Sunday, March 05, 2017

Gateway Interview: Tony Schiavone (Part 6)

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.

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 6 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

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Chappell: We’ve talked a good bit about the Richmond Coliseum, but did you ever attend any shows at the Richmond Arena, which was Crockett’s ‘B’ venue in Richmond for a number of years?

Schiavone: Yes, David, one time we went to the Richmond Arena…which I guess was an old airplane hangar near Parker Field, the Diamond.

Chappell: (laughs) Quite a place!

Schiavone: I remember the reason we went was because it was Blackjack Mulligan, this was when Blackjack was a heel, against Thunderbolt Patterson.

Chappell: Oh, I remember that very well! It was in the spring of 1977, and it was one of the last regular cards held at the Arena. T-Bolt was just in for a single shot.

Schiavone: Yeah!

Chappell: I remember on that same card the semi was Johnny Weaver against the Missouri Mauler. It was sort of a blast from the past, with Thunderbolt there along with Weaver and the Mauler who had great battles back into the ‘60s.

Schiavone: We wanted to see Thunderbolt wrestle, and I remember it really ended up being kind of a shi#@y match.

Chappell: Yeah, I agree…it just didn’t work in the ring.

Schiavone: I remember Hippie saying, ‘Boy, we got f@#ked out of money that night,’ or something like that. I remember him bitching about it.

Chappell: The match was great on paper and had appeal to draw you to the Arena, but it didn’t pan out in person.

Schiavone: Hippie and I were talking about it, that maybe the Richmond Coliseum wasn’t available that date. That was kind of odd.

Chappell: There might have been enough intrigue for the Thunderbolt versus Mulligan for the U.S. Title to draw a good house at the Coliseum, so I agree it was a little odd to have T-Bolt come all the way in from Georgia to appear at the smaller venue.

Schiavone: You know during the same time as that match, I remember Professor Malenko, Boris Malenko, and the Masked Superstar, and the angle with Igor and the cigar in the eye.

Chappell: Oh yes, that was huge! What did you think of the Mighty Igor? He was really a different type of wrestling character, particularly for that point in time.

Schiavone: I remember him, and I remember some of his interviews. I remember one time he did an interview, and I had a friend of mine named Johnny, and Johnny said, ‘Do you realize that he slipped out of character there? He didn’t sound like he was from Poland; all of a sudden he sounded English.' All of a sudden he did!

Chappell: (laughs) I’ll be honest with you Tony, Igor wasn’t one of my favorites and I tried not to listen to him that closely!

Schiavone: I can remember one time Hippie’s brother, Hippie had two brothers, one was named “Rat.” -- (laughs) We all had nicknames! --

Chappell: (laughs) Sounds like a rough crew you ran with, Tony!

Schiavone: (laughs) Yeah, no really they were good ol’ boys! One was named Rat, and he had another brother named Johnny, and then another brother J.L. And J.L. would go with us to events, and the Mighty Igor was in one of those events. And I remember saying to J.L. that I didn’t care that much for Igor, he was okay but he wasn’t my favorite…

Chappell: My feelings exactly!

Schiavone: J.L. said, ‘Yeah, but he’s a tough son of a bitch, man. He’s a strong son of a bitch!’ I guess that’s the way we thought about Igor. He was strong and you could beat on him and he was tough…but he wasn’t one of our favorites.

Chappell: No doubt he was strong; do you remember those feats of strength he did on TV with Ivan Kalmikoff?

Schiavone: Yeah…impressive!

Chappell: Igor was certainly a unique character, a spectacle in a manner of speaking! Another unique kind of event that I have strong memories about in the Mid-Atlantic area was when title belts were put up for grabs for whatever reason, and there was a one night tournament to establish a new champion. Those one night tournaments were rare, but great spectacles! Did you ever see any of those tournaments live and in-person?

