Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Blooper! Tully Couldn't Catch a Break in Lynchburg
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

There are classics, and then there are classics. Two big bloopers appear in the newspaper ad below, but one is an all-time blooper, right up there with "Old Anderson" and "Tigger Conway" that we posted here earlier.

In the second half of 1977, a young wrestler named Tully Blanchard was learning the ropes and getting some seasoning away from his Dad Joe Blanchard's San Antonio promotion by touring with Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas and Virginia. He never worked above mid-card that 7 months in the Mid-Atlantic territory, but was clearly on his way to a bright future in the business. On this night in Lynchburg, Tully would open the show in a match against the "French Tank", veteran Rick Ferrara.

JOLLY Blanchard in the opener in Lynchburg, VA
Lynchburg City Armory, November 18, 1977

Tully had a bit of a reputation throughout his career of being somewhat in a perpetual bad mood. How ironic is it then that he be listed in this ad as JOLLY Blanchard? As we often do with these bloopers, we wonder how in the heck this one happened!

Then there is blooper #2 for the match of Baron Von Raschke and Masked Superstar vs. Mr. Wrestling Tim Woods and #1 Paul Jones. Except the ad writer struggled with how to spell the big German's name and came up with Baron Von RASHICE.

Rashice? Really? Sounds like a bad skin condition.

I think it's a safe assumption that the newspaper ad writer wasn't a wrestling fan, and clearly not familiar with the names that would be appearing on this card.

There are a couple of other anomalies in the ad. They split Superstar into two words (Super Star) and Ferrara's name is misspelled, but that happened a lot with his last name. Misspellings in general were common in these ads. We really don't count simple misspellings as bloopers anyway.

The write-up in the newspaper promoting the show wasn't much kinder to Tully, as it listed TONY Blanchard in the opener against Rick Ferrara. Tully Blanchard couldn't catch a break in Lynchburg.

But JOLLY Blanchard made us laugh the most. It is one of our favorite bloopers we've ever posted in our ongoing Bloopers feature.

Want to see the other bloopers? You can always click the Bloopers link on the right side of this page and it will filter all of our posts to show only the Blooper posts. Or you can see a master list by clicking here: The Blooper Directory.

Thanks as always to Mark Eastridge for the clippings.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The 1982 NWA World Tag Team Tournament

Part One: A Brief Introduction  
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

For five full months during the first half of 1982 the Mid-Atlantic wrestling scene was dominated by talk of the ongoing NWA World Tag Team tournament. The NWA Board of Directors had stripped Gene and Ole Anderson of the championship after they had failed to defend the titles within a 30-day period. The back story was that Gene Anderson had suffered an injury in late 1981, and Ole Anderson had taken different partners in hopes of maintaining the championship as the NWA remained largely indifferent to those unusual circumstances.

David Crockett and Bob Caudle with NWA Representative Sandy Scott

But after having a falling out with substitute partner Ray Stevens, Ole Anderson failed to find another partner in time to defend the titles within the 30-day time limit and the NWA Board of Directors, weary of Anderson's delays and obfuscations, stripped him and his brother Gene of the championships.

This was announced by NWA representative Sandy Scott on the January 23rd edition of "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" where the NWA world tag belts were put on display and the announcement of an upcoming tournament would determine new champions.

Except this would be no ordinary tournament. In most cases, special one-night tournaments are held to determine new champions when the championships are vacant. As Bob Caudle and David Crockett would remind fans here in 1982, the Andersons themselves had brought the World Tag Team titles to the Mid-Atlantic area in 1975 when they won a tournament in San Francisco, CA. (That tournament was actually a fictitious tournament used to establish the title in the area.)

This tournament, however, would be different. It was announced that the tournament would be a worldwide affair with many city tournaments to be held, with winners advancing to regional finals in the East and West, and the regional winners would eventually meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the new champions. Teams would have to put up a $1000 entry fee for each tournament entered, and the winning team in each city would receive $25,000.

Gordon Solie talks with Tournament Committee Chairman Eddie Graham
on the set of "Championship Wrestling from Florida."

Behind the scenes, the tournament was the brainchild of booker Ole Anderson who not only was booking the Mid-Atlantic territory but was also booking Georgia Championship Wrestling out of Atlanta. Ole's idea was to have tournaments in both the territories he booked, as well as involve other territories where there were affiliated relationships. In those days Jim Crockett Promotions booked talent to Frank Tunney's Maple Leaf Wrestling promotion based out of Toronto as well as working with the Knoxville, TN territory run by Blackjack Mulligan, so it would be easy to involve both of them. The Crocketts arranged for Championship Wrestling from Florida to be involved as well, making promoter Eddie Graham the figurehead tournament chairman, and arranging for several tournaments to be held in the sunshine state.

