Sunday, October 01, 2023

The Gateway Ceases Regular Publication

As announced in May, after 23 years, the Mid-Atlantic Gateway has ceased regular publication. We've had a blast along the way, and hope you have, too.

Our previous posts will be available for the foreseeable future on this archive. Please follow us on Twitter (@magateway) as we will be posting links to lots of classic and perhaps forgotten content buried within these pages. (Nearly 2,000 posts on this archive!)

Thanks to all of our contributors (see our acknowledgements here) and all of our regular readers who have so faithfully and loyally followed us for the past near-quarter century. We appreciate all of you. See you down the road!

Please note: this website was originally designed for optimal display on desktop. Some pages may not display correctly on mobile devices. 


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Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Review: The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair

One of the great frustrations for wrestling fans interested in wrestling history, especially fans a little older like me, is the lack of focus and context on the early aspects of Ric Flair's wrestling career, especially during the era when the territories were still going strong in the 1970s. 

A less familiar observer who spent time reading or watching popular culture presentations on the life and career of the "Nature Boy" might think things took off for him professionally about the time he defeated Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the landmark Starrcade event in 1983.

Not so in "The Last Real World Champion" by respected wrestling historian and author Tim Hornbaker. He is nearly 130 pages into his biography before he ever gets to Starrcade.

Spanning over 400 pages, "The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of Nature Boy Ric Flair" covers every aspect of Flair's remarkable in-ring career that spans nearly half a century. But in a pleasant development, to my experience, there has never been a more thorough review of the ten years before that famous win over Race in Greensboro. So much of Flair's career before his historic run as world champion often gets glossed over by others, hitting only a few high spots. Hornbaker goes deep into Flair's early career, especially concerning his development as a major star and box-office draw in the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling territory promoted by the Crockett family. He covers Flair's arrival in the Carolinas in great detail, his development under booker George Scott, life on the road, and his early tutoring by Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, and others. Long-time Mid-Atlantic fans will revel in the details of the significant angles and achievements early on, while fans less familiar with that era will find lots to learn, love, and celebrate.

The rest of Flair's unique story is told throughout this amazing book, including the NWA title era, WCW and Nitro periods, and the latter years in WWE and Impact Wrestling. 

When it comes to the more challenging aspects of Flair's personal life and entanglements outside of wrestling, Hornbaker doesn't flinch there, either. But with regards to the personal drama, he reports on all of it succinctly and cleanly, unlike some other accounts, which look more like wide-eyed gawkers slowing up to pass an accident on the side of the highway. If you want that dirt, help yourself; it's been done to death in many documentaries and articles over the past years and even by Flair himself. Hornbaker doesn't gloss over any of it, to be sure, but he doesn't dwell on it either. There are no judgments here. The title, after all, purports to examine the legacy of the "last real world champion," and the more interesting aspects of the book focus on Flair's remarkable and unparalleled legacy in the ring, not out of it. 

"The Last Real World Champion" is the perfect title for the book. Not only does it call back to a fun moment in time when Flair took the Big Gold Belt to the WWF, but it is also factually accurate. Flair was the last in a long line of touring world champions before guys with belts were nothing more than company champions. It's also a positive reflection on Flair's in-ring career as a whole.

With great affection for the subject matter, Tim Hornbaker brings Flair's amazing career into focus unlike any other. It is a tour de force with respect to thorough research and is impeccably documented with nearly 55 pages of end notes. This type of exhausting research is a hallmark of Hornbaker's work generally. 

A walk along this rich historical journey is great fun. Available for pre-order now, it is highly recommended reading for fans of Ric Flair and of pro-wrestling history and sports entertainment in general. 

- Dick Bourne, Mid-Atlantic Gateway    


Available September 12, 2023

ISBN-13:                9781770416260
Publisher:               ECW Press
Publication date:    09/12/2023
Pages:                    420
Size:                       6 x 9”

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Lifetime Membership

Please support the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (@tnthof) by becoming a lifetime member. Visit for more information. They just concluded their big annual Hall of Fame Induction weekend  (July 20-22, 2023) in Waterloo, Iowa.

Last Year 2022 Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Charting the Territories

Saturday, April 08, 2023

The 2023 Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Award Winners Announced


The 24th annual George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (TNTHOF) Induction weekend will take place July 20-22 in Waterloo, IA.   In addition to the award winners announced below, the following wrestling legends have already committed to attending:

TNTHOF Board President Gerry Brisco, John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL), James Beard, Wes Brisco, Colt Cabana, Tommy “Wildfire” Rich, "The Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant, Baron Von Raschke, JJ Dillon, B. Brian Blair, Bob Roop, Nord the Barbarian/Berserker, Thunderbolt Patterson, Jonard Solie, Ric McCord, Joe Malenko, and many more to announce in the coming weeks.

All Access Passes are $140 and can be purchased here.  The Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization that 100 percent of the All-Access Pass goes to preserving and growing the weekend.  The All Access Pass includes all events, a meal Thursday night at the Dan Gable Museum, events and autograph sessions throughout Friday and Saturday, an Impact Pro Wrestling show Friday night, a dinner and Hall of Fame induction banquet Saturday evening.  In addition, there will be a silent auction, a roundtable legends Q & A and a team trivia contest.   The complete schedule will be released in May. 

