Sunday, January 07, 2018

Strange Goings-On in Greensboro (Part 1)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

During the glory days of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, fans would flock to the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina knowing that they would be seeing the absolute best cards of grappling action that Jim Crockett Promotions could produce. And more often than in any other town in the Mid-Atlantic area, Greensboro would play host to major title changes that its spectacular cards would spawn. Such would be the case on Sunday evening, September 3, 1978, within the confines of the Coliseum in Greensboro when the fans in attendance saw the NWA World Tag Team Titles shockingly switch from the villainous champs Greg Valentine and Baron von Raschke to the beloved tandem of Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat!

In typical Greensboro fashion, this Sunday night card was stacked from top to bottom. The crowd saw an impressive performance by the rising Texan Skip Young, rooted on the popular duo of Johnny Weaver and the masked Mr. Wrestling over the surprisingly potent duo of Skandor Akbar and Mr. X #2 and roared with delight when “Sensational” Dick Murdock took the double-tough veteran Gene Anderson to the proverbial woodshed. After getting properly lathered up, the Greensboro faithful howled from the rafters during a wild Lumberjack match between bitter rivals Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan that was off the hook even by Flair/Mulligan standards.

But the match that stole the show this early September night in Greensboro was the World Tag Team Title bout with Valentine and Raschke putting their coveted Titles on the line against Jones and Steamboat. A remarkable series of events had thrust these two teams together on June 7, 1978 at a TV taping at the WRAL studios. The week before on TV, Raschke had agreed to put his NWA Television Title on the line against either Jones or Steamboat, who at that point were the World Tag Team Champions, but only if the champs put the World Tag belts on the line against the Baron and  his mystery partner after the TV Title bout.

After some on-screen deliberations, Jones and Steamboat took up the Baron’s challenge. In a coin flip the following week on television, Jones was chosen to wrestle Raschke and defeated the Baron to win the TV Title, but Paul was injured in the process. This handicapped Mr. #1 in the World Tag Team Title bout immediately afterward, and the Baron and his newly-named partner, Greg Valentine, proceeded to capture the World Tag Team straps.

Throughout the summer of 1978, Jones and Steamboat battled ferociously to capture their World Tag Team Titles back. Uncharacteristically for the good guys, they told the fans that they would do anything to recapture the World belts. It seemed apropos that as the summer neared its end in early September, that Ricky and Paul would pull off their summer-long crusade in Greensboro.

The championship bout lived up to all the hype, and the final frantic seconds of the contest saw Steamboat catch Valentine with a double thrust and followed with a quick small package to capture the winning pinfall three-count from referee Sonny Fargo. A deliriously happy Greensboro contingent yelled their approval at the title change while Valentine and Raschke could only stare in disbelief as Jones and Steamboat left the ring and Greensboro with the World Tag Team Championship belts in tow!

But unbeknownst to the fans that saw the match in Greensboro, there were machinations unfolding behind the scenes that would cast a bright spotlight on the World Tag Team Title match that had just concluded in such a spectacular fashion. On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on Wednesday September 6, 1978 and would air for most fans on that upcoming Saturday, the first segment was devoted to a dissection of the Greensboro World Tag Team Title bout. And as Paul Harvey would have paraphrased, we were about to hear the rest of the story…