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.