Wednesday, March 14, 2018

John Studd Concedes Defeat to Blackjack Mulligan

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

One of the fiercest feuds that ever occurred in the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was between Blackjack Mulligan and big John Studd. The issues between these two behemoths started back in October of 1978 when Ric Flair brought Studd into the territory to put Blackjack out of wrestling, with a $10,000 bounty being dangled in front of Studd as incentive for him to accomplish the deed.

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Big John went on to accomplish what no other bounty-hunter had been able to do, he collected the bounty on Blackjack at the beginning of 1979 and sent Mulligan back to Texas. Mully came back across the Red River and confronted Studd again in the summer of 1979, leading to some of the most brutal bouts ever in the fall of 1979. After a bruising series of Texas Street Fight brawls, the second installment of this feud reached its conclusion in the early days of 1980 when Blackjack bested Studd in several Loser Leaves Town matches around the area.

Some chicanery ensued after Studd's defeat as John put a $10,000 bounty on Mulligan, and the Masked Superstars #1 and #2 entered the area with the express intention of collecting it. While Superstar # 1 had gone round-and-round with Blackjack previously and the fans were familiar with him, the giant Superstar #2 was a different story. In fact, Superstar #2 shared so many similar characteristics with Mr. Studd that there appeared no doubt that he was in fact John Studd under the hood!

The charade of Studd masquerading as Superstar #2 ended in late April and early May of 1980 around the area when Mulligan defeated Superstar # 2 while Superstar # 1 was locked in a small cage at ringside, officially revealing # 2 as John Studd in several of the territory's major cities. This led to a stunning appearance by Big John on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on May 21, 1980.

Fans may remember the May 21st show as the one where Blackjack actually brought his cousin Crazy Luke to the WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina after months of teasing that he would bring some of his infamous family in to help him defend against the $10,000 bounty. Memorable segments on this TV show included Cousin Luke entering the ring during a bout and offering the wrestlers popcorn and then later in the program interfering in a match between Mully and Ox Baker, knocking out Baker with one of his shoes!

But the most memorable segment of that TV show for me was an appearance by John Studd...and the comments he made to the fans of the Mid-Atlantic area. Announcer Bob Caudle was on the set with Studd, the Masked Superstar and an unknown character dressed all in black, wearing diamond rings with a patch over one eye. Caudle began, "Now two familiar faces and one of course that's not familiar to you, here is Superstar #1, big John Studd and Enforcer Luciano. This is a newcomer you guys have brought in John."

Studd responded, "I got a message for you people out there, and I've got a message for Mulligan. I'm on my way out of town Mulligan. You succeeded in runnin' John Studd out of town." After that amazing admission Studd continued, "But I'm leaving behind Superstar #1 and the Enforcer Luciano. And I'm also leaving behind the price that's on your head Mulligan, the $10,000. Mulligan, I might be three or four thousand miles away, but every time you get into the ring with one of these two men they're gonna be after the $10,000 dollar bounty that's on your head Mulligan...I won't rest until it's collected!"

Big John then proceeded to introduce his de facto successor to the Mid-Atlantic audience exclaiming, "Now, you take a good look at the Enforcer...his whole life, all he's done is collect bills, collect money, collect bounties. And he told me, and he'd guaranteed me, where I failed Mulligan...I didn't end your wrestling career. You beat John Studd! But you're not gonna beat the Enforcer...he has guaranteed me the money will be collected on your head and I guaranteed him that I will pay up."

Studd concluded by saying, "And then, you still have the Superstar to worry about. One of the greatest wrestlers I ever had the honor to stand next to. You're in trouble Mulligan, these men are after you...the price is on your head. I don't care how long it takes, I don't care what they have to do. Just send me Mulligan in a crate, and the money will be yours!"

After nearly two years of brutal back-and-forth battles between Mulligan and Studd, it was shocking to hear big John concede defeat to Blackjack in this surreal TV segment. But even while conceding defeat and in the process ending a mega-feud, Studd managed to bring Enforcer Luciano into the fray which in turned brought Crazy Luke Mulligan into the area to counter this new threat to Blackjack. Two new wacky characters who for at least a couple of months gave Mid-Atlantic fans a bit a comic relief as they adjusted to a wrestling life without the defeated John Studd.