Thursday, November 30, 2017

Friday Night at 8:15

by Andy McDaniel
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor
Originally published in May 2010

The smoke circled through the air as if a cloud had settled from the sky. The bright light that beamed from the center of the room cast its glow through the haze down to the white canvassed battlefield below. The crowd, eager with anticipation lets loose with a mighty roar as the time keeper strikes the bell signaling that it was 8:15, it was Friday night and professional wrestling had come to town!

Available on
(See links below.)
The challenges had been laid down, all the threats of terrible beatings had been made; now it was time to put up or shut up. The wait was finally over, weeks and weeks of interviews, sometimes months of build up had prepared us for what was about to come. Our heroes were there to bring justice for all the evil deeds that the villains had taken part in and caused so much grief and anguish to everyone with their terrible ways.

For many of us this scenario was a staple part of our week or at least a few times a month. One of my absolute favorite childhood memories was going to the wrestling matches with my Dad on Friday nights. Each and every Saturday (unless it was pre-empted for tennis or something, and boy did I ever hate that) Mid-Atlantic wrestling was on television. These larger than life figures filled the screen and each one clearly defined whose side they were on. The good guys did everything they could to please their adoring fans. They shook hands, they signed autographs at ringside and they let you know that your cheers really meant something. The bad guys did all they could to prove they were indeed bad. Their job was easy, do the good guy wrong, cheat, antagonize the cheering crowd, pull hair, hide the forbidden “foreign object” from the referee while at the same time making sure that the people in the seats screaming at the referee to look were the only ones who saw it. It was a magical time and for many it was not hard to believe. These men, and on rare occasions women, knew their jobs and they did them very well. It was up to them to bring in the crowds. The more serious the feud was, the bigger the audience would be. The more real it seemed, the louder the cheers and jeers.

The formula was simple. It was the age old real existence of good versus evil. The combatants in this contest were often good friends and the intention was certainly not to hurt each other if possible, but when the bell rang it was showtime and business was business. The good guy was going to do all he could to please his fans while trying to stay within the rules (which for him was certainly difficult because of the strict sanctioning of the NWA board of directors), but his foe, the dastardly bad guy, he had neither concern for the rules nor any care of obeying them. He wanted to make the people as mad as possible. He wanted to do what was needed to win even if it meant causing pain and hurt to the beloved hero that all had come to see. He was going to taunt everyone with his cheating ways and more often than not he would do his best even if by hook or crook to squeak out a win so that no one went home happy. Why was that? Well of course so they would come back the next week to see justice served to him because of his cheating ways, but that didn’t always happen right away. It was not uncommon for it to keep going for several months before the conclusion, the blow-off, the highlight of the feud, if you will. It might be a street fight with “no rules”, it might be a chain match or some other specialty weapon but, if things really needed to be settled once and for all and there had been problems with outside interference or the bad guy always running, then it was time to bring out the steel cage. If it came to this it was not uncommon to see someone giving an interview telling of what was going to happen while grating a head of cabbage against a wall of cyclone fencing. The effect was powerful. This was serious, it had gone on long enough and somebody was going to get hurt and hurt bad.

The crowds would come out in droves. This was a must see event. Was it violent? Yes! Was it bloody? Yes! Was it dramatic? Yes! Was it believable? Very! Because this is what made it work, the two men in that situation knew what to do to make it look that way. They knew how to tell a story. They knew how to take a situation that people could relate to and draw them into the story. It worked! And it was an incredibly enjoyable night of action, drama, sports, athleticism all rolled into one.

There were no script writers, no creative departments and no movie people who knew nothing about the business. Instead it was just some very talented, very agile, very believable guys  who knew how to draw a crowd and knew how to tell a story. Who didn’t believe that Wahoo McDaniel was really tough or that Blackjack Mulligan looked really mean?

It was all done with local television outlets all over the country in what were called territories. The television shows helped to promote the local events but it was the guys in the ring that brought the people out. I remember watching each Saturday morning and occasionally late Saturday night and hardly being able to wait until the following Friday because then they would be here in town live and in person. It was before music or large video screens and pyrotechnics; just knowing that your favorite wrestler was in the same building that you was created the excitement that filled the air. While waiting on the main event the preliminary guys always did a great job in getting the crowd worked up. The occasional thrill of passing your hero on the road while driving to the arena added to the thrill of the night. It was truly an exciting time.

Things have certainly changed as the years have gone by. Although the performers today can do some amazing and seemingly impossible stunts and they surely have more exposure than the ring warriors of the past, there is just something missing. It is not the same by any means. The ability to tell a story and truly build a feud that drew in the crowds has been taken away or at least not allowed. Three weeks to create something only to try and convince people to spend $40 or $50 on a pay-per-view is called sports entertainment. The problem is the entertainment is not always entertaining. Things have been too rushed and nothing means anything, there is no reason for the situation or proper time has not been given to get people interested enough to keep up with it. In the days past there were very clear reasons for the feud and there was a lot of work put into that to get the fans involved. When a cage match was called for there was a reason. Today on any given Monday night there could be a cage lowered from the ceiling for no apparent reason and then there is no blood, just doesn’t serve much purpose or look remotely believable.

