Friday, July 20, 2018

Classic Poster Friday: Woods vs. Mulligan at Starland Arena

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Brack Beasley Collection
Another classic poster this week, this one is the second of three similarly designed posters we'll be presenting from three different venues in Roanoke, VA.

Promoter Pete Apostolou (Jim Crockett's man on the ground in Roanoke and surrounding area) ran wrestling in three different buildings in the 1970s, usually on Saturday nights.

Big shows with multiple main events were staged at the Roanoke Civic Center, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. 

In the summer, he would occasionally run at the mammoth Victory Stadium where he could draw big crowds and the rent was cheaper than the Civic Center. (We recently featured a card from there in our Classic Posters series.)

But his bread and butter venue that he ran weekly when not at the other places was the famous Starland Arena.

Apostolou owned the structure. I had always heard of Starland Arena growing up, hearing it mentioned in promos that ran on TV out of Bristol, VA. I imagined at is some fancy arena, glittering with lights, after all it had to be fitting of the name Starland.

Tim Woods tries to fight his way out of
Blackjack Mulligan's claw hold.
(Photo by Bill Janosik)
In actuality it was a very plain, ordinary looking rectangular metal building without any sort of fancy marquee to speak of. Apostolou owned the building and ran there for decades and many of the biggest names in the sport appeared there over the years. It was part of his promotional infrastructure in the Star City, along with an amusement and entertainment building downtown called The Sportsman.

This poster is from January 24, 1976 in the middle of the brutal wars between Blackjack Mulligan and Tim Woods.The photos on the poster include Woods upper left, Roberto Soto lower right, and oddly George "Two Ton" Harris from his 1960s managerial days in the main event section of the poster where it would seem a photo of Mulligan would be appropriate. That said, we never tire of seeing photos of "Two Ton" Harris!

I love this particular design of these classic posters the most: a vertical format with the main event in huge thick letters and the remaining matches all in a much smaller font. But it's that thick lettering for the main event that jumps out. The Flair vs. Wahoo main event poster from Victory Stadium was the exact same design, and we have one more like this to post in upcoming weeks.   

This was a pretty standard 5-match card that you would get at Starland. A hot main event to draw the crowd, and a solid supporting tag match as the semi-main event. Mulligan and Woods were embroiled in a bitter, bloody feud. Blackjack was a couple months away from winning his first U.S. title, and this feud with "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods was his first major program here.

The tag match featured one of my favorite tag teams ever from the mid-1970s in the mid-Atlantic area. The high flying team of Roberto Soto and El Rayo (Manuel Soto) wrestled a sort of modified lucha-style that you didn't see many others do during this time. They stood out for that. I remember as a young teenager being so sure they would win the Mid-Atlantic tag team titles. They came close to beating the Andersons for the NWA World Tag Team titles. (I once wrote about them being one of the great tag teams that didn't win a tag title here.)

These two top matches were preceded by a series of singles openers that featured some of the areas grizzled veterans (like Danny Miller, Klondike Bill, and George "Two Ton" Harris), veteran journeyman enhancement talent (such as Jack Evans and Joe Turner) and "young lions" (like Don Kernodle.)

The newspaper reported the next day:

"After nearly thirty minutes watching Blackjack Mulligan and Tim Woods batter each other out on the mats at Starland Arena Saturday night, the referee stopped the feature match short of a decision. With both Mulligan and Woods bloodied from the brutal match the official ended the bout with no official winner."

The poster reads "Roanoke Sports Club presents Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling." It didn't get any better than that on a Saturday night. Great memories of our favorite period in wrestling, the mid-1970s.