Monday, April 30, 2018

Missed Opportunities: The Lost Tournaments of 1982

The 1982 NWA World Tag Team Championship Tournament
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

If you missed earlier posts in this series, check them out in the links below, especially the INTRODUCTION, which puts the whole tournament in a perspective that serves as a launching point for the following discussions. 

PART ONE: Introduction
PART TWO: Greensboro
PART THREE: Charlotte
PART FOUR: Richmond
PART FIVE: Atlanta
PART SIX: Fayetteville 
PART SEVEN: St. Petersburg

Now that we have completed a review of all six city tournaments that actually took place in the NWA World Tag Team tournament in the late winter and early spring of 1982 (links above), it's time to take a look at some of the cities where tournaments were initially planned but, for various reasons, never took place.

When the tournament concept was originally conceived by booker Ole Anderson and Jim Crockett Promotions, the thought was that they would have several tournaments outside of the traditional Mid-Atlantic territory in other areas where they had promotional ties and good relationships.

I talked with Ole Anderson twice about these tournaments, once in 2008 (with mutual friend Peggy Lathan visiting Ole and Paul Jones outside Atlanta) and again in 2011 (at the NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Atlanta.) Based on those conversations, here is where I believe those tournaments were to have taken place.

TORONTO: Maple Leaf Wrestling
There is little doubt that the original plan was to have a tournament in Toronto, Ontario in Canada for Frank Tunney's "Maple Leaf Wrestling" promotion.  Toronto was frequently mentioned by Sandy Scott during his early appearances pumping up the tournament as a whole. The Crockett's had been booking talent into Toronto for Tunney since 1978. But that Toronto tournament never came together.

"I can tell you that it was one of the biggest disappointments that it never happened here," Andrew Calvert told me via email. Andrew publishes the excellent Maple Leaf Wrestling history website and was a fan attending matches regularly in Toronto at that time. "There were rumors on Wood Street, the street behind Maple Leaf Gardens where all the fans congregated, that it would happen here."

Mosca and Khan teamed in the U.S. but likely would not have teamed
in Toronto. Mosca was a very popular Canadian champion.
Andrew pointed out that there was a Cadillac tournament scheduled for Toronto on January 31, just before the tag tournaments began in earnest in the Mid-Atlantic area, but it was cancelled due to a huge snowstorm. "We figured we might have gotten the tag tournament instead," he said.

But it never happened.

"It would have been a natural, as times were good here then," Andrew continued, "and Tunney had been praised over the years for having 'popularized tag team wrestling in North America.' We had Adonis and Ventura here, too, for their only appearance as a tag team on January 17, 1982 and they were a huge hit." Adrian Adonis and Jessie Ventura were constantly mentioned on Mid-Atlantic TV as possibly entering several tournaments, and did participate in the Greensboro show.

One of the key wrestlers discussed for the tournament early on during Mid-Atlantic TV broadcasts was Angelo Mosca, who was Canadian Heavyweight champion at the time and one of top stars in Toronto. Who his partner for a tournament in Toronto would have been, had one been held there, isn't exactly clear. His partner in the United States was Killer Khan. They wrestled as a team on Mid-Atlantic TV and were in the finals in Charlotte. But Mosca was "good guy" at the time in Toronto and Khan decidedly was not. We'll never know, as a Toronto tournament regrettably never took place.

NWA Southern Championship Wrestling
In 1981, a group of partners affiliated with Jim Crockett promotions bought the Knoxville  territory, which ran towns in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia and West Virginia.  Blackjack Mulligan was the primary partner, running the territory as a way to help season the skills of his son Barry Windham, who was wrestling as Blackjack Mulligan, Jr. at that time. Along with local Knoxville area talent, Mulligan booked a number of wrestlers regularly from Jim Crockett Promotions including John Studd, Jay Youngblood, Terry Taylor, and Johnny Weaver, Weaver helped Mulligan book the territory.

Blackjack Mulligan Sr. and Jr. would have surely been a
favorite if a tournament had been held in Knoxville.
Ole Anderson said plans were definitely to have a tournament in Knoxville, but they never could work out the schedule to get enough teams there to get it done, and Knoxville was just about too small a territory at that time to have an 8-team tournament on its own. Time passed, there was no urgency, and it just never happened.
Mulligan Sr. and Jr. appeared for both the Knoxville group and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling during this time. Their only tournament appearance was in Charlotte.

Georgia Championship Wrestling/Fred Ward Promotions
Ole also told us that plans were to have a second tournament in Georgia in addition to the huge tournament held at the Omni in Atlanta. Promoter Fred Ward, who ran Columbus, Albany, and Macon, was to have hosted the second tournament in one of his towns, but for any number of reasons, it just never happened.

Championship Wrestling from Florida
When the idea of the tournament was first conceived, Florida was in on the action and Florida promoter Eddie Graham was chosen as the figurehead tournament director, and introduced the tournament in a special video recorded on the set of "Championship Wrestling from Florida" with Gordon Solie. The video was seen both on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" and "Georgia Championship Wrestling."

The Bayfront Arena in St. Petersburg hosted a tournament that was part of a big "Bayfront Spectacular" show. Ole Anderson confirmed there was to be at least one other tournament in Florida, perhaps more, but had no idea where. JCP was willing to send talent, but all of that was left up to Eddie Graham. St. Petersburg wound up being the final city tournament all together, and the only tournament to take place in Florida.

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
Certainly there had to have been thoughts of having more tournaments in the Mid-Atlantic area, which only had four total. North Carolina got three tournaments (Greensboro, Charlotte, and Fayetteville) and Virginia got one (Richmond) but the third big state in the Mid-Atlantic territory, South Carolina, did not have one city with a tournament. It's hard to believe that one of the regular towns there (such as Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston, or Columbia) weren't figured in the plans when the idea of the tournament was first conceived. But for whatever the reasons, there regrettably wasn't one in the Palmetto State.

* * * * *

Coming Up in PART NINE:
A look at the fictional tournaments that were created as part of the larger tournament story, including the entire Western Division tournament which had its mythical finals in the state of Hawaii. And as part of that story, it would eventually be a "beach bum" wrestler from Hawaii that would throw a huge wrench in the works as the tournament neared its conclusion.