The history of professional wrestling is a long one. Certainly not one without conflict, controversy, turmoil, back stage politics, shady promoters, but not many people knew about that stuff, because we didn’t need to. It was about Friday night at 8:15 that really counted to the fans. It was about seeing Wahoo McDaniel walking out in full headdress to face the stone faced Johnny Valentine in a match that would leave both men battered and scarred and send each person home saying, “we just saw one heck of a fight!” It was seeing Rufus R. (Freight Train) Jones get his revenge on a young braggart named Ric Flair because for weeks and months he had done him wrong. These were magical times that this writer fondly remembers. Looking back they were not always PG moments, they certainly were not politically correct, but then again this was pro wrestling and it was not supposed to be. Those days are long gone, but the memories will live within this fans heart forever.

Thanks Wahoo, Ole, Gene, Rufus, Paul, Blackjack, Johnny, Greg, Burrhead, Sandy. George, Two-Ton, Ric, thank you all and so many more for creating a lifetime of great memories that will never be forgotten.

(Originally published May 2010)

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Order your copy of "Reunion at County Hall" on
Black & White Version   |   Color Version

Read the review by Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier
Wrestling Book Takes a Look at County Hall

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Thanksgiving Surprise: Starrcade Magic Returns to Greensboro

by Bruce Mitchell, Senior Columnist for
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When WWE announced that their Thanksgiving weekend house show in Greensboro would be branded WWE Starrcade, I shrugged. There hadn’t been a Thanksgiving Starrcade show in Greensboro in thirty years and between it being WWE and, well, thirty years ago, I figured this wouldn’t be much more than a token gesture.

I wasn’t mad. There are great things in these days too, and you miss out when the past overtakes you.

Thanksgiving Night Mid-Atlantic cards were one of the coolest things ever, where the biggest major league showdown matches between the biggest Mid-Atlantic stars, and where one year, the biggest match in the world, Jack Brisco challenging Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA title, took place.

Ricky Steamboat
and Shinsuke Nakamura

(Photo courtesy of Jonny Fairplay)
For many fans around here the greatest shows they ever saw weren’t Wrestlemanias, but Starrcade/Mid-Atlantic Championship Thanksgiving Night shows at the Greensboro Coliseum. All-time greats, including a significant portion of the WWE Hall of Fame, cemented their legends in this building on these nights.

Then the world changed, as it always does.

The Mid-Atlantic Gateway has a mission statement. WWE has a different one. WWE Starrcade figured to be another WWE house show, except maybe Goldust would wrestle a match, and Ricky Steamboat and The Rock’n’Roll Express would wave to the crowd. WWE has spent decades trying to rewrite history in their favor, so no way this was what it should be.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

White ropes, Starrcade banners, loads of great old video footage, the return of the legendary steel-grey steel cage match, built before our eyes just like Klondike Bill used to do…

The Hardy Boyz talking about what it meant to sit in these seats and dream dreams, Arn Anderson with his first spine-buster since the one he threw at that Wrestlemania, Goldust morphing into the flip-flop-flying Natural Dustin Rhodes…

Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!, The New Day getting The Rock’N’Roll Express to dance, NWA Champion Harley Race and his challenger on a new throwback Starrcade ’83 t-shirt…

(Photo courtesy of Lee Petry)

Modern day innovator Shinsuke Nakamura bowing in respect to all-time innovator Ricky Steamboat…

Oh, and it turned out that early on I wasn’t the only skeptic about all this. Tickets weren’t selling that fast.

Even that worked out, because WWE called in the Great One, the one name synonymous with professional wrestling in the Greensboro Coliseum, and it all turned around.

So, as it turned out, on Saturday night, November 25th, 2017 The Nature Boy Ric Flair drew yet another big house in the old barn on the corner of Lee Street and High Point Road.

There is something indomitable, even now, in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

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More on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway from Bruce Mitchell:
The Lightning and Thunder of the Nature Boys
One Night at the WRAL Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Tapings

Visit the Pro Wrestling Torch website at
"Four Horsemen" on                                  Mid-Atlantic Gateway Bookstore

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Second Look at "WWE Starrcade"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When I first heard about the WWE calling their November 25 house show in Greensboro "WWE Starrcade" I was pretty down on the whole concept. (See "No Thanks. That's Not Starrcade" published 10/1/17.)

Now that the show is over, I've taken a second look and will admit that I see it in a little different light.

But just a little.

If I'm true to the normal way I feel about such things, I should celebrate what took place in Greensboro last Saturday night, right? After all, I celebrate the indies when they do something special to recognize wrestling's traditions and legends from the past. (The CWF's "Johnny Weaver Cup Tournament" and George South's sporadic "Anderson Brothers Classic" events are two examples.)

