Saturday, April 14, 2018

From Resignation to Indignation: Wahoo's 1977 Title Loss to Greg Valentine

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

On June 11, 1977 in the Greensboro Coliseum, the unceremonious ending of Wahoo McDaniel’s most dominating championship run in the Mid-Atlantic area was also the springboard that catapulted Greg Valentine as a bonafide singles star in Jim Crockett Promotions. But Valentine’s ascension to the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship could not have happened without an assist from McDaniel’s arch-rival, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. While at one moment Wahoo rationalized the loss as one that had to inevitably happen, but as the bitterness set in the great Indian Chief spewed some astounding venom towards Greg Valentine, and shockingly JOHNNY Valentine, while explaining the devastating defeat to the fans.

On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on June 15, 1977 announcer Bob Caudle broke the news to the fans about Wahoo’s title loss in Greensboro at the top of the show. Wahoo emerged onto the set and Caudle said, “Right now I think we ought to get to this former champion we were talking about just a few moments ago…Wahoo McDaniel. And Wahoo, you lost that match and you lost that title to of course Greg Valentine.”

McDaniel calmly reflected, “That’s right, you know, if you’re a champion and you wrestle long enough, it happens. But the way it happened, I’m just thinking one man didn’t beat me. But I’m not crying over spilled milk, because I know the man will have to get back in the ring, Valentine, and wrestle me. When he does I’m gonna take the title back. And I’d like for the people to see what happened.”

Caudle inquired, “And you’ve got some film of that match?” The Chief confirmed, “We’ve got some film of it.” Caudle then said to color commentator David Crockett, “David, I’d like to see that and I think all the fans would like to.” Crockett agreed, “I definitely would; I think all the fans want to see this film.” As the film became visible for the TV audience Caudle declared, “All right Wahoo, let’s look at it.”

Bill Janosik Photo
The grainy filmed showed Wahoo coming to the ring as Ric Flair was exiting ringside having finished the bout immediately before. Wahoo explained, “As you can see right here, Flair was involved in a match before me and jumped me before the bell…as you can see right here he picks the belt up and hits me right over the head with it and knocked my eye open.” An incredulous Caudle asked Wahoo, “This was before your match then with Valentine?” McDaniel answered, “[Ric Flair] was in a match before with Bobo Brazil and got knocked out of the ring and as you can see he jumped on me before the match even started. See…Valentine hasn’t even gotten to the ring yet.”

Bob Caudle then opined, “Well, what you’re saying is that you were in bad shape even before you started that match against Valentine.” Wahoo admitted, “Well, [Flair] stung me and hurt me…as you can see I’m still a little mad here. I’ve been stung before; I’ve been hurt before. But the man got some good licks on me…he hit me with the belt.” Caudle added, “Caught you off guard, too.” Wahoo continued to narrate, “As you can see here, [referee] Tommy Young is trying to raise my hand and give me a disqualification and give me the belt, but like I said when I get up in the morning I have to look in the mirror and I want to see a man in the mirror…I didn’t want to win it on a disqualification.”

The film then shows Valentine walking down the aisle, seemingly oblivious to the brutal attack Wahoo just suffered. The Chief noted, “There’s Valentine just arriving at the ring.” Caudle analyses, “He looks like he doesn’t even know what was going on…I wonder if that’s really the case?” McDaniel followed up, “I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I went ahead and fought the man…the match didn’t last that long, maybe ten or twelve minutes, and he beat me for the belt.” Caudle commented in response to Crockett, “David, I’d say that’s a heck of a way to lose a belt.” Crockett added, “So really, instead of wrestling one man he had to wrestle two.”

Wahoo declined to accept David’s opening to explain the loss, “Like I said, I’m not cryin’ over spilled milk…the man has to wrestle me individually for that title. Every night, they’re at least 50 guys out there layin’ awake conniving and trying to figure out some way they can take that belt away from you. Believe me, he’s gonna have to wrestle me…he’s gonna get it.”

