Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Blackjack Mulligan is Back--With a Vengance (Part 2)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

This is a continuation of the post Blackjack is Back--With a Vengance (Part 1) 

PART TWO  (Catch up with Part 1)

After giving the fans on the October 15, 1975 Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show a dominating victory over young Kevin Sullivan, a clearly energized returning Blackjack Mulligan spelled out to announcer Bob Caudle his vendetta against Wahoo McDaniel and his plans going forward.

Ed Capral with Blackjack Mulligan and Ric Flair
When the television tapings continued later that night at the WRAL studios in Raleigh, Mulligan continued to be in rare form! On the Wide World Wrestling TV show, Blackjack thoroughly demolished the up-and-comer Ron Starr, and then turned his attention to the fans and announcer Ed Capral. Before Capral could barely utter a word, Mulligan interrupted and exclaimed, “Let me ask you one question Mr. Announcer. What do you do, what can you say when you give a man your best punch? You hit ‘em with everything you’ve got? You have your best day, you give your heart and soul…you hit ‘em and he goes down and he gets back up. What do you do?” Of course, the hyped-up Mulligan didn’t give Capral a chance to answer!

Blackjack continued unabated, “I’ve been hit with everything the Indian can throw; I have been hit with everything that Paul Jones can throw. I have been hit with everything Rufus can throw…the headbutt does not work on Blackjack Mulligan; Kenneth Patera’s muscles are synthetic!” After bashing the territory’s “good guys,” the big Texan wanted to let the fans know exactly who they were going to see in the months to come.

Mulligan ranted, “Let me tell you a natural fact…they have no idea where I came from; I do not know how to submit. They think my granddaddy was a wildcat and my momma was a rattlesnake…they’re not sure. They found me floating down the Rio Grande in a Cadillac hubcap! I’m comin’ in as class brother, and I’m going out as class. And I will not stop. Let ‘em look, let ‘em stop and look just for one second at a world class wrestler.”

It then appeared the big man was going to engage Capral, saying, “How many wrestlers have you seen in your day? How many wrestlers have you seen come down the pike? When Capral tried to reply, Mulligan shut him down shouting, “Stop trying to butt in, I’ll answer that!” Blackjack then elaborated, “None with so much; too much power…six foot eight and 300 pounds. I weighed 97 pounds and was five foot two the day I was born! Believe me, just too much power; too much everything! Blackjack Mulligan’s got it all!”

Blackjack Mulligan battles
Wahoo McDaniel in a strap match.
The modest Texan then turned his attention to his most hated rival at the time, bellowing, “Wahoo McDaniel, I want to stop right here for a second. I want to show everybody these deep cuts in my back! He put ‘em in there…he strapped me. He strapped me in front of my kin folks! He strapped me in front of my Uncle Red; he strapped me in front of my granddaddy. I took a beatin’ that day, but I got up like a man; I’m not a quitter!”

Mulligan ended the interview on Wide World Wrestling with a self-assessment, concluding, “I have maintained my national ranking…get it straight. Get it right! I am ranked number one in the nation, number one in the world. I am the greatest wrestler in the world, the greatest wrestler of all time!”

An obviously taken aback Capral quipped, “Blackjack Mulligan…if you don’t believe he’s great, just ask him!” But the announcer then added, “And obviously this man can back up what he says.” The last point was the significant one, as Mulligan would light up the reeling territory, and set it on a course of greatness for many years to come. The Mid-Atlantic area desperately needed a shot in the arm in the middle of October of 1975, and Blackjack Mulligan provided that and then some. The rocket-ship called Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was now ready for lift-off!


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wrestlers and Their T-Shirts

Well, that seems like an odd topic for a post on the Gateway, doesn't it?

Long before there was ProWrestlingTees.com, wrestlers just wore whatever t-shirt they thought to throw in their bag that morning. But it always interested me what they chose. This oddball interest, I simply cannot explain.

Top left: Rocky Johnson (Sweet Ebony Diamond), "Steve Rickard's Gymnasium and Health Clinic, Wellington, New Zealand." Steve Rickard was the NWA promoter in New Zealand and brought many of the top U.S. stars to his promotion down under.

Top right: Dewey Robertson, "Moosehead Beer." Dewey was Canadian and Moosehead was Canada's "proudly independent" brewery. Headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick and still independently owned to this day.

Bottom left: Roddy Piper, "Master." Piper had all sorts of t-shirts, most of  them looked like he had them printed up at a local mall. He had some classics. This wasn't necessarily one of them, but I liked the photo with the pipes and U.S. belt.

Bottom right: Wahoo McDaniel, "The King's Gym - Body Building." No idea where this gym was, but would like to know, so if you have info, smarten us up. Wahoo never spent much time in the gym, but that was only because he was too busy fishing and golfing. One of pro-wrestling's greatest atheltes and according to ost everyone that stood across the ring from him one of the toughest men to ever walk the planet.

We thank Steve Davies for sharing his photographs with the world.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday TV: NWA Pro Wrestling (8/23/86)

Featuring an NWA title defense: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, Baby Doll's infamous heel turn, a near riot, my favorite Ric Flair robe, Bob Caudle and Johnny Weaver, and one of the craziest bumps you'll ever see by Sam Houston in his match with Buddy Landel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blackjack is Back - - With a Vengance (Part 1)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The tragic airplane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 4, 1975 threw Jim Crockett Promotions off its stride, and understandably so. Both the promotion and the fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling were in a state of disbelief. Wrestlers were badly hurt, and spirits were low. But it didn’t take long for somebody to reappear in the territory and shake the area out of the doldrums. Blackjack Mulligan was back…with a vengeance!