"Do you realize how many heads of cows, how many cattle you could buy if you won in the regional and went all the way to the top of that thing? Plus, being the World Tag Team champions? Brother, that's a lot of loot and that's a lot of money, besides all the prestige of going into the Rock Inn about 2 AM and saying I am the World's champion! Me and Junior would like that because some of those people down at the Rock Inn in Sweetwater don't believe that we can do it!"  - Blackjack Mulligan

The whole thing set up beautifully, and was set to begin with the first city tournament taking place in the Mid-Atlantic's flagship city of Greensboro on February 7. Tournaments in other Mid-Atlantic cities followed including Charlotte and Richmond, among others. Georgia held their big tournament in late February, some of which was televised in Japan. Florida held a tournament in St. Petersburg at the end of March.

Then in April, Western Region winners were announced. The entire Western part of the tournament was fictitious and was created as part of the ongoing tournament story. However, the Eastern divisional finals actually took place, held in May in Charlotte.

The Brisco Brothers from Florida enter the NWA World Tag Team Tournament

But things fell apart soon after. City tournaments originally planned in the Knoxville and Toronto territories, as well as other cities in Florida and Georgia never materialized.  Behind the scenes, Ole Anderson had somewhat of a falling out with the Crocketts over the booking arrangement and Ole left the Mid-Atlantic area with the belts and declared himself and Stan Hanson the new NWA world tag team champions. They wrestled exclusively with those titles in Georgia, and their title reign was barely, if at all, mentioned in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Months later, with Dory Funk, Jr. now booking the Mid-Atlantic territory, the Crocketts got their belts back and Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle wound up being named champions following another fictitious tournament situation in Japan, which is another story for another day.

For fans, it was very disappointing when all of this fell through. So much time and effort was put into getting the tournament over to fans. Months of talking about it on TV, teams legitimately brought in from different territories and even different federations. What should have been a huge finale fizzled out with barely a whimper.

Over the next several weeks, I will take a look at each of the tournaments that were actually held and present a timeline of all the key events throughout the run of the tournament.  We'll take a look at all the teams that won, the bracketing of the tournaments, the split-up of the Western Region winners and  the Eastern finals that basically ended the tournament.

Coming up in PART TWO: 
The tournament is announced and the first city tournament takes place in Greensboro involving teams from all across the country including reuniting one of the greatest teams in wrestling history Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson. Plus Adrian Adonis and Jessie Ventura (from the AWA), Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito (from the WWF), Ole Anderson and new partner Stan Hanson, and  teams from the Mid-Atlantic area.  Stay tuned!

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After the series concluded on the Gateway, we added this complete list of all 12 parts to this introduction for reference purposes:

PART ONE: Introduction
PART TWO: Greensboro
PART THREE: Charlotte
PART FOUR: Richmond
PART FIVE: Atlanta
PART SIX: Fayetteville 
PART SEVEN: St. Petersburg
PART EIGHT: The Lost Tournaments
PART NINE: Wahoo & Muraco Win the West 
PART TEN: Anderson & Hansen Win the East
PART ELEVEN: Wahoo & Muraco Split as a Team
PART TWELVE: The Sad Final Chapter

Jesus, Elvis, and All Star Wrestling (Revisited)

With the passing of the Reverend Billy Graham on 2/21/18, I thought I'd re-post a link to a story I originally wrote in 2010 taking an in-depth look at an amazing week of events at the Charlotte Coliseum in 1972, which (along with wrestling, hockey, and and Elvis concert) included several nights of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade.  - D. Bourne

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Click this link to go to the original article:
One Amazing Week at the Charlotte Coliseum (1972)
by Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Action Figures Friday: The UWF Championships

From top to bottom: the North American Heavyweight Championship, The UWF Heavyweight Championship,
The UWF Television Championship, and the UWF Tag team championships. Select action figures represent
some of the wrestlers who held those titles. (Jeff Jewett photo.)

Back on Friday, February 2, "Action Figures Friday" presented an amazing display by collector Jeff Jewett of the mid-1980s "Dusty-era" replica championship belts and action figures. These included the United States championships, NWA World TV title, World Tag Team titles, and many others.

This week, Jeff presents a look at his replicas of the Mid-South and Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) championship belts along with custom action figure representations of some of the champions that wore those title belts around the time of the Crockett acquisition of the UWF.