The focus of the film clip then shifted to the short bout between an injured and bloody Wahoo and a fresh as a daisy Valentine. Caudle said, “Now, this is some of the action in that match?” Wahoo noted, “This is action during the match; this tape is abbreviated. You can see right there I’m bleeding pretty good; my eye was knocked almost shut.” Crockett exclaimed, “Valentine’s laying in those sledgehammer rights!” Caudle observed, “He’s hittin’ you right in that eye again, too.”

Wahoo agreed, “That’s right, he’s taking advantage because the man saw my head’s bleeding…I wouldn’t blame him. I fought hard.” Crockett then excitedly uttered, “It looks like you’re getting’ ready to take Valentine’s head off!” Unfortunately for the fans, that was Wahoo’s only semblance of an offense during the entire match. Wahoo then harkened back to the events that put him in such an awful position saying, “I don’t know if [Flair] had anything to do with it or not, but I’m just sayin’ Flair had no business there. It’s the second time, [Valentine] saved Flair one time on TV a week or two ago, and now Flair saved him here and he won the title. But like I said, I’m not crying, he’s got to wrestle me.”

As the bout neared its conclusion, McDaniel explained, “You see right there he suplexed me…but I did manage to kick out.” Bob Caudle then brought up a historical reference, remembering, “This Ric Flair, he’s gotten you a couple of times. I remember a table leg here a while back Wahoo…and now a belt across the eye.” That recollection from Bob dramatically altered Wahoo’s take on the situation, as his mood changed from resignation to anger and defiance. McDaniel shot back, “That’s right, and like I told the fans on TV, I’m through being on the short end of the stick. I’m going to wrestle like I used to wrestle, and I’m not gonna be the one that’s hurt all the time and doin’ all the suffering…I’m tired of it!”

Increasingly perturbed, Wahoo continued, “Right here, the man beat me. A big elbow, just to make sure I’m down…the man beat me for the title. No doubt about that…one, two, three.” Caudle unknowingly stoked the Chief’s growing anger when he told Crockett, “Well David as I said before, I think it was really a tough way to go Wahoo…I really don’t think you should have had to fought that match.” Trying to maintain his composure, Wahoo replied, “Well, the one thing about it, you’ve gotta be the champion to get beat for the belt…I was proud to be the champion for as long as I was. I feel like I let the people down a little bit, I know I can get the belt back…I beat the man before.”

After Crockett commented, “Everything he’s said so far he’s backed up so he’ll probably be champion again,” Wahoo blew a gasket! “Well, the man goes around tellin’ he’s Johnny Valentine’s brother,” McDaniel fumed about Greg. Wahoo, now totally incensed at the whole situation snarled “Well, he’s Johnny Valentine’s son, I know this, and I know [Johnny]Valentine hated my guts all these years and I know he sent [Greg Valentine] after me and that’s one thing [Johnny]Valentine told him to beat me and get me out of wrestling and that’s what he’s tryin’ to do and he’s gonna have a hard time doin’ it!”

Wahoo gruffly retorted, “Thank you,” and marched of the set. Crockett then stated the obvious, “Well, we’re gonna hear a lot from this man,” to which Caudle answered, “No doubt about that and there’s gonna be a lot more about that incident, I’m sure about that.” Crockett concluded the riveting TV segment, “Oh yes, there definitely will.”

This incident set up the rest of 1977 as an enduring saga of Wahoo versus Greg Valentine, one of the greatest feuds in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history. Wahoo, true to his word would regain the Mid-Atlantic Title in August, but then would lose it and 2,000 silver dollars to Greg on TV in September when Valentine broke Wahoo’s leg. After the Chief recovered in November, the inevitable chase to get revenge on Valentine and regain the Mid-Atlantic belt carried over into early April of 1978 and was successful for McDaniel, then both men went their separate wrestling ways.

While the monumental singles program between Wahoo McDaniel and Greg Valentine may have been born in the Greensboro Coliseum on that Saturday night in June, it really took hold on TV at the WRAL TV studios the following Wednesday night. In the space of a few minutes in a television interview, Wahoo’s mindset on Ric Flair and the Valentines’ went from contrived reticence to real anger and shockingly brutal honesty. And that change in tone was the catalyst for perhaps the greatest Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling feud ever!