Thursday, April 29, 2021

Johnny Weaver: Not Going Gently Into the Good Night

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When I think of the late great Johnny Weaver, the term that has always comes to my mind for him is “Mr. Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.” But that nickname would probably be more accurate if it was amended to “Mr. Jim Crockett Promotions.” As from the early 1960s through the early 1970s there was not a more decorated wrestler in the Carolinas and Virginia than Johnny Weaver. Be it as a singles or tag team grappler, Johnny undoubtedly ruled the roost in the territory for that decade.

But at the same time that All-Star Wrestling was rebranded as Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1973, Johnny’s aging star slowly began to lose a bit of its luster. By the middle of 1974 Weaver was no longer a main event attraction, and he departed the area in November of 1974 where he would wrestle primarily in Florida and Canada. It was strange indeed to watch Mid-Atlantic Championship at that time with no Johnny Weaver in sight.

Johnny would make his return to the Carolinas in September of 1975, just a few days before the infamous Wilmington, North Carolina plane crash. I remember at the time wondering what the promotion’s plans would be for the great veteran who had done so much for the territory, but seemed to be phased out before his departure late in 1974. Would he be re-slotted as a main event star, or would be become an enhancement talent as many of his cohorts of the 1960s had become by the mid-1970s. The answer to that question, and the focus of this piece, is that Johnny would occupy a unique position somewhere in-between those two poles.

As I began to think more about Johnny in the decade between the mid-70s to the mid-80s, it dawned on me that a mid-card Johnny Weaver still always had one main event program or angle during each of those years. Weaver would clearly not go gently into that good night! When Johnny became a dear friend of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway during the final few years of his life, I wanted to kiddingly ask him if he had a “one angle per year” clause written into his contract during that time frame, but regrettably I never got the chance to pop the question before he passed away. 

When Johnny reentered the Crockett territory in the fall of 1975, he was working in mid-card matches, but even then it was clear the promotion did not view him as simply a mid-card worker. Weaver would help with television color commentary at times when David Crockett was recovering from his injuries in the Wilmington plane crash, and Johnny even won a first round match in the historic U.S. Title Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina in November. Several weeks later on Mid-Atlantic TV, Johnny was part of a confrontation involving his partner Rufus R. Jones against newcomers Angelo Mosca and Steve Strong who were all main event stars, leading to a tag team match between the two teams on TV the following week.

While the dust-up with Mosca and Strong was not followed up on as a program involving Johnny, the framework had been laid positioning Johnny in a unique position in the territory straddling the line between mid-card and something more. As the calendar flipped to 1976, Johnny would settle into this role that would carry on for the next decade.

Johnny Weaver is injured by new arrival Greg Valentine in November of 1976!