At the end of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on October 15, 1975, announcer Bob Caudle told the fans, “And moving in here with us at ringside right now, he’s been gone for many months…Blackjack Mulligan!” The mammoth Mulligan appeared on the set, and came out red hot! Blackjack exclaimed, “Stop everything you’re doing for just a second! It’s not a mirage…you are seeing it. Mulligan is back! Like a bad disease no matter whatever happens, the pride of the prairie, the wonder-man from West Texas has returned!”

Mulligan then proceeded to tell the fans what he had been doing since the late spring of 1975, when he abruptly departed the Mid-Atlantic area. Blackjack continued, “I’ve been on the wild prairie, I’ve been digging fence posts, I’ve been rindin’ wild broncs, I’ve been doin’ it all brother. And now I’m back!”

Blackjack then commented on why he came back to the Mid-Atlantic territory, stating that the main reason was to get revenge against the talented Indian, Wahoo McDaniel. Mulligan left Jim Crockett Promotions all of a sudden at the end of May after Wahoo brutally beat him in a string of violent Indian Strap matches. Mulligan clearly was still perturbed about those bouts, and loudly proclaimed, “Take a look at this back! Take a look at these stripes that that dirty rotten Indian put on me! Believe me; they are etched in my mind!”

Mulligan continued, “I have made a promise, I have made a vow. I will not stop, I will not quit until that Indian, the squaw-man, Wahoo McDaniel is completely thoroughly once and for all destroyed! I will never forget it. They strung me up at home; I embarrassed my family! I humiliated the Mulligan clan. My poppa and my grand poppa strung me up and they rubbed salt into the wounds. They said, ‘Did you give up boy? Did you give up boy?’ I said, ‘No sir, I didn’t give up! I never quit; I never quit fightin’! I never stopped fightin’!’

Blackjack battles Wahoo McDaniel
(Photo by Bill Janosik)
Blackjack then maniacally shouted, “They kept rubbing the salt in my wounds; kept rubbing it in. Believe me, I’ll never forget it; his kind of match. Wahoo McDaniel I promise you I cannot return home, I cannot return to the proud state of Texas until my vendetta is carried out! I’ve got to destroy him; I’ve got to put him on his back. And believe me, believe what I say, stop what you’re doing right now. I will not be defeated, I cannot give up; I do not know the word surrender. Under no circumstances will I be beaten!”

Due to the crippling injuries that United States Heavyweight Champion Johnny Valentine sustained in the plane crash, the U.S. Title was vacated and a one night tournament to crown a new United States Champion was set to be held in a few weeks. Mulligan briefly touched on that issue, before returning his wrath to Wahoo and the earlier Indian Strap matches. Blackjack commented, “The first thing I look to do…I understand the great Johnny Valentine has retired. Believe me, I will be in competition for the United States Heavyweight Championship …I’ve thrown my hat in the ring. I will be one of the most aggressive opponents ever in the history of wrestling!”

Mulligan then returned his attention to Wahoo, and seeking retribution for the Indian Strap bouts in the spring. Blackjack concluded, “Nobody can endure, nobody can understand the torture, the punishment, the mental anguish I’ve been through. Thousands of letters have been written to my home state; to my hometown, asking is Mulligan a quitter? I have never quit in my life; I have never quit at anything! I have never given up, and I vow to you Wahoo McDaniel, these stripes etched in my back, salt rubbed in the wounds, I will completely destroy you! Anyone getting in my way, the Jones boys, Patera; I beg you come on. I’ll wrestle anyone in the world today! I’m the greatest wrestler in the world…I cannot be beaten by anybody!”

Bob Caudle and the fans had to collect their breath after Blackjack’s diatribe. But Mulligan had succeeded in shattering the malaise that had tried to set in around the Mid-Atlantic area after the horrible Wilmington plane crash. The fans of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show had just gotten an earful on that Wednesday night TV taping, and announcer Ed Capral and the fans of Jim Crockett Promotions’ other television show, Wide World Wrestling, were about to hear in short order from the returning Mulligan as well, and the pride of the prairie wasn’t going to mince any words about what the future held for Jim Crockett Promotions with him back on the scene!

To be continued in part 2…


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You Could Always Count on Wally Dusek

The Day the Ring Didn't Show Up in Asheville
Greenville SC Memories
by Don Holbrook
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

Back in the mid-1970s when Crockett began running shows on Sunday afternoons in Asheville in the new Civic Center, three of the maintenance guys at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium would get a rental truck, U-Haul size, and take the Greenville ring up to Asheville. Same thing for Anderson, Greenwood, and any spot shows around the area. They used the Greenville ring for all these towns. 

(Photo by Dave Routh)
I went to Asheville this one particular day and got there at 1:00 pm when they opened the doors for a 3:00 pm show. I went in, saw Sandy Scott with a disgusted angry look on his face. He saw me and came directly to me and said, "I was hoping you would come today. Do you have Bill Turner's phone number?" 

Bill was the maintenance manager at the Greenville Auditorium. And no, I didn't have his phone number.

The ring did not show up in Asheville that day and I don't know if Sandy forgot to schedule them to bring it or if Bill just forgot to tell the guys to bring it. Regardless - -there was no ring!

So then 3:00 pm got there, and still no ring and the Asheville Civic Center was nearly full. They stalled, they brought Wahoo out to talk. Then finally the ring announcer came out and said the ring had not arrived from Greenville but another ring was on the way from Charlotte. 

Finally, Wally Dusek showed up with the back-up Charlotte ring. Wally was one of Jim Crockett's right hand guys in those years, and did a little bit of everything, including making the rings. 

