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.