Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hailing From the Great State of Texas

Part 1
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Growing up as I did in East Tennessee, I didn't know a whole lot about the geography of the state of Texas. I knew it was big, but that's about it. But when I started regularly watching Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on a regular basis in the early 1970s, that all changed for me.

I had an Atlas that my parents had given me and I loved looking up far away places and day-dreaming about what it would be like to go there. It seemed to me that more wrestlers came from the great state of Texas than from any other state in the union. And from very cool sounding places.

My first memory of being interested in learning about Texas was in 1976 during the year-long war between Paul Jones and Blackjack Mulligan over the United States Heavyweight Championship. Paul was from Port Arthur and Blackjack famously hailed from Eagle Pass, Texas. Both of these places sounded very exciting to me. Part of it was the way they were announced by WRAL TV ring announcer (and promoter) extraordinaire Joe Murnick.

These were the first Texas towns I heard about on wrestling that I remember looking up in my Atlas. I learned that Port Arthur was a relatively small town on the Gulf of Mexico, just east of Houston.

I looked up Eagle Pass, too, and saw that it was a small Mexican-border town about two and a half hours west of San Antonio on the Rio Grande river. But this confused me a bit, because Eagle Pass was nowhere near all the colorful places Blackjack talked about in his local promos. Blackjack always mentioned west Texas towns like Odessa, Abilene, Sweetwater, Midland, or Duvall County in the tales he would weave into the local promos for upcoming Mid-Atlantic area events. But that string of west Texas towns was along the I-20 corridor well over 300 miles north of Eagle Pass. This wasn't adding up.

I asked Blackjack about this once, asking how he came to be billed from Eagle Pass. He confessed that it just had an outlaw sound to it that he liked. And some of Mama Mulligan's kinfolk were from there, too, he said with a smile. Blackjack was always working.

So here is a short list of wrestlers that I watched in the 1970s and 1980s that hailed from the great state of Texas. It isn't a complete list by any means, just the ones I think of the most. I remember looking up all these hometowns in my trusty Atlas during those years. All of them seemed like magical places to me, especially living in the far off hills of East Tennessee.

Blackjack Mulligan - Eagle Pass
Blackjack loved telling tall tales about the characters he encountered in Texas, many of them archived in our section of this website called Blackjack's Bar-b-que. Of all the wrestlers who hailed from Texas, none of them was more Texan in my eyes than the great Blackjack Mulligan. He set an early  record for the most U.S. title reigns, and was both a hated heel and beloved babyface during his seven years headlining our territory.

Paul Jones - Port Arthur 
Port Arthur always had this very cool, classy sound to it to me as a kid. And Paul Jones was that kind of babyface in his peak years for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1970s. The quintessential good-guy fighting the uphill battle against the dangerous Texas villain Blackjack Mulligan. Their rivalry in the area is still remembered to this day. Paul held just about every title you could hold in our area, and was a main eventer here for over a decade.

Dick Murdoch - Waxahachie
When Dick Murdoch came for a multi-month stay in our area in 1978, he was billed from Waxahachie, Texas. It took me a while to learn how to spell it to be able to look it up on my Atlas! Waxahachie is just south of Dallas. Murdoch was later billed from Canyon, Texas, which is just south of Amarillo in the west Texas panhandle, and a much more appropriate place to be from given his ties to other west Texas wrestlers like Blackjack Mulligan, Dusty Rhodes, and the Funk brothers. But how cool is the name of a town like Waxahachie? Unforgettable.

Dusty Rhodes - Austin
I knew of Austin of course, being the state capitol of Texas. But it didn't have that same exotic feel to it that some of these lesser known Texas towns I was learning about. But for years I knew that Dusty was the "son of a plumber" from Austin, Texas. Rhodes made regular appearances in our area in the 1970s as a special attraction, similar to Andre the Giant. He was a semi-regular on the big cards held in Crockett's main town of Greensboro. In 1984, he came in full time as booker and led the company to heights it hadn't seen since the George Scott Mulligan/Flair/Steamboat era of the 1970s.

Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk - Amarillo
Amarillo was always a fascinating place to me as a kid because it was where the famous Funk family originated from, and the Funks were wrestling royalty that you read about in all the wrestling magazines. They were the only two brothers to have ever held the NWA World Heavyweight championship and both had many title defense in our area. Real men came from places like Amarillo, Texas. I knew this for a fact.  Late addition: David Chappell reminds me that Dory Funk also worked under a mask as the Texas Outlaw and held the Mid-Atlantic title managed by Paul Jones.

Tiger Conway, Jr. - Houston
Conway was a breakout star here in 1975, teaming with rookie Steve Keirn to upset the world tag team champions, the Anderson Brothers, in a non-title match on television. He and his father had success in Houston, and were billed from that city while wrestling here.

Nelson Royal - Amarillo
Nelson's heyday was before my time as a fan, but he was always around, especially in the 1980s where he made a brief return as the mentor and tag partner of fellow Texan Sam Houston. I loved that Royal always looked like the quintessential Texas cowboy. He was actually originally from Kentucky and lived most of his life in North Carolina and was actually once billed as being from London, England! Our friend Carroll Hall seems to remember that when Nelson turned babyface in the mid-1960s and began teaming with Tex McKenzie, he was billed from Amarillo. Who can ever forget those cool vignettes beginning in December of 1985 when Nelson would invite us for a cup of coffee around the campfire to smarten us up on the Bunkhouse Stampede? During the 1980s he was billed from Mooresville, NC (his legit home), although he was seemingly always considered a Texan.

Wahoo McDaniel* - Midland
Wahoo is listed here with an asterisk because in our area he was primarily billed as being from Oklahoma, where he had great success playing college football at the University of Oklahoma. But occasionally he was billed as being from Midland, Texas, where he actually did grow up and graduated from high school. His father worked the oil fields there. Wahoo's little league coach in Midland was future U.S. president George H.W. Bush, part of another famous Texas family. Wahoo was occasionally billed from Houston, too. I'm guessing it was because his biggest early career success in pro-wrestling was working that city for promoter Paul Boesch. I remember how surprised I was learning later that Wahoo and Johnny Valentine had battled for years in Texas long before both were brought to the Mid-Atlantic area by booker George Scott. I just assumed as a kid that their first battles were in our area. Boy was I wrong about that.

Stan Hansen - Borger
My exposure to Stan "The Lariat" Hansen in the 1970s was from watching "Georgia Championship Wrestling" when Superstation WTCG-17 (which later became WTBS) first appeared on our local cable system in 1976 or 1977.  Gordon Solie always called him "the bad man from Borger, Texas." Borger is about 30 miles northeast of Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. Hansen only wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic area occasionally, most notably in a late-70s tag team tournament with partner Blackjack Mulligan, and as a NWA world tag team champion with partner Ole Anderson in 1982.