The Asheville Civic Center, Asheville NC
(Photo by Dick Bourne)

You can imagine, Wally wasn't thrilled about this. Another guy was with him and they frantically began setting up the ring. Everybody including Sandy Scott, referee Sonny Fargo and even a couple of the cops pitched in to get it set up and poor Wally Dusek was flying around, pouring sweat and as red as a stop sign. By this time, Wally was up in years and moving sort of slow. But on this day he was zooming around and I really felt sorry for him.

When the show finally started, they did the opening match, which was Two Ton Harris and somebody else, and they only went like 3 minutes. Then they went straight to the main event that was Wahoo and maybe Blackjack, I can't remember for sure. But I do remember that they needed to get our main event on and over with because 3 or 4 of the wrestlers had to fly straight back to Charlotte for a show that same night. 

My last memory of that afternoon in Asheville was of poor Wally sitting in the back totally exhausted and ringing wet with sweat after that long drive and rushing to get the ring set up, with Sandy on his ass the whole time to hurry up.  

But once again, as was his reputation, Wally Dusek was the man you went to when you needed to make sure something got done. And his hustle had saved the show in Asheville that day. 

* * * * * *
Don Holbrook is an occasional Gateway contributor as well as a history buff on late 1960s and 1970s wrestling in Greenville, SC. His mother worked for years in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium office and Don spent many afternoons hanging out there as a kid. He became known to all those in charge, which later gave him lots of great access and some great stories to tell. 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

From Baseball to Wrestling: Frances Crockett Talks About Tony Schiavone's Journey within Jim Crockett Promotions

Frances Crockett and Tony Schiavone reflect on Tony's transition from calling AA baseball on the radio to the national face and voice of pro-wrestling for the company. 
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

We recently concluded our 7-part interview feature "Sundays with Schiavone" where Tony shared some of his favorite memories as a fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the 1970s before he got into the wrestling business in 1983.

Tony Schiavone
In part two of that interview, Tony talked about how he first came to work with Frances Crockett and the Crockett family on the baseball side of the business. He was working as the radio broadcaster for the (then) Class A Greensboro Hornets in 1981, where he had won South Atlantic League Broadcaster of the Year. He got a tip about the Class AA opening in Charlotte.

"I found out from a friend of mine named Bob Jamieson, who was the play-by-play guy of the Double A Nashville team…I found out that the Charlotte job was opening up, so I went down and interviewed for it," Tony told David Chappell in the Gateway interview.

I recently had the chance to ask Frances Crockett about her memories of hiring Tony all these many years ago. Frances was the General Manager of the Charlotte O's team and was a trailblazer of sorts, awarded The Sporting News Class AA Baseball Executive of the Year in 1980. She was the first woman to achieve such recognition. She had a proven track record of making good business decisions for her team. And she was getting ready to make another one. 

"Tony’s personality is and was the type of on air personality I was looking for," Frances told me. "I asked him to come down and see me at my ballpark, if I remember correctly."

The O's radio job seemed like the perfect fit for both Tony and Frances. "Not only was he a sports fan and baseball fan, he was a wrestling fan. I knew he was the perfect fit."

"I interviewed with Frances Crockett," Tony told us, "and she hired me that day."

Frances Crockett
General Manager of the Charlotte O's
Frances told me it was important to create an atmosphere for the fans of the minor league baseball team where the fans felt a part of their community at the Park. "Our players were young, 18 and 19 years old," she said. "Since Tony would be on the road with them, our radio announcer had to be a people person." Tony was the right fit to relate not only to the young players but to younger fans.

Much as Tony would later wear lots of different hats when working for the wrestling side of the family business, Frances loaded Tony up with lots of responsibilities besides calling the games for radio.

"Yes, he had to sell the commercials and help coordinate appearances," Frances said. He also occasionally worked on the grounds crew with the legendary wrestler, now Crockett Park grounds crew chief, Klondike Bill.

Calling baseball on the radio was a dream come true for Tony, and had been since he graduated from James Madison University a few years earlier. But his first love was wrestling.

"My baseball career, in my mind, was off and running," he told David Chappell in our interview. "I was two years out of college, my first year was in Single A and now I moved up to Double A. And as I got the job I would continue to talk to Frances about letting me do wrestling."

But nothing developed from that his first year. "I remember one time going to a TV taping [at WPCQ-36 studios in Charlotte]", he said, "and I remember talking to David [Crockett], and he was very nice to me. I told him what I’d like to do. He said he appreciated that, but there wasn’t anything available."

http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/2015/12/tony-schiavone-profile-charlotte-os.htmlBut Tony continued to make himself seen and he got lucky one night at a house show at the old Charlotte Coliseum. He was there to watch the matches when he realized something different was going on.

"I remember the matches were getting ready to start and nothing was happening," he said. "David [Crockett] came out and was looking up in the stands, and I knew instantly he was looking for me. And I went down and he said, ‘C.J. Underwood, is not here. Can you do the ring announcing for us?’ So I did the ring announcing that night in the Charlotte Coliseum."

Once that door had opened, Tony was ready to jump through it. He got the call to come assist legendary WBTV personality "Big" Bill Ward with the local promotional segments for the wrestling TV shows, a job he would later take over entirely. And the requests for Tony's services continued.

"Frances Crockett brought me into her office and she said, ‘Well, I knew this would happen. Now they want you to come and do some more interviews.’ She said, ‘You’re going to be pulled between me and them.’ Them being her brothers."

