Sunday, July 28, 2019

Almanac Update: August 1980 (Part Four)

David Chappell's
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling History

AUGUST 1980 - PART 4

Interestingly, the first card of action during the final week of August of 1980 involving Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling occurred in Canada! The main event bout of that card in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on August 24th was also the only action that week involving the white-hot feud between NWA World's Tag Team Champions Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens and former champs Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. This brutal battle took place within the unforgiving confines of a steel cage, with the champions prevailing in 22:23 with Snuka capturing the pinfall on the Indian sensation, Jay Youngblood.

The NWA World's Heavyweight Champion Harley Race made a rare pass through the Mid-Atlantic area during the first part of the week, and was very fortunate to leave the territory with his title belt still in tow. In Greenville, South Carolina on the 25th, Race won a lengthy championship encounter with Ric Flair via count-out when the "Nature Boy" was  barely unable to beat the 10 count to get back into the ring. Flair suffered a similar disappointment the following night in the Raleigh Civic Center, when he and Race wrestled to a classic 60 minute draw, again allowing Harley to retain his title.

Race put up his World belt one final time during the week, this time at the Richmond Coliseum on August 29th. In a titanic struggle that at times seemed to showcase more brawling than wrestling, Harley and Ricky were both counted out on the floor as they were in a toe-to-toe slugfest. Race had to have been overjoyed to have his belt with him when he soon thereafter boarded an airplane at Richmond International Airport, with a ticket to leave the Mid-Atlantic area.

The last week of August seemed to signal a shift in the four-way program between Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan against Greg Valentine and "Bad Boy" Bobby Duncum. The four had a hard-fought bout in Richmond on the 29th, with the good guys prevailing, but most of the week saw two singles conflicts splintering out of the tag team program.

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine

The end of the month saw Valentine battling Flair over the United States Heavyweight Title in the Charlotte Coliseum on the 30th in an exciting double count-out outcome, and then the "Hammer" turned around the next day and performed an exhausting title defending double-shot. In Asheville, North Carolina in the afternoon Valentine handled the challenge of Paul Jones, and then turned around that evening at the Greensboro Coliseum and defeated Ric Flair in a bloodbath witnessed by 6,853 howling fans.

Blackjack Mulligan and Bobby Duncum had a bloodbath of their own in Greensboro, with the unmitigated mayhem ending in a double count-out decision with the match being hopelessly out of control from the beginning. This feud became very personal between these two coming out of an incident that occurred on the week's television taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on August 27th, that aired in most TV markets on Saturday, August 30th. The week's Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show also showcased two real "head-scratching" incidents involving the NWA Television Champion, the Masked Superstar.

The week's Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show really had surprises from beginning to end. In the opener, the Masked Superstar wrestled Wayne Rogers, and definitely injured Rogers with a vicious clothesline. It was clear Rogers was hurt, and rather than following up with his equally vicious finishing hold the cobra, the Superstar backed off and allowed referee Sonny Fargo to check on the well-being of Rogers.

It was later determined that Rogers had suffered torn ligaments in his neck, and color commentator David Crockett made it a point to comment to the fans that the Superstar stopped when it appeared Rogers was injured, a move according to Crockett that impressed him and that "surprised everyone." It would not be the last surprising move from the masked man during this noteworthy TV show.

The first interview segment of the show was likewise noteworthy. Blackjack Mulligan, Ric Flair and Paul Jones appeared together at the same time on the same set for the same interview segment, after being adversaries at various times over many years in the Mid-Atlantic area! Flair referred to Blackjack as his "closest friend" and advised Bobby Duncum that he would be well served by taking off to avoid a confrontation with Mully. Blackjack responded that Duncum was like a "bad case of flu you can't get rid of" but that he was determined to outlast the "Bad Boy." For his part, the "new" Paul Jones told the fans he had "a lot of forgiving to do" and that he had "a lot to make up to the people," a task that he estimated would take at least six months to accomplish.

The August 27th TV show also delivered with a rare champion versus champion match on television. United States Champion Greg Valentine battled Matt Borne, who was one-half of the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. In a surprisingly physical encounter, Greg was disqualified when he was hammering away at Borne in the corner and would not break at the count of five, necessitating the DQ by referee Sonny Fargo.

But the week's TV show saved its best for last. The Masked Superstar appeared for the last interview segment and after some back and forth banter with announcer Bob Caudle, an animated Greg Valentine appeared on the set and yelled, "Let me talk; you got the U.S. champ here!" Standing alone that interruption wouldn't have meant much, but over the previous several week on the sister World Wide Wrestling television program, the Superstar had barely been able to get a word in edgewise as his "bad guy" colleagues were rudely hogging the interview segments. It thus appeared to be yet another dismissive slight of the masked man.

When Bobby Duncum joined Greg on the set, the big Texan went right away to disparaging Blackjack Mulligan's girlfriend, Sara Jo Puckett. Duncum told the fans that Sara Jo ran away with a guy named "Slim," and that Blackjack "couldn't even hold a 290 pound fat broad!" That slander was more than Mulligan could stand, and Blackjack raced onto the interview set to confront Duncum.

Mulligan and Duncum then participated in a major brawl in the studio, with Blackjack sustaining a significant cut and was bleeding profusely. But most significantly, when Valentine attempted to join Duncum in the fracas and double-team Mulligan, Greg was held back by none other than the Masked Superstar! The Superstar shockingly said while holding back Greg, "He doesn't have to be out here. Let them two fight it out!" A thoroughly perplexed Valentine looking squarely at Superstar then uttered, "I don't know what's happened to this individual."

The show went off the air as Mulligan and Duncum continued to battle, with the Superstar continuing to hold back Valentine from entering the fray. Both of those visuals would define much of what the Mid-Atlantic fans would be witnessing as the month of September began, along with the autumn winds of change.