Schiavone: I can remember going to the Greensboro Coliseum for the World Tag Team Championship tournament, because Flair and Valentine were stripped of the titles…

Chappell: Right! Jim Crockett had come on TV and said Ric and Greg no- showed some title matches, and ran from the ring on some others. That was in early 1978 I believe. That was a huge deal. Didn’t Paul Jones and Steamboat win the tournament?

Schiavone: Yes. I remember a lot about that night…we took two carloads from up in Virginia to go down and see it!

Chappell: That shows you how big those one night tournaments were to the fans.

Schiavone: I remember we drank a LOT of beer too!

Chappell: (laughs) And you still remember that night?

Schiavone: (laughs) Okay, I remember going there and it was sold out…completely sold out.

Chappell: I bet…

Schiavone: And I remember Greg Valentine coming out. He and Flair were part of the tournament. Greg said this was all kind of bulls#@t, and that he and Ric refused to wrestle. They were not going to be in this tournament. Valentine did this speech on the mic; I don’t even think he got into the ring.

Chappell: Okay, I’ve seen some results of that tournament, and I remember them saying that Flair and Valentine lost by forfeit. Now we know the reason why! Who else do you remember participating in that tournament?

Schiavone: I remember the Brisco’s were there and wrestled. I remember the Masked Superstar and Baron von Raschke were there. I think the Masked Superstar and Ken Patera was the team that faced Jones and Steamboat in the championship match; I think they made it all the way through.

Chappell: Yep, I believe that’s right. Do you have any memories of the Brisco’s in the tournament?

Schiavone: The Brisco’s weren’t in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling at that time. Actually, they would come in later when I was starting to work there, doing the microphone and everything.

Chappell: Back before they became regulars in the Mid-Atlantic area, you knew the event was a big deal when the Brisco Brothers were flown in to participate. If memory serves, Andre and Stan Hansen were flown in for this tournament as well.

Schiavone: Yes, they were in it and Gene and Ole Anderson were also. But I remember Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat won it, and Tom Miller said, ‘Your new World Tag Team Champions, Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat!’ They would hug each other and they fell down! They were so excited, and the fans were going crazy!

Chappell: I bet that was an amazing night of wrestling to be a part of.

Schiavone: You know David, I had the event poster for that too.

Chappell: Really?

Schiavone: It was blue in red ink, and it just listed the tag teams. And of course I lost it!

Chappell: No! I love those event posters…I have quite a few of them from Greensboro, but not that one.

Schiavone: Every time we went [to Greensboro], there was a place between Roanoke and Greensboro that always had a poster…and we would always steal it!

Chappell: (laughing) Well, that answered my upcoming question as to whether you were into Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memorabilia!

Schiavone: I had a stack of the posters from Greensboro. Everywhere we went we would look for them. But there was one place near Greensboro that we could always find them…and it was near this old store. And there was never anybody around, and I always took it!

Chappell: Man, I wish I would have been on the lookout for them like that back in the day.

Schiavone: So I had a stack of them, and when I started working for Jim Crockett Promotions I brought them into the office and let everybody see them and they looked at them, and of course they weren’t as impressed as I was.

Chappell: (laughs)

Schiavone: They lived this s@#t...

Chappell: Yeah, it was their job.

Schiavone: I let everybody see them, and I had them all wrapped up or something and put them behind my desk at JCP and somebody took them.

Chappell: Oh my God!

Schiavone: Yeah, they’re all gone.

Chappell: (laughs) I’ve probably bought several of them on eBay!

Schiavone: (laughs) You may have! But I remember vividly the one from the World Tag Team Championship was blue with red ink with red letters and just listed the teams. It was really nice.

Chappell: And, damn, it got stolen along with the rest of your poster stash!

Schiavone: Yeah, I had a lot of them and from everywhere I went. That’s one of the things I always tried to do.

I may, the next time I see Frances, or get in touch with Frances, see if she knows where all those posters ended up!

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Check out PART SEVEN 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.

Thunderbolt Patterson Makes Guest Shots from Georgia by Dick Bourne

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

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