Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Mulligan vs. Studd: A Long and Winding Road

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When Blackjack Mulligan morphed into a fan favorite in April of 1978, turning Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling upside down, the big Texan had to immediately had to face the wrath of Ric Flair’s $10,000.00 bounty. Through the spring and summer of 1978, Blackjack endured brutal bounty matches against some of the roughest and toughest grapplers in the world. In particular, Mulligan’s bounty matches against the Masked Superstar were legendary and are still vividly remembered by Mid-Atlantic fans to this day.


When Mulligan finally prevailed in the memorable bounty program with the Masked Superstar in early September of 1978, there was a slight lull as Flair could not believe that Blackjack ran off his number one bounty hunter. But by the fall of 1978, Flair had enlisted the assistance of a new giant of a bounty hunter, and the man’s name was “Big” John Studd. Long-time observers of Jim Crockett Promotions may have noticed that Studd was a familiar looking grappler, as he had appeared in the Mid-Atlantic area earlier as “Chuck O’Connor” in 1974 into the early winter of 1975.

In one of his first appearances as “John Studd” in early November of 1978 the behemoth told World Wide Wrestling announcer Rich Landrum, “A few months ago Ric Flair called me and he said, ‘Studd, John Studd, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to get rid of a man.’ I said, ‘Who?’ He said, ‘Jack Mulligan.’ I said, ‘Tell me what the man is, tell me what he looks like.’ He said, ‘The man’s big, he’s six foot eight and he weighs over 300 pounds and he’s tough.’ I said, ‘What does it mean to you?’ He said, ‘I tell ya what, I have a $10,000.00 bounty on Mulligan! It’s yours, all you gotta do is hurt him!’”

Studd smiled at Landrum and concluded, “Hey, that’s all it takes. That’s what I’m inflated with, the thought that it’s gonna make me $10,000,00! That’s all I needed. I know you’re big Mulligan, I know you’re strong, I know you’ve done away with a lot of other bounty hunters…it doesn’t bother me. You haven’t gotten to John Studd, listen to me Mulligan, six foot nine and 330 pounds, strong and mean…that’s not brag that’s fact Mulligan! And I will get you and I will get the $10,000.00 bounty, and you Mulligan will apologize to Ric Flair for any humiliation you’ve caused him!”

This was the beginning of a saga between Mulligan and Studd where the $10,000.00 bounty was always the backdrop. The long and winding road to come between these two proceeded to January of 1979 where Studd did the unthinkable and collected the bounty, and while Mulligan left the Mid-Atlantic area for about six months the big Texan made periodic cameos in the area enough to put Studd on notice that he would not just fade away.  

By the summer of 1979 Mulligan had returned in earnest and during the Fall of 1979 Blackjack and Studd engaged in a series of brutal Texas Street Fight brawls, with Blackjack gaining the upper hand in them as the new decade and the year of 1980 arrived. In some of those bouts, Studd actually put up the $10,000.00 bounty money he had earlier collected on Mulligan’s head! And on January 13, 1980 in the Greensboro Coliseum, Mulligan gained sweet revenge as he ran Studd out of the territory in a bloody Loser Leaves Town cage match that sent Studd packing! Or did it? 

In one of the stranger angles in Mid-Atlantic history, just as Blackjack got rid of his latest bounty hunter in the form of John Studd, one of the early bounty hunters against him returned…the Masked Superstar! But things would get nuttier. As soon as Superstar returned at the beginning of 1980, he would have a new wrestling companion in a huge masked grappler referred to as Superstar # 2! The team of the Superstar’s #1 and #2 then turned their attention to put Mulligan out of wrestling, at the behest of the vanquished John Studd who was supposedly pulling the strings from outside of the Mid-Atlantic area. Even at this juncture, Studd was still talking about bounty money being in play!

But the more the fans and the TV announcers saw of this Superstar #2, the more it became clear that this mountain of a man was none other than John Studd under a hood! After a number of tag team bouts between Blackjack and several partners against Superstar’s #1 and #2 during the early spring of 1980, Mulligan finally got a series of singles matches with Superstar #2. In May of 1980 in several of the bigger towns in the Mid-Atlantic area, Mulligan took the measure of Superstar #2 while Superstar #1 was locked in a small cage near ringside so he couldn’t interfere. 

Blackjack prevailed in those climatic matches in May of 1980, unmasked Superstar #2 as John Studd, and ended the saga of Mulligan versus Studd that stretched all the way back to November of 1978. A long and winding road to be sure, but one surely filled with action and excitement at every twist and turn along the way!