More: The 2023 Award Winners Announced ...

Friday, April 07, 2023

Four Horsemen Book in Full Color Harcover


now available at

Every member! Every version! Every associate! The women! The managers!

It's all laid out month by month, year by year, with photos and charts included.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Prom Night with Mid-Atlantic Wrestling

By David Chappell
from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives

I remember the day well, April 30, 1976, the night of my High School Prom. At that time I was a junior at Patrick Henry High School, about ready to finish up the 11th grade. Back in those days, the Prom was held on campus at our gymnasium. I remember helping with the decorations and the preparations for the gala event. Yep, I was VERY excited about that Friday night spectacular! However, a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Prom, and it was called Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling!

Jim Crockett Promotions obviously did not know that my Prom was on April 30, 1976 as Mid-Atlantic Wrestling visited the Richmond Coliseum on that same Friday night. What was a young guy to do? Then I heard Les Thatcher announce the main event for that Richmond card would be Rufus R. Jones, Wahoo McDaniel and "The Eighth Wonder Of The World" Andre The Giant against Ric Flair, and his cousin’s Gene and Ole Anderson. With that announcement, my decision was made—I was going to the Coliseum!

You see, that six man tag team match had one of the greatest buildups in Mid-Atlantic history. Throughout the month of April in 1976, a feud was built between Rufus R. Jones and Ric Flair and the Andersons. I will never forget the sight of Rufus having a chauffeur’s cap put on him by Flair and then Ric and the Andersons slapping Rufus while they pushed him down on his knees.

The two weeks leading up to that Coliseum match had some of the best promos that Jim Crockett Promotions ever put out. Rufus was swearing out revenge for what was done to him, and he went out and got Wahoo and Andre as his partners. Andre did not appear in the area often, and it was a real event when he came to your town. The Andre the Giant of April 1976 was Andre in his physical prime. Andre was huge of course, but he also had amazing agility and dexterity for a man his size.

Ric Flair and the Andersons did a great job of hyping this six man tag as well. Ole in particular did some of his best interviews ever. Listening to Ric and Ole, you almost wanted to believe they had a chance against Andre’s team. But despite the best efforts of the "bad guys," I believe the huge crowd that showed up at the Coliseum that night was there for one reason and one reason only. To see Andre The Giant destroy the team from Minnesota!

I remember talking to some other Coliseum regulars that night that the undercard looked kind of weak. There were only five matches, and usually Coliseum cards had seven matches. Sure enough, the first two matches were below average. The third match saw the first Richmond appearance of Italian star, Dino Bravo. Bravo beat one of my favorite all-time underneath guys, Bill White. Dino was impressive, but of course it was difficult to gauge just how good he was against an opponent like White. Watching that match, I was thinking that it ought to have been a TV match rather than one I paid to see. Sure enough, when I turned on Channel 6 the next afternoon, one of the TV matches was……..Dino Bravo versus Bill White!

The semi-final event was a tag team match between The Mongols and Roberto and Manuel Soto. The Mongols had Professor Boris Malenko in their corner. Interestingly enough, this same match was also on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV the next day! The Coliseum match was a solid one between these two mid card tag teams. The Soto’s got the victory when Malenko interfered on behalf of his Mongols.

The Main Event more than made up for an average undercard! I still remember how huge Andre looked when he entered the ring, and how he dwarfed the other five wrestlers. This was not your classic back and forth match. Flair and the Andersons had virtually no offense the entire match. It was clear early on that this was going to be a major butt-kicking by Rufus, Wahoo and Andre. And after all, that was what everybody came to see!

The crowd was one of the loudest I ever experienced at the Coliseum, a building with a reputation of being wild. The loudest single pop I have ever heard at a wrestling match was during this match, when Rufus, Wahoo and Andre put a chauffeur’s cap on Ric Flair and slapped him upside the face! I thought for sure the roof was coming off the building! Needless to say, the "good guys" emerged victorious, and I remember leaving the Coliseum that night feeling justice had been done.

I’ll always remember heading back to school the Monday morning after the Prom of 1976. There was no conversation about the Prom. Rather, all the questions were directed to me about the matches at the Coliseum! What did Andre look like, did Rufus get his revenge, etc., etc. Boy, did I ever have some stories to tell. Somehow, I’ve never regretted missing my Junior Prom. But to this day, I know a bunch of people who regretted not going to the Richmond Coliseum on April 30, 1976!

Originally published in 2001 on the original Mid-Atlantic Gateway website. Republished in April of 2015 and now again in 2023 as part of the "Best of the Gateway" series.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Major Leaguer: Terry Funk Insists "It's My Moment!"

"I am a major leaguer. 
I am just like Nolan Ryan; 42 and tryin' 
to teach you people what a true hero is today. "

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

We usually don't stray much past 1988 on this website, but this is one of my favorite Terry Funk interviews ever during his 1989 run in the early days of Ted Turner's WCW.

