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!

* * * * * * * *

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