Along with the UWF titles, these include the North American Heavyweight title used earlier in the 1980s during the final years of the Mid-South Championship Wrestling era, before Bill Watts changed the name of the company to the Universal Wrestling Federation. Also included is the Mid-South TV Championship medal that was defended during the 1980s Mid-South era.

An outstanding presentation of replica title belts and custom action figures! Thanks to our friend Jeff Jewett for sending us the photos.

And don't miss Jeff's amazing display of the Crockett NWA championships presented earlier this month on "Action Figures Friday."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wrestle Art: Nashville (1978)

  curated by Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I've always enjoyed the many different renditions of wrestler-artwork that appeared in various ads for wrestling around the country. I've decided to display some examples of those from time to time here on the Gateway.

No. 3: Nashville, TN - July 1978

This is actually from the line-up sheet handed out at the matches in Nashville or perhaps included in the wrestling program sold at the matches, promoted by Nick Gulas. The same graphic was also used occasionally in their newspaper ads as well.

This one will be of special interest to Mid-Atlantic fans that watched "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" on WFBC-4 out of Greenville, SC in the 1970s and early 1980s. A slightly different version of the wrestler art seen above was used for years during the special additional 1-minute promos that Billy Powell would narrate that were inserted twice into the Greenville wrestling shows.

The art appears to depict a rear hammerlock scene during a heated match. Because of seeing this every Saturday for over 10 years watching wrestling from Greenville, SC, this image connects with me as much as any other from that time period. I was surprised (and delighted) when I came across it in the Nashville bill.

To see other examples of "Wrestle Art" we've posted on the Gateway, click here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Woooo! Mercy Daddy! The Boogie Man Jam Poster

"The Boogie Man" Jimmy Valiant is seen here with the original artwork for the Boogie Man Jam poster and t-shirt that were sold during the Boogie Jam Tour in the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984.

This original art is signed by artist Bill Stroud. It had been in storage in the Crockett archives for years until being purchased from Jackie Crockett by the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in 2009. It has since been re-sold and is in the hands of a private collector.

The art depicts many of the main event stars on that huge "Boogie Man Jam '84" tour that included Dusty Rhodes, Dick Slater, Greg Valentine, Ric Flair, The Assassins with Paul Jones, and of course the "Boogie Man" Jimmy Valiant.

A rare collectable indeed from one of the most successful events and tours for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1984.

We will feature more on the Boogie Man Jam in future posts.

For more information about Jimmy Valiant including his training school and Hall of Fame Museum in Shawsville, VA, visit

Monday, February 19, 2018

Strange Goings On in Greensboro (Part 4)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 

Catch up on what you missed: PART ONE  |  PART TWO  |  PART THREE

As fans leaned close in to their television sets across the Mid-Atlantic area, David Crockett seemed to draw out the suspense to its maximum extent as he slowly read the contents of the telegram from NWA President Bob Geigel. Crockett pronounced, "After viewing the film of the match, it is my decision that the National Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Title should be returned to Baron von Raschke and Greg Valentine...Bob Geigel, President."

A collective audible gasp could be heard from the studio audience, followed by loud hysterical laughter from the Baron. A joyful Valentine exclaimed to Jones, "Give the belt over!" Crockett looked at a completely floored Paul Jones clutching his belt and empathetically said, "I'm sorry, but you have to give it back to them." Caudle confirmed, "That's the ruling, Paul."

Jones then went from stunned to irate almost simultaneously telling Caudle, "Bob, I wish I could say what I wanna say right now on TV. But this goes to show exactly just how low these two men are, and they don't deserve these belts!" At that moment the good guys tersely relinquished their straps to the villains, nearly sparking a fight right on the TV set in the process.

After taking a hold of his belt, Valentine taunted Steamboat referencing an issue the two had recently regarding Greg's 1000 silver dollar challenge by saying, "I'll tell you one thing else Steamboat, you little creep, you're gonna give me back that $1,000 or I'm gonna give a thousand blows to your slant eyed face, you understand that?!" Ricky responded to that crude comment, "Let me tell you something Valentine, I've told you before on television anytime, any place...that $1,000 on each match or those World Tag Team belts...we'll be waiting and ready! You just showed what kind of men you two guys are." Paul followed up loudly, "You haven't seen the last of us!"

As Jones and Steamboat stormed off the set, the Baron gleefully gloated, "THE WORLD CHAMPIONS!" And Greg then contended, "We just showed what kind of men they were. They CHEAT...the illegal man pinned me, and we have the proof!" Raschke then cackled, "We have our belts, we have our belts! We are the champions of the World!" Valentine added, "The true champions!"