During the spring of 1989, Funk had some very memorable interviews and TV matches setting him up as the wild and unpredictable challenger to NWA World champion Ric Flair. WCW had initiated the "Top 10" concept and Terry hadn't made into the top 10 yet and was very frustrated by that fact. This was in the weeks following his "pearl harbor" attack on Ric Flair in Nashville.

Frustrating Funk further was the fact that Lance Russell interrupted him to go to the ring for the "Rookie Challenge" where two young competitors would have a shot at "their moment" on national television.

But a protesting Funk insisted it was HIS moment, and he made sure he stole that moment from rookies Lee Scott and Dwayne Bruce. Mayhem ensues.

My favorite visual is near the end of this video when Funk piledrives Lee Scott and you see Funk between Scott's extended legs with a big grin on his face screaming "It's my moment!"

Sidebar: Funk evoked the name of Nolan Ryan in this interview, a reference to the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer who in this same year of 1989 for the Texas Rangers would lead the American League in strikeouts with an incredible .615 winning percentage and would be voted to the All-Star game that year - - amazingly all at the age of 42. The same age as Funk.

The clip is from an episode of "NWA Pro Wrestling" taped at the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta (also regular home to "World Championship Wrestling" on WTBS.) Commentary is by my favorite 1989 broadcast team of Lance Russell and Bob Caudle.


Originally posted April 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Poster: Funk vs. Brisco in Greensboro (1972)

By Brack Beasley
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

This poster takes us way back to early 1972, February 17th to be exact, and promotes a card held at the Greensboro War Memorial Coliseum.

The NWA World Heavyweight Championship was up for grabs as champion Dory Funk, Jr. defended against perennial foe Jack Brisco. Funk retained his title as this classic match-up ended in a one hour draw and I have no doubt these two men put on a professional wrestling clinic for the fans in Greensboro. 

Johnny Weaver and Art Nelson topped Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson (managed by Gary Hart) in the semi while the undercard featured familiar names like Missouri Mauler, Brute Bernard, Sandy Scott, Jerry Brisco, Jim Dillon, and The Kentuckian Luke Brown.

The poster features a horizontal layout with the two main events listed side by side, black and red print over a two-tone pink and yellow background, and six great wrestler images adorning the sides.


Friday, March 31, 2023

Count on Wally Dusek: The Day the Ring Didn't Show up In Asheville

The Day the Ring Didn't Show Up in Asheville
Greenville SC Memories
By Don Holbrook, Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor
Originally published here in March 2017

Back in the mid-1970s when Crockett began running shows on Sunday afternoons in Asheville in the new Civic Center, three of the maintenance guys at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium would get a rental truck, U-Haul size, and take the Greenville ring up to Asheville. Same thing for Anderson, Greenwood, and any spot shows around the area. They used the Greenville ring for all these towns. 

(Photo by Dave Routh)
I went to Asheville this one particular day and got there at 1:00 pm when they opened the doors for a 3:00 pm show. I went in, saw Sandy Scott with a disgusted angry look on his face. He saw me and came directly to me and said, "I was hoping you would come today. Do you have Bill Turner's phone number?" 

Bill was the maintenance manager at the Greenville Auditorium. And no, I didn't have his phone number.

The ring did not show up in Asheville that day and I don't know if Sandy forgot to schedule them to bring it or if Bill just forgot to tell the guys to bring it. Regardless - -there was no ring!

So then 3:00 pm got there, and still no ring and the Asheville Civic Center was nearly full. They stalled, they brought Wahoo out to talk. Then finally the ring announcer came out and said the ring had not arrived from Greenville but another ring was on the way from Charlotte. 

Finally, Wally Dusek showed up with the back-up Charlotte ring. Wally was one of Jim Crockett's right hand guys in those years, and did a little bit of everything, including making the rings. 

The Asheville Civic Center, Asheville NC
(Photo by Dick Bourne)

You can imagine, Wally wasn't thrilled about this. Another guy was with him and they frantically began setting up the ring. Everybody including Sandy Scott, referee Sonny Fargo and even a couple of the cops pitched in to get it set up and poor Wally Dusek was flying around, pouring sweat and as red as a stop sign. By this time, Wally was up in years and moving sort of slow. But on this day he was zooming around and I really felt sorry for him.

When the show finally started, they did the opening match, which was Two Ton Harris and somebody else, and they only went like 3 minutes. Then they went straight to the main event that was Wahoo and maybe Blackjack, I can't remember for sure. But I do remember that they needed to get our main event on and over with because 3 or 4 of the wrestlers had to fly straight back to Charlotte for a show that same night. 

My last memory of that afternoon in Asheville was of poor Wally sitting in the back totally exhausted and ringing wet with sweat after that long drive and rushing to get the ring set up, with Sandy on his ass the whole time to hurry up.  

But once again, as was his reputation, Wally Dusek was the man you went to when you needed to make sure something got done. And his hustle had saved the show in Asheville that day. 

