Friday, April 24, 2020

Classic Poster Revisited: Buddy Rogers Arrives in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling (1979)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Our classic poster this week comes from a memorable show in Greensboro in the summer of 1979.

The 6/17/79 show at the fabled Greensboro Coliseum featured two huge main events. The top match was Ricky Steamboat challenging Harley Race once again for the NWA World Heavyweight championship, this time in a 2-out-of-3-falls match. Steamboat had become one of the top contenders for the NWA title in the country. His matches with Race were scientific classics, their work was almost like ballet in the ring. It was beautiful to watch. Their battles were regularly featured within the pages (and often on the covers) of the popular newsstand wrestling magazines.

Preceding that, though, was a match more notable for the story told and the referee involved than the match itself.

Buddy Rogers straps the U.S. title around the waist
of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, 6/17/79.
(Photo by Dave Routh)
First of all, it's important for the sake of perspective to remember that Dusty Rhodes was not a regular performer in the Mid-Atlantic area during this time. He was a Florida mainstay who had become a top touring attraction (similar to Andre the Giant) and was headlining cards in territories across the country including Mid-South, Georgia, Mid-Atlantic, the WWWF, and of course his home territory in the Sunshine State.

When he visited the Mid-Atlantic area, it usually meant an appearance in Greensboro. And over the last four years, several of those Greensboro matches had been against Ric Flair. In this case Rhodes had come to the Mid-Atlantic in hopes of taking Flair's U.S. championship which would earn him a shot at Race for the World title.

Ric Flair, for his part, was right in the middle of a long, drawn-out babyface turn that began after a dispute with No. 1 Paul Jones. At the previous Greensboro show, Flair had actually chosen Dusty Rhodes as his partner to try and take the NWA World Tag Team championships from Jones and Baron Von Raschke. When the unlikely pair failed to take those tag titles, each blamed the other, and what followed was Rhodes then challenging Flair for his U.S. championship, with the NWA assigning a special referee for the contest - - former NWA and WWWF World champion, the legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers.

This match would lead to Rogers actually coming into the area as a wrestler and manager. Rogers was basically impartial until the end when Flair got physical with him and Rogers responded by punching Flair and counting a quick three count and awarding the U.S. title to Rhodes. Rhodes actually left the building that night thinking he was U.S. champion; Rogers had raised Rhodes' hand and had strapped the U.S. title around his waist.
A complete history of Jim Crockett Promotion' United States Heavyweight Championship

On the following week's television show, David Crockett announced that the NWA had reviewed the film of the match and, because of the blatant involvement by referee Rogers in the finish, they were returning the U.S. title to Flair.

All of that then set up Buddy Rogers coming out of retirement to challenge Flair for the U.S. title on the next card in Greensboro.

Rogers was the fan favorite in this Greensboro story, but would soon turn heel as, simultaneously, Flair solidified himself as a babyface when the two had an altercation on television weeks later and Rogers applied the figure-four leglock on Flair and tried to injure him.

Not much else notable happened on that show. Dino Bravo was never a serious threat to Ken Patera's Mid-Atlantic Championship. But a fellow on an earlier match soon would be. Jim Brunzell had entered the territory from the AWA, and would upset Patera twice on television in non-title affairs and would eventually beat the Olympian strongman for the Mid-Atlantic championship in September.

Originally posted August 24, 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.