Saturday, December 03, 2022

Harley Race vs. Paul Jones: Reflections on the Norfolk Scope

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The Scope arena in Norfolk, Virginia got its distinctive moniker shortened from the word “kaleidoscope,” because the builders saw so many varied usages for the edifice that was constructed from 1968 to its opening in 1971. And to be sure, I have seen quite a number of different events at the Scope over the years. But none held a candle to the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling events that graced its presence.

Attending a recent WWE Monday Night RAW show at the fabled Norfolk Scope, as usual, brought back to me floods of memories of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Getting a souvenir cup at that RAW show that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Scope, replete with 70’s looking photos on it, just intensified those fond recollections.

Thursday night events at the Norfolk Scope housed a multitude of noteworthy battles in the grand history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. When I am at current shows at the now 51-year-old Scope, I often find myself looking up at the rafters and the uniquely designed roof of that historic arena, and then with a rich imagination try to beam two Mid-Atlantic legends down to the Scope’s squared circle for them to repeat their magic of yesteryear one more time.

During the most recent RAW show I attended in Norfolk, I had a flashback to a Norfolk Scope card on November 2, 1978, featuring an NWA World Title bout between Champion Harley Race and top challenger Paul Jones. 

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling announcer Rich Landrum did a special interview with Race that aired on WAVY TV Channel 10 in Norfolk to promote the bout. Landrum led off, “Norfolk Scope Coliseum, a World’s Heavyweight Championship match with the challenger Paul Jones [going] up against this man, the World’s Heavyweight Champion Harley Race.”

Race began, “Let me say this Jones, you’ve done a lot of campaigning; you must have done it quite well to come up with a Title shot at the Scope. Well let me tell you something Jones, when you come for this [belt], you come for all the marbles, you come for everything in wrestling.”

Harley continued, “You got [Ric] Flair out here bragging and going on about what he owns and controls, but this is the honcho in wrestling. And you are coming for the absolute honcho in wrestling, Harley Race. I am the cock of the walk; I am the man of the hour. I’m the man that’s got a quarter of a million-dollar bounty on him. You come for me Jones, and you come to take one awful beating and a beating is exactly what I’m going to give you son.”

The World Title match between Race and Jones was a classic one hour draw in one of Paul’s last splendid babyface efforts before he would turn into a “bad guy” in about a month when he attacked Ricky Steamboat as part of a two-ring battle royal in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

The bout at the Scope on November 2, 1978, saw Paul Jones at the zenith of his prowess as a “battle to the end babyface,” much like he was two years earlier in his classic program with the ruthless Blackjack Mulligan. The Scope saw many of those titanic struggles as well. In fact, it saw titanic struggles every Thursday night during the Mid-Atlantic years. 

The Scope. What a building. When I peer into that kaleidoscope, to this day, no matter what event I may go there to see, I still see Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling memories burning brighter than ever.