* * * * * *
Don Holbrook is an occasional Gateway contributor as well as a history buff on late 1960s and 1970s wrestling in Greenville, SC. His mother worked for years in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium office and Don spent many afternoons hanging out there as a kid. He became known to all those in charge, which later gave him lots of great access and some great stories to tell. 

Originally published March 2017 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ric Flair: "And then it was my turn."

By Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

On Monday night May 8, 2000, Ric Flair appeared on WCW Monday Nitro on TNT and brought with him the old NWA World Heavyweight championship belt that he wore beginning in 1981 when he defeated Dusty Rhodes until February of 1986 when the belt was replaced by the famous "Big Gold" version of the NWA title.

It was a big surprise and a very nostalgic moment for fans from the 1970s and 1980s who so connected with the "ten pounds of gold", which was the top title and top belt in all of professional wrestling during the territory years.

Nitro was in St. Louis, MO, that night, historically the most important city on the National Wrestling Alliance map. Flair spoke generally about how important it was to work there for Sam Muchnick if you wanted to become NWA champion one day. He also spoke eloquently about seeing that belt for the first time.

That had to be a very cool moment for old-school fans of St. Louis wrestling.

Here is a transcript of Flair's remarks as they pertained to the "ten pounds of gold."

"In the year nineteen hundred and seventy eight, Terry Funk told me if I wanted to be a star in this business I had to get to St. Louis on Friday night. You know what I'm talkin' about. I had to be at the Kiel or The Arena, I had to be live at the Chase, I had to be in St. Louis if I wanted to be a star.

And then I saw this for the first time. It was around the waist of the legendary Jack Brisco. And I said, "Jack, do you think I could ever be World champion?" He said, "Kid, keep workin'. Work at it every day and every night and maybe by the grace of God you might get it some day.

And then there was Terry Funk, and then it was Harley Race, and then it was Dusty Rhodes.

And then it was my turn.

And this is what we all desired to have and be, the World Heavyweight championship. We gave up everything. We gave up life, we gave up our families, we worked every day, we partied all night. We were the champions of the World. The best this sport had to offer."

That episode of WCW Monday Nitro is available on demand on the WWE Network. The interview with Flair is at approximately 25:20 into the program.

A very bright moment during a really sad time in WCW.

This post was originally published on our "Domed Globe" website in May of 2019.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Pro-Wrestling's Great Television Audience (1978)

Here is a nice "TV Sports" column by Bob Gillespie from the Charleston Post & Courier in 1978 about the high ratings and impact of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and World Wide Wrestling during that era.

I laugh when I read about how popular wrestling is today. It's for sure a bigger business today, but it is no where near as popular today as it was years ago. Just witness the 52% share that wrestling got on WCBD-2 in Charleston. Les Thatcher has told us about similar shares his Mid-Atlantic wrestling show got in the mid-1970s on WLOS-13 in Asheville, NC. Jim Crockett Promotions programming was pulling amazing ratings and shares back then and had been for years. Similar stories could be found in other promotions across the country as well.

So kudos to Bob Gillespie for helping educate the unknowing general public about that in 1978. Gillespie does a great job in getting his facts straight about Crockett Promotions at the time, something most sports writers or TV-writers covering wrestling would never bother with.

Some nice information here includes:

(1) Mentions of local promoter Henry Marcus and the local venue County Hall.
(2) The main promoter Jim Crockett Promotions and their local promoter in Roanoke VA Sandy Scott
(3) TV originating form the studios of WRAL in Raleigh, NC
(4) The barter relationship between the local TV stations and JCP
(5) A mention of Sandy Scott promoting Greenville SC before Roanoke
(6) The first TV stations to carry wrestling for Jim Crockett  - WDBJ-7 in Roanoke, VA and WFBC-4 in Greenville, SC.

This article was originally posted on our Studio Wrestling website in March of 2015. Thanks to Carroll Hall for forwarding this article to me, and to Peggy Lathan for transcribing it for us. Here is the text of the article (emphasis within the text is mine.) Enjoy!

Wresting Audience Greatly Expanded by TV
By Bob Gillespie
Charleston, SC - September 23, 1978

For several months now, I’ve followed this TV sports column and I have yet to see anything written on what has to be one of the tube’s most successful enterprises in the realm of sports. I shall now try to correct this omission.

What am I talking about?  Football? Basketball? Women’s Field Hockey? Tournament-level Tiddlywinks?  “No” to all of the above.

Try professional wrestling.

Wrestling? you ask, looking down your cultured nose with disdain. That Roman gladiator spectacle of the masses, with costumed clowns flying through the air like so many comic book characters?  TV wrestling – a success story?  Surely I jest, you say. And you probably laugh.

GO AHEAD. LAUGH. That’s just what both the pro wrestling promoters and local television stations are doing, all the way to the proverbial bank.

The fact is, wrestling, especially on television, has been growing in popularity over the last few years – by leaps and bounds greater than any you’ll see in the ring.  And no one realizes – and appreciates – that fact more than Charleston area television management.

On any given Saturday, year round, the Charleston viewer can see wrestling twice in one day. That’s if he doesn’t have cable TV; if he does, add another show on Saturday and one on Sunday. And if you live far enough toward Savannah where you can pick up that city’s television, you can catch two more showings, or five programs per Saturday.

