Thursday, June 03, 2021

Johnny Weaver's Big Angle of 1976: Greg Valentine

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

(Part Two in a Series)
Previously: Part One - Series Introduction

While Johnny’s “Angle of the Year” in 1976 did not occur until the autumn, Weaver overall had a significant bicentennial year in his first full year back wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic area.

Early in 1976 there was a tournament held on television to crown a new Mid-Atlantic TV Champion. While Angelo Mosca would ultimately win the tournament, Johnny advanced all the way to the semifinals in the tournament, where he would battle Mosca tooth-and-nail. Significantly, Weaver was the only grappler to fall to Angelo without being defeated by a pin or submission, losing to “Big Nasty” via a count out outside of the ring.

During August of 1976, Johnny got the first shot at a future Mid-Atlantic megastar in Greg Valentine who would enter the territory in earnest about six weeks later, and would be the subject of Weaver’s 1976 angle. Johnny even got a shot at Blackjack Mulligan’s United States Heavyweight Title at the end of August. Mulligan joked that he would “hang ‘ol Johnny Weaver from the rafters at that Richmond Arena and laugh” prior to the match. It was no laughing matter to Johnny, and he put up tremendous fights, but came up short and fell to Mulligan as well as Valentine in these main event matchups.

The mid-card roster that Johnny was a major part of in 1976 was the strongest in the grand history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. On the “good guy” side with Weaver were such greats as Tiger Conway, Ronnie Garvin, “Cowboy” Frankie Lane, Johnny Eagle, Swede Hanson, Larry Zbyszko, Tony Atlas, Red Bastien and the team of Roberto and Manuel “El Rayo” Soto. The mid-card “bad guy” roster featured talent such as Jerry Blackwell, Doug Gilbert, Boris Malenko, Doug Gilbert, Steve Strong, Hans Schroder, Brute Bernard and the fabulous tandems of the Mongols, Mike “The Judge” Dubois and Sergeant Jacques Goulet, and Randy and Lanny Poffo!

But as would be the case each year from the mid-70s through the mid-80s, Johnny Weaver would break out of his mid-card slot and participate in a main event angle. In 1976, Johnny’s protagonist would be the newcomer Greg “The Bionic Elbow” Valentine. 

Only a couple of weeks after Greg Valentine entered the Mid-Atlantic area as a regular in late September of 1976, the “Bionic Elbow” was matched against Weaver in a TV bout on the Wide World Wrestling television program taped on October 6, 1976. Fans that did not have access to the Wide World Wrestling show in their area may have been perplexed about the nearly month long absence of Weaver after that bout. The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show that was taped on November 3, 1976 would explain in great detail the reason for Johnny’s absence since the first week in October.

That November 3rd Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show opened with announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett presiding, along with Chief Wahoo McDaniel who was returning from any injury inflicted by Ric Flair in a match in Greensboro on October 16, 1976 where Flair captured the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title from Wahoo. McDaniel was brought onto the interview set in large part to talk over a film clip of Greg Valentine injuring his friend Johnny Weaver about a month earlier on Wide World Wrestling.

Bob Caudle began, “A lot of the fans have been asking about another wrestler that’s been out injured for about a month now, and that’s Johnny Weaver.” David Crockett elaborated, “That’s right, Johnny Weaver was wrestling Greg Valentine, Wahoo, and Greg Valentine put him out of action for over a month now. And we’d like to see a tape of that and show the fans exactly what happened, and we’d like to thank Wide World Wrestling for this tape.”

Caudle continued as the film began, “Right here, that was Johnny Weaver and he was flat on his back right on the apron of the ring there Wahoo.” McDaniel noted, “Right there, he’s outside the ring, and I do believe right here Valentine suplexed him from outside over into the ring, as you see right there he dropped right onto his head. It’s a very painful hold, I know where he learned it, he learned the hold from [Johnny Valentine] who was very good at it.” Crockett added, “But [Greg] Valentine is his own man, he’s the Hammer, he’s the number one.”

Weaver was clearly stunned from the suplex from Valentine that brought him from outside the ropes into the ring. But Greg was far from finished. Caudle observed, “He’s getting ready for this elbow right now!” Wahoo then lamented, “When you’re laying there and you’re half stunned and half out and they lay one of those 250 pounds of weight coming across your throat,  it’s got to hurt and it’s got to put you out and that’s what happened. Weaver got hurt and he’s been out a month already, and we don’t know when he’s gonna be back.”

An angry Crockett snapped, “There’s no sense in that, Valentine has already beaten Weaver, he has him out cold; he could pin him. So why does he do this?” Wahoo replied, “Well, being around Flair, Mulligan and Mosca and those guys, they’re all the same, they want to hurt their opponents and cripple them. They don’t care and believe me, that’s what he’s doing here. He’s got a point to prove, he’s gonna try to be rotten, worse than them, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. He knows he’s got the man helpless, and he’s gonna do all he can.”

At this juncture, Valentine dropped repeated elbows on a prone Weaver, scaling the ropes higher and higher each time to add to their devastation. Crockett exclaimed, “Valentine just keeps on, keeps on!” An incredulous Caudle followed, “He’s going back up on the ropes now, and now he’s getting even higher. He’s determined to put Weaver out.” An exasperated McDaniel concluded, “There’s no sense in this, and Johnny Weaver is a good friend of mine and Johnny Weaver’s not wrestling now.” Crockett added, “And as you can see, Weaver is still out there cold.” Caudle wrapped up the segment noting, “That was vicious, and as you say it was uncalled for, but I’m just glad that Johnny Weaver is improving and we hope to see him back very soon.”

Johnny Weaver would in fact not return to action in the Mid-Atlantic area until the latter part of February, 1977. By that time, Greg Valentine was riding high, being one half of the NWA World Tag Team champions and having captured the Mid-Atlantic TV Title belt twice while Weaver was out. But Johnny was undeterred by Greg’s winning ways, and was out for revenge when he returned and Greg Valentine was his sole target, leading to Weaver battling Valentine in a heated main event program in March and April of 1977!

Johnny Weaver promises Greg Valentine there will be no letting up when they’re in the ropes next time, and Greg will have the match and battle of his life yet to come…

To be continued in Part 3!