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.