There’s a reason that pro wrestling is on so often:  it’s popular.

“The shows are rather popular in this area, I know that,” says WCIV-TV (Channel 4) program director Don Moody. “If we have to move the show (1 pm Saturdays) for a network thing, we really get the phone calls.”

PROGRAM DIRECTOR Jim Shumaker of WCBD-TV (Channel 2), whose station carries wrestling Saturday night at 11:45, is even more emphatic. “It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “It leads its time periods against all comers. People in this area are really hung up on this wrestling.”

How hung up?  In the last important ratings book, which was back in May, wrestling at midnight Saturday was pulling a 52 percent share of the audience,” Shumaker said.  By comparison, Saturday Night Live on NBC (Channel 4) gets 32 percent, while Channel 5 (WCSC-TV) carrying Blockbuster Theatre takes a 21 percent share.

Channel 2 isn’t the only beneficiary of wrestling either. When Channel 4 runs wrestling at 1 pm, it gathers in 46 percent share of the audience at that time, as opposed to 31 percent for Soul Train (Channel 5) and 19 percent for American Bandstand (Channel 2). “They’re obviously doing something right,” added Shumaker.

“They” in this case is an outfit called Jim Crockett Promotions out of Charlotte, NC who provide their Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the Carolinas-Virginia area. Crockett not only handles the live events at local arenas, such as Charleston’s County Hall operations on Friday night, but also produces the television shows, filming the weekly at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC.

THE MOST IRONIC THING about the whole operation is the deal between Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and the local television stations. The stations get a program with a high rating – virtually for free.

“Crockett supplies us with the taped program,” Shumaker said.  “We give them two one-minute- forty-second commercials for promotion of their local wrestling matches. We get the program, which leads its time slot, plus 10 minutes of commercial time to sell. And they’re easy to sell, too.”

Why give away a program, when stations that run movies or even network programs against wrestling – and still lose out – are paying big bucks for those time-fillers?  Henry Marcus, who promotes wrestling for the Crockett operation in this area from his Columbia base, has an answer.

“It’s simple,” said Marcus, who started wrestling promotion in 1934. “Television is great, whether you’re selling wrestling or toothpaste. It’s the greatest advertising device man has ever invented. When you have 75 million people watch the Ali-Spinks fight, you can’t beat it.”

The Crockett TV blitz started “about 18 years ago under Jim Crockett, Sr., the father of the Jim Crockett who runs the operation now,” said Canadian native Sandy Scott, himself a former popular wrestler who now promotes the Mid-Atlantic product in Roanoke, VA, after covering the Greenville area the last three years. “The first station was Channel 7 in Roanoke in 1950 or so, and the second was WFBC in Greenville.”

SCOTT, LIKE MOST people involved in TV wrestling, is at something of a loss to explain its popularity. “I don’t know for sure, but it’s tremendous. Of course, we feel we offer the top wrestling talent, and the best will always hold the audience.”

“Wrestling did well without television, but TV has expanded the number of people we reach,” he added.  “Folks in smaller towns see it now.”

The only thing that may be holding pro wrestling back now is the item referred to at the beginning of this piece: its image. Sportswriters and some sports fans deride pro wrestling, question its status as a legitimate sport.  That’s actually putting it mildly: wrestling is often called a fake, a circus, a joke and the like.

I’m not getting into the merits of such arguments.  I like my skin in one piece, thank you. As one local television sportscaster put it, “I used to call wrestling a phony, but I learned you don’t do that in a crowded bar.”  But the arguments against wrestling still exist.

If the arguments don’t seem likely to change, though, the image may be doing so. “The wrestling programs on TV draw all spectrums,” Channel 2’s Shumaker noted. “We sell it locally, but our national salesmen say the general feeling among the big sponsors is that wrestling appeals to the ‘blue collar and beer’ crowd.”

“That’s not necessarily so. It seems to be drawing more young people, but it gets men, women and children, all ages. They seem to be expanding the market.”

For sure.  Said Marcus, “Our TV survey man in Charlotte estimates that on any Saturday, some 1.1 million people are watching wrestling on stations in the Carolinas and Virginia.”  “Blue collars and beer” or not, that’s a heap of potential customers for the TV sponsors.

So whether you love wrestling, hate wrestling or just don’t care, you’ll keep on seeing it on the tube for a long time. “We tend to take it for granted that it’s going to capture its time slot,” Shumaker said.  “I guess you’d have to call it a success story.”

And television is not inclined to give up success stories.

Edited from an original post in March of 2015 on our sister website "Studio Wrestling".

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Weaver and Landrum on World Wide Wrestling

By Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Many of today's fans associate Johnny Weaver's broadcasting career with the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and NWA Pro Wrestling shows that aired in the 1980s, primarily as a result of Johnny's national exposure on NWA Pro when it was syndicated to markets all around the United States as Jim Crockett Promotions began to expand nationwide. 

But long time fans in the territory might best remember him with his first broadcast partner, the host of World Wide Wrestling from 1978-1982, Rich Landrum. 