Caudle reluctantly acknowledged, "David, they've got the belts back." Crockett answered, "Bob Geigel said that they are now the World Tag Team Champions again." Valentine chuckled in response, "No doubt in anybody's mind, huh?" Attempting to wrap up the segment, Caudle announced, "And there they are fans, once again the World Tag Team Champions." Wanting to continue to soak in the glory of their re-coronation as World Tag Team Champions, Valentine and Raschke were slow to exit the interview area. Crockett continued to nudge them off the stage admonishing them, "You've got what you wanted, and now you can leave."

The Baron had one more shot at the fans before he and Valentine departed saying, "Das richtig, we are the World Champions, and that is all the people need to know! World Champions!" Caudle concluded, "All right David, I tell you, that's a blow to the fans." Crockett concurred, "That is something I did not want to do."

At the end of the show, the now former World Tag Team Champions Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat would return and they would address NWA President Bob Geigel's decision with their disappointed fans. What they said then and going forward in return matches against Valentine and Raschke would be quite say the very least!

Currently with FREE SHIPPING!!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Greatest Finish Man Ever

A Conversation with Blackjack Mulligan about his friend Johnny Weaver
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

NOTE: This article was originally published March 11, 2008 following the death of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legend Johnny Weaver. February 15, 2018 was the 10th anniversary of Weaver's passing and we decided to re-publish this conversation with Blackjack Mulligan, one of Weaver's close friends. 

Blackjack Mulligan and Johnny Weaver had reunited with each other via the internet a year or so ago, and since then the two had enjoyed the exchange of memories and reminiscences, as well as the usual e-mail jokes that go around. Johnny had only recently learned to use the computer for e-mail correspondence, and was enjoying keeping up with some of the guys he had worked with over the years, including Blackjack, Rip Hawk, Ivan Koloff, Jim Nelson, and others.

Johnny Weaver with Blackjack Mulligan on the
set of "Best of NWA Wrestling"
During a recent phone conversation, Blackjack reminisced about Johnny Weaver, who passed away in February.

“I still can’t believe Johnny’s gone,” he told me. “We had just exchanged e-mails and we had spoken on the phone before Christmas.”

Jack had invited Johnny to come spend Christmas with him and his wife Julia and son Barry at Jack’s cabin on the San Saba River, south of San Angelo, Texas. “He told me he’d have to pass, he was going to see his daughter Wendi on Christmas day.”

Jack’s nickname for Johnny was “J-Dub”, short for “J.W.”. The name was actually given to Weaver by Dick Murdoch who liked the character by that name in the 1972 cowboy movie “J.W. Coop.”

“He called me Mully, I called him J-Dub,” Blackjack said. The two had not seen each other in over 15 years.

“We were close, we shared so much on the road.” Jack told me. “The best times were in 1978 traveling with him and Dickey Murdoch all around the Mid-Atlantic territory. We spent a lot of time and rode a lot of miles. Johnny was always chewing tobacco, listening to 8-track tapes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ernest Tubb.”

Those 8-track tapes resulted in a slight clash of musical tastes while driving those Carolina back roads. “Over and over and over again, he played those tapes, I got so sick of Merle Haggard,” Jack laughed as he told me. “I was into the new Southern Rock, the Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, and those guys, and Johnny liked that old traditional stuff. Of course, all those guys Johnny loved, those guys are all on my iPod now,” he laughed, “but wow, he used to wear those 8-track tapes out!”

Thinking about that now, it makes sense that Blackjack remembers those times with Johnny in 1978. Back in those days, the good guys and the bad guys didn’t travel together, and up until the spring of 1978, Blackjack was one of the top bad guys in the territory, and therefore wouldn't have been able to travel with Weaver. But the famous “Hat and Robe” angle changed all that. Blackjack became a fan favorite, and he and Murdoch formed the M&M Boys tag team, and Jack finally had a chance to travel with Weaver.

“Riding with Murdoch and J-Dub, you were always learning,” Jack said. “Weaver had one of the greatest wrestling minds ever, one of the most creative people I ever met in the business," Blackjack said, a measure of respect in his voice. "Back in the old day, I’m talking the 1960s here, matches were two-out-of-three falls, and were long drawn-out affairs. And the finish you came up with in that third fall was designed to sell tickets to next week’s show. It wasn’t so much the TV back then, TV was very different, you didn’t have all those wild and crazy interviews to sell the tickets back then. It was what you did in that third fall in that town that week, that was what sold tickets for the next show. Back in those days, they wanted a big advance from the fans as they walked out the door that night. They walked right by the ticket window on the way out, and bought their tickets to next week’s show. So the psychology of the match and the finish was key to the success of that town.”

Blackjack couldn’t say enough about how good Johnny was at making that all work.