But what kept creeping into my mind was that it was the WWE that helped kill Starrcade. In 1987 they effectively blocked 99% of the cable systems from carrying Jim Crockett Promotions' first pay-per-view event which was one of what would be several fatal blows to Jim Crockett Promotions that forced the sale of the company, and an end to an era to go along with it.

If WWE had put this thing on their network, that at least would have given it more of a big-show feel, something a show with the name Starrcade deserved. In the end, it was just as I originally framed it - - a glorified house show.

Not that there is anything wrong with glorified house shows. It beats the heck out of "same-old" house shows. And there is no more special house to host one of those than the fabled Greensboro Coliseum.

Here are a few of the touches WWE put on this house show to make it a little more special:

  1. Ric Flair appeared and introduced his daughter Charlotte (née, Ashley) who was defending her Women's championship that night in a steel cage. Flair was Starrcade, headlining all five Crockett events from 1983-1987. And I guess if you are going to have Starrcade in Greensboro again, you might as well have a Flair in a steel cage.
  2. Ricky Steamboat appeared as well, and was was greeted respectfully by Shinsuke Nakamura in the ring. Steamboat was a big part of the first two Crockett Starrcades in 1983 and 1984.
  3. The Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) participated in a skit with the New Day and a four-way tag match. The Rock and Roll Express were a big part of three Crockett Starrcades in 1985, 1986, and 1987.
  4. Dustin Rhodes wrestled in his "Natural" persona from the Turner WCW days. Dustin represented his father Dusty Rhodes well in a match against Dash Wilder. The American Dream was a part of all five Crockett Starrcades, headlining two of them, and is credited with coming up with the name of the event.
  5. And speaking of Dash Wilder, I couldn't help but think of the Andersons seeing video clips of Wilder wrestling Rhodes on the event. Dash and his partner Scott Dawson make up our favorite WWE tag team, The Revival. Wilder wears those classic horizontal-striped boots (a style I dubbed "Anderson boots" years ago) that were synonymous with the Anderson tag teams (comprised at different times of Gene, Lars, Ole, and Arn Anderson) of the 1960s-1980s. Ole and Arn Anderson were a big part of the Crockett Starrcades, as was Gene Anderson behind the scenes. Wilder is a North Carolina native who grew up during the Crockett Starrcade era.
  6. It was fitting that Charles Robinson was the main referee on this show, having been a part of so many WCW Starrcades in the 1990s and being such a huge fan of Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. That, and he's the best referee in the business.
  7. And finally, maybe the best moment of them all from the whole night - - Arn Anderson executing a picture perfect spine-buster on Dolph Ziggler in the center of that Greensboro ring, and then reminding Dolph he was in Horsemen country. Arn was a big part of the final three Crockett Starrcades from 1985-1987.

It isn't clear what percentage of the fans in attendance last Saturday truly understood the history of Starrcade, and the history of the event in that building. Some fans surely did, like Front Row Section D who made their own return to Starrcade, even if from the 5th row in 2017. But I guess in the end what's important is that the name Starrcade continues to be relevant and that those memories are kept alive. After all, that's our sole purpose here at the Gateway.

I guess I should give thanks for WWE Starrcade after all.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Terry Funk Takes the U.S. Title Back to Texas

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of my little side areas of fascination in following wrestling back in the 1970s was learning that a title that had its home in our Mid-Atlantic territory was defended in another territory, another promotion. I've maintained that interest over the years, especially after we started this website back in 2000 and I began to chronicle the little things about Mid-Atlantic Wrestling that I loved.

One of the first titles I was aware being defended outside the Mid-Atlantic territory was the NWA World Tag Team titles held by Gene and Ole Anderson. They actually took those titles to Georgia for several months in 1976 and 1977 before their cousin Ric Flair and partner Greg Valentine brought them back home in a feud for the ages.

The United States title was our areas top championship and I had read in a wrestling magazine when I was a teenager that Ric Flair had defended the title in Florida and I got to see him on Georgia TV in 1977 and 1978 on the Superstation with the U.S. title, defending it there. (I chronicled several of those title defenses in an earlier series here on the Gateway) I only recently learned that Flair had also taken the title to the Amarillo territory as well, also in 1977. See Texas Connections Part 3 for more on that.

But one of the lesser known instances of a Crockett title leaving for another territory was one that was threatened, and may have briefly happened in storyline, but never really had the chance to happen in actuality.

But the threat of it made news.

When Terry Funk won the famous United States Title Tournament in Greensboro in November of 1975, he boasted that he would take the title back with him to Texas and not defend it in the Mid-Atlantic area.

"I'm going to take about a week off, sit back and enjoy myself and then worry about defending the title in the Panhandle of Texas," he told staff sports reporter Bob Heller of the Greensboro Record. "They can all come to me, now."
Check out our 4-part series from 2015 on the 40th Anniversary
of the U.S. Tournament won by Terry Funk.