Landrum worked in Richmond VA as the ring announcer for Jim Crockett Promotions/Murnick Promotions shows in Richmond and the surrounding area going back to the late 1960s. He took over television host duties for the re-vamped World Wide Wrestling in 1978. Landrum made the weekly trek each Wednesday from Richmond to WRAL TV studios in Raleigh NC. He originally hosted the show solo with occasional guest co-hosts, and then took on Weaver as a regular partner in late 1979, even though Weaver continued wrestling a near full time schedule through 1981. 

They became a very popular broadcasting duo over the next four years, and are still remembered today, especially for one of their signature spots where Johnny would offer his rendition of "Turn Out The Lights, The Party's Over" at the end of a match each week, as Landrum then reviewed the match's finish on instant replay. 

 In 2007, Landrum appeared on a Burlington, NC, wrestling event and briefly reunited with Weaver to introduce the finals of the Johnny Weaver Cup Tag Team Tournament. (Landrum wrote about that reunion here.) Johnny passed away just six months later, and in November of 2008, Landrum made a second appearance at a tribute show for Johnny Weaver in Rocky Mount, VA, along with Johnny's daughter Wendi. The show also featured wrestling legend Jim Nelson/Boris Zhukov in action, who was one of Johnny's last tag partners during the last years of his career in the ring in 1983.

Special thanks to Wendi Weaver for providing the photograph above from her father's personal collection.

Related feature: WRAL Studio Wrestling
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Interviews with Rich Landrum | Johnny Weaver

This post was edited from an original post on the Johnny Weaver Blog in January 2009.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ric Flair and Conrad Thompson Talk Wahoo McDaniel

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

While doing research for my book on the history of the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship, I came across an edited audio clip we presented earlier on our site from the old Ric Flair Show podcast produced and hosted by Conrad Thompson for the MLW Radio Network. The topic for "This Week in History" on that episode was the night Ric beat Wahoo McDaniel for the Mid-Atlantic title for the first time in September of 1975.

Ric and Conrad talk about the match with Wahoo, the plane crash that almost ended Ric's career just two weeks later, and some other great stories about Wahoo and what he meant to Ric personally and to his career.

The vintage audio clip during the segment is from "Wide World Wrestling"  in 1975 hosted by Ed Capral, who reviews film of the Hampton match with Ric alongside for commentary. The clip is part of a huge library of vintage audio from David Chappell.

So enjoy this classic audio trip back in time, not only to the glory days of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the mid-1970s, but also to 2016 during the great run of The Ric Flair Show.

No doubt 1975 was the breakout year for Ric Flair who would go on to become one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport, and certainly its greatest champion.

Relive all the events of the landmark year of 1975 in the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling 1975 Yearbook.

The book includes reproductions of all four issues of "Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine" that was sold as the arena program that year.

Plus a huge collection of newspaper clippings, posters, and complete results for the entire year. Plus our signature "Almanac" material featuring a complete roster of wrestlers for the year, and summaries of all major feuds and matches for the year.

This post was edited from an original post on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway from March of 2019.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Claw vs. Claw! Mulligan vs. Raschke in 1978

by David Chappell 
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

By the late summer of 1978, two of the biggest names in professional wrestling, Blackjack Mulligan and Baron von Raschke, had been for the most part going their separate ways in the Mid-Atlantic area for about a year. That was all about to change during an eventful edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on September 6, 1978.

The beginning of that TV show started off with a figurative "bang," as Paul Jones and Ricky Steamboat were shockingly forced to relinquish their World Tag Team Title belts to Raschke and Greg Valentine on the program's first segment via a pronouncement by NWA President Bob Geigel. But following that blockbuster announcement, Baron von Raschke hung around to give the show a literal "bang" immediately following. Unfortunately that loud bang was a blow to Blackjack Mulligan's noggin.

Announcer Bob Caudle summoned the big man from Eagle Pass, Texas saying, "I have Blackjack...come on out here Blackjack. All right fans, this is Blackjack Mulligan, Blackjack come on in because we've got a special presentation to you...David." Color commentator David Crockett  reappeared on the set with a large trophy and approached Mulligan saying, "On a much pleasanter note, Jack, it says from the fans of the Mid-Atlantic area, to Blackjack Mulligan, Outstanding Wrestler of 1977-78. Blackjack, from the wrestling fans of the Mid-Atlantic area."

Mulligan appeared to be very moved by the award and began to comment, "I tell you what, thank you very much David..." Then in a split second, Raschke and Greg Valentine appeared back on the set and attacked Mulligan viciously. The Baron was the primary aggressor, grabbing the trophy and breaking it squarely over Blackjack's head!  The crowd in the studio audience was almost in riot mode at this shocking turn of events!

Caudle exclaimed, "Hey, [the Baron] just went wild and is tearing it up! He hit Blackjack across the head with it David, and they're both on him, slammin' him around over there." Crockett yelled in response, "Raschke's just gone completely berserk!" Caudle continued, barely audible over the boisterous crowd, "He said what do you mean, [Mulligan's] not the outstanding that he is the outstanding and that he is the champion. And he continues to stomp and kick at Blackjack Mulligan!" A hysterical Raschke then interjected maniacally, "That will give me part of the $10,000.00 bounty, Blackjack Mulligan!"

