember I had a friend of mine with me, named Tommy, and we went to the event and as the event was going on I remember looking at Tommy and saying, ‘This is the best match I’ve ever seen!’

Chappell: What made that match the absolute best in your mind?


Schiavone: (pauses) I guess because we had four great workers, right?

Chappell: For sure.

Schiavone: But the fact of how they would get heat on each other, and they would go down on the floor and they would bleed…

Chappell: (laughs) I figured you’d mention the blood!

Schiavone: Yeah, and the other team would make a comeback, and then they would stop the heat.

Chappell: I bet the ebb and flow was tremendous, and you had a title change to boot.

Schiavone: You know, Flair and Valentine weren’t babyfaces back then…

Chappell: They were definitely heels back then. This was a “Battle of the Bullies” type deal.

Schiavone: Yeah, it really was. And then I remember later on, Tommy and I…his nickname was ‘Hippie.’

Chappell: (laughs) You mean like the 1960s hippies?

Schiavone: Everybody had nicknames when I was growing up! He would always go with me to Greensboro…others would always come up with some excuse, but Hippie would always go.

Chappell: Smart man, that Hippie!

Schiavone: Hippie and I would always try to get the ringside seats that were at the end zone where the wrestlers came out. And we would always try to get the ringside seats, you know where the first eight or nine maybe ten rows were on the floor but then they would have risers, that would go up a little bit…

Chappell: Better sight lines.

Schiavone: Right, so we would get seats that were on the risers so like you said David, we didn’t have to look around people’s heads!

Chappell: Certainly makes for a better viewing experience.

Schiavone: And we tried to get the ones on the end, where the heels came out…because we wanted to see them up close and we wanted to boo at ‘em!

Chappell: (laughs) Of course!

Schiavone: And I remember we went to Roanoke one time and all these heels came out and we booed ‘em, and Angelo Mosca came out and we were too afraid to boo him!

Chappell: (laughs) Completely understandable! They didn’t call him “Big Nasty” for nothing!

Schiavone: He looked big AND bad, okay?

Chappell: No doubt…

Schiavone: (laughs) Yeah, then after I got to know him years later I really got to like him. He was kind of a jovial old big guy and I remember telling him, ‘You scared the hell out of me one day, and now look at you!’

Chappell: (laughs) I’d be interested to hear what you think made Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling one of the best, if not the best, territory in the professional wrestling world.

Schiavone: Well, I didn’t watch any of the other territories. The only way I heard about the other territories was reading about them in the magazines.

Chappell: Right…

Schiavone: The magazines were how you found out about the other territories…

Chappell: It’s hard to believe, now that we’re in the Internet age, but that was very true back in the 1970s.

Schiavone: But I think what made [Mid-Atlantic] great was the great workers. Like Flair and Mulligan, like the Andersons…like Tim Woods, like Ricky Steamboat.

Chappell: We were blessed to see some phenomenal talent over the years.

Schiavone: David, that’s kind of a hard question. I just knew that I loved it.

Chappell: I think maybe a better way to have phrased the question would be what did you enjoy most about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. Because you’re absolutely right, most of us didn’t see the other territories back then to compare Crockett to.

Schiavone: I think back then the Crockett’s knew how to make you want to watch them. And it’s an art that’s long gone…because they show everything on TV now.

Chappell: Yep, very true.

Schiavone: But you would watch those TV shows knowing that you would not necessarily see a good match, you’d see a squash match or a job match, whatever we’d call it now.

But you’d still watch it because you’d watch it for the interviews; you’d watch it for those two and a half minute interviews to see where Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was coming to your town…

Chappell: Yes…

Schiavone: And sometimes you would tune in and you’d see Ricky Steamboat win the television title or see a title switch or see some sort of angle. But to me back then, the angles and the interviews were what drew you in and made you watch, and not necessarily a great match between two guys.

Chappell: The TV show was done to get you out to buy a ticket for the arena shows, but it was still must see TV.

Schiavone: Exactly…it was just the way they packaged it, and the characters they had, that made me come back week after week!

* * * * * * *

Stay tuned for PART FIVE of our ongoing interview with Tony Schiavone. And don't miss Tony's podcast this Monday with co-host Conrad Thompson. It's "What Happened When" (WHW Monday) and it drops every Monday on the MLW Radio Network and everywhere you get your podcasts.

Read all about the world tag team title match that never was - -Rhodes & Slater defending the NWA World Tag Team titles against Ric Flair and Greg Valentine in Greensboro - - and how that led to the greatest match Tony ever saw as a fan: Rhodes and Slater defend the World Tag Team Titles in the Mid-Atlantic Area - - Almost by Dick Bourne.

See also:

Memories of Pro Wrestling That Will Never Grow Old by Tony Schiavone
Conrad Thompson Announces New Podcast with Tony Schiavone

Follow Tony Schiavone at @tonyschiavone24
Follow Conrad Thompson at @heyheyitsconrad
Follow the MLW Radio Network at @MWL
Follow Tony's podcast at @WHWMonday

Check out Tony's new T-Shirts and support the WHW Monday podcast!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ivan Koloff: Rest in Peace

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway is saddened to learn of the death of Ivan Koloff, who has passed away following a battle with liver cancer.  He was 74 years old.

Ivan was one of the true legends in professional wrestling and also one of the nicest people we ever met, in or out of the business.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of the great Ivan Koloff.

by Mike Johnson, PWInsider

Saturday TV: World Wide Wrestling 2/27/88

United States Heavyweight Championship
Steel Cage Match
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes 
vs. Bobby Eaton

Friday, February 17, 2017

NWA Champions for Jim Crockett Promotions - Summer 1978

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In the mid-1970s, one of the weekly rituals on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" each week was when Bob Caudle or Les Thatcher would read over the list of current champions as recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance. Ed Capral would do the same thing on "Wide World Wrestling." It was one of my favorite parts of the program and was a tradition in those days. The practice ended sometime in the late 1970s.

In by the late 1970s when I finally got to attend some of the Crockett shows in Asheville, NC and Spartanburg, SC, I started buying "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine" which was published by the promotion and served as a program at the local arena events. I was delighted to see that each issue featured that same list of champions that they once read on television. 

Below is a sample of that list which always filled a page of those magazines and featured photos of the champions, along with their height, weight, hometown, and who they defeated for their title.

It's usually the smallest things I miss the most, and the roll call of champions is near the top of that list. It was important who held the championships. The championships (and the belts that represented them) were important in those days, and presented in an important way.  


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Road Jackets for Jim Crockett Promotions (1985)

It would be pretty cool to have a complete collection of these satin jackets today. They were sold by Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985 and 1986, primarily through mail order out of their in-house magazine.

The jackets feature some of the earliest designs for JCP as they worked to get merchandising off the ground in those years.

The wrestlers featured included a team jacket for "America's Team" Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A., as well as individual logos for each of them. Also featured were Ric Flair, Manny Fernandez, and the Rock and Roll Express.

The jackets sold for a whopping $50, which was a lot of money back in the mid-1980s. I'm guessing not a whole lot of them were sold. However, those same logos appeared on caps and t-shirts as well, which likely sold better, especially at the arenas.

My personal favorite, strictly from a design standpoint, was the logo for Dusty Rhodes, which had a great western look and evoked an image that just said "TEXAS" with the star in the center of the letter "O" in Rhodes. The Ric Flair design is great looking, too, and a variation was used in the famous "I Do It With Flair" t-shirt of the same era.