Monday, December 30, 2019

The Mid-Carders Take Center Stage (April 1975)

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Call me strange (and you wouldn't be the first!), but I always enjoyed the extremely rare occurrence on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television where the grapplers who filled in the middle of the cards for Jim Crockett Promotions actually got slotted for some interview time on TV. One of the first interview segments that featured solely mid-carders that I audio recorded was on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on April 23, 1975 in the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The three gentleman (actually bad guys!) from the ranks of the mid-card that were interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle on this occasion were Art Nelson, Mr. Fuji and Doug Gilbert. Nelson had been a main event star for the promotion throughout the early 1970s, but was being de-emphasized at this point in time. Mr. Fiji had recently entered the Mid-Atlantic area from New York where he had been rather high on the WWWF cards, but had become a mid-card performer for Jim Crockett, often teaming with Nelson as a rough tough duo. Gilbert had recently returned to the Carolinas after previous stints in the territory as principally a middle-of-the-card stalwart.

Just prior to the interview segment, Nelson and Fuji defeated the team of Don Kernodle and Tio Tio while Gilbert was also successful in the television ring, besting young Kevin Sullivan in a singles contest. Caudle began the interview by telling the fans, "I can't think of anymore dangerous place for a person to be than I am right now between three really notorious wrestlers, like Art Nelson here on my left, Doug Gilbert and then Mr. Fuji."

Nelson responded, "Let me say, not notorious, well conditioned athletes. Let me say this, when you get in that ring then you'd have to be worried, but as long as we're on the floor here we don't bother anybody. If you get in that ring, and you're not in condition, you can't take it, then you'd have to be worried about it." Art continued, "This is a man's business, we're men, and we go in that ring and we don't fool with babies. Now you know, Fuji and I were here a few weeks ago and we were talking about wrestling top teams. Where are they?"

The burly man from Atlanta then proceeded to call out Mid-Atlantic stars Wahoo McDaniel, Paul Jones and Ken Patera! Art rhetorically asked, "Where's the Indian? Where's little boy blue the guy with the belts...where's he at? Where's the strongman? I don't see them around, I hear 'em, but I sure can't see 'em. But as long as they're scared to get in the ring with us, there's nothin' we can do about it because we said we'd meet all comers, we'd wrestle anybody, right Fuji?"

A chuckling Fuji exclaimed, "Right! Very, very true Mr. Nelson-son, you see fans, you see how devastating Japanese cobra is. Samoan boy he paralyzed already, he no wrestling old lady! Ha-ha-ha...Mr. Gilbert-son." 

Caudle immediately quizzed Gilbert, "I gotta say Doug Gilbert, you know I thought you were gonna help Kevin Sullivan out. It looked like you were going to commit an act of sportsmanship in your match, and then all of a sudden you hit him. That's very unsportsmanlike!" Gilbert deadpanned, "I won the match didn't I?" Caudle conceded, "You won the match, right."

Doug further expounded, "Well, you're going to have to realize that when you get into a profession like professional wrestling, sportsmanship doesn't count very much. What counts is ability, what counts is winning the match. That's what happened, I won the  match. These gentlemen won their match. That's what counts...winning!" Caudle followed up, "Doug Gilbert shows a lot of wrestling ability up there. You got a lot of moves and you use them up there...why do you have to resort to some of the other type tactics?"

Gilbert matter of factly answered, "It's a lot easier." Caudle queried, "It's a lot easier to win that way then, Doug?" To which Gilbert shook his head and Nelson produced some United States currency from his trucks to make a point why he and his two colleagues on the interview set were in the wrestling business. Nelson pontificated, "Green power is what's important. Green power! That's the dollar bill...ten dollars, a hundred dollars."

None of these three took off in the Mid-Atlantic area after this rare opportunity on the TV microphone...Nelson and Fuji were out of the territory before the end of the year and we later found out that Gilbert donned the hood as Spoiler #1 during the fall of 1975 as part of the team of the Masked Spoilers that were primarily an upper mid-card tandem before Gilbert exited the area without the mask in early 1976. But just getting to hear from the solid mid-card wrestlers that provided quality depth to the Crockett roster was noteworthy, and gave an added dimension and a bit of personality to the voiceless talent that was often overlooked and certainly underappreciated.