“Johnny was a master. And you had to be creative, because you ran those towns every single week. Finishes had to be different from one show to the next; the people couldn’t see the same thing happen again. Now days, [the WWE] runs Greensboro once a year, so you don’t have to even think about things like that. But then, it was key to the success of a town.”

“Weaver was a master thinker,” Jack continued. “He and his partner George Becker both had good brains. Becker booked and Weaver helped him, and then later Weaver got the book. George Scott was probably the greatest booker of all time, but Johnny Weaver was the greatest finish man ever.”

Blackjack knew of Weaver’s reputation when he first came to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1975.

Johnny Weaver (circa 1978)
“I had heard a lot about Johnny from Bronko Lubich,” he told me. Lubich and Aldo Bogni had been opponents for Becker and Weaver in the 1960s. “I was with Lubich down in Houston. Paul Boesch and I didn’t see eye to eye, and Lubich suggested that I call George Scott, who was booking Charlotte. Lubich told me that Scott had always liked me, liked my work. But when I finally got the call from George to come to the Carolinas, I had just taken a spot with Vince Sr. in New York, Lanza and I were bringing our team there. The way the WWF did things, you would go up there for several months and just do TV first, and they would expose you that way before you ever started going to their towns. I was just getting ready to start their TV, and so I told George I could come in for a few months and do a few programs and put guys over on the way out. All I would need is two days every month to go to New York and do their TV in advance of me going there.”

Scott agreed and Blackjack burst upon the scene in the Mid-Atlantic territory. He stayed for a few months and then, as planned, left for the WWWF where he and Lanza held the WWWF tag team championships. Following the Wilmington, NC plane crash in October of 1975 that ended the career of the territory’s top bad guy Johnny Valentine and sidelined Ric Flair for months, booker George Scott brought Mulligan back to the Mid-Atlantic area be his lead heel in the spot Johnny Valentine had held. He also brought back Weaver, who had left the territory early in the year after Scott had removed him from his “babyface” spot.

It was then that Blackjack Mulligan met Johnny Weaver for the first time.

“Johnny and I hit it off pretty well from the minute I got there. He had quite a reputation in the territory where he had been on top for nearly 12 years, which was very hard to do.”

In those days, wrestlers moved frequently from one territory to the next. This allowed promoters to keep talent fresh, and allowed talent more opportunities to work and stay on top by moving place to place. But once Weaver arrived in the Mid-Atlantic area after an early career in the Central States and Indianapolis, he basically never left except for a couple of short stints in Texas and Florida.

Blackjack enjoyed reminiscing
about Johnny Weaver. There was
great respect in his voice.
Following Jim Crockett Sr.’s death in 1973, the territory was in upheaval as son-in-law John Ringley took over the company, followed not long after by sons Jimmy Jr. and David. There had long been differing opinions over who should be booking the territory. George Becker was squeezed out in 1971, replaced by Weaver and Rip Hawk. Johnny mentioned in his 2007 interview with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway that Jimmy Jr. wanted him out as well, and had long pushed for the removal of the old guard. Weaver said that he felt Ringley was in his corner, but that Jimmy Jr. was adamant a change be made, and in 1973 George Scott was hired to book the territory.

“Johnny told me years later of how they fired him. Called him down late one night to meet them in the parking lot of the Coliseum on Independence. Very cold. That always hurt him, stuck with him.”

After Weaver and Mulligan independently returned to the territory following the Wilmington plane crash, they first got to know each other well during those long days of taping local promo spots to be inserted into the Mid-Atlantic and Wide World Wrestling TV shows. The wrestlers would tape these promos at WRAL TV in Raleigh, NC during marathon sessions that lasted all day, and then they would tape the two one-hour television shows there as well. “There was a lot of time to spend sitting around and talking, all the guys sitting around for hours. You got to know these guys pretty well doing that,” Blackjack said.

Blackjack wrestled Johnny a few times over the years as well, including a series of matches in 1976 where he defended the U.S. title against Weaver in several towns across the territory. Blackjack was another in what would be a long line of guys over the next few years (including Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, and Tully Blanchard) who had to get past the legendary territory stalwart to prove his metal to the fans. He put it very succinctly - - “Johnny Weaver was the man."

After a brief silence, Blackjack continued. "I had not seen him in a long time. But we had enjoyed keeping in touch with each other with e-mails and phone calls over the last year.”

A couple of days after Johnny died, Blackjack sent an e-mail to Johnny’s e-mail address telling his old friend he missed him and he wouldn’t be long behind him. “I thought no one would ever see it, but his daughter Wendi got it and sent me a nice note back. Probably thought I was nuts. I just wanted to tell Johnny goodbye.”

