Friday, January 12, 2018

Homecoming: Mid-Atlantic Wrestling October 3, 1981

featuring 30-seconds of highlights from 10/3/81
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As of January 2018, the WWE Network has uploaded nearly 100 episodes of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling to its on-demand streaming service, a development we've long looked forward to here at the Gateway. The shows span the time frame of September 1981 through October of 1983.

However, some key episodes are missing, one of which perhaps for me is the one I wanted to see the most from this stretch of shows. It is an episode very sentimental to me, and a show that is historically significant as well. It is the show from Saturday, October 3, 1981.

I was in my junior year in college in October 1981 and unable to regularly watch wrestling for much of that time, not having a television of my own. But on the weekend of October 10, I went home for high school homecoming, to go to the football game, visit friends, and of course binge on wrestling, too.  Little did I know that I would be able to enjoy Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling having a little homecoming of their own: the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair making his first appearance on Mid-Atlantic TV with the "ten pounds of gold." Just 13 days earlier, Ric had defeated "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes to win the NWA title.

I was lucky to see this particular show at all. And it really hurt when I took a look at the listing of shows that were now on the WWE Network - - and the October 3 show was missing.

I lived in east Tennessee, outside of the main Mid-Atlantic territory, but our cable system also carried other TV stations from surrounding areas which included WFBC-TV channel 4 out of Greenville, SC and WLOS-TV channel 13 out of Asheville, NC. These stations were both in the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market and these were the stations I grew up watching Mid-Atlantic and World Wide Wrestling on from 1974 until I left home for good in 1982.

WFBC was one week removed on JCP's syndicated "bicycle", meaning the show they aired each Saturday was one week removed from the original air dates in the larger markets. In this case, the Charlotte market bumped up next to the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, and WBTV-3 in Charlotte got the first run show, and the next week WFBC-4 in Greenville got that same show.

This was actually a good situation for folks who lived between the two as they could get both stations either over the air or on their cable system. They got to see a "replay" airing the following week, and it meant two different Mid-Atlantic shows airing on any given weekend.

So when I came home that weekend of October 10, the Mid-Atlantic show I got on WFBC out of Greenville was actually the show that aired in Charlotte, Richmond, Greensboro, and other major markets a week earlier on October 3rd. 

Wednesday nights were the regular night for Crockett TV tapings, taking place in those days in the cramped confines of WPCQ-36 studios in Charlotte. The October 3 show was taped three days earlier on Wednesday, September 30. Ric defeated Rhodes on Thursday, September 17 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, MO.  But when the next Crockett TV taping took place on Wednesday, September 23, Flair wasn't able to be in Charlotte to celebrate his victory with his home-area fans. He was defending the title that night against a former champion in Columbus, GA - - Tommy "Wildfire" Rich.

David Crockett and Bob Caudle welcome new NWA
World Champion Ric Flair.
That homecoming celebration would have to wait one more week, and on Wednesday, September 30, Bob Caudle and David Crockett welcomed the new NWA World Champion back home.

"It's the greatest honor that I've ever achieved in any aspect of my life," Flair told them, cradling the NWA belt in his left arm. "This is the ultimate trophy, it is the most prestigious award in all of professional wrestling."

Flair took a moment to thank those who had supported him in his long journey for the title.

"On behalf of the people out there, on behalf of the people that stood behind me, Crockett Promotions, I will do my best to be a great world champion. I will do my best to show everyone out there that I deserve the recognition of being called the National Wrestling Alliance World heavyweight wrestling champion."

And with that, Ric thanked them again, and walked off the set to the cheers of the crowd in the television studio.

Although Ric was originally from Minnesota, he now made his home in Charlotte. He had arrived in early 1974. He had been hated and he had been adored during his time wroking for Jim Crockett Promotions, but for the last couple of years he had been like their favorite son. Mid-Atlantic fans had waited nearly ten years to see their hometown hero claim the ultimate prize in the sport. There had never been an NWA champion that had come from their territory before. Flair was the first.

The man Ric beat for the championship was also making a rare appearance on Mid-Atlantic television that same week. Dusty Rhodes came out for an interview carrying his Sony Walkman cassette player and wearing his headphones and apparently enjoying his music. "Let me put down my Victrola right here," he told Bob Caudle. And then the dream got down to business.

"Everybody be askin' me about Ric Flair, and that's great," Rhodes said. "I'm glad for Ric Flair, I'm glad for his family. But let me tell you something, somewhere down the line you gotta meet the Dream again, daddy."

I was fortunate to be able to see that show. Had we not received the show one week delayed on the syndication bicycle, I would have missed it. My high school homecoming allowed me to see a most special Mid-Atlantic Wrestling homecoming. Ric promised to do his best to live up to the expectations of the championship; I think we can look back and comfortably say he most certainly did.

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For the record here are some other details about this show:

  • Wahoo McDaniel and Jay Youngblood thoroughly thrashed young Jim Nelson and veteran Charlie Fulton. 
  • The Grappler and the Super Destroyer defeated Frank Monte and Vinnie Valentino when Super D took Monte out with his devastating "superplex." The suplex from the second turnbuckle was cutting edge for its time.
  • Dusty Rhodes defeated Rick Harris (the future Black Bart)
  • Roddy Piper and Mid-Atlantic champion Ivan Koloff defeated Steve Muslin and Ron Ritchie. Afterwards they kept beating on Ritchie until Wahoo McDaniel hit the ring and cleaned house of Piper, Koloff, and even Ole Anderson who was trying to get involved. Ricky Steamboat came out to help Wahoo even the odds.

Interviews included Wahoo McDaniel, TV champ Ron Bass, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Local promos for Greenville and Spartanburg included Johnny Weaver, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Ivan Koloff.

Roddy Piper tormented Wahoo McDaniel through much of the show, using a plastic trashcan for war drums to open the show and later playing a funeral dirge on the bagpipes for him. Wahoo had finally had enough and charged the ring after Piper's tag match and gave Piper and partner Ivan Koloff a big beating.

Great show. I hope it shows up on the WWE Network before it's all over. It is a sentimental favorite of mine, and I'd love to see it all again.