Bobby Duncum - Austin
Duncum had a big battle with Blackjack Mulligan in the early 1980s which always seem centered around their real and/or fabled history with each other in Texas. Whether it was in Texas bullrope matches or Texas death matches, they shed some blood in our rings, and it always seemed to be a fight over the love of some former Texas sweetheart like Sarah Joe Puckett. Or at least that's how I remember it. Mulligan and Duncum's promos were filled with west Texas references, and I always wondered if it was was part of the lore or was part of a shoot!

Jake Roberts
Jake "The Snake" Roberts came here in 1981, when he was a tall, lean and lanky Texas cowboy through and through, and had a great look in that regard. This was before he carried around a snake or had created the DDT or was possessed by the devil and all the rest.  I always liked the Texas cowboy version of Jake Roberts the best. He was later billed from Stone Mountain, Georgia, but in our area in the early 1980s he was billed from Texas, although I can't recall them ever saying where in Texas. (If you remember, let us know!)

Outlaw Ron Bass - Pampa 
I confess I never looked up Pampa on my Atlas, and never knew where it was until I saw it included on an exit sign driving on I-40 from Amarillo to Oklahoma City in 2011. Pampa is a tiny little town between the two. Booker Ole Anderson brought "Outlaw" Ron Bass in to our area in 1981 to fill the Texan role left vacant by the departure of Blackjack Mulligan, but because the two had such a similar persona, the fans never rallied around Bass here the way they always had ol' Mully. 

The Von Erich Brothers* - Denton
No wrestlers were more associated with the state of Texas in the 1980s than the Von Erich brothers. David and Kevin only wrestled once in the Mid-Atlantic area, in a tournament here, and so they have an asterisk beside their name, too. But they have to be on my list. Their syndicated TV show aired in many markets in our area, and even if you didn't see them on TV here, you were well aware of them through their endless coverage in the wrestling magazines. David Von Erich's nickname was "the Yellow Rose of Texas" which became younger brother Kerry Von Erich's symbol, too, after David's untimely passing. It was part of a memorable tribute to David when Kerry defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship. The Von Erich exploits in the ring were primarily carried out in Dallas, Fort Worth, and surrounding areas, but the town always associated with them is Denton, some 20 miles north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Tully Blanchard - San Antonio
Tully was always billed from San Antonio, and his father Joe Blanchard promoted wrestling there in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Joe Blanchard actually had some of the Crockett champions down to his territory to defend their titles occasionally (which we cover in part two of this series.) Tully first made a name in the Mid-Atlantic area in the late 1970s on the mid-card, but returned in 1984 and headlined here until leaving in 1988 for the WWF.  He also brought another notable Texan into the area in the mid-80s, Nickla "Baby Doll" Roberts, to accompany him as his "perfect 10."

Sam Houston - Houston
In the tradition of the "tall drink of water" cowboys like Jake Roberts a few years before him, Sam Houston personified the Texas cowboy image for Jim Crockett Promotions during the Dusty-era of JCP. (Dusty had assumed more of a "David Allen Coe truck-drivin' hat" persona in the mid-1980s.) I always thought Dusty had really big plans for Sam, but they never panned out for various reasons. Houston teamed with veteran Nelson Royal during those years, too, and that gave him even more Texas street cred.

Late Addition!
Black Bart - Pecos
"Dadgum!" I can't believe I left out Black Bart! Brian Rogers reminded me, and dadgum it, how can I not include a guy who yells "TEXAS!!" as he leaps from the second turnbuckle with a big legdrop! Bart was billed from Pecos, Texas, which is further west on out that I-20 corridor past Odessa. The former Ricky Harris in the Mid-Atlantic area in the early 1980s, Black Bart was one half of the Mid-Atlantic tag team champions with the aforementioned Ron Bass managed by James J. Dillon. He was National Champion as well. But my lasting memory of Bart was that Stan Hansen-esque primal yell of 'Texas!!" as he lept from the turnbuckle with that big leg drop. Sorry I forgot you to begin with, Bart!

Those are the wrestlers that I think of when I think of Texas wrestlers working for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1970s and 1980s. I fully realize my list isn't complete. David Chappell, who has an incredible memory for details for things like this, sent me his list of wrestlers in our area who were billed as coming from Texas during his years watching JCP wrestling. He also admits he's probably left someone out, so if you can recall any others, please let us know.

Scott Casey, Sonny King, Paul Jones, Tiger Conway, Jr., Wahoo, Blackjack, Brian Adias, Baby Doll, Tully Blanchard, Bobby Duncum, Dory Funk, Jr., Terry Funk, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Stan Hansen, Sam Houston, Killer Karl Kox, Dick Murdoch, Barry Orton, Dusty Rhodes, Jake Roberts, Richard Blood, Barry Windham, Mark Youngblood, Skandor Akbar, Bruiser Brody, Skip Young, Gary Young, Len Denton.

In 2011, I took a long road trip through the Southwestern and Midwestern United States. I met a good friend in Dallas and we went to the State Fair and rode the texas Star. Afterwards I headed west through the oil and cotton country of west Texas, driving through towns like Abilene, Sweetwater, Midland and Odessa. Then I headed north into the panhandle through Lubbuck, Canyon, and Amarillo. This was Funk country, Rhodes and Murdoch country, Mulligan country. Throughout that beautiful drive, I heard the echos of bodyslams in the ring and the voices of Bob Caudle, Gordon Solie, and Joe Murnick naming those towns whenever they spoke of these great Texas legends. I treasure the memories of that adventure west.

In PART TWO of this "Texas Connections" feature, we'll take a look at some of the many times Jim Crockett's area championships were defended for other promoters in some of the Texas territories of the NWA including the NWA World Tag team titles, the U.S. title, and the NWA TV title.

Published again in October of 2021 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Nice to Catch Up with Good Friends

It was nice to have the opportunity to catch up with my good buddy Mike Mooneyham when he and Ruth were recently in my neighborhood. Great lunch talking wrestling and solving the world's problems at Little Richard's BBQ in Mount Airy, NC.

Mike's wrestling columns at the Charleston Post & Courier are always "must reads"!


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Blooper! Rocky Mount NC

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

An interesting blooper this week from March 23, 1977 in Rocky Mount, NC, where the team of Wahoo McDaniel and Rufus R. JOYNER is billed to be taking on Kim Duk and Boris Malenko.

Except, of course, Wahoo's partner was the legendary "Freight Train" Rufus R. Jones, not Rufus R. Joyner. Perhaps the person putting together this ad was concentrating on the locations for advance tickets, one of which was JOYNER's Athletic House in Rocky Mount.

Wahoo and Rufus were former NWA world tag team champions a year earlier, having held the title for exactly one week in late January and early February 1976, winning it from and then losing it back to the Anderson Brothers.

Boris Malenko was actually Kim Duk's manager at the time. Duk's regular partner was the Masked Superstar, but Malenko was filling in here.

Mark Eastridge points out that this was somewhat of an an unusual indoor venue for Rocky Mount as most of their shows took place in the local baseball park outdoors.