Funk took the same position on a television interview right after winning the title, but promoter Jim Crockett and new NWA President Jack Adkisson forced Funk to return to Greensboro two and a half weeks later and defend the title against the man he defeated in the tournament finals, fellow-Texan Paul Jones. Jones evened the score in the feud with Funk, defeated him on Thanksgiving night and brought the title back home to the Mid-Atlantic area.

That whole series of events in November of 1975 are legendary in our area.  Funk's threat to take the U.S. title out of the area and back to Texas seemed plausible to Mid-Atlantic fans at that time as the the title had only recently been brought into the area to begin with when Johnny Valentine defeated Harley Race for the title in July earlier that same year. Now it seemed Terry Funk would take it away. But Paul Jones saw to it that never has a chance of happening.

Another couple of weeks later, Funk shocked the wrestling world and defeated Jack Brisco in Florida to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in mid-December. And of course, Paul Jones would insist on a shot at Funk's World title since he had just beat him for the U.S. title weeks earlier.


Here is the article by Bob Heller in its entirety that appeared in the Greensboro Record the day after the U.S. tournament in Greensboro.

Funk to Take Belt with him to Texas
by Bob Heller
Staff Sports Writer, Greensboro Record

His face was bloody and his left eye was almost swollen shut. As soft-speaking Terry Funk sat in a Coliseum dressing room late Sunday night, he did not look like the newly-crowned U.S. Heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance.

But he was. And such an accomplishment was not easy.

"It was the most grueling thing I've ever been through," said the Amarillo, Tex., resi-dent, "and frankly, I don't know that I'd go through it all again.

"But I won the title, and it's the highlight of my wrestling career," continued the 29-year-old Funk. "I just can't wait to tell my brother about it."

Funk's brother is Dory, Jr., who owned the NWA's World Title before Harley Race took it from him three years ago. Both are the sons of the well-known Dory Funk, Sr., who died in the wrestling ring two years ago.

"I trained very hard for this night," said Funk, "because I knew it would take a tremendous amount of time and muscle to win. Four matches and all that punishment ... it's like two weeks of wrestling crammed into one night."

To win the title, Funk defeat-ed Red Bastein, Rufus R. Jones, Dusty Rhodes and Paul Jones.

"Each presented a different problem," said Funk, "and these were people I wasn't used to wrestling.

"Rufus used his strength and with Dusty, it's just like a big brawl. Paul Jones is probably the most dangerous, though, be-cause of his scientific knowledge of wrestling. It's one constant worry against him to make sure you're not in a position where he can pin you with one quick move."

Funk hadn't wrestled Rufus Jones since a bout in St. Louis some three years ago, but he has had a running feud with Rhodes, dating back to the days when the pair were teammates on West Texas State's football team.

"I was the starting offensive guard and Dusty was always No. 2," said Funk. "It really got to him and we've never seen eye to eye over much."

Funk last wrestled Paul Jones in Tampa, Fla., two or three years ago. "It was a tag-team match, and I didn't remember much shout it," continued the new champion. "So the television station in Amarillo was nice enough to let me view some videotape of some of his recent matches."

A record wrestling crowd of .15,076 (with at least another 1,-000 turned away) witnessed the four-hour affair. Judging by the response, Funk was not the most popular of winners.
"Don't worry about that," said Funk, "because nothing will get me back in this area as long as I hold the title. I'm going to take about a week off, sit back and enjoy myself and then worry about defending the title ... in the Panhandle of Texas. They can all come to me, now."

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Check out the earlier installments of the "Texas Connections" series, plus a link to PART FIVE:

PART ONE: Mid-Atlantic Wrestlers Hailing from the Great State of Texas
PART TWO: Crockett's Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling
PART THREE: Crockett TV in Texas
PART FOUR: Terry Funk Takes the U.S. Title Back to Texas (This post)
PART FIVE: Sound Clips!

Original newspaper clipping from which transcript was made from the Mark Eastridge collection. Terry Funk U.S. title artwork exclusively for the Mid-Atlantic Gateway by John Pagan.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway! We are thankful for all of you, and thankful for the fact you join us to help keep the memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions alive.
- Dick Bourne and David Chappell

Along with your turkey and pumpkin pie, I hope you'll feast on these great memories of Thanksgiving events from years ago:

Starrcade '87 Turns 30!
 Hard to believe it's been 30 years since Starrcade '87. It was a tumultuous time for Jim Crockett Promotions as they entered into what would be their final year of existence before the family business was sold to Ted Turner. Check out some memorabilia from that show, including a look at some rarely talked about results from the Superdome for Bill Watts in advance of the PPV telecast.

Don't miss Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson talking Starrcade '87 on "What Happened When" on the MLW Radio Network and wherever you get your podcasts.