Tony's first big TV assignment for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (other than the localized interviews) was to interview Ric Flair at his home as part of the build-up to Starrcade '83. "This was the announcement," Tony said, "his reaction to being part of the “Flare for the Gold,” having the World Title match with Harley Race."

It was a huge assignment with the top wrestler in the business.

He continued doing baseball on into the following season. "He was with baseball until wrestling took him full time,'" Frances told me.

That full time opportunity came when they needed a new full time co-host for the World Wide Wrestling TV program. "It needed to be a fresh face with personality but would not overshadow the wrestlers.  I thought Tony was perfect and pitched him to my brother Jimmy."

And the rest is history. Tony co-hosted "World Wide Wrestling" with David Crockett for most of 1984 and then was selected to take on host duties for "World Championship Wrestling" in April of 1985 when Jim Crockett Promotions took over that program from the WWF on Superstation WTBS. 

Tony is currently the radio voice of the Gwinnett Braves, the AAA franchise for the Atlanta Braves. Some thirty years after his move full-time to the wrestling side of the family business, Tony and Frances still enjoy seeing each other on occasion, most recently at a special night recognizing the history of the Crockett family and Charlotte baseball at BB&T Ballpark in September of 2016.

Jim Crockett, Jr., Frances Crockett, Tony Schiavone,
and Jackie Crockett at BB&T Park
"Tony working for the Braves has allowed me to see him occasionally," Frances told me. "At the Crockett night I had insisted the [Charlotte] Knights be playing the Braves because he was and is part of the Crockett family history of wrestling and baseball." All of that came together and Tony had an opportunity to reconnect with not only Frances, but all the Crocketts, including Jim Sr., David, and Jackie.

Tony's career in wrestling continued to grow after the Crockett family sold the wrestling business to Ted Turner in 1988. He became the voice of WCW during the infamous "Monday Night Wars" era, and called many of the company's most historic moments and matches on WCW Monday Nitro and on their many pay-per-view events.

One can only imagine how all of that would have looked and sounded different had Tony Schiavone not made his way to the queen city of Charlotte calling baseball games on the radio. It was a special journey that all of us as fans were fortunate enough to share with him.

* * * * *

The Charlotte Knights have announced their 2nd Annual Crockett Foundation Night at BB&T Ballpark in downtown Charlotte on Sunday, September 3rd. Making a special appearance will be WWE Hall of Famers and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling legends Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson of the Rock & Roll Express. Members of the Crockett family are also expected to be in attendance. For more information visit the Charlotte Knights and Crockett Foundation websites.

* * * * *

 Don't miss Tony's podcast every 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.

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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bob Caudle on "Go Get Over" Podcast

The voice of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling Bob Caudle is the guest of Chris and Joey on their WRAL SportsFan "Go Get Over!" podcast.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jim Crockett Celebrates his 25th Anniversary as an Event Promoter (1958)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

"You can count on Jim Crockett to bring Charlotte the finest of National figures in the entertainment world..."
In 1958, Jim Crockett Sr. was celebrating 25 years in the event promotion business. The image below is from a wrestling photo-book sold at the matches.

It was in this same year that Mr. Crockett first put pro-wrestling on television in Charlotte, the first broadcast taking place on January 11, 1958, at the studios of WBTV-3. You will notice the invitation to see wrestling live at the channel 3 studio.

 "See the outstanding events at the Charlotte Coliseum, 'Madison Square Garden of the South!'" 
Crockett first came to North Carolina in 1933, running his first wrestling events here first in Greensboro, and then moving his base of operations to Charlotte in 1934. 

The page also mentions the Charlotte Coliseum (later known as Independence Arena and Cricket Arena, and now known as Bojangles Coliseum) and it's nickname "Madison Square Garden of the South." The coliseum had opened three years earlier, in 1955, and was renowned as an engineering marvel. At the time, it was the largest unsupported dome in the world and the first free-spanning dome in the United States.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Elliot Murnick To Make Rare Wrestling Convention Appearance

JCP Promoter Elliot Murnick to appear at Mid-Atlantic Wrestle Expo
Saturday May 20, 2017 - Richmond Convention Center - Richmond VA
(Note: We have been notified that the Wrestle Expo event scheduled for May 19-20 in Richmond has been cancelled. ) 

One of the key men on the ground for Jim Crockett Promotions, Elliot Murnick, will be making a rare appearance at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestle Expo in Richmond, VA, in May.

http://www.wrestleexporva.comMurnick is the son of legendary Raleigh promoter Joe Murnick who promoted wrestling, concerts, and other events for decades in the Raleigh area, as well as eastern North Carolina and eastern Virginia. Joe Murnick and Jim Crockett, Sr. were business partners and friends going back into the 1950s.

Elliot and his late brother Carl took over the family business after their father's death and were heavily involved with Jim Crockett Promotions and some of their biggest events.

Back in the early 1970s, Elliot hosted the Raleigh-only version of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" taped out of WRAL-5 TV studios. This was during the day of "dual tapings" where two different versions of commentary were being recorded over the top of one single hour of TV. The Raleigh version, with Murnick, aired only on channel 5. The syndicated version was hosted by Bob Caudle and went out to all the TV markets. That ended in 1974 when all of the various taping locations for JCP (including Charlotte and High Point) were consolidated to Raleigh.

When Elliot took over the Raleigh taping, there was a custom open for his show, and an extended version of the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling theme music with a separate studio announcer introducing Elliot Murnick.

Here is a rare, low-fidelity recording of that open:

During the 1970s, both Elliot and brother Carl were ring announcers on the studio wrestling shows out of Raleigh. You can hear an example of Elliot's ring introduction on our Studio Wrestling website here.