I always enjoyed seeing the line-ups for these Wednesday night Rocky Mount shows, as it was fun to imagine the guys having to sprint from the WRAL TV tapings in nearby Raleigh to make these show on that Wednesday night double-shot.

Usually the guys in the main event of the Rocky Mount show would wrestle on the first hour of the WRAL tapings in Raleigh, but not the second, to allow for travel time to the Rocky Mount venue. It was about an hour's drive, although wrestlers drove like maniacs most of the time and their travel time between the two was likely a little less.

Thanks to Mark Eastridge for the clippings.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Piper challenges Steamboat

Collector Mike Simmerman expertly recreates a scene where Roddy Piper challenges Mid-Atlantic Champion Rocky Steamboat to a title match on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling."


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Remembering the Great Burrhead Jones

by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

“Bob, what is he doing to my cousin?” 

These words will forever ring in my memory, spoken by Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones as he was observing the brutal beat down on his cousin Burrhead Jones by the man from Eagle Pass, Texas, Blackjack Mulligan.

Melvin Nelson
aka, Burrhead Jones
Rufus and Blackjack had been having issues and to further enhance things, the much smaller Burrhead was now on the receiving end of one giant butt kicking. As Rufus was on commentary with the legendary Bob Caudle, his emotions were running high, as the action in the ring was taking a turn for the worse or at least for Burrhead it was. Bob answered Rufus’ question in a very Bob Caudle way, he simply said “Rufus, I think he is trying to kill him.” With that, Blackjack, an enormous human being, came crashing down, from the top turnbuckle onto the visibly smaller Jones and the quivering that followed would become a thing of legend. It ended with Burrhead being removed from the ring in a body cast. I remember that show like it was yesterday.

Watching this happen as a young wrestling fan was something I will never forget, but even greater was sitting with the man himself many years later and having him relive that moment and giving me all the details. I would have never dreamed Burrhead and I would become such good friends.

I was in the early stages of promoting some shows and putting together a reunion show for Charleston County Hall. Mike Mooneyham and I had become friends and he shared with me that Burrhead lived in the area and that we should most definitely have him be a part of what I was doing. One day, out of the blue, I received a call and the voice on the other end of the phone, simply said, “Andy this is Burrhead Jones.” I couldn’t believe it. This figure from my childhood, one that stood out because of a terrible beating he took on TV, was talking with me on the telephone. He gave me his address and it would be soon that we would meet in person. It was as if we had known each other forever. Truly one of the nicest people I have ever met. As down to earth and as real as anyone I have ever known.

I was a deputy at that time and Burrhead’s house was on my patrol route, so I got to see him quite often. We would sit and talk several times during the week. To hear him tell stories was one of the favorite parts of my week and boy did he have some stories. He had worked with everyone and as Mike and I would say over the years, “everyone had a Burrhead story.” He was truly something else. His accounts of being chased out of the shower by the original Sheik (Ed Farhat) who was holding a snake, his story of how he got the large scar on his forehead by the hands of George “Two-ton” Harris, these were stories that made me laugh and just form a bond of friendship that I hold dear to my heart. His openness about how hard it was being a black man in the wrestling business and the times he was not allowed to wrestle a white guy, they were a harsh reminder of how things used to be. The young people protesting today about oppression, they have no idea. Burrhead was not bitter, he was not angry, and even his wrestling name, certainly not politically correct, it was how he preferred to be addressed. It was him, he was a beloved character and his stories of how he made it through all the hard times, was truly encouraging. Our world could use a few more like him.

Dick Bourne and I had the chance to talk with Burrhead for a DVD-interview several years ago. He was such a joy to visit with and the memories he shared were special. You could see in his eyes and hear through his words that he enjoyed life and had fun when he wrestled. He did not “shoot” in the sense of being bitter, vile, or spill the beans on everyone. Instead he was just Burrhead, because that is who he was and as he would so often say “there will never be a cotton-picking other.”

Burrhead Jones interviews Sandy Scott
(Andy McDaniel photo)
When I promoted my first show, Burrhead helped me out. He was just a special guy and he loved wrestling. He would still don the tights and work a match if I asked him to. The weekend of the County Hall reunion was incredible. The star power we had there was unmatched. To see the likes of Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson walking back into County Hall, to stand in the ring with Johnny Valentine was a moment I will never forget. However, it was the emcee for the day that made the entire afternoon a blast.

Burrhead unofficially became our emcee and he found a live microphone and went all over the building interviewing everyone. Funny would really not describe it. A hoot would probably be a better description. To watch Burrhead with Ole Anderson, Tim Woods, Sandy Scott, Penny Banner, Tommy Young and Mr. Henry Marcus himself, was indeed something to behold. I am so fortunate to have pictures of these special moments and some video.

It was also during that afternoon that Burrhead unwisely agreed to be on the receiving end of a “Hammer” from Johnny Valentine. Burrhead had asked Johnny if he “still had it” to which Johnny replied, “sure let me show you” and what happened next was a sight to behold. Johnny pulled Burrhead across the ropes and dropped a massive blow and like a stone, Burrhead fell to the ground and sold that move like he has been hit by a truck. From the sound of the lick, truck might not be that far off. I checked on Burrhead afterwards and asked him if he wanted to try that again and he quickly replied, “no thanks.”

I would maintain my friendship with Burrhead, even after moving away and after changing careers. In fact, he and I would even have the chance to tag-team one time in a match against Mr. #1 George South and another Pastor friend of mine, Jim Palmer. I could tell another story about that event, but maybe another time. Over the years, it was always a joy to get that phone call that always started off, “Andy, this is the Burrhead, where have you been? I thought you forgot about me, man you put me down.” Those calls made my day. It was always a joy to hear from, as Mike and I affectionately called him, “the local legend.”

Last week I got the sad news that my friend passed away. He was living in New York to be closer to family and while not as often as I would have liked, we did manage to talk a time or two a year. My last phone call with Burrhead was several months ago. I knew he was having some health issues and was no longer able to see. I called him to check on him and it was just like old times. We were having a great talk, but in the background music started getting louder and louder and Burrhead (who was being moved in a wheelchair by an orderly or nurse) he said “Andy, let me call you back, this fool has parked me by the jukebox and I can’t hear a dang thing.” Typical Burrhead, but a good laugh that I will cherish.

He will never be in the WWE Hall of Fame, he will not get a ten-bell salute or video on a Monday night Raw, but for me, Burrhead Jones was a star, he was a legend in his own way and more than all of it, he was my friend. I will miss him. Thanks for the memories my old friend, I will hold on to them forever. The last time I saw Burrhead Jones in person, he gave me a box. I opened it and inside were his wrestling boots. He had signed them and said to me “I will not need these anymore, I want you to have them.” These are among my prize possessions. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rufus to Valentine: "It's gonna be a hard rough road to travel!"