Our buddy Jeff Jewett posted some terrific photos on his Twitter account of his wrestling belt and figures collection paying tribute to Starrcade '87 and giving thanks to Tony for covering it on his show. It's like Action Figures Friday came a few days early. Great photos, Jeff!

The Forgotten Prelude to Starrcade '85
When most folks think of events leading to the Flair/Rhodes main event at Starrcade '85, they think of Flair and the Andersons turning on Dusty in the cage at the Omni. However, it got it's start much earlier than that. Read about an angle and an important part of that story largely forgotten in the saga of Starrcade '85.

Thanksgiving Retro: Greensboro and Norfolk 1975
A look back at a huge night of action in the Mid-Atlantic territory featuring NWA champion Jack Brisco, U.S. champion Terry Funk, Wahoo McDaniel, Paul Jones, Andre the Giant, Superstar Billy Graham, Gene and Ole Anderson and so many more!

Thanksgiving Wrestling Through The Years for Jim Crockett Promotions
Links to pages featuring info on annual Thanksgiving cards for Jim Crockett Promotions from 1967-1987.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Magazine Memories: Starrcade '85

What a great photo taken in Atlanta's Omni at Starrcade '85. It features the Atlanta crowd watching Greensboro's closed circuit broadcast featuring the legendary Johnny Weaver with the old Greensboro Coliseum logo behind him. Great memories. 32 years ago. (More on STARRCADE '85)

We also should point out one of the photographers listed for the photos that would follow in the article from Greensboro was Mid-Atlantic Gateway contributor Eddie Cheslock.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cotton is King in 1976

Rufus R. Jones gets Blackjack Mulligan in his favorite match.
Includes Mid-Atlantic Gateway SOUND BYTES

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When summer morphs into autumn around Southside Virginia, one of the impressive sights around the area’s farmlands are fields turning white with fluffy cotton bursting from its bolls. I can always turn any sight or sound into a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memory, but this one is particularly easy. In the early fall of 1976, Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones came up with his own specialty match…none other than the Cotton Field match!

During the summer of 1976, the battles between Rufus and United States Heavyweight Champion Blackjack Mulligan were becoming hotter and hotter. Mid-Atlantic fans were sensing that Rufus, also sometimes referred to as the “King of Wrestling,” had a legitimate shot at taking Mulligan’s coveted championship belt away from him. Blackjack told me several years before he passed away that he pushed the promotion to give Rufus a run as the U.S. Champion at that point in time. While Mulligan’s protestations fell on deaf ears, the promotion did set in motion a scenario where Blackjack would get his comeuppance. Rufus would take Mulligan to his own personal wood shed…the cotton field!

In several of the larger Mid-Atlantic cities, including my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia, during late September and early October of 1976 Rufus battled Blackjack in Cotton Field matches. The special rule in the Cotton Field match was that after the regularly scheduled match was concluded, there was a 30 second rest period and then a two minute “anything goes” encounter with no referee!

In the lead up to the Cotton Field match in Richmond on October 2, 1976 Mulligan told announcer Les Thatcher, “Let me tell you something, I’ve never been in a cotton field in my life. Where I come from I hire people to do stuff like that. I don’t know what the rules are about; I have no idea. This is Rufus R. Jones’ type of match; I don’t even know what’s gonna happen in this thing!”

Blackjack then queried Thatcher, “You say it’s two minutes with no referee?” Les responded, “That’s right, anything goes.” Mulligan retorted, “Well, I’ll tell you what Rufus, I’ve never been in a cotton field but I’ll tell you one thing…if everything goes, you ask anybody in the world and they know I’m at my most dangerous when anything goes. You get me trapped in a corner, and I’m liable to come up with a hogleg or something, you never know. So, be VERY, VERY careful Rufus!”

When Rufus had his chance to address the Richmond faithful with Les Thatcher he exclaimed, “Listen Blackjack, I told you before I was gonna get you back. Now I’m comin’ for you again! You had your kind of match; you had your Texas Death match! You bust my head open! I tell you right now Blackjack…this is my kind of match! A Cotton Field match!!”

Rufus R. Jones batters Blackjack Mulligan
The Freight Train then added, “Because I’m from the country. I know what it’s like. And once it’s over there’s no referee…two minutes! I can do anything in my power that I wanna do.  I can reach down and choke you, kick you, stomp you, bite you; anything I want to do to you Blackjack! I got two minutes, with no referee…to do what I want to do to you! And this is my kind of match brother, I’m gonna tell you right now I’m comin’ for you Blackjack and this time I’m gonna show you just where it’s at…a Cotton Field match!!”

And show him, Rufus definitely did! In Richmond as in the other towns that hosted Cotton Field bouts, the “King” avenged an earlier defeat weeks earlier in that venue by Mulligan to win the regularly scheduled match, and then proceeded to whip Mulligan soundly in the referee-less two minute free-for-all. In Richmond, the crowd noise approached record levels as Jones ran roughshod over the massive Texan!

