Sunday, July 10, 2022

Remembering Hot Times at County Hall in Charleston

by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Charleston County Hall was famously known for being a hot place. Literally, the building held heat like nowhere else. Wahoo McDaniel once told Mike Mooneyham that even the walls at County Hall could sweat. Regardless of the heat or the raindrops from the leaky ceiling, County Hall was just a fun place to be at on Friday nights.

From time to time, I recall a fun night at County Hall and love to share those memories. I am very grateful for the Gateway and the wonderful job they do for keeping Mid-Atlantic wrestling alive. It is a true joy to have the chance to contribute a story now and then.

Blackjack Mulligan was something else. He is one of those wrestling characters that will forever be remembered. He was a larger than life figure and literally, a giant of a man. Many of his feuds will live on forever in the hearts of Mid-Atlantic fans. I loved his time with Paul Jones, Tim Woods, and of course, the great memories of his matches with and against Ric Flair. However, there was another feud that I truly enjoyed, the one with the Masked Superstar.

Several matches between these two had taken place all over the Mid-Atlantic region. There were even a few at County Hall. As with most feuds, we saw specialty matches, matches with stipulations and on occasion another couple of guys would be tossed in and a tag-team match would take place. Such was the case on this particular Friday night in Charleston.

The main event was Blackjack Mulligan and a screwball member of his family, Cousin Luke, versus their opponents the Masked Superstar and his partner for the night, Enforcer Luciano. I had seen Luciano eating light bulbs and breaking concrete blocks with his fists on TV, but now I was going to see him in person. This was such a magical time in wrestling. The fans were invested and whether it was cheering or booing, the sincerity of each side was awesome.

It was another hot, Friday night at County Hall. The action had been fierce, but now it was time for the main event. Everyone was on their feet as Blackjack and Luke came to the ring. The Superstar and Luciano were waiting for them as they stepped through the ropes. After the ring announcer made the introductions, action started, and it was a brawl. Fists were flying, boots were coming off and being used as weapons; pretty much the only thing technical or actual wrestling wise that might have been seen would have been provided by the Superstar.

It was exactly what Blackjack had promised the previous Saturday during the local promos; it was a fight. The match/brawl went on for a bit, but then the action seemed to settle down. Much to the dismay of most of the crowd, Blackjack found himself being subdued by the Superstar. The cobra clutch had brought down the big man in the center of the ring. Every time it seemed like Blackjack might break free or make the tag to Luke, Luciano would do something to steal the crowd's joy. The referee was really hearing it from the crowd. He seemed to never be able to catch the dastardly deeds being done in his ring and the fans were letting him know their feelings. Referees always seemed good at missing so many important moments. Tommy Young, Stu Schwartz, Sonny Fargo, they are such great parts of the history of Mid-Atlantic wrestling. They were so important to the matches, I always enjoyed their work.

This back and forth match went on for quite a while, the crowd was surely on an emotional roller coaster. I can remember it just like it was last night. The Superstar and his partner had exhausted the crowd. The wooden floor of County Hall bellowed out as the fans began to stomp. The railings of the balcony rang as palms began to pound against them, all in disapproval of the things being done to our heroes.

In what appeared to be an act of betrayal, right at the moment it seemed that Blackjack might break free, Cousin Luke jumped off the corner of the ring and headed toward the dressing room.

You could feel the air almost leave the room, as the crowd gasped, and shock filled the arena. The smoke that hovered just below the ceiling began to swirl at a near tornado type speed. Yes, people smoked inside back then, It was kind of part of the charm of County Hall - - smoke, popcorn, beer, etc. Those were special times indeed.

The disbelief at what was taking place before our very eyes was at an unreal level. How could this be? How could Luke turn on his own cousin? Was he really a traitor? Almost immediately, the boos started and the closer he got to the back, the louder things seemed to get.

As is most often in pro wrestling, things were not as they would seem and almost as quickly as Luke entered the dressing room, he would come back out. But he was not alone. To every one’s delight, he would bring an additional partner back the ring, but this was a partner that did not walk with him. Instead it was in his hand. It was about 4-feet long and firm in nature. Yes, good ol' Cousin Luke quickly had the fans back in his corner as he and his new partner, a 2 x 4, entered the ring to assist in what seemed to be a very unfair fight. As he evened the odds and dispatched Superstar and Luciano; Blackjack was on the road to recovery and rejoined the chaos as it unfolded. Unfortunately, the referee did not approve of all the mayhem and called for the bell and the ring announcer would soon let the rowdy crowd know that all had been disqualified.

It was one of those times that, while the victory was not found in a simple 1-2-3, the fans still went home happy because they saw justice had come to town and the bad guys were sent running.

Friday nights at County Hall: what wonderful memories. For a young kid who went to his first matches in that building starting in 1974, every time was always special. This year, 2018, will be exactly 20 years since the last matches were held in the hallowed Hall. I had the honor and absolute privilege of not only promoting that show, but was also in the main event that night. It will be a memory that I will cherish forever. To have watched all my heroes - - Wahoo, Ric, Rufus, Blackjack, Jimmy Valiant, Paul Jones - - to have seen them do battle in this special old building and to personally be able to go back there all those years later and be the one to close out wrestling forever in County Hall, is something I hold near to my heart.

This night with Blackjack, Superstar, and the rest of the crew was another hot night of pro wrestling at County Hall. It was a simple time of story-telling. It was a time when the crowd’s emotions were directed like a Maestro conducts an orchestra, by the guys in the ring. It was a time that was simply magical. I miss those days, but the memories sure are wonderful.

This story contains corrections from a previous version of the story.

Originally published January 28, 2018

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Read the review by Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post & Courier
Wrestling Book Takes a Look at County Hall