Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Sad Final Chapter in the 1982 World Tag Team Tournament

The 1982 NWA World Tag Team Championship Tournament
PART TWELVE - The Final Chapter
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 and serves as a launching point for the discussions that follow. 

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


Wahoo & Muraco Dissolve Their Partnership
Two things happened in May of 1982 that sent the NWA World Tag Team Tournament flying off the rails. One was the story taking place on camera for the fans to see. The other was a story taking place behind the scenes that fans never knew about.

In front of the camera, Wahoo McDaniel regained the United States Championship. It was a title which had been taken from him by the NWA in the summer of 1981 due to some shenanigans pulled by Roddy Piper and Abdullah the Butcher. When Wahoo returned to the Mid-Atlantic area in April of 1982 fresh off the Western Division tournament victory with partner Don Muraco (a fictitious part of the tournament), he received a non-title shot at U.S. champ Sgt. Slaughter on TV, which he won. This ignited a feud between Slaughter and Wahoo over the belt, and Wahoo eventually came out on top. Now with new title defense obligations that the championship required, Wahoo's focus turned to the U.S. title and this proved to be very disappointing to his partner Don Muraco.

Muraco, by his own admission a little bit crazy, lost his composure about the whole matter in quick fashion, walking off on Wahoo in the same interview where he intended to congratulate him. Only five days after Wahoo had won the U.S. title, Muraco turned his back on the Chief after a misunderstanding in a standard TV match. Muraco thought Wahoo had turned his back on him first in the ring, being solely focused on his feud with Slaughter. (You can read all about that here.)

Muraco's paranoia ran wild and he went a bit off the deep end, telling a crazy story about Wahoo coming to Hawaii to borrow money from King Curtis before seeking Muraco out to be his partner. Muraco said he was furious that he had moved his family across the continent so that he and Wahoo could chase the World tag team titles in this multi-month tournament. Muraco felt Wahoo had now abandoned that goal to focus on his newly won U.S. title.

In a way, you can see his point. (And I love booking where the heel actually has a point, but just goes about resolving it in the wrong way.)

Behind the scenes, as we've discussed in previous parts of this series, booker Ole Anderson and Jim Crockett Promotions were about to head their separate ways. 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.) I asked Ole for details about that falling out, but he basically explained (in the colorful language he is known for) that everyone else was an idiot that didn't see things his way. (Ole is nothing if not consistent.)

Just as Crockett Promotions announced the Best-of-Seven series between Eastern and Western winners for the championship, Ole basically left JCP and based himself in Georgia full time, where he continued as booker there.

The Championship - and the Belts  - - go to Georgia
What also happened when Ole left JCP was that he took the NWA World Tag Team title belts with him. When Stan Hansen returned from Japan commitments, Ole and Stan were named NWA World Tag Team champions in Georgia on the nationally broadcast "Georgia Championship Wrestling" show on WTBS. This took place on Saturday, June 26, 1982.

Gordon Solie offered a reasonable explanation for that title development, basically explaining that since the Western Division winners had broken up as a team, Ole and Stan, the Eastern Division winners, were awarded the tittles basically by default.

Here is a brief video of that explanation:

As Gordon Solie pointed out, "by default" was really not an apt way to look at it. In fairness to Anderson and Hansen, they were the only team to enter all six regional/city tournaments, and the only team to win more than one. They had certainly earned their way to the Eastern Division Championship.

Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen
NWA World Tag Team Champions in 1982

The Belts Go Back to Crockett Promotions
Eventually, Jim Crockett Promotions wanted their belts back, and a deal was struck for Ole to bring them back to Charlotte. He even arranged a booking out of it for the trip, working a Charlotte house show on 8/22/82 in a six-man team event.

The belts were clearly returned on that trip, as Anderson and Hansen had them on Georgia TV the day before Ole's trip to Charlotte, Saturday, 8/21/82, but no longer had them the following Saturday 8/28/82.

The titles were not mentioned again on Georgia TV.

New Champions Named in Jim Crockett Promotions 
For their part, Jim Crockett Promotions waited until a month later to resolve the situation and name new tag team champions. A story was concocted in the interim that Sgt. Slaughter had headed to Japan and had summoned Pvt. Don Kernodle to join him there, and Kernodle immediately hopped on a plane. A few weeks later, on the Mid-Atlantic TV shows that aired 9/29/82, Slaughter and Kernodle showed up with the NWA World Tag Team title belts and were announced as new champions. The story was told that they had won a tournament for the vacant titles in Japan, defeating Antonio Inoki and Giant  Baba in the finals. This, it goes without saying, was a fictitious tournament.

A Theory as to What Was Supposed to Have Happened
I've had a theory (that is as good as any theory out there otherwise, I suppose) that the original booking plan all along was for Muraco to turn on Wahoo, but that it would have happened during the Best-of-Seven finals series for the championship. A Muraco turn was foreshadowed from first day he arrived in the territory, as Muraco told fans he would "never turn his back on a friend."

Regardless, Ole and Stan would have still wound up winning the titles in the end.

I've even fantasy-booked in my head that Wahoo might have been forced by Slaughter to defend the U.S. title on the same night as match #7 in the Best-of-Seven series, forcing Wahoo to wrestle twice in that night and causing Muraco and himself to lose to Ole and Stan.

But when Ole and the Crocketts had their falling out and Ole left before the finals could take place, JCP went forward with the Muraco turn early, thereby creating a plausible explanation why the tournament wouldn't continue to its conclusion.

Title History Clarified
For the record, since most title histories have this wrong, here are the dates related to the status of the NWA World Tag Team titles, as documented in this 12-part series:
  • 01/23/82 - Gene and Ole Anderson stripped of the NWA World Tag Team titles for failure to defend. Tournament announced.
  • 06/26/82 - Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen awarded championships after Wahoo McDaniel and Don Muraco default for the final series in the tournament for the vacant championship. (Anderson and Hansen were Eastern Division winners.)
  • 08/22/82 - Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen vacate the championship.
  • 09/29/82 - Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle announced as champions having won a tournament for the vacant titles in Japan.

The elaborately conceived tournament that had been announced back in January and had gotten underway in Greensboro in February, had come to an unceremonious end in June. Anderson and Hansen defended the titles regularly for Georgia Championship Wrestling, not only in Georgia, but in their tours of Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia. Eventually JCP got their title belts back and new champions Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle went on to have a classic, industry-changing feud with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For his part, Ole Anderson's run as NWA World Tag Team champions with Stan Hansen was Ole's last. He and brother Gene Anderson, making a brief run out of retirement, took one last stab at getting the titles in March of 1985 when they unsuccessfully challenged Ivan and Nikita Koloff for the titles in the Omni in Atlanta.

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Special thanks to Mark Eastridge and Brian Rogers.