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
featuring CLASSIC AUDIO from 1977

From the tail end of 1976 into the first two months of 1977, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine traded the Mid-Atlantic Television Title several times during a spirited program. Rufus had finally captured an elusive singles championship in the Crockett territory after fighting for one for nearly two years, while Valentine won the TV belt in just a tad over a month after arriving in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Maybe it was the fact that Rufus had to fight so long and so hard for the title belt that Valentine aced in just over a month that made the “King” so determined in his quest to hold onto that leather strap. Nobody that I can think of that graced the rings of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was more outspoken in his affection for a championship belt. Case in point was a local promo that Rufus cut in advance of a battle with Valentine at the Richmond Arena on January 28, 1977. Rufus’ passion for his belt during that promo heated up the below zero temperatures that froze the Richmond area during the lead up to that bout.

Exclusive Audio from 1977:

When announcer Les Thatcher brought in Rufus to talk about this rematch with Valentine from a week earlier at the Richmond Arena, the Freight Train was rolling down the tracks from the get-go. Rufus exclaimed, “You know Les, Greg Valentine is mad! He do anything to win this belt back from me. He claim…that I stole his belt. But let me tell you something Greg Valentine, I fought hard to get this belt, and I’m gonna keep this belt Greg.”

Jones continued, “The people stood behind me all the way, and you think you’re gonna win my belt? You bust my head open; left me bleeding! But one thing Greg, I’m a fighter and I’m not gonna stop. No matter what happens, my shoulder on that mat and the referee say one, two…automatically my shoulder raise up. That’s the sign of a good champion. And you think that you beat me for my belt…you wrong! Cause I’m coming back, anything I can use…I go outside the ring and get me a chair…ANYTHING! I’m gonna use it Greg Valentine. Because I’m gonna keep my belt!”

The King continued to sing praises about the TV belt to the highest expounding, “This belt mean a lot to me, and a lot to the people. The people have stood behind me and pushed me all the way to get this belt. They say, King, they say one thing that you need, they say you need a belt. Now the King got a belt and Greg Valentine chase behind me so he got me to sign a contract. You’re gonna try to get your belt back Greg…tell you right now Greg, it’s gonna be a hard rough road to travel!”

Listening to the fervor in Rufus’ voice, no fan could doubt that the Freight Train valued the Mid-Atlantic TV Title over anything else in the world! Jones explained, “Because any man get in my way, the Freight Train gonna run right over ‘em cause the Freight Train got this belt and from now on I’m gonna defend this belt against anyone. I’m gonna fight to every breath in my heart; I’m gonna keep on fightin’ because I want this belt and I’m gonna keep it!”

The King then concluded, “This belt mean a lot to me as I say before and I’m gonna keep it like I say. I love this belt! Every night I lay in my bed, I take this belt and lay it on my dresser. I get up in the morning; the first thing I see is my belt. And you try to take it from me…come on Greg! And look out brother, I may have me some brass knuckles, I may use me a CHAIR! But you think ANY WAY you win my belt you are wrong Greg Valentine! So come on down there!”

Championship belts were a big deal in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and they were put over as such by the stars of Jim Crockett Promotions. But perhaps nobody did it with more feeling and more sincerity than did Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones. Particularly during the several months that Rufus and Greg battled over the Mid-Atlantic TV Title…no one that heard Rufus could doubt that Valentine’s path to that title belt was going to be a hard and rough road to travel.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jim Crockett's Earliest Foray into Televised Wrestling (1956)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

All-Star Championship Wrestling
Carroll Hall, who publishes the "All-Star Championship Wrestling" website, has unearthed information on what most surely was Jim Crockett's earliest foray into televised wrestling.

In May of 1956, WFBC Channel 4 in Greenville, SC announced they would begin airing live wrestling matches in the studios of WFBC beginning on June 2, 1956. The show was called, appropriately enough, "Carolina Wrestling."

Here is the text of the announcement that appeared in the Greenville Times.

Channel 4 Will Have Wrestling Ring in Studio

Wrestling in the studios of WFBC-TV on Rutherford Street will be presented "live" by Channel 4 each Saturday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30, the television station announced yesterday.

A 20 x 20 regulation ring will be set up in the spacious studios and name wrestlers will appear regularly. First performance will be next Saturday afternoon.

The wrestlers who have been scheduled to appear at various times include Mr. Moto, Kinji Shiduya, Gene Becker, Jack Whitzig, Don Arnold, Don Eagle, and Cheif War Eagle, Lea, Chick and Leo Garabaldi, Carl Von Hess, Dick Steinborn, and Angelo Martinelli. There will also be girl and midget wrestlers.

Commentator for the events will be Claude Freeman.

According to Hall's research of newspaper archival TV listings from that time period, the show ran for just over three months, with it's last appearance on the TV schedule being Saturday, September 8, 1956. Demand for the free tickets to the studio show grew so quickly that on at least one occasion, WFBC moved the show to the famous Textile Hall in Greenville, site of many Jim Crockett wrestling events in the 1950s and 1960s. The move was reported in the Greenville Times to accommodate the huge demand for tickets to the live broadcasts.

WFBC-FM radio personality Claude Freeman was the host for the program. Freeman had been on WFBC-FM going back into the 1940s, hosting a popular morning program called "Kitchen Capers."

To put this show in historical perspective of the times, WFBC Channel 4 had only been on the air for two and a half years at this point, first broadcasting on December 31, 1953. Jim Crockett would not put wrestling on WBTV in Charlotte until January of 1958. So the June 1956 "Carolina Wrestling" show was bound to be the first ever affiliated with Jim Crockett Promotions.

The show proved to be quite popular, both in ratings and in interest for tickets, which begs the question why it was relatively short-lived. As reported on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, wrestling would return to the studios of WFBC in Greenville in 1960 with hosts including Bob Poole, Bill Krieger and Billy Powell.

For Carroll Hall's first post on this information visit:
"Carolina Wrestling" on WFBC 4 in Greenville, SC"


Friday, October 20, 2017

Action Figures Friday: John Studd and the Masked Superstar

Mike Simmerman's great photo features one of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's tougher teams, John Studd and the Masked Superstar, seen here in this depiction with the voice of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" Bob Caudle. Mike's attention to detail really works here, including the set in the background and even Bob's head tilted just to the left as he would often do while holding the mic during interviews.

Both Studd and Superstar were bounty hunters for Ric Flair when Flair had the $10,000 bounty on the head of Blackjack Mulligan.

Studd would also wear a mask and take on the persona of Masked Superstar #2.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Flashback: Ric Flair tells George South "Today You're Ricky Steamboat"

Today we revisit one of our favorite articles from the past, just in case you missed it, or perhaps might enjoy it again. (It's kind of like your favorite TV show is in re-runs!)

And apparently, although I can't confirm it having not yet seen it, but Ashley Flair (WWE's Charlotte Flair) mentions this in her new book.

