Thursday, April 20, 2017

Almanac History - June 1980

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History
June 1980    Roster   Directory

JUNE 1980
Much like the incoming summer heat, the month of June 1980 in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling got off to a blistering hot start as there was a super-spectacular one night tournament on 6/2 in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina that crowned new Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. The tournament was necessitated by the dissolution of the team of the former champs, the Masked Superstars #1 and #2, when Superstar #2 was defeated by Blackjack Mulligan and exposed to be John Studd who subsequently left the territory.

Matt Borne and Buzz Sawyer
Mid-Atlantic Tag team Champions
The tournament finals produced the classic match-up of good versus evil, with the diabolical team of Jimmy Snuka and the Iron Sheik with their nefarious manager Gene Anderson taking on the young upstart fan favorite tandem of Matt Borne and Buzz Sawyer. In what had to be labeled a major upset, Borne and Sawyer’s youthful exuberance carried the day and they became the new Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions before a joyous, but somewhat stunned, packed house in Greenville. Despite the victory, it remained to be seen whether this new dynamic duo would be able to use this upset victory to catapult themselves into a main event slot.

The first Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show of the month of June, which was taped on June 4, 1980 from the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina, saw the eccentric Enforcer Luciano come on the set carrying a bag containing what he called a “family tradition” and summoning Blackjack Mulligan to join him in front of the cameras. When Mulligan appeared with Cousin Luke, the Enforcer threw a hissy-fit and Blackjack was forced to escort Luke back to the dressing room. 

When Mulligan opened Luciano’s “gift,” it turned out to be of all things a fish! While everyone pondered the meaning of the fish, the Enforcer slapped Blackjack across the face enraging the big Texan. While nobody could figure out the significance of the fish, it was clear that if Luciano’s intent was to rile up Mulligan, he clearly succeeded.

Sunday June 8th at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina saw the much anticipated reunion of the dream team of Ric Flair and Greg Valentine, after Greg succeeded in convincing Ric that he had changed his ways and was ready to wear the “white hat” alongside the fan favorite “Nature Boy.” Flair and Valentine were pitted against Gene Anderson’s “Army” members Jimmy Snuka and the Iron Sheik. Soon after the bout started, it became crystal clear that Flair made an egregious mistake in taking Valentine back as his tag team partner.

Flair started the infamous tag match, but it was evident very early on that Valentine had no intentions of ever tagging Ric when he needed assistance. Instead, Valentine jumped off the ring apron and laughed as Snuka and the Sheik brutalized Flair. After Ric was pinned, Greg joyfully entered the ring and assisted in the post-match beat down. Eventually, Valentine grabbed the cane wielded by Gene Anderson and smashed it several times to the bridge of Flair’s nose. As a result, the Nature Boy’s nose was broken in gruesome fashion.

On the June 11th tapings of the Mid-Atlantic and World Wide Wrestling television shows, both Ric Flair and Valentine appeared on the set to discuss the incident in Greensboro and its repercussions. Greg was full of himself, saying that he planned to turn on Flair all along, and that his only goal going forward was to capture Ric’s United States Heavyweight Title. Valentine also told the fans that Ray Stevens was the greatest tag team partner he ever had, but that he was now with Stevens’ blessing leaving the tag team behind to go full tilt after Flair’s belt.

For his part, the Nature Boy told the fans on TV that he was going to make Valentine pay for his trickery and deceit. Unable to speak as usual because of the broken nose, Flair said he had a nose guard specially made for him and that he would wear the contraption while wrestling Valentine, as nothing was going to stop him from getting revenge on Greg.

(See also: One Night at the WRAL Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Tapings by Bruce Mitchell of the Pro Wrestling Torch. It was a Mid-Atlantic TV taping from this same time period.)

During the remainder of the month of June, Flair would wind down his U.S. Title program with Jimmy Snuka and segue to battling Greg “the Hammer” almost immediately. Ric defeated Snuka in a vicious Fence Match in Richmond on June 13th, and followed that up with a clean victory over the Fiji islander in Lynchburg, Virginia the following Friday night.

The Nature Boy started his U.S. Title program with Valentine at the Norfolk Scope on June 19th with a wild double disqualification melee. The craziness between these two continued at the Greensboro Coliseum on June 22nd with a rabid double disqualification finish, and at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on June 30th to close out the month with an equally inconclusive double countout conclusion.

The June 11th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show may be best remembered for a segment involving Enforcer Luciano, who was playing up the Detroit Street Brawls that he and Blackjack Mulligan were about to engage in. The rules for the Detroit Street Brawls were very similar to the rules for a Texas Death Match, meaning that falls didn’t count and the last man standing would win. 

The Enforcer tried to show the TV audience his aura of invincibility by breaking a cement block with his bare fist, which Luciano said had steel pins surgically implanted. But what shook up the fans, and a visibly and audibly dumbfounded Bob Caudle, was the Enforcer breaking a light bulb on the cement block and then chewing up the glass and afterward spitting it out! After viewing this spectacle, there could be no doubt that Luciano was capable of anything.

Luciano got off to a surprisingly strong start in his battles with Mulligan in his specialty match, the Detroit Street Brawl. In June, the Enforcer defeated Blackjack in the Detroit Brawls in Raleigh’s Dorton Arena on June 17th, at the Norfolk Scope Coliseum on June 19th, in the Charlotte Coliseum on June 21st, at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium on June 23rd, in the Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina on June 24th, and at the County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on June 27th.

The Enforcer was thankful he did not have to contend with Cousin Luke Mulligan in the Detroit Street Brawls, as the first part of June saw the Enforcer and the Masked Superstar take their fair share of lumps against the Mulligan family! There were some 6 man tag matches involving the Mulligan’s and another partner and the Enforcer and the Superstar with another partner, but most were straight tag matches between the four and they were wild and crazy.