MAWE is proud to bring Elliott Murnick to Richmond this May. He will be on hands to share stories of the early days of wrestling in Richmond. His appearance is brought to you by Commonwealth Productions. As always, card subject to change. Be sure to check the Wrestle Expo website for updated information.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Million Dollar Memory: Missing the Original Ted DiBiase

Why Ted DiBiase Will Never Be The "Million Dollar Man" To Me

by Dick Bourne 
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In the 1980s, the WWF took some of my favorite wrestlers and made cartoon characters out of them. That isn't meant as commentary; it's just a statement of fact. Fair to say it was pretty successful for the WWF and many of the wrestlers still make good money doing appearances largely off the fame of those cartoon days.

Classic PWI Magazine Cover
While there are many examples, one of the most infamous, to my way of thinking at least, was the transformation of Ted DiBiase into the "Million Dollar Man".

It cannot be stated strongly enough how much I hated this at the time. I hated the outfit, I hated the belt, I hated the maniacal laugh, I hated Virgil, I hated it all. Sure, the character was pretty creative and some of the vignettes were pretty funny. It obviously connected with people as it is still one of the most remembered characters of the WWF's cartoon era. Most of that is owed to the incredible portrayal by DiBiase himself who brought that character to life.

No, I hated it because it buried forever the great wrestling character of Ted DiBiase.

Ted would have to be considered as one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. I first saw him in Georgia Championship Wrestling out of Atlanta on Superstation WTBS around the 1979-1980 time frame. I didn't know it then, but later we've learned he was being groomed as a possible future NWA champion. While that never came to pass for various reasons (or no particular reason at all), Ted was universally respected by promoters and his peers as one of the best in the business. He ranks up there at the top of my "should have been champion" list.

He simply was as good as it got in the ring, and could work with anyone and make anyone he worked against look great. That was an important required characteristic of the NWA champion at that time. Ringmasters like Harley Race and Ric Flair could make the most average wrestler in the ring look like a top contender for the title. DiBiase was in that same mold. He could work equally well in the role of a good-guy or bad-guy.

My particular favorite Ted DiBiase period, though, was the late 1983-1984 heel in Georgia and his feuds with Brad Armstrong and Tommy Rich. DiBiase had started wearing the black glove and one of his big gimmicks was to load the glove out of view of a distracted referee and blast his opponent with it for the dubious win. I loved him in that role, loved his promos, loved the way he sold for the babyface comebacks - - just everything about him worked for me.

And while he was great in the role as the veteran babyface in 1985 and early 1986 for Bill Watts in the Mid-South area, it was in the heel role where I thought he always did his best work.

All of that changed, though, when DiBiase made the jump to the WWF and became the "Million Dollar Man." Rather than the cool, calculated, killer heel that DiBiase had perfected in the territory days, he became this outlandish cartoon character that was the staple of the WWF at that time. Again, I don't argue against the success of the gimmick, and it certainly was a positive creative and financial development in his career. I was just terribly sad to see one of my favorite wrestlers disappear. And there is no disputing that when the Million Dollar Man was born, the wrestler Ted DiBiase died forever. At least that character did, anyway.

Not only have I always been sad Ted never got to hold the "ten pounds of gold", I was equally disappointed that he never worked in the Mid-Atlantic territory for the Crocketts. He would have fit in really well here. Imagine, if you will, a DiBiase feud with Ricky Steamboat in the late 1970s, or as one of the Four Horsemen in the mid-1980s.

DiBiase continues to make appearances at conventions and fan events across the country and it is always as the Million Dollar Man. I've had the time opportunity a time or two to tell him that it was the Ted DiBiase of those 1980s Georgia days that I was there to see. He always smiles. And he even once responded that it's good to know fans remember that part of his career, too.

Surely I'm not alone in that regard. But sometimes it seems awfully lonely.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Complete)


When professional wrestling fans think back to the red hot days of Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid 1980s and the even hotter time following the advent of WCW’s Monday Nitro about a decade later, the name Tony Schiavone is front and center. Tony’s face and voice on television brought us many of the most famous angles and events in professional wrestling history, starting at the lead-off for Starrcade 1983 until the demise of WCW in 2001.

What many fans may not know is that Tony grew up in the western section of Virginia as a huge fan of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

This interview with Tony is different than any he has ever done before, as it will delve into Tony Schiavone the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan.

Among the multitude of subjects Tony will touch on are his earliest memories of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling starting in 1974, watching the product on television, his favorite Mid-Atlantic wrestlers and the angles they were part of, his road trips to a number of the Crockett towns and his impressions of why and how the Mid-Atlantic territory captured the enduring love of so many fans to the point that we still want to talk about it today in 2017.

The timeline of this interview will cut off during the year of 1983, when Tony actually went from being a Mid-Atlantic fan to a Mid-Atlantic announcer. The reason for this is that Tony has just begun an exciting new podcasting adventure with the Gateway’s good friend Conrad Thompson, called "What Happened When" (WHW Monday), where Tony and Conrad will dig deep into Tony’s broadcasting career throughout the 1983-2001 time period when Tony was a fixture in the wrestling business. They will discuss a different topic each week as voted on by fans and listeners through a weekly poll on their Twitter account. WHW Monday can be found on the MLW Radio Network, with new episodes dropping every Monday! 

* * * * *

David Chappell: Tony, thank you for taking the time to chat with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway today. You being a native Virginian I’d like to focus on your memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and then we’ll segue to your tremendous new podcast with Conrad Thompson where you two will be breaking down your time in the wrestling business from 1983-2001. Sound okay? 

Tony Schiavone: Sure, that’s fine.