Edited for re-publication Feb 2018

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Action Figures Friday: 1978 Tag Team War!

To coincide with the ongoing series by David Chappell "Strange Goings On in Greensboro", we present collector Mike Simmerman's take on the two teams embroiled in that contentious feud in 1978. (Check out part 4 of David's series about this big feud on Monday!)

Thanks as always to Mike for the photos from his figures collection.

Greg Valentine and Baron Von Raschke

Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat

Check out all four chapters in "Strange Goings on in Greensboro":

Part One: New NWA World Tag Team Champions
Part Two: The Baron appeals to NWA President Bob Geigel
Part Three: Film Review
Part Four: The President's Decision - Coming this Monday!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ten Years Burning Down the Road

"Ten years burning down the road..."

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Johnny Weaver on
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
It's hard to believe it has been ten years today since the passing of one of the all-time great legends in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Johnny Weaver. Johnny passed away on February 15, 2008, sitting at his computer desk in his kitchen that morning. Just 24 hours earlier, he had been sending out Valentine's Day e-cards, one of them to his longtime friend Peggy Lathan.

It was Peggy that had introduced me to Johnny about four years earlier, and along with Peggy and the rest of the "Mid-Atlantic mafia", David Chappell and I were blessed with the opportunity to develop a friendship with Johnny over the last several years of his life. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, and contributed both here as well at a little website I developed for him where we posted memorabilia and memories about his career in pro wrestling.

The Birthday Cake (November 2007)
My best memory with Johnny was the weekend we threw a surprise birthday party for him in November of 2007 in Rocky Mount, VA - - three months before his death as it turned out. Several friends from his wrestling days were there (Sandy Scott, Don and Wally Kernodle, Jim Nelson, Rick McCord, Mike Weddle) as well as all of the mafia and we had a wonderful time (along with one of the best looking Mid-Atlantic Wrestling birthday cakes you've ever seen.) The highlight for me? Getting to sing "Turn out the Lights, the Party's Over" with Johnny at the party. That was Johnny's tip of the hat to "Dandy" Don Meridith from Monday Night Football years earlier. Johnny used to sing that song once a week on "World Wide Wrestling" at the end of one of the matches. Little did we know as we sang together that night in Rocky Mount that the party would indeed be over soon.

Deputy Sheriff Johnny Weaver
Mecklenburg County, NC
Since Johnny's death, I've had the pleasure to get to know and become friends with Johnny's daughter Wendi (who gave me one of Johnny's ring jackets several years later - something I treasure to be sure), as well as Capt. Mike Smith of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Department, where Johnny served as a deputy sheriff from the time he left wrestling right up until the time of his death. Capt. Smith was not only Johnny's boss, but one his closest friends, and gave a moving eulogy for him at his funeral. He writes us almost every year around the anniversary of Johnny's death. It was nice to hear from him again this year and when I opened his email last week, it hit me like a ton of bricks that it had been ten years. Time passes us by so quickly.

"Tonight I have been watching the videos of Johnny back in his days," Capt. Smith wrote me.  "One thing I think about and remember and see very clearly is the day we lost him and the time we spent honoring him in the end. It is all way too clear. The good part is we remember and cherish those times we did have together even more."

Johnny Weaver with William L. Cross
at the Weaver Cup Tournament in 2005
CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, one of the country's top independent wrestling outfits based out of Burlington, NC, presents an annual "Johnny Weaver Cup" wrestling tournament, something that began several years before Johnny died. Johnny attended several of those early tournaments and presented the trophy to the winner. The tournament has continued as a memorial event and just completed its 14th year.

I am posting some links below to a few of the tributes from various people that we posted in the weeks after Johnny's death. This weekend I plan to re-post in its entirety one my favorites, an interview I did with Blackjack Mulligan that included his tribute and memories of the man he affectionately called "J-Dub."

So ten years burning down the road, we salute his memory on this, the tenth anniversary of his death. We miss you, Sleeperman.