With “Crazy Luke” leading the way, the Mulligan’s dominated Luciano and the Superstar at the Norfolk Scope on June 5th, and followed that brew-ha-ha up with a count out win at County Hall in Charleston on June 6th. In Greensboro on June 8th, both teams were counted out as the combatants were traipsing through all parts of the cavernous Coliseum with all four being counted out of the ring. The following evening the Mulligan’s captured another win, but the bad guys were finally getting used to the novelty of Cousin Luke. The tide turned in favor of the guys in black during the next two tag team wars, in Madison, Virginia on June 12th and the next night in the Richmond Coliseum.

After his stint teaming with Enforcer Luciano for the first half of the month, the Superstar got busy defending his prestigious NWA Television Title later in June. Not surprisingly, the masked titleholder was drawn toward another masked man as his next major singles challenger. Sweet Ebony Diamond, who had dazzled the area’s fans with his athletic style, was ready to battle the Superstar in a mask versus mask TV Title program!

For the last two weeks of June, the two masked wrestlers put on a series of riveting TV Title bouts that saw Sweet Ebony Diamond winning all the matches by disqualification giving him the dukes in the record book, but not enabling him to wear out the championship gold. These fast paced title bouts began at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh on June 17th, and went straight through to the end of the month on June 30th in Greenville, South Carolina. In between, the masked men also battled in Norfolk, Lynchburg and Roanoke in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in Columbia and Charleston in the palmetto state of South Carolina.

During the month of June there were two impressive cards featuring Mid-Atlantic performers at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto Ontario, Canada. On June 15th, Ric Flair defeated Jimmy Snuka in one of their final bouts in their springtime United States Title series. Two weeks later in Toronto, Gene Anderson’s new dynamic team of Ray Stevens and Jimmy Snuka had a highly entertaining draw with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood.  The Canadian Heavyweight Champion, the Iron Sheik, maintained a firm hold on that championship belt during the month of June. 

In addition to holding onto his Canadian championship belt, the Iron Sheik also maintained a stranglehold on his Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship during the month of June. The Sheik battled the former Mid-Atlantic Champion Jim Brunzell during June, and began to dominate the program after a slow start early in the month. After dropping decisions to Brunzell in the border town of Savannah, Georgia on June 1st and Columbia, South Carolina on June 3rd, the Sheik hit his stride with multiple successful title defenses against “Jumpin’ Jim” as the month of June progressed.

Roanoke, Virginia saw two classic Mid-Atlantic Title battles between the Sheik and Brunzell in the month of June. On June 8th, the Sheik dominated Brunzell at the Roanoke Civic Center, but needed to take advantage of the referee to do so. This led to a return bout two weeks later with an added stipulation of two referees. The June 22nd rematch in Roanoke was a bloody affair, which saw the Sheik again successfully emerge from the fracas with his Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title belt.

However, Brunzell used a bit of chicanery of his own against the Sheik to try and stem the tide later in the month. On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show that was taped on June 25th, the Sheik and Brunzell wrestled in a non-title bout, but Jumpin’ Jim was able to unlace and capture the boot of the Iron Sheik that Brunzell said was loaded. Jim vowed to wear the boot and use it against the Sheik, which he hoped would give him the edge against the fearsome Iranian in their future bouts.

At the end of the month, NWA World Tag Team Champions Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood relinquished their World belts after having finally gotten the upper hand in their epic feud with Greg Valentine and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens. During the earlier part of June, Steamboat and Youngblood took the measure of Stevens and Valentine in three climactic Fence Matches. In Raleigh at the Dorton Arena on June 3rd, in the Charlotte Coliseum on June 17th and finally at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on June 20th, Steamboat and Youngblood effectively ended the challenge of the Stevens/Valentine team with victories in the bruising battles inside a steel cage. But just as one bitter feud ended, another would begin.

After Greg Valentine double-crossed Ric Flair and essentially moved on from his team with Ray Stevens, Gene Anderson wasted no time in filling the vacuum. On the June 11th Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television show, Gene announced that he had brought in Ray Stevens to his “Army” to team with Snuka. And it didn’t take long for this new team to ace championship gold!

On June 22nd in the Greensboro Coliseum, the new tandem of Ray Stevens and Jimmy Snuka topped Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood to claim the NWA World Tag Team Championship belts. On the June 25th Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program, Stevens claimed that during the bout Steamboat had tripped outside the ring, accidentally hit his head and his injury cost “the low class bums” the belts. But fortunately for the fans, Steamboat and Youngblood brought out a film clip from the title match in Greensboro. And in the clip it was clear to see that Stevens deliberately delivered a piledriver to Steamboat on the concrete floor, knocking Ricky out and allowing the bad guys to pin Youngblood for the championship gold.

After the title switch, the new champions Snuka and Stevens battled the former champs in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina the next night and kept the straps by getting purposely disqualified. Then on June 28th in the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, Gene Anderson’s antics so enraged Steamboat and Youngblood that the fan favorites were disqualified, giving the “bad guys” a rare victory by disqualification.

As the month of June ended, there were major ongoing programs between Ric Flair and Greg Valentine, Enforcer Luciano and Blackjack Mulligan, the Masked Superstar and the masked Sweet Ebony Diamond, Jim Brunzell and the Iron Sheik, and Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. July had all the ingredients in play for a combustible month to come in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling…let the fireworks begin!

WORLD TAG TEAM---Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood  Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens 
(June 22, 1980 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina)
CANADIAN---Iron Sheik
NWA TELEVISION---Masked Superstar
MID-ATLANTIC TAG TEAM---Matt Borne and Buzz Sawyer (June 2, 1980 at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville South Carolina, defeating Jimmy Snuka and the Iron Sheik in the finals of a one night tournament)