Chappell: I understand you grew up in the Staunton, Virginia area?

Schiavone: Yeah, my hometown is Craigsville which is west of Staunton; kind of southwest of Staunton. It’s much closer to the mountains than Staunton is. It’s Augusta County, but that’s basically the area.

Chappell: Last August I was up that way for a work conference and stayed at the Stonewall Jackson Conference Center, and that was a great place.

Schiavone: Right, that’s been there forever.

Chappell: It has, but they’ve kept it looking great. I used that occasion to hit a couple of old Crockett towns nearby. One night I went down to Roanoke and met Dick Bourne for dinner, and on another day I went by the Expo in Fishersville on the way back home!

Schiavone: Oh yeah, the Fishersville Expo!

Chappell: One of the great spot show venues in Virginia!

I have heard that you started following Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling around 1974?

Schiavone: Around 1974 I was in Craigsville. We had, I guess they still do, an IGA grocery store and I worked there on the weekends as the bag boy and the stock boy in the grocery store which was owned by my father’s best friend. And I would walk down there on Saturday’s, Saturday mornings, to work and then I would take a lunch break and I would walk back home, which was not too far to go. And I would stop in my Uncle John’s house, he lived on the same street, and I’d stop in during lunch hour and he’d be watching wrestling. And I started watching wrestling with him, and that’s where I kind of got hooked on it.

Chappell: Was this on channel 6 in Richmond, or the station out of Harrisonburg, Virginia?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Final - Part 7)

It's Sunday, so it's Tony 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. And this Sunday, sadly, is the final part of our discussion with the voice of World Championship Wrestling.

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 7 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   PART 5   PART 6

* * * * * * *


David Chappell: It’s great to hear that you were into Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memorabilia, even though your prized poster collection was stolen. Do you still have any Mid-Atlantic memorabilia? 

Tony Schiavone: I tell you what I have in my attic somewhere, and I need to look for them before the next Mid-Atlantic Fanfest convention…I have all my old ticket stubs from the Greensboro Coliseum!

Chappell: Wow!

Schiavone: That I know, because hell, I put them in frames!

Chappell: Nice deal! Did you get the Mid-Atlantic Magazines that were sold at the shows?

Schiavone: I may still have some of those, but I’m not sure. But the ticket stubs I do remember.

Chappell: Switching gears a bit, I just want to say how great it is to have you talking about the old Mid-Atlantic days. There was a significant gap in time when wrestling fans didn’t hear from Tony Schiavone. Then you appeared last August at Greg Price’s NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, and in my humble opinion you stole the show!

Tony Schiavone during Q&A at the
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte

Schiavone: Thank you David, I appreciate that. A lot of people said that to me. I’ve always been a completely different person than I was on TV, you know. I always try to be funny, I try to be irreverent. I love to pick on people; I try to give people s#@t!

Chappell: (laughs) I think that’s what made your appearance at the NWA Legends Fanfest so enjoyable for the fans there. We had never seen that side of you before.

Schiavone: Yeah, Mike Tenay used to say, ‘You’re the best heel in the business, but nobody knows it!’

Chappell: (laughs) Yeah, you hid that side of yourself well on television! But now you can let the REAL Tony Schiavone out on your new podcast with Conrad Thompson, “What Happened When Monday.” Please tell us about this exciting new adventure.

Schiavone: Yeah, this is how it started. I work for IMG, the University of Georgia Radio Network. And basically what I do is I set up the equipment for basketball and football, I make sure we’re on the air, I make sure the announcers have all their readers and we log all their readers. So, I’m the producer also. But we hook into IMG, which is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and there’s always a producer on the other end in Winston-Salem that we’re talking to.

Chappell: Winston-Salem, another great Mid-Atlantic town. It always comes back to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Tony.

Schiavone: (laughs) Our producer is a kid that went to Wake Forest, and his name is Cabell Philpott…and he’s a big wrestling fan. And Cabell, not too long ago, told me that he needed to talk to me about something. He said, ‘Have you listened to Bruce Prichard’s podcast with Conrad Thompson?’ I told him I had not.

Chappell: (laughs) Tony! Shame on you!

Schiavone: (laughs) Cabell said that Conrad does a show with Bruce Prichard and he also does something with Flair and he said, ‘You ought to get in on that! I’m telling you, these things are big. I listen to them and I love them.’

Chappell: Wrestling podcasts have really taken off, and Conrad is tremendous in his role. Did Cabell peak your interest in this new medium?

Schiavone: (laughs) I went ‘Okay, yeah…I’ve got my f@#king four jobs. Thank you very much!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: But as fate would have it, the very next week, Cabell and I talked on a Saturday, the very next week, it had to be on a Tuesday, I get this LONG email from Conrad…

Chappell: Great timing!

Schiavone: Isn’t it! He set up what he wanted to do, not necessarily how much money he thought we could make but that he thought we could make some money…and here’s what he would like to do and how much time it would take of me. So, I just thought that was kind of fate.

Chappell: Oh yeah, for sure!

Schiavone: So the very next week I connected to Winston-Salem and I said, ‘Cabell, you’ll never guess who I got an email from…CONRAD THOMPSON!’ He said, ‘You gotta be f@#king kidding me!’

Chappell: (laughing)

Schiavone: So I talked to Conrad back and forth. I’d stayed away from the business for a long, long time…so I thought why not, why not give it a shot.

Chappell: You made a lot of wrestling fans really happy with that decision.

Schiavone: Thank you David. So that’s how it kind of worked out.

Chappell: So how have you made the transition back into the world of professional wrestling?

Schiavone: Right after we agreed to do the podcast, I watched the Royal Rumble which was the first WWE event I’ve watched since I left.

