Friday, May 28, 2021

Please Note: Wahoo McDaniel did not kill Ric Flair!

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Wrestling was different back in the day. Many fans believed. And that led to some wild rumors circulating through the territory.

Some of those rumors took root such that the local promoter had to go public and dispel them. 

Such was the case in early 1977 with a particularly nasty rumor following what must have been such a brutal match between Ric Flair and Wahoo McDaniel that it left fans thinking Wahoo had actually killed Flair! Pete Apostolou, Jim Crockett's promoter on the ground in Roanoke and Lynchburg and other towns in southwest Virginia, had to call in to the local Lynchburg newspaper and ask them to publish a short missive letting fans know that Ric Flair actually wasn't dead.

Despite dispelling the rumor that Flair had died after the match with Wahoo, Aposolou - ever the promoter - still let fans believe Wahoo had put Flair in the hospital. Something about that I really love in a twisted way.

The real story: Flair actually missed a little over a month of action due to abdominal surgery, reported as an emergency appendectomy or gallbladder surgery, depending on the source. Flair's first missed card was on 1/28/77 in Spartanburg, SC where he and tag team partner Greg Valentine were to defend their NWA tag team titles. During the month of February, Valentine teamed with various "mystery partners" filling in for Flair. 

Photograph by Bill Janosik
Flair was a part of a heavily hyped singles cage-match main event in Greensboro on 2/6/77 against "cousin" Ole Anderson, growing out of their feud over the NWA tag team titles. Jim Crockett brought in Superstar Billy Graham from the WWWF as his replacement for that one night, and was able to promote him in time for the big Greensboro Coliseum card.  Graham was a nice fill-in as he had become a big deal nationally in the wrestling magazines and was only a couple of months away from winning the WWWF Heavyweight Championship from Bruno Sammartino. 

Flair returned to action on 3/05/77 for promoter Apostolou in Roanoke VA, teaming with Valentine to defend the tag titles against the Jones boys - - No. 1 Paul Jones and the "Freight Train", Rufus R. Jones.

The little note in the Lynchburg paper, though, shows how real wrestling was to some fans back in those days. It's also a testament to the brutality that Wahoo McDaniel and Ric Flair showed in their matches that had fans feeling that way. Wrestling was better then.

Thanks to Mark Eastridge for the great clipping.