* * * * *

Ric Flair tells George South: "Today You're Ricky Steamboat"
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published Dec. 18, 2015

I've written before about all the stories that George South has told me over the many years we've been good friends, and usually I find myself not believing half of them. I mean, come on - - wrestlers tend to tell tall tales, am I right? And George loves to tell a good story. But then someone comes along that was involved in one of those stories and says something that confirms his story and I wind up calling him and confessing  - - "You were right!"

Such was the case on a recent episode of the "WOOOO! Nation" podcast, when Ric Flair and co-host Conrad Thompson were taking questions sent in by fans. One question dealt with wrestler Mike Jackson and why he never quite got a break to move up the cards back in the day. Jackson was thought of at the time (and still to this day) as one of the best underneath workers in the business and all the main event guys liked working with him.

But Flair moved on quickly from Jackson and said this, which confirmed part of a story George had told me long ago:

"You know who was actually the best worker back then, was George South .... I got in the ring with him one time and I said, 'Buddy, today you're Ricky Steamboat'. And we tore it down."  - Ric Flair, WOOOO! Nation, December 9, 2015

About ten years ago, George told me the story about his November 12, 1988 match with Ric Flair on Superstation WTBS, a match that went nearly 15 minutes, much longer than the usual WTBS TV match at the time. We were making a 22-hour round trip in a rented truck to visit the great Blackjack Mulligan at his home in Florida. That's right, I had 22 hours of listening to George South tell stories with the same Journey CD playing in the background the whole time. (And that part about Journey is a shoot!)

World Championship Wrestling on Superstation WTBS, November 12, 1988

George told me on that trip that before they walked through the curtain that morning in the WTBS studio, Ric had uttered those same words to him: Today you're Ricky Steamboat. Now, I never knew if I really believed that or not. I mean, I knew George loved Ricky Steamboat, and at times thought he was Ricky Steamboat, so it seemed plausible that in the context of the story this was George's wishful thinking. That is until last week when I heard Ric Flair say those very same words.

So having once again called George to acknowledge he had indeed told me the truth, I asked him to tell me whole story again. He quickly reminded me that it was a match Ric didn't want to have to begin with.

"When you got to TV, you found out who would actually work," George told me. "Ric was scheduled to work for the first time in awhile, but he really didn't want to. He had just gotten in from Pittsburgh after being up all night and he had to catch an early plane to Ohio after the taping. That studio was so cold and he didn't want to work and then have to shower and have that wet hair and rush to the airport."

Indeed, a quick review of notes from those Saturday night shows in the fall of 1988 showed that Ric didn't wrestle on any WTBS studio taping that late summer or fall until that Nov. 12th show. He did lots of those classic interviews, but didn't work in the ring. 

"He and Dusty sort of got into it right there in front of everyone, and Dusty told him he was going to have to wrestle," George told me. "So Ric threw his bag on a chair and said, 'Well then I want South.'"

I asked George if he remembered who he was originally scheduled to work, or if he remembered who Flair was scheduled to work, but he could not recall. "All I know is Ric changed it and I was now working with him."

George had wrestled Flair on several occasions on different Crockett TV shows going back to 1985, but this time the circumstances were different. Flair was in a horrible mood and George figured he might be in for a tough, stiff, short match.

"Ric got dressed," George told me, "and as we were at the curtain about to go out, he looked at me and said, 'Buddy, today you're Ricky Steamboat."

George's heart skipped a beat. "I about peed in my pants!"

He entered the ring alone during the long break set aside for the "College Football Scoreboard" segment that aired on WTBS during fall Saturday afternoons in those years. Ric didn't follow right away and it seemed like an eternity waiting for him, even though it was only a few minutes. George had time to ponder what was to come.

When they came out of the break and back on air, Ric came through the curtain and entered the ring wearing one of his beautiful white robes. He removed the "Big Gold" NWA world heavyweight title belt and handed it to his manager James J. Dillon at ringside. George told me he thought to himself, "OK, buddy, here we go," and then they locked up.

But George wasn't prepared for what happened next.

"Ric started calling all these spots," George told me, "and I was going a hundred miles an hour. I was having the time of my life, but I was rushing."

Indeed, Ric was giving a great deal to George early on. George was reversing holds, working a lot of drop-downs, trading chops, and even throwing drop-kicks.

Suddenly, he was aware that he wasn't pacing himself. And there was no finish in sight.

"I got so blowed up in there," George said. "I was really hurting."

I asked George if he and Ric had discussed the match before hand. "No, not at all," he told me. "Back in those days, he called it in the ring. I didn't know anything. And I didn't know if we were going 2 minutes or 20 minutes. I was just going so fast. Ric did this every night, but I didn't!"

Given that Ric didn't want to work to begin with, it was surprising the match was going the way it was. "Honestly, I think he was doing it just to tick Dusty off," George told me. He laughed as he thought back on it. "He was so annoyed with Dusty, I think he would have let me win the NWA belt just to get back at him."

"Dusty was hollering at me 'What are you doing?' and I said, you know, I'm not gong to beat a guy like George South in one minute. Sorry." 
- Ric Flair, WOOOO! Nation, December 9, 2015

George thought he might have a chance to rest when they went to a commercial break during the match, but no such luck. "Ric just kept going," he said.

By the time they were back from commercial, they were over eight minutes into the match, with still no end in sight.

"If there ever was a clinic in pro-wrestling, we're watching it. The world champion Nature Boy Ric Flair against George South, showing us a variety of moves during the break."   - Tony Schiavone, World Championship Wrestling, November 12, 1988

Back in those days, unlike today, commercial breaks during matches were relatively rare except in longer main event matches. The fact Ric went two segments with George made the match seem all the more special. Ric was calling all the signature spots that he would normally do with main event guys like Harley Race, Sting, Lex Luger, and yes, certainly with Ricky Steamboat.

"He had me shoot him out of the corner and he did his flip into the turnbuckles," George said." I couldn't believe what was happening. Then he went to the top turnbuckle and told me to throw him off. Brother, I was about to die in there! I think he just flipped off the turnbuckle himself!"

When George finally threw Ric from the top, Ric's feet hit the lights, and debris fell into the ring. It was a surreal moment for George, and Ric kept giving him a comeback.

Finally, Ric called for the finish. He lifted George high in the air and held him for a few moments before delivering the vertical suplex.

"Now, we go to school!" Flair shouted, as he applied the figure four leglock. It didn't take long for George to submit.

George lay prone on the mat, exhausted. As TV aired the instant replay of the figure four, Ric hopped out of the ring to do a ringside post-match interview with David Crockett.

Referee Teddy Long knelt down on one knee beside George. They were right behind Flair, who would soon be joined in the interview segment by Barry Windham and J.J. Dillon.

"I thought Teddy was checking on me, making sure I was OK. So I whispered, 'I'm OK, Teddy.' He said right back to me, 'Brother, you've got to get out of this ring! I've got to get you out of the shot.' I could barely move, so he just rolled me like a big log out of the ring."

David Crockett prepares to interview Ric Flair after the match.
Teddy Long tries to usher George South out of the ring behind them.