"One of the lasting memories I will have of that day was topping each hill on the way to graveside and seeing stretched out before me a line of seemingly endless patrol cars with blue lights flashing, slowing winding through Mecklenburg County on their way to see Johnny laid to rest. It was a jolting reminder that a brotherhood of officers had lost one of their own. And they were there in force to say goodbye." - Dick Bourne, "Saying Goodbye"
"So as I am proceeding to Johnny’s house under the sound of the siren and for some odd reason I heard a Rolling Stones song on my car radio. I leaned over turned up the volume and thought to myself as the adrenaline increased,"wow I wonder if this is what they listened to as they all road together in Johnny’s Cadillac from show to I pulled up to Johnny’s house I saw the expressions on their face and it confirmed what I already knew and it was not good. The second thing I saw was that old Cadillac still sitting in the driveway holding all the good times to itself and then I said to myself, “well Johnny, what do you think about that ride we just took? That was some pretty good driving on my part." - Capt. Michael Smith, "Thanks, Kid."
"I don’t remember a lot of those Saturdays in front of my black and white TV in the 60s, or even how I wandered onto Channel 6 in Richmond at 5:00 for All-Star Wrestling. I do remember that my Dad used to watch the World Series of Golf from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio with me at 4:00 on those Saturday afternoons way back when. And I remember when that show ended, All-Star Wrestling came on. While I don’t remember much about that time, I do remember one wrestler, and his name was Johnny Weaver." - David Chappell, "Mr. Mid-Atlantic"
"The highlight of 1967 for me was Johnny Weaver winning the Southern Heavyweight belt from the Missouri Mauler. This match was broadcast on WBTV 3 Charlotte on Saturday Oct. 28. Several months earlier, my two brothers and I had talked it over and agreed to save our money from working in tobacco to a buy color TV so we could see Johnny’s matches in color. We managed to buy a 19 inch General Electric for $369 which was seemed like a fortune to three kids in 1967." - Carroll Hall, "Remembering a Legend"
"From Charleston to Norfolk and all points in between, it was a territory that thrived on unique characters who could make people believe and have them coming back each week for more. Many of those names from that bygone era are gone now, leaving behind memories that will last a lifetime for those who were lucky enough to be around that special time. No name was bigger, and no wrestler was more beloved, than Johnny Weaver." - Mike Mooneyham,
“We were close, we shared so much on the road.” Jack told me. “The best times were in 1978 traveling with J-Dub and Dickey Murdoch all around the Mid-Atlantic territory. We spent a lot of time and rode a lot of miles, Johnny always chewing tobacco, listening to 8-track tapes of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Ernest Tubb...Over and over and over again, those tapes would play, I got so sick of Merle Haggard,” Jack laughed as he told me. “I was into the new Southern Rock...and Johnny liked that old traditional stuff. Of course, all those guys Johnny loved, those guys are all on my iPod now,” he laughed, “but wow, he used to wear those 8-track tapes out!” - Blackjack Mulligan, as told to Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway "The Greatest Finish Man Ever"
"Normally, funerals don’t have a lasting impact on me, as I rarely show my emotions. However, Johnny’s funeral has impacted me to this day and at times when I read stories about him or watch videos of him, I still get teary eyed. When my wife finds old pictures of Johnny and I on the World Wide Wrestling TV set, I just stare at them and fondly remember the time we had together." - Rich Landrum, "Goodbye to the Dean"
"When I first came to Charlotte in 1980, Johnny just went out his way to help teach me in that wrestling ring....Johnny had been a hero to me, he always put the match first. He once told me,"Kid, You are only as good as the guy you are workin' with." I never did forget that. He was so right, too." Jim Nelson (aka Boris Zhukov), "So Long, Johnny"

"Johnny was one of the first wrestlers I ever talked to and soon became not only my hero, but also my friend. I saw him every week, sometimes several times a week, and he'd always give me a hug and ask how things were going for me, and would ask about my Mom and Grandmother, who also attended the matches with me. He was just a sweet, kind person who was so easy to talk to and was always so available to the fans. ... That's why so many loved him, and why so many are mourning his passing. When you can make a connection with your hero, you never forget it." - Peggy Lathan, "Hard to Handle"

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Birthday, Big Gold!

Happy Birthday, Big Gold! 

The iconic belt made its national (and worldwide) debut at Championship Wrestling from Florida's "Battle of the Belts II" satellite broadcast from Orlando on Valentine's Day night, February 14, 1986. The gorgeous new belt (complete with the champ's name infamously mis-spelled "Rick" Flair) replaced the iconic "Ten Pounds of Gold" belt that had been worn and defended by NWA champs since 1973.

The main event that night in Orlando was Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham. Windham had just returned to Florida and the NWA from a stint in the WWF.

The photo above features the actual Crumrine belt (not a replica) nestled into a vintage "Battle of the Belts II" satin jacket that originally belonged to Barry's father Blackjack Mulligan, and was worn that night.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Johnny Weaver vs. Harley Race (1981)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Two of my favorites from the 1970s meet in the ring in Brantford, ONT, Canada in the early 1980s. Former 6-time NWA World Champion Harley Race battles Johnny Weaver as Race makes his move to establish himself as the number one contender for the Canadian Heavyweight championship at that time.