After Blackjack told me that he pushed for Rufus to become the United States Champion in the bicentennial year, I’ve always speculated that the Cotton Field match was the mechanism that Jim Crockett Promotions used to give the “King” a title run of sorts. No, Rufus never officially became the U.S. Champion but for the ecstatic fans that witnessed Rufus’ Cotton Field matches in 1976, Rufus R. Jones performed like a champion and certainly gave new meaning to that age-old saying, “Cotton is King.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

Action Figures Friday: The Legion of Doom

Mike Simmerman's cool representation of the Legion of Doom, the Road Warriors, on the set of Superstation WTBS-17 in Atlanta, GA.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Updates

David Chappell of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway talks Starrcade history with Jim Valley on "Wrestling Road Stories" on the PWTorch Livecast. The show is part of a huge line-up of live and archived podcasts that are part of the PWTorch media group that is an industry leader in pro-wrestling and MMA news.

You can become a PWTorch VIP member by surfing over to and checking out all the benefits of that program. They occasionally offer free trials and other promotions. And, of course, there's Bruce Mitchell, so hey - - what more needs to be said?

Jim Valley and David Chappell are up on the PWTorch Livecast site now at

Over at our sister-website "Studio Wrestling" check out Dick Bourne's latest article "No Antenna? You're Missing A Lot. Especially Wrestling." featuring a 1960 newspaper advertisement for WRAL TV touting their popular pro wrestling program hosted by legendary sportscaster Ray Reeve. It's part of our ongoing effort to document the great voices of pro-wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling throughout its history.

Don't miss our weekly feature ACTION FIGURES FRIDAY tomorrow featuring Mike Simmerman's look at the Road Warriors.

Plus this Sunday, David Chappell looks back at Rufus R. Jones cornering Blackjack Mulligan in a "Cotton Field Match," complete with audio, photos and newspaper clippings.

And next week, it's Thanksgiving and of course that means our annual look back at Jim Crockett Promotions' annual Thanksgiving traditions, one of which was STARRCADE.

Our well-received series on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's "Texas Connections" continues with three installments so far and more coming next week. These include great newspaper clippings and vintage audio clips. History lives on the Gateway!
PART ONE   Hailing form the Great State of Texas
PART TWO  Crockett's Texas Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling (1978)
PART THREE Crockett TV in Texas in 1977-1978 (including US Champ Ric Flair in Amarillo)
PART FOUR (Coming Next Tuesday) Terry Funk takes Crockett's U.S. Championship back to Texas
Did you know you can buy the FOUR HORSEMEN book directly from James J. Dillon wherever he is making appearances? Get all the details here and check out JJ's appearance schedule hereAnd don't miss the popular J.J. Dillon Show podcast dropping each Thursday on the MLW Radio Network.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Crockett TV in Texas (1977-1978)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Did you miss our earlier installments? Check out PART ONE and PART TWO now.

Previously in PART TWO of our "Texas Connections" feature, we took a look at the stars of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling that were making trips in 1978 to the "Southwest Championship Wrestling" territory promoted by Joe Blanchard. These included Ric Flair, Greg Valentine, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, Ricky Steamboat, and Tiger Conway, Jr.

In PART THREE, we take a look at the Crockett Promotions TV shows that aired on local TV in that area, as well as in the Amarillo Territory promoted by the Funks, and Crockett's U.S. championship appearing on Amarillo TV during that time as well.


In 1977, Ric Flair made an appearance on the Amarillo promotion's television program during his first reign as United States Heavyweight Champion. Not only did the match air on Western States Wrestling's "All Star Wrestling" show, but it also aired nationally on Superstation WTCG-17 out of Atlanta. (WTCG would later change its call letters to WTBS.)

The action in the match was called by legendary Texas wrestling announcer Steve Stack, who also later called matches for Joe Blanchard on his "Southwest Championship Wrestling" show. His color commentator was former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk, a member of the legendary Funk family that promoted the Amarillo territory for over two decades.

Flair was in prime form during his 5-minute TV match against Gary Star, even leaving the ring to come over to the broadcast position and jaw a little bit with Terry Funk.

Here is a rare audio of the ring introductions, Flair's appearance at the desk, and brief commentary by Steve Stack and Terry Funk as U.S. Champion Ric Flair wrestles on Amarillo TV:

Flair defended the U.S. title in the Amarillo territory in August of 1977 against Abdullah the Butcher and Ricky Romero (father of Ricky Jr., and Jay, Mark, and Chris Youngblood), and returned in September to defend against former NWA World champion Dory Funk, Jr.


On the 2/18/78 broadcast of "Wide World Wrestling" host George Scott and co-host Johnny Weaver passed on greetings to all the wrestling fans in the Corpus Christi, Texas area who were now watching their show on their local airwaves. They don't mention the specific station, but Mid-Atlantic Gateway visitor Jeff Baxter wrote us and let us know that Crockett's "Wide World Wrestling" show aired on KRIS TV channel 6, an NBC affiliate in Corpus Christi.