If you carefully watch this back on tape, you can see this happening. "Oh, it's funny now," George said, "but it wasn't funny then. I had never been so blowed up in all my life."

To make matters worse, George observed that Ric was barely breathing hard. "He was just so in shape, it was amazing. You couldn't blow him up. He was what he said he was - - a 60-minute man."

Still exhausted, George made his way back to the dressing room and then collapsed on his hands and knees and crawled to his chair.

"Kevin Sullivan was sitting in a chair right inside the door watching the monitor," George said. "He just looked down at me crawling on the floor and laughed. Not so much laughing to be mean, just laughing as if to say 'brother, we have all been there.' I don't think there was a wrestler in that locker room who hadn't been blown up at one time or another by Ric Flair."

George looks back on that match with fondness. It is without a doubt the longest and most competitive match he ever had on TV, and it is a memory he will hang on to forever. Nice to know Ric remembers it, too, some 28 years later.

Listen as Ric Flair talks about George South on WOOOOO! Nation.
December 9, 2015

You can probably find the whole match if you do a little searching on YouTube. Otherwise, enjoy this one-minute music video of a few highlights from the match.

Visit George's website at www.GeorgeSouth.com.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Giant Comes to Charleston County Hall

 by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It is without a doubt that most lifetime professional wrestling fans have a favorite arena where they went to the matches. For Mid-Atlantic fans, there are many to pick from. While I was blessed to travel and have been to Greensboro, Charlotte, Asheville, and many others, for me, my all-time favorite place to witness the matches was Charleston County Hall. It was must-see and if it were at all possible, it was the place to be on Friday nights at 8:15.

Mr. Henry Marcus, the promoter, was known to be near the door and the entering fans would hear his famous words, “hold your own ticket.” The last matches held in the historic building was nearly 20 years ago. I had the honor of promoting that final show. As I have been reflecting on the upcoming 20th anniversary of the final wrestling show ever held at County Hall, I have been thinking of the history of the events that were held there.

I started going in 1974, but long before that, the biggest stars in pro wrestling would make the journey to the home of the Battery and the place where the Civil War started, Charleston, SC. In my current place in life, I serve as a minister. I love words, and often key in on certain ones when I am searching for a message. As I am thinking about all the big stars that came through County Hall, I can say I was there, the night the biggest star -- and I mean literally, the “biggest” star -- entered the hallowed Hall. Yes, I was there the night Andre the Giant came to town. It was the first time seeing him in person and as a young kid, I was in total awe. He looked way bigger in person than he did on TV. It was one of those moments you just don’t forget.

Andre was in town to face the dastardly Masked Superstar. The card was announced during the "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" television program when they aired the local promos, and I knew I wanted to be there if there was any way possible. I mean this was Andre the Giant. I had seen the posters, read the magazines, but now for a chance to see him in person, wow, I couldn’t wait.

The Masked Superstar has been running over everyone and now he would face an opponent that would not be so easy to dispatch, the undefeated Giant. I had seen Superstar in other battles against Mighty Igor, Blackjack Mulligan and many top stars of the area, but never did I imagine they would bring in Andre the Giant to try and bring justice. Superstar was certainly no small guy, but when Andre entered the ring it was just awesome. When he walked under the balcony on the way to the ring, he reached up to touch the hands of the fans leaning over the railing. He was sporting the big hair, often seen in his pictures, and that night, he left a larger than life impression with this young fan.

The match was back and forth between these two, but I was blown away when Superstar locked in his famous “Cobra hold” on Andre. Such did not seem possible, but he did it and Andre went to the mat. The referee continued to check the arm to see if it would drop for the third time, but Andre kept holding on. As the hold seemed to be wearing down the giant, the fans began to rally and it would not be long before he made his way back to his feet and broke the hold. After a few more exchanges, Andre hit the headbutt and made the pin much to the joy of the crowd. It was something to see, that is for sure.

Later in life, I met Andre at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, GA. This was near the end of his life and he was not in great shape, but he was still that legendary figure, the one I saw in person, all those years before in Charleston. In 1997, Superstar would work the main event of the very first wrestling show I ever promoted and was nothing but a class act to me. I also got to be the ring announcer, one night, for a match between Superstar and my dear friend George South.

I am so grateful for all the things I have been able to be a part of in wrestling. The memories are almost too many to count. I was blessed to see so many of my pro wrestling heroes come to County Hall, but I will always remember the night Andre and the Masked Superstar came to town in one “giant” showdown.

Oh, there is the time Masked Superstar faced Rufus R “Freight Train” Jones, but that’s another story with one really funny twist.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


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, October 15, 2017

Flagship interview J.J. Dillon - Part 3

http://www.mlwradio.com/jj-dillon-show.htmlGeorge "Yiorgio" Pantas recently interviewed James J. Dillon for "The Flagship", a military newspaper in eastern Virginia. The interview took place a few days before a VCW show in Suffolk, VA. We posted the first two parts earlier and now post a link to the third and final installment.

PART THREE includes JJ's podcast co-host Rich Bocchini in on the conversation and the discussion centers around JJ's new podcast, "The JJ Dillon Show"  on the MLW Radio Network. 

If you missed the earlier installments, you can check those out here:

Check out the final part of the interview with the Leader of the Four Horsemen as he discusses how his podcast came about.

Rich Bocchini and Tony Schiavone (MLWRadio.com)
JJ Dillon and Rich Bocchini:
The newest podcast tag-team on the MLW Network

J.J.'s podcast "The JJ Dillon Show" can be found at MLWRadio or anywhere you download your podcast.

You can find out where J.J. will be appearing by checking out our JJ Dillon page right here on the Gateway.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Action Figure Friday: Jimmy Snuka and Ric Flair

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 
Photographs by Mike Simmerman

One of the most brutal and bloody feuds of 1979-1980 in the Mid-Atlantic area was between "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

The two battled over the United States Heavyweight championship. Flair had voluntarily forfeited the title in August of 1979 after he and Blackjack Mulligan won the NWA World tag team titles from Paul Jones and Baron Von Rachke. The NWA put the title up in a one-night tournament in Charlotte on September 1 of that same year. The man who came out on top of that night's single elimination tournament was Superfly Snuka.

Bob Caulde interviews "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers
manager of the U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Snuka
Snuka had been one of the area's most popular combatants for some time, but had recently developed a more vicious style in the ring after taking on "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as his manager in July. By the time the tournament rolled around on 9/1, Snuka was a full-fledged member of the "heel" brigade. He defeated "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods and Jim Brunzell on his way to the finals where he defeated the odds-on favorite Ricky Steamboat for the title.

Meanwhile, Flair and Mulligan had lost the NWA World tag titles back to Jones and Raschke, and Ric was hungry once again to regain the U.S. championship, a title he had held on several occasions over the last two and a half years. In late 1979, Buddy Rogers sold the contracts of his wrestlers to Gene Anderson, now in his furst stint guiding the careers of others after a succesful in-ring career as part of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew with brothers Lars and Ole Anderson.