Chappell: Really?

Schiavone: Yeah, and I watched it because I have to get on the WWE Network now because if Conrad asks me about some of these matches, I’ve got to be able to remember some of this s#@t! (laughs)

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: So oddly enough I was sitting at the computer downstairs in my office watching the Royal Rumble, and I sent a text to Conrad. Well, he’s there; he’s there in-person at the Royal Rumble.

Chappell: Oh, okay.

Schiavone: The reason that I sent him a text was I’m looking at a fan shot, and there’s a fan in the back with a giant caricature face of his…holding up a face poster of Conrad!

Chappell: Awesome!

Schiavone: I told him, ‘I just saw your face up there!’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I think he was actually backstage, but we were texting back and forth. I said, ‘I’m watching this stuff, and it’s your fault you son of a bitch that I’m watching this stuff again!’

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I watched the A.J. Styles and John Cena match on that show…

Chappell: You know A.J. lost the title on that show, but he won it from Dean Ambrose in September at…the Richmond Coliseum!

Schiavone: Really?

Chappell: Yep!

Schiavone: That match between those two was really a great match; those two kids really performed. And I knew Arn Anderson had something to do with it.

Chappell: There you go, another name from the Mid-Atlantic days! But he’s an agent with WWE now, right?

Schiavone: Yeah, so I sent Arn a text and said, ‘Did you set that match up?’ And he texted me back and said he did! I said, ‘Dammit, that had you written all over it…I knew it was you!’ I knew it was him, and he confirmed that it was. You know, it takes two good workers and a damn good agent to be able to set that up.

Chappell: It’s great to still have those old school connections to connect the current product to. Another thing that has changed in the current wrestling landscape is the proliferation of social media. How have you adapted to that?

Schiavone: I immediately got a thousand new followers on Twitter when the podcast first started!

Chappell: Holy cow!

Schiavone: Yeah!

Chappell: The format of your podcast, which is much like the Bruce Prichard show, has four poll topics that go up on Twitter and the fans actually vote on the show’s topic for a particular week.

Schiavone: Yes, and that’s why I got the WWE Network. Our second show was Souled Out ’97 and I had to watch that on the Network, because it was supposedly the worst pay-per-view in history!

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: I was watching it on the Network, and I sent Conrad a text and I said, ‘Oh my God I’m seven minutes into this thing and I want to shoot myself in the head!’

Chappell: (laughs) That pay-per-view was memorable, but not necessarily in a good way!

Schiavone: So I had to watch the whole thing so I knew what I was talking about…

Chappell: That’s right, you didn’t do the commentary on that show.

Schiavone: Right, and when I knew we were going to talk about Souled Out ’97 on the podcast I called David Penzer…

Chappell: The long-time WCW ring announcer.

Schiavone: Yeah, I hadn’t really talked to David in a long time. And David said, ‘Probably the reason you don’t remember that show much is because you didn’t do the commentary.’ And David also reminded me that even though I did the commentary on Nitro and Thunder, my job during the course of the week was to produce WCW Saturday Night and WCW Worldwide, so I had to work on those shows.

Chappell: Your plate was full for sure.

Schiavone: So a lot of my attention wasn’t always on what was going on with Nitro and Thunder. I wasn’t always in the meetings for those; I was doing something else a lot of the time.

Chappell: It’s so great for us fans to hear your insight on these great Crockett and WCW events and angles. And the podcast drops every Monday morning, so you have that built-in Monday connection to all those great Monday Nitro events you were a big part of.

Schiavone: I hope the fans are enjoying it, and they really jog my memory and I enjoy giving them some stories that have stuck with me. It’s funny how your memory can be jogged loose! I hope we can continue this for quite a while, and I hope we don’t run out of things to talk about!

Chappell: I don’t think coming up with show topics will be an issue! Well, Tony, thank you so much for visiting with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway and sharing all the great memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. It’s been great talking with you! And continued success on the new podcast…it’s terrific.

Schiavone: Same here, David, it was a great talk. Let’s stay in contact and I’ll find those ticket stubs for you.

Chappell: Cant’ wait…you have a spot on the Gateway reserved that we’d probably call “Tony Shiavone’s Mid-Atlantic Memorabilia (that wasn’t stolen from the Crockett offices)”

Shiavone: (laughs) All right, thank you buddy.

Tony and David at the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte

* * * * * * *

That concludes our discussion of 1970s Mid-Atlantic Wrestling with Tony Schiavone. 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.

Previous installments in this series: 
PART 1   PART 2    PART 3    PART 4   PART 5   PART 6

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


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Bracketology: The 1978 World Tag Team Tournament

As we get close to NCAA "March Madness" and tournament time in college basketball, it seemed fitting to take a look at one of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's great tournaments from back in the day.

Tony Schiavone talked about attending this show in our interview with him. It was one of the great tournaments held in the 1970s in Greensboro and featured talent from outside our territory coming in just for this show. That list included Jack and Jerry Brisco, Stan "The Lariat" Hansen, and Andre the Giant.

The tournament was being held because previous champions Ric Flair and Greg Valentine were stripped of the titles after continually failing to defend them.