Here is the transcript of their discussion:

George Scott: "You know, we've got a lot of friends down there in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I want to say hello to everybody down there, our friends who are watching the wrestling from here now. I know you like to go down there yourself sometimes, John. It's great country.

Johnny Weaver: "We certainly do, we're starting to get mail from the people down there, George, and this is the only way right now for us to say hello to them is right here on this program.

George Scott: That's very true, and I know Mulligan is from Texas, I know he's been down there defending his belt, that U.S. heavyweight championship. And also, Wahoo has been going down there, Wahoo McDaniel. And I guess Wahoo's a legend in Texas, as he is all over the country.

Johnny Weaver: Well it will certainly make for some great matches in that area, and you fans - when you see us down there, be sure and come out, because we'd like to say hello to you in person. You're going to see some great matches, just like George said, Wahoo's been going down there and Mulligan has been defending his belt down there. I know they're going to have great matches, just like you see right here.

George Scott: Also, you know, Tully Blanchard was here, he made a big name for himself around this area, he's down there now, so let's just say a salute to Texas, we love it down there.




A few months later, Bob Caudle and David Crockett welcomed Austin, Texas television station KTVV to the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling network. (KTVV-36 is now KXAN in Austin.)

Listen to this short audio clip of Bob Caudle and David Crockett:

This announcement took place on the 5-13-78 broadcast of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling", and that very next Wednesday night, Ricky Steamboat traveled to San Antonio from the Mid-Atlantic area to challenge Tully Blanchard for his Southwest Heavyweight Championship belt. (It was a loaded card. See the details in PART TWO of this series.)

With both of Jim Crockett Promotion's television programs airing in the south Texas territory, Joe Blanchard booked many of Crockett's top stars to appear on some of big cards. His home base of San Antonio fell in between Corpus Christi and Austin and so much of the main territory fell with in broadcast range of these two shows.

Next time in PART FOUR, we'll take a look at one of the most famous nights in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling history, the night in November 1975 Terry Funk won the United States Championship in a huge one night tournament in Greensboro and threatened to took the U.S. title out of the Mid-Atlantic area back to Texas. Thanks to another Texan, Paul Jones, that didn't last for long.

All the details next time in "Texas Connections."

Did you miss our earlier installments? Check out PART ONE and PART TWO now.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mooneyham: Fame and fortune came at a high cost for 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair

Fame and fortune came at a high cost for 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair
by Mike Mooneyham 
Charleston Post & Courier

Charelston Post & Courier / Provided by ESPN Films
Few professional wrestlers and sports entertainers in the modern era have enjoyed more mainstream appeal than Ric Flair. An icon in the wrestling business for several decades, Flair made a career out of generating excitement and dazzling crowds with his impeccable athletic ability and in-ring skills. His charisma and rapport with his fans endeared him to a devoted following from coast to coast.

It was Flair’s out-of-the-ring exploits, though, that earned him a reputation as the “limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’-dealin’ son of a gun.” It wasn’t just a wrestling catchphrase. Flair walked the walk, talked the talk and truly lived the life he boastfully advertised.

But it came with a heavy price.....

Read the entire article at the Post & Courier website:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Action Figures Friday: Johnny Weaver and Tim Woods

Representation of NWA TV Champion Johnny Weaver and
United States Champion "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods

The original photo from which Mike Simmerman
based his action figure photo.
 Thanks to Mike Simmerman for the photos for this ongoing series on action figures, and Scooter Lesley for the Gene Gordon photo of Weaver and Woods.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Crockett's Texas Connections with Joe Blanchard's Southwest Wrestling (1978)


Did you miss PART ONE? Go back and check out some of the many wrestlers that appeared in the Mid-Atlantic area that hailed from the great state of Texas.

 * * * * * * * *
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

In PART TWO of our feature on the Texas Connections with Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, we take a look at a brief working relationship in 1978 between Jim Crockett Promotions and the new Southwest Championship Wrestling promotion headed up by Joe Blanchard in San Antonio.

Joe's son Tully had been competing in the Mid-Atlantic territory as a rookie getting experience in the opening matches of the cards in the Carolinas and Virginia. He arrived in the area in May of 1977 and spent the rest of that year there.

Tully left Jim Crockett Promotions in December of 1977 around the same time his father took over promoting the San Antonio territory which had just been renamed "Southwest Championship Wrestling."

The Lone Star State was divided into several small territories in the 1970s. The Amarillo territory, run by the Funks, covered Amarillo, Lubbock, the panhandle and points west. Dallas was promoted by Fritz Von Erich and covered Dallas, Ft. Worth, and the entire metroplex. The city of Houston, was promoted by Paul Boesch. South Texas (except for Houston) was now run by Joe Blanchard, and the territory included everything from Waco south, including Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and other towns in the Rio Grande valley.