Flair and Snuka headlined cards for months as Flair fought in vain to regain the title. Finally on April 20 in Greensboro, NC, Flair took the measure of the Fiji islander and reclaimed the title for a fourth time.

Years later, Snuka still held fond memories of that time in his career and his time with the U.S. championship belt. I wrote about that in an earlier post: Jimmy Snuka Remembers the U.S. Championship Belt.

Mike Simmerman's photographs of his action figures rekindle some of the images from that classic rivalry in Mid-Atlantic area.


Monday, October 09, 2017

It's Fall and Tim Woods Declares Open Season On All the Belts

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When autumn arrives as it has recently in 2017, people embrace the change of seasons from summer to fall in many different ways. Some folks love the colorful foliage, others anticipate the beginning of college and professional football seasons and still others can’t wait for the cooler temperatures. Many also look forward to hunting season just around the corner, as did a top flight Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling star in 1976…he was just “hunting” championship belts!

In that wrestling sense, I always think back during this time of year to an interview on the set of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television on September 8, 1976 when announcer Bob Caudle was talking to Tiger Conway, “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods and Dino Bravo at ringside. It was then that Woods gave his take on the change of seasons to fall that’s always stuck with me.

After Caudle and Tiger Conway had talked a bit, Bob turned his attention to Woods saying, “By the way Tim, speaking of all the belts around the area as Tiger was, with Blackjack Mulligan and Mosca and Ric Flair…there’s a lot of them around and several would fit nicely around that waist of yours.” Woods concurred, “I think any of them would or Dino Bravo’s either. You know, it’s fall and I can’t think of a better time to just declare open season on all the belts!”

Tim then followed up, “You know…Flair, Mosca, Mulligan; they all can be beat. They’ve all been riding high and I think they’re all, well, I just think they’re all in for a fall. I think they’ve all been underestimating a lot of the people they’ve been encountering and I think that Dino or I would love to upset any of them.” Caudle then engaged Bravo, “Dino, actually, you don’t mind doing a little singles wrestling then?” Bravo responded, “That’s what I want right now; we’re gonna wrestle as a team but if I ever get a chance at a championship match at either Flair, Mosca or Mulligan I am ready. We’re ready to wear any type of belt.”

By September of 1976 the team of Woods and Bravo had been unable to regain the NWA World Tag Team Titles they captured in the spring of the bicentennial year and lost back to Gene and Ole Anderson in late June. The Anderson’s were about to leave the Mid-Atlantic area for Georgia, in turn leaving Woods and Bravo to turn their attention elsewhere.

Woods made good on his promise to declare open season on the area’s belts as he defeated Angelo Mosca in Greensboro, North Carolina for the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship on October 16, 1976 and then he and Bravo captured the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championships on November 3, 1976 in the finals of a month-long TV tournament in the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bravo would also make a major run at Blackjack Mulligan’s United States Heavyweight Title, but that would have to wait until early 1977.

So every year when fall rolls around, I still think of Tim Woods using the autumn of 1976 to proclaim it as his open season on all the belts of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, and making good on his proclamation by acing two of those coveted titles in short order. I really can’t honestly remember if the autumn foliage of 1976 was vivid or how quickly the temperatures dropped, but the hunting season of Mid-Atlantic titles that fall by Tim Woods was simply outstanding!


Friday, October 06, 2017

Action Figures Friday: The Collection

Mike Simmerman's impressive, nostalgic collection of MACW early 80s action figures.

It's Action Figures Friday, so I thought we'd take a look at Mike Simmerman's throw-back collection of action figures, focusing on the late 1970s and early 1980s in the Mid-Atlantic area. Many of these were specifically customized to represent wrestlers who have never had an official figure, or their figure came well after their stint in the Mid-Atlantic area.

I hope I get all these right:

On the floor, L-R; Paul Jones, Masked Superstar, Johnny Weaver, Gene Anderson, Ole Anderson, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Valiant.

In the ring, L-R: The Iron Sheik, Ken Patera, Ivan Koloff, Bobo Brazil, Nikita Koloff, Dick Slater, Greg Valentine, Johnny Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Caudle, Ernie Ladd, John Studd, Jack Brisco, Buddy Rogers, Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods, Baron Von Raschke, Jay Youngblood, Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka (on back turnbuckle.)

The belts on the floor, L-R: Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight championship,  NWA World tag team championships, NWA World Heavyweight championship, and three different versions of the U.S. championship.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

September 22, 1976 - - Valentine's Day

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Every year when the calendar flips over to the month of October, I think back to October 4, 1975 when Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was changed forever by the plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that ended the career of the great Johnny Valentine. After that horrible tragedy, the name “Valentine” was heard very little on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television. But that changed abruptly about a year later on the Mid-Atlantic TV show that was taped on September 15, 1976 where Greg Valentine, the splitting image of Johnny, was shown shattering wooden boards with his elbow drop being assisted by Mike Pappas in a taped segment from Florida with commentator Gordon Solie.

But it was the next Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television show taped on September 22, 1976 that saw the first live appearance of Greg Valentine in Jim Crockett Promotions at the WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. Announcer Bob Caudle stated, “Fans right now we welcome another great wrestling star to the Mid-Atlantic area, Greg Valentine, a star in his own right in many sections of the county but you’ve never been in this section Greg.” Valentine responded in the same gravelly voice so reminiscent of Johnny, “Well, I’ve been doing a lot of campaigning in California, Florida; I come here for one reason and that’s to put a championship belt back into the Valentine family. My brother asked me to come here, and that’s why I’m here.”

The younger Valentine, who was actually Johnny’s son and not his brother, continued, “The competition looks tough, but I don’t think the competition is too tough for me, because I’ve been all over the world. As you know and as you’ve seen last week, the tape that I sent in showing how strong my elbow is…I’ve nicknamed it the ‘bionic elbow’ or the ‘brainbuster’ because that’s exactly what it is. It’s the hardest elbow in professional wrestling. The only other person in the whole wide world that can use the elbow smash like I do is my brother, Johnny Valentine.”

Greg then began sizing up the competition he would be facing in Jim Crockett Promotions saying, “And I intend to get the Mid-Atlantic championship or the United States championship, I don’t care which. I intend to beat wrestlers like Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes, Paul Jones, Mr. Wrestling, Dino Bravo…these are just stepping stones for me in my quest for the championship.” Caudle then countered, “Ah, you know that’s no small order Greg when you call off names like that and you talk about defeating ‘em; it’s a pretty large order for any man.”

Valentine confidently retorted, “I’m sure it is, but I’m not your average man. I’m Greg Valentine; when you say the name Valentine you think of a champion and that’s exactly what we are…champions.” Caudle concurred, “True, Johnny Valentine the champ for a long, long time and now it’s going to be what, the champ Greg Valentine, right?” Greg concluded, “That’s right, I didn’t come here to Carolina to make any friends or to influence people in any way, just to get the championship belt around the waist of the champion and that’s me.”