As Mulligan attempted to gather himself, Caudle repeated, "He says that will give him part of the $10,000.00 bounty, David. And Blackjack, who is reeling...and I tell you, that is one of the lowest blows I have ever seen anybody get! What a blow, just to walk in and grab you that way!" Blackjack still woozy and staggering from the blows to the head managed to say, "Raschke, you're gonna pay for this like you've never paid before...I'll tell you right now." Caudle ended the segment, concluding, "David, you have to call that a sneak attack in any way you look at it...a sneak attack! Trophy in pieces!"

On the final segment of that September 6, 1978 Mid-Atlantic TV show, concerned fans were gratified that Mulligan returned to the set to address them. Bob Caudle began, "Fans with us right now at ringside and a fellow I'll tell you that has taken more than his share of punishment in the last hour or seems like everybody in the world wanted to stomp and kick and cut and rip at you, Blackjack Mulligan." Blackjack answered, "Let me tell you something Bob Caudle; I want to talk to the people right now."

Mully continued as he held up the pieces of his destroyed trophy noting, "Everybody in television-land looking at me right now, I know this is a very nice gesture and I certainly appreciate it and I know there was probably a lot more deserving people in the world of wrestling. But I appreciate what you tried to do; what you tried to give me. But I seem to be a marked man in the world of wrestling . Everything I do, everything I try to do, Ric Flair or Raschke or Superstar or some of their henchman are right in the way. I appreciate this trophy being given to me by the people of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling."

Blackjack concluded the segment with a dire warning for the big German threatening ,"And I wanna tell you something head, I've never had a rougher hour in my whole life. But I wanna tell you something right now...I'm still standing here. I need my head sewed up, but I haven't fell yet! And Baron von Raschke, believe what I say, if it takes Claw against Claw my friend...your day is coming! We're marking von Raschke as NEXT!"

During the remainder of September and during October of 1978, these two world renowned grapplers who both used the dreaded Claw hold as their respective finishing maneuvers, battled frequently around the territory in a spirited but short program. Some of the bouts were even billed as Claw vs. Claw matches. Mulligan emerged victorious in a majority of these fiercely contested battles, and was the clear winner in the Texas Death Matches and Bounty matches between the two. The Baron scored his wins mainly in straight up bouts without stipulations.

The confrontations between the masters of the Claw were cut short when Big John Studd entered the Mid-Atlantic area in October, and became Blackjack's primary adversary as John pushed hard to collect the long-standing $10,000.00 bounty on Mully. The Baron was also pulled away from the program with Mulligan when Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Snuka entered the Mid-Atlantic area at the end of October and made an immediate push for the Baron and Greg Valentine's World Tag Team Titles.

While Blackjack Mulligan got a measure of revenge for Baron von Raschke destroying his trophy upside his head on TV, I always wished that these two would have had a longer program against each other. While Claw versus Claw was red hot for a short time, these two developed other irons in the fire with Mid-Atlantic newcomers that would ultimately define the Claw versus Claw program as a transitional bridge on the roads to even bigger Mid-Atlantic feuds for these two Jim Crockett Promotions mega-stars.

Originally published in March of 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ric Flair was the original Big Boss Man

Original Title: Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's own Big Boss Man
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

When word came out recently about the Big Boss Man, the infamous prison guard from Cobb County, Georgia being selected for inclusion in the WWE Hall of Fame, it got me to thinking about another Big Boss Man in professional wrestling. While Ray Traylor’s Big Boss Man character was the most famous under that moniker, it’s probably been forgotten or is a well kept secret, that Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had a “Big Boss Man” of their own in the late summer of 1974. And the man using that name to describe himself was none other than a young Ric Flair!
Yes, before he was the “Nature Boy,” Ric Flair was the self-proclaimed “Big Boss Man!” Flair only referred to himself as the Big Boss Man for around a month or so, but Ric was at his obnoxious best while he was doing it. Flair wasn’t posing as a renegade prison guard; it was just Ric being loud-mouthed Ric!

In the summer of 1974 Ric Flair teamed up with the legendary Carolina’s veteran Rip “The Profile” Hawk, and they soon became the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions. On the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program that was taped on August 14, 1974, Flair and Hawk were interviewed by announcer Bob Caudle. The rambunctious Flair told Caudle, “Let me tell you something daddy…I’ve got a new name for myself! Everywhere I go the people are shouting, WOOOOO, there goes the Big Boss Man!! You know why? Because every BOY like Conway and like King, they gotta have a boss! And when they see me they say, ‘WOOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man,’ that’s what they say to me! When they get in the ring with me they say, ‘WOOOO, what’s happening Big Boss Man?’ They say, ‘Please Big Boss Man don’t hurt me; please don’t hit me too hard.’ Ain’t that right, Mr. Hawk?” Naturally, Rip agreed!