Along with his core group of wrestlers, Joe Blanchard would occasionally book talent from other territories which included some of the top stars from Jim Crockett Promotions. The relationship was apparently developed though Blanchard's history with Crockett booker George Scott.

In early 1978, Crockett landed a time-slot for its program "Wide World Wrestling" on a Corpus Christi station, and in May of that year placed their flagship "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" show on a station in Austin. Blanchard's home base of San Antonio lay right in the middle, and the exposure of the Crockett stars each week in much of Blanchard's territory allowed him to occasionally book some of Jim Crockett Promotions' top stars for key events. This included Crockett's U.S. and World Tag Team titles being defended there, too.

The following is a short summary of some of the appearances Crockett stars made in Southwest Championship Wrestling over roughly an 8-month period. We know there are many others, but we just haven't unearthed them yet. We're working on it!

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

September 14, 1977 - San Antonio, Texas
September 15, 1977 - Corpus Christi, Texas
Tully Blanchard & Tiger Conway, Jr. vs. Big John Studd and the Iron Sheik
Tully Blanchard and Tiger Conway left the Mid-Atlantic area for two quick shots in the Lone Star State. Tiger Conway Jr. was a Texas favorite, as was his father, and was a regular mid-carder for Jim Crockett Promotions during this time period. Conway had headlined shows in the Mid-Atlantic area in late 1975 with partner Steve Keirn in a feud with Gene and Ole Anderson. Blanchard had become a frequent tag team partner of Blanchard's while Tully was in the area in the second half of 1977.

December 15, 1977 - Corpus Christi, Texas
NWA World Tag Team Title Match: 
Ric Flair & Greg Valentine vs. Tully Blanchard & Tiger Conway, Jr. 
Wahoo McDaniel vs. Ox Baker 


Only days after one of his final regular shots in the Mid-Atlantic area, Tully Blanchard returned home and teamed with Texas favorite Tiger Conway, Jr. to challenge NWA World Tag Team Champions Ric Flair and Greg Valentine for their world title belts. It is thought to be the first time the Crockett version of the NWA world tag team title was defended in Texas. On the same card, Wahoo McDaniel came in and defeated tough Ox Baker. Mid-Atlantic favorite Blackjack Mulligan was unsuccessful in his bid for the Texas title on this card. Flair and Valentine retained the NWA tag titles, and headed back home with Wahoo and Tiger for the Mid-Atlantic area's traditional two-week break before Christmas.

May 17, 1978 - San Antonio, Texas
Southwest Championship match: Tully Blanchard vs. Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat had become one of the top stars in the country off of his feud with "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in the Mid-Atlantic area, and so it elevated both Tully Blanchard and his Southwest title to successfully defend it against Steamboat in San Antonio.


The title match was part of a huge San Antonio card that was headlined by NWA World Champion Harley Race defending the "ten pounds of gold" against the man he dethroned for that very title, Amarillo's own Terry Funk. A third title match on that big card featured Dale Valentine (Buddy Roberts) defending the Texas Heavyweight Championship against Killer Karl Krupp.

June 21, 1978 - San Antonio, Texas
NWA World Title Match: Harley Race vs. Ricky Steamboat
Steamboat must have proven to be a good draw for them, because Joe Blanchard brought him back a month later to headline San Antonio against the NWA World Champion Harley Race. Also on that card, Tully Blanchard was attempting to regain the Southwest title he had recently lost to Alberto Madril. (See the program for this big San Antonio main event featuring Race vs. Steamboat.)

August 3, 1978 - Corpus Christi, Texas
United States Championship match:
Ric Flair vs. Blackjack Mulligan
In August, Joe Blanchard booked Jim Crockett's hottest main event to headline his own big show in Corpus Christi, a U.S. title defense by Ric Flair against his former partner and now top challenger, the big man from Eagle Pass, Texas, Blackjack Mulligan. Blanchard had also booked two top young stars catching fire in Dallas, Kevin and David Von Erich. Dale Valentine (Buddy Roberts) defeated Kevin, and David topped Don Kodiak. Tully Blanchard and Rocky Johnson wrestled to a draw. (There is reason to believe this may have been a TV taping.)

There were likely other occasions during 1978 where Crockett's top stars made appearances, and we continue to try to uncover them.

In PART THREE of our "Texas Connections" series, we'll take a closer look at Crockett TV airing in Texas in the territory days, as well as Flair defending his U.S. title in the Amarillo territory. And looking ahead, we'll be listening to some vintage audio clips from Mid-Atlantic Wrestling with a decidedly TEXAS theme to them. Stay tuned!

Did you miss PART ONE? Go back and check out some of the many wrestlers that appeared in the Mid-Atlantic area that hailed from the great state of Texas.

[Special thanks to Mark Eastridge for the newspaper clippings and for inspiring this Texas series.]