Friday, December 20, 2019

A Close Look at a Busy Christmas Night 1976

The newspaper ad for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in Charlotte in 1976

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

That's quite the loaded line-up for Christmas night 1976 in the Charlotte Coliseum. It was a busy day as Mid-Atlantic wrestling stars got back to work across the territory.

For decades, Jim Crockett Promotions always took a 10-day break right before Christmas. It was the only break during the entire year. The rest of the year they ran multiple shows a night, seven nights a week, with double-shots on Saturdays and Sundays for the entire year. Guys rarely had a night off.

This "two week break" (usually 10-12 calendar days) always ended on Christmas day, which was traditionally always a big business day on the JCP calendar.

Since almost all wrestlers working the territory lived in Charlotte, it made sense to return to action in that city so guys could be with their families Christmas morning and then head out for the area shows later that day.

But that wasn't the case for everyone; a few unfortunate souls this year had to make a 340-mile trip all the way out to Hampton, VA for a show there, too.

And to complicate things further, there were other shows on that Christmas night in a couple cities close to Charlotte where guys were double-booked and had to work two shows on the same night. it is incredible that they were able to pull it all off.

On Christmas night in 1976, the big loaded show was in Charlotte that night. Just take a look at the talent on this one card: Mulligan, Jones, Flair, Ole Anderson, Wahoo, Valentine, Blackwell, Patera, Bravo, Brute Bernard, Danny Miller, and others.

Nearby Greenville, SC (about 90 miles away) ran a show with several of these same stars. The key was that bell time for the Greenville show was an hour and fifteen minutes earlier. Greenville started at 7 PM, while Charlotte bell time was the traditional 8:15 PM. Plus Greenville was only a 4-match show. This somehow allowed the Andersons, Flair, Valentine, and Wahoo to pull the magician's trick wrestling in Greenville and Charlotte on the same Christmas night.

Double shots often happened in the territory days where guys would work a matinee afternoon show in one city and another city that night. But rarely could they pull off guys working two towns at the same time on the same night. They pulled it off a time or two during the promotional wars with the IWA. And so they did again on Christmas night in 1976.

Greenville actually had the match I would have been most interested in that day. It featured one of the first matches in the "family feud" between Ric Flair and his "cousins" Gene and Ole Anderson. On top of that, Wahoo McDaniel, who had personal issues with all four men, had been assigned by the NWA as special referee! Ric Flair and new partner Greg Valentine, who had just arrived in the territory three months earlier, made an unsuccessful challenge for  the Anderson's NWA World Tag Team titles that night at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. But Flair and Valentine were close to the gold; they captured the World tag belts from the Andersons the very next night in Greensboro, NC.

There was at least one other show in the area that same night that would have featured some of the other talent on that Charlotte show like Mulligan, Jones, and others.

The other night-show as mentioned earlier was in Hampton, VA.  The poor guys who had to make that 340-mile Christmas day trip from their homes in Charlotte were Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie), Rufus Jones, Tim Woods, Boris Malenko, Red Bastien, the Poffo brothers (Lanny and the future Randy "Macho Man" Savage), and others.

But Charlotte was the big show. Paul Jones was trying to re-claim the United States title from Blackjack Mulligan. The two had been feuding for the entire year of 1976. Jones had won the title 15 days earlier, but NWA President Eddie Graham returned the title to Mulligan on a technicality. Jones was hot after the title again this night.

Ric Flair faced his cousin Ole Anderson on the semi-main Christmas night. It was the first time the two had met in a singles match. Ole and Gene were actually regularly working the Georgia territory at the time (Ole had the book there), but they made semi-regular appearances back in the Mid-Atlantic area, mostly on weekends, usually as part of their new feud with Flair and Valentine over the NWA World Tag Team titles.

In the third main event, Wahoo McDaniel battled Greg Valentine. It was several months before their  feud would erupt in 1977 over the Mid-Atlantic title (where Greg Valentine would break Wahoo's leg), but this match was still of great interest, playing off Wahoo's long history fighting Greg's father Johnny Valentine, whose career had ended 15 months earlier in the infamous Wilmington plane crash.

The tradition of Christmas night wrestling in the territory days was deep and rich, but no longer exists today, and I miss that. After all the family hoopla around the Christmas tree and the dining room table, during a an era where EVERYTHING was closed on Christmas day, it was nice to get out of the house and let off some steam at the matches on Christmas night.

Merry Christmas from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway!

Republished on December 21, 2020 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.
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in the Mid-Atlantic are from 1968-1979