Norm Kimber was a great ring announcer in general, but I love his call at the end which is very reminiscent of his call of the match when Race defeated Terry Funk in 1977 in Toronto for the NWA world title. I think Kimber just loved saying Race's name.

The video isn't the best quality but the memories are top notch.

* * * * * * * *

Late Edit (2/14):

Andrew at sent us the following information:

Always cool to see some Toronto flavor on the site. That [Race vs. Weaver] bout is from Nov. 16, 1981, the day after the big 50th Anniversary show here.

Amazing that [Race] put in 4 bouts after a wild bout with Flair the night before, both covered in blood and fighting up and down the ramp with suplexes and headbutts.  Regards, Andrew

81/11/16 Brantford, Ontario (TV TAPING)

Johnny Weaver beat Doug Vines
Harley Race beat Tim Horner
Johnny Weaver & Ron Bass beat Charlie Fulton & Doug Vines
Harley Race beat Mike Miller
Ron Bass beat Charlie Fulton
Harley Race beat Mike Davis
Tony Parisi beat Mike Miller
Harley Race beat Johnny Weaver
Mike Miller & Charlie Fulton beat Mike Davis & Tim Horner

Monday, February 12, 2018

Studio Wrestling Website Updates

Studio Wrestling Update
Be sure not to miss our posts on the Studio Wrestling website. Here are links to some recent posts:

Studio Wrestling at WNOK-19 in Columbia SC
 Rarely discussed site for TV tapings in 1962

Studio Wrestling in Nashville
A look at WNGE in Nashville in 1977

Apostolou Acquires Starland Arena
The famous Roanoke promoter finds a home fo his cards in 1965

"All Star Wrestling" Memories at WDBJ
A blogger offers memories of WDBJ Roanoke wrestling

All-Star Wrestling with Bill Kersten
A peek inside the TV studio for Kansas City wrestling

Rich Landrum and Ric Flair
A video clip of the "World Wide Wrestling" host with the Nature Boy!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Wrestle Art: Greensboro (1978)

  curated by Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway

I've always enjoyed the various wrestler artwork that appeared in various ads for wrestling around the country. I've decided to display some examples of those from time to time here on the Gateway.

No. 2: Greensboro, North Carolina - September 1978

The art will be familiar to Greensboro area fans from the late 1970s when this art appeared at the top of almost every Greensboro newspaper wrestling ad for many years.

The art features one wrestler single leg-diving another. 

Special thanks to Mark Eastridge for access to his unmatched collection of wrestling clippings from all over the country going back decades. I look forward to sharing more Wrestle Art in future posts.
See also: Wrestle Art for Orlando (1970)

Friday, February 09, 2018

Action Figures Friday: U.S. Champion Barry Windham

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Photograph and customized figure from the collection of Mike Simmerman

A depiction of United States heavyweight Champion Barry Windham
wearing a tiny replica of the 5th version of the Crockett United States title belt.

Barry Windham became United States champion on May 13, 1988 when he won a one-night single elimination tournament to name a new champion after Dusty Rhodes was stripped of the title a month earlier. Windham had recently become a member of the Four Horsemen.

The tournament took place in Houston, TX for promoter Paul Boesch, who was affiliated with the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions during this time. Boesch was also a member of the mythical "NWA board of directors" who had stripped Rhodes of the championship, although he said he was a dissenting vote. This followed an incident on WTBS television where Rhodes had inadvertently hit Jim Crockett with a baseball bat during a brawl with Tully Blanchard.

Pages 164-165 of the book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship" in the section
on the 1988 U.S. title tournament in Houston, TX.

Windham defeated Nikita Koloff in the finals of the tournament and became the last man to hold the U.S. championship for Jim Crockett Promotions.

During his time as a member of the Four Horsemen, he wore a black glove on his right hand and used the claw hold as a finisher. This was a tip-of-the-hat to his father, Blackjack Mulligan, who was also a U.S. Champion and also wore the black glove and used the claw.

The belt Windham wore as champion (replica seen in the Action Figures Friday photo above) was the 5th version of the United States championship belt worn during the Crockett years. Other wrestlers who wore that version of the belt were Magnum T.A., Nikita Koloff, Lex Luger, and Dusty Rhodes. Michael Hayes and Stan Hansen also wore the belt during the early WCW years after Jim Crockett Promotions was sold to Ted Turner.

For more information on the history of the Crockett U.S. title and all five of the belts that represented it from 1975-1988, check out our book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship" in the Gateway Bookstore. Also available on

Check out all posts in our ACTION FIGURES FRIDAY series!