This first interview would begin a nearly eight year association with Jim Crockett Promotions for Greg Valentine. Greg would become a championship fixture in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling during his multiple stints in the Mid-Atlantic area, just as he promised in his very first television interview in the Crockett territory. But what I remember most about Valentine’s Day, September 22, 1976, was that a year removed from that terrible plane crash, it sure was good having a Valentine back on my TV screen.


The Wilmington Plane Crash - 42 years Ago

OCTOBER 4, 1975

Promoter, 3 Wrestlers Injured in Plane Crash
Charlotte Observer

by Mary Bishop Lacy and Roger Mikeal

WILMINGTON - Charlotte promoter David F. Crockett and three Charlotte based professional wrestlers were among six persons injured Saturday evening when their plant crashed near Wilmington.

Crockett, 29, of 732 E. Park Ave. was reported in good condition late Saturday might at New Hanover Memorial Hospital in Wilmington. Also in good condition were wrestler Richard Fliehr, 24, known professionally as Ric Flair, and George Burrell Woodin, 41, listed by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department as a promoter.

Wrestlers Robert Bruggers, 31, and Johnny Valentine, 47, were reported by a hospital spokesman to be in serious condition.

The Pilot of the plane, Joseph Michael Farkas, 28, was listed in critical condition and was undergoing surgery for head injuries at the hospital late Saturday night. The hospital spokesman said Farkas' identification bore addresses in Monroe, Charlotte, and Connecticut.

Hospital officials refused to give details on the other men's injuries. The six men reportedly left Charlotte in the yellow and white Cessna 310 at 5:30 p.m. for the Saturday night wrestling matches at Wilmington's Legion Stadium. Who owned the plane and where it took off couldn’t be learned immediately.

About 6:25 PM when the plane was a bout a mile west of the Wilmington Airport and was approaching a runway, Farkas radioed the control tower that the one of his engines had stopped, according to Deputy Sheriff E. D. Long.

Cutting across treetops and snagging a wing on a utility pole, the plane crashed about a half a mile from the airport along a railroad embankment and near a state prison camp according to the sheriff’s and state highway patrol reports.Several of the crash victims were thrown from the plane, and one was pinned between seats inside according to a spokesman for Ogden Rescue Squad, which carried the men to the hospital.

Crockett is an official of Jim Crockett Promotions, a Charlotte based enterprise that specializes in sports promotions.

Valentine considered one of the top professional wrestlers in the country has wrestled in a number of foreign countries including Japan and Australia. Known as a lover of opera and fine cuisine, Valentine has been a professional wrestler for 25 years.

Flair Is a flamboyant blonde wrestler who has been wrestling in the Charlotte area about 2½ years. He is a native of Minnesota and had been scheduled to meet Ken Patera in a wrestling match at Charlotte’s Park Center Monday night.

Bruggers, also from Minnesota played with Miami Dolphins football team as a linebacker for several years around 1970. He began wrestling in Charlotte about two years ago.

On Site in Wilmington:
A First Hand Account of How Things Were Handled at Legion Stadium In Wilmington the Night of the Crash
by Shawn Hudson
Special for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, October 2002

I was in Legion Stadium the night the plane crashed. I wish I could remember it all but I am not as young as I used to be.

The original card was to have been a double main event: Tim Woods vs. Johnny Valentine (with Woods avenging his broken leg at the hands of Valentine) and Ric Flair vs. Wahoo McDaniel which was a feud just getting started. This was maybe my second or third live event, the one in Wilmington preceding this was Paul Jones vs. Valentine and on the under card of that was Flair vs. Ken Patera. That's how I remember both feuds were just getting started.

The stadium was full and the ring announcer came out just after I had heard the rumor that there had been a crash. The show did not start late. The ring announcer was keeping kayfabe and said that there was a plane crash and Valentine and Flair were injured. He then went on to say that Tim Woods was lost and couldn't make it to the Stadium on time. Then he mentioned that the Spoiler # 1 was also lost. This has always puzzled me. Spoiler #2 and Spoiler #1 were a team that had come in to avenge the unmasking of The Super Destroyer. I honestly don't remember hearing that night that Bob Bruggers was on the plane or even scheduled to wrestle. Since Bruggers was injured and Spoiler # 1 disappeared from JCP about the same time I always theorized that Spoiler # 1 was Bob Bruggers. I recently had a chance to speak with Wahoo at a show and we talked about that night. He told me that Bob was his roommate when he was in the NFL and that Bruggers wasn't Spoiler # 1. Wahoo actually didn't seem to remember much about either Spoiler so he may have forgotten the angle after all these years but he was frank with me about the rest of his actions that night so I know he wasn't lying to me.

Back to that night. Needless to say the crowd was in shock. Shortly after the initial announcement, Wahoo came out and said that they were still going to wrestle and ran down the revised card. I remember Danny Miller in the opening bout, he later teamed with Wahoo, Spoiler # 2 was the main heel on the card. I want to say that Abe Jacobs and Two Ton Harris were there but I can't remember for sure. I know Miller, Wahoo, and Spoiler #2 pulled double duty and maybe a few more. The finale would be a Battle Royal. After Wahoo ran down the card, he said that if we wanted to, we could get our money back and leave. I don't think anyone left.

Wahoo won the Battle Royal that night and then went on to feud with Spoiler # 2 eventually unmasking him in several house shows, Wilmington and Richmond being two of them that I know of right off the top of my head.

Wahoo told me he was supposed to take that plane also but changed his plans at the last minute and drove from Richmond I believe. He said he arrived in Wilmington, heard about the crash, and got to the crash sight as they were putting the guys in ambulances. The pilot was pretty messed up and later died after hanging on for maybe 2 months. Everyone else looked fine except for a few cuts and scratches because they had been throw from the plane according to Wahoo. There are some inconsistencies between what Wahoo said and the press reports. Some accounts have Valentine pinned in the plane and Wahoo’s account has him being thrown from the plane . It could be that he was removed before Wahoo got to the scene of the crash.

There was an article that ran in The Wilmington Morning Star the day after the crash. I remember that there was a picture of the plane and I spent what seemed like hours pouring over it. I remember trying to convince myself that part of the wreckage was the U.S. Title. I'll try to dig up the article from the library.

-Shawn Hudson

* * * * * * * * * * * 

Edited text from an e-mail I received from Shawn Hudson in 2002:

I wanted to let you know the good news and thank you for opening a door for me by publishing my article about the Wilmington plane crash. in 1975. 

I was contacted by Kevin Kelly with the WWE. He is researching the crash and found my article on your site. They plan on doing a piece on the crash for an upcoming "WWE Confidential" segment. 

They have asked me to appear at the Raw show in North Charleston Monday and I will be taping an on camera interview. They said they are going to also try to speak with Tim Woods and David Crockett when they are in Dallas the following week. 

Best wishes!

Shawn Hudson
November 23, 2002