Saturday, September 24, 2022

Johnny Weaver's Big Angle in 1978: Baron Von Raschke

A Multi-Part Series
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Series Introduction
1976 - Greg Valentine (Part One)
1977 - Greg Valentine (Part Two)


Johnny Weaver’s primary main event angle in the year of 1978 started in February of that year and went on into April of 1978. It really began without any fanfare or buildup, but once it got going it was quite intriguing.

At this point in time, Baron von Raschke was the Mid-Atlantic Television Champion. Any time the TV Champion wrestled a match on television, his belt was at stake for the television time limit of ten minutes. On the February 8, 1978 taping of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program, the Baron wrestled Johnny Weaver, with of course the big German’s TV belt at stake.

Raschke had more than his hands full during this televised bout. Johnny controlled most of the match to the delight of the packed studio audience. As the match drew close to the ten-minute time limit mark, Weaver caught the Baron in his patented Sleeper hold. Raschke was flailing around like a fish out of water, gasping for breath and appeared poised to submit or lapse into unconsciousness. But miraculously the Baron held out until the ten-minute time limit expired, and was thus able to retain his TV Title though he was flat out on the mat while Weaver was up jumping around. This strong showing against Raschke emboldened Weaver, who then challenged the Baron to a novel “Sleeper versus Claw” match on TV.

So the following week on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television, Johnny Weaver and Baron von Raschke squared off in a truly unique competition. Each wrestler would have the opportunity to put their signature hold on the other for a maximum of two minutes, and the grappler that lasted the longest in the other’s favorite hold would be declared the winner.

The event started with a coin toss to determine which wrestler would start first. Johnny won the flip of the coin, and everybody figured Weaver would elect to put the Sleeper hold on Raschke to start. However, Johnny surprised everyone by electing to have the Baron put this Claw hold on him first. A surprised announcer Bob Caudle told the fans that what Weaver did was much like a football team winning the coin toss but electing to kick off. Bob said if he was Johnny, he would have chosen to put the Sleeper hold on Raschke first.

Using some great quick thinking and making the ropes several times while in the clutches of the Baron’s fearsome Claw hold, Weaver was able to withstand Raschke’s onslaught for the allotted two minutes without submitting or losing consciousness. Almost immediately after the bell rung at the two-minute mark, Johnny caught the Baron in his vaunted Sleeper hold. Raschke was not so fortunate, and while he protested that Weaver was illegally choking him, he succumbed to Johnny’s favorite hold and went to sleep in just over a minute giving Weaver a clear victory in this most unusual contest.

The Baron was infuriated that Weaver had embarrassed him by using an illegal choking hold in the Claw versus Sleeper Challenge, and clearly put a bullseye squarely on Johnny. To up the stakes, right as the 1978 calendar flipped over to the month of March the National Wrestling Alliance instituted a tournament for all of its TV champions across the country to claim a single NWA TV Champion. Being the Mid-Atlantic Television Champion, Baron von Raschke was the representative for Jim Crockett Promotions in the national tournament, and the Baron prevailed and brought the brand spanking new NWA Television Championship belt to the Mid-Atlantic area.

But before the Baron could even catch his breath as the new NWA Television Champion, he was upset by Johnny Weaver on March 5, 1978 in the Charlotte Coliseum. Johnny would actively defend his new belt for about a month, including numerous successful defenses against Raschke that were especially brutal. During the month of March, Weaver also put up his NWA TV belt against fellow fan favorite Ricky Steamboat and the big man from Eagle Pass, Texas, Blackjack Mulligan.

As March turned into April, the storm clouds that were moving in on NWA TV Champion Johnny Weaver turned into a damaging storm in Greenville, South Carolina on April 3, 1978. That night in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, Weaver put up his NWA TV Championship against Raschke in a No Disqualification bout with a 60-minute time limit, where the match could only be won by Johnny using his Sleeper or by the Baron by using his Claw. 

To the dismay of the packed house in Greenville, the Baron was able to hit Weaver with a chair and knocked Johnny out in the process, enabling the big German to finish off Weaver with his Claw hold. While Johnny had a number of return TV Title matches with Raschke during the remainder of the month of April, Weaver was unable to recapture the prized belt. But what an eventful three-month main event run it was for Johnny Weaver in 1978!

NEXT UP 1979---Ken Patera, and later a different role for Johnny Weaver!

Bonus: Johnny Weaver's Impact in Maple Leaf Wrestling (by Andrew Calvert)
Bonus: Weaver Still TV Champ after Battle with the Baron (photo by Charles Robinson)