TOURNAMENT: NWA World Tag Team Championship
DATE: April 23, 1978
LOCATION: Greensboro NC
VENUE: Greensboro Coliseum
WINNERS: Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat
Single Elimination, Three Rounds, Four Teams compete in an additional qualifying round for advance to the semi-finals.*
Previous champions Ric Flair and Greg Valentine were stripped of the titles by the NWA for failure to defend the titles.
Sandy Scott, David Crockett, Joe Murnick, Wally Dusek, Ring Announcer Tom Miller


(1) Wahoo McDaniel and Andre the Giant defeated Ric Flair and Greg Valentine by forfeit.
*Winner advances to special qualifying round to move to semi finals - see brackets. 
Valentine came out in a 3-piece suit, Flair was nowhere to be found. Valentine said that they were not going to compete in the tournament because nobody had defeated them for the belts. Wahoo grabbed the microphone and told Valentine that they would have lost if Flair had shown up. 

(2) Ken Patera and the Masked Superstar beat Bobo Brazil and Tony Atlas
*Winner advances to special qualifying round to move to semi finals - see brackets. 

(3) Gene and Ole Anderson defeated Jack and Jerry Brisco
Jack Brisco went for a body slam on Ole Anderson; Ole held onto the leg and cradled Jack cleanly for the pin.

(4) Paul Jones and Steamboat beat Cyclone Negro and Baron Von Raschke
Side note: Jones and Steamboat are the reigning Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions.

(5) Blackjack Mulligan and Stan Hansen beat Johnny Weaver and Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods
Mulligan was booed as a heel at this point, even though the famous "hat & robe" angle turning Mulligan babyface had already occurred. 

SPECIAL QUALIFYING ROUND*Winners from the first two first-round matches compete for semi-final slot - see brackets.
Patera and Superstar beat Wahoo and Andre
Ken Patera body slammed Andre the Giant in this match. Match went to a time limit draw. Winner was to be decided on a coin flip. The referee flipped the coin and Patera went down to pick it up.
Wahoo stomped on the coin. When he moved his foot, he saw he had lost the toss. Patera and Superstar jumped around the ring in celebration. 

(1) Jones and Steamboat beat the Anderson Brothers
(2) Patera and Superstar beat Mulligan and Hansen by DQ
Mulligan challenged Superstar to come into the ring and "get his ass kicked", since Flair had put the bounty up and Superstar said he would collect it. Mulligan got DQ'd by pushing the referee when trying to take off Superstar's mask. He tore the top and Superstar had to change his mask for the finals. Mulligan was cheered heavily in contrast to the reaction he received in the first round.

Jones and Steamboat beat Patera and Superstar
Steamboat won with a bodypress.

Special thanks to Mark Isley, who was in attendance that night in Greensboro, for his assistance with this feature.

For a look at why this tournament took place, the events leading up to it, and the fallout, visit the entry in the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Almanac for April 1978.

(Original Feature on the Archive site.)


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

"Outlaw" Ron Bass Passes Away

"Outlaw" Ron Bass
Mid-Atlantic Champion
We are sad to learn of the death of "Outlaw" Ron Bass (Ron Herd) who passed away in a hospital in Florida this week.

Bass had two stints in the Mid-Atlantic territory, the first in the early 80s feuding with the Iron Sheik and Jimmy Valiant. His second run here was in the 80s where he was managed briefly by James J. Dillon and teamed with Black Bart. They were the last team to hold the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championships, a title that was retired in 1985. He feuded with Buddy Landel, Angelo Mosca, Jr., Buzz Tyler, and others.

Along with the tag title, he also held the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight and TV titles in our area.

For more on his career, check out this article on Slam! Wrestling.

Our condolences to the friends and family of Ron Bass. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Johnny Weaver vs. Harley Race in Asheville


by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

During Johnny Weaver's distinguished career in the Mid-Atlantic area in the 1960s and 1970s, most of his shots at the NWA World Heavyweight championship came against Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk Jr., and Jack Brisco. But in 1973 he managed to sneak one in against Harley Race during the brief time Race was champion between Funk Jr. and Brisco.

I love this little article from the Asheville newspaper in July of 1973 for a card at the Asheville City Auditorium on the Fourth of July. First of all, it's written more like a legitimate sports piece than some of the basic promotional articles would be written in later years. A lot of that was due to local promoter Paul Winkhaus who wrote these for the paper. The article does more than just tell you what matches are coming to Asheville. It goes into some good detail about the recent NWA title change, and mentions that this would be Race's first appearance in Asheville.

NWA Champion Harley Race was making his one and only tour through the Mid-Atlantic area during his brief 1973 title reign. A complete list of his title defenses included:

  • 7/02 Jerry Brisco in Charlotte, NC
  • 7/03 Lord Jonathan Boyd in Raleigh, NC
  • 7/04 Johnny Weaver in Asheville, NC
  • 7/05 Rip Hawk in Norfolk, VA

Just think about how long that road trip from Asheville to Norfolk took back in 1973 before all the sections of the interstate system connecting I-40 and I-85 from Asheville to Richmond were complete. Under the best of circumstances today, it's just under a 7-hour trip. Maybe they traveled by airplane.

When Race left Norfolk Thursday night on his way to Calgary, Alberta to defend against Klondike Bill, he was only two weeks away from losing the NWA title to Jack Brisco in Houston, TX. Race only held the title a little under two months in 1973, but would regain it in 1977 and go on to hold the title a total of eight times over the next seven years.

The article above from Asheville also features it's own "bloopers", and you know how we like the newspaper bloopers here at the Gateway. In the final paragraph, the paper reports that PETRO Columbo will face "Two-Ton" HARRY! Since Winkhaus wrote the articles for the paper himself in those years, you know the error wasn't his. Something tells me it may have been sent to the paper in his handwriting, and something got lost in the transcription! The match that took place was Pedro Columbo vs. George "Two-Ton" Harris.

Two-Ton Harry. That's a good one!

As always, thanks to Mark Eastridge for access to his amazing newspaper clipping archive.