Of course, back in 1974 professional wrestling and society in general was much different than it is today. The “Conway” and “King” Ric referred to were two beloved African American wrestlers, Tiger Conway, Jr. and Sonny King. Both Conway and King had arrived in the Mid-Atlantic territory in the early summer of 1974. Conway came in as an athletic high flying newcomer, while King came in to challenge the “bad guys” that injured his brother, Bearcat Wright. Both of these great black stars, particularly Conway, were pitted frequently against Flair, who at the time was also a relative newcomer to Jim Crockett Promotions.

The racially tinged “Big Boss Man” comments in 1974 certainly did not then, and do not now, reflect the feelings of the man Ric Flair. However, the professional wrestling character Ric Flair at that time was able to generate lots of “heat” with black and white fans alike, by going down what would be called today a politically incorrect road. Racial stereotypes were utilized, insinuated and implied regularly in professional wrestling in 1974, and Ric Flair playing the role as the “Big Boss Man” had its existence within the culture of that day in time. No matter what we may think of the propriety of Ric Flair anointing himself as the Big Boss Man, one thing is for sure, it gave the Mid-Atlantic fans in 1974 yet another reason to hate this young “bad guy” star on the rise!

The shelf life of Ric Flair, the Big Boss Man, as mentioned above was actually quite short. Within a month or so, Ric gradually stopped referring to himself by that name in the fall of 1974. Interestingly, Flair didn’t “boss” around Tiger Conway, Jr. or Sonny King much in the ring! Conway’s first run in the territory lasted until February of 1975, and Tiger fought Ric on pretty much even terms. Ditto for the in-ring results between Flair and King, with Sonny leaving the area in July of 1975.

Ric Flair as the Big Boss Man is certainly well housed in the moth balls of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling history. I’m glad the contemporary Big Boss Man, Ray Traylor, was brought back to the forefront recently. It jogged my memory to go back in time and reflect on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling’s Big Boss Man, and a vastly different era in professional wrestling.

Previously published in March 2016 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Poster: Superstar/Mulligan battle Jones/Igor in Pilot Mountain (1977)

By Brack Beasley
Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

The spot shows in Jim Crockett Promotions offered some of the more intriguing match-ups that one may not see at a big Coliseum event. An example is this poster that promotes a card held at the East Surry High School gym in Pilot Mountain, NC on December 3rd, 1977. 

The main event was a tag team match pitting The Masked Superstar and Blackjack Mulligan against Paul Jones and The Mighty Igor. No doubt, it must have been quite an exciting bout for the fans in Pilot Mountain this Saturday night. 

Following three preliminary matches, the semi had fan-favorite Dino Bravo taking the challenge of The Missouri Mauler.

With a vertical layout, the poster has all black print over a striking tricolor background and images of Superstar, Jones, and Igor.


Mid-Atlantic Gateway Notes:
Like Brack, we loved the spot-show main events that would often combine two singles feuds into a grudge tag team match. In this case, Paul Jones was battling the Superstar in a white hot feud (you may remember the famous haircut?) and Blackjack Mulligan and the Superstar both had issues with the Mighty Igor. Plus Blackjack had a long running feud with Jones that went back to late 1975 over the U.S. Heavyweight title. Good stuff in Pilot Mountain, NC, just down the road apiece from my hometown of Mount Airy (aka, Mayberry.) - D. Bourne


Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Argentino Apollo Arrives in JCP (1970)

By David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Argentina Apollo

While November 14, 1970 predates the time period that encompassed Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (by name), that date nevertheless carries some significance for me. It is the Saturday afternoon program of “Championship Wrestling” taped at the Channel 5 studios in Raleigh, North Carolina that represents the oldest program in my Jim Crockett Promotions audio collection. This program is also important to me as it introduced a newcomer to the Carolinas that I have many fond memories of.

In what was the second bout of that show, TV ring announcer Joe Murnick told the studio audience, “Now ladies and gentlemen, the second bout is also one fall and a 15-minute time limit, for the first time for our viewers, at 222 pounds from the Argentine, Buenos Aires, here is the sensational jumping jack of the ring, Argentina Apollo…Apollo!

Apollo, quick as greased lightning and wrestling barefooted, made quick work of the journeyman Joe Soto in the show’s second match with a rapid-fire backbreaker, and he received a strong and favorable reception from the studio audience in attendance. Soon after the bout concluded Apollo came out to the interview area and chatted with play-by-play announcer Nick Pond.

Pond began, “At ringside once again, it’s our distinct pleasure to have with us our winner of this afternoon’s second bout here on Championship Wrestling, a newcomer to our show, Argentina Apollo. You’re like a jumping jack Apollo!” The muscular newcomer responded, “Well, it’s like everything, you’re supposed to be in good shape to do things in the ring.” Pond interjected, “Tell us about that hold that you finished off Joe Soto with, it looked like a backbreaker of some kind.” Apollo explained, “Yeah, I call it Argentina backbreaker. It’s my hold. It’s not too easy to do, you need to be in very good shape to do a hold like that.”

The announcer continued and marveled at the acrobatic abilities of the area’s newest grappler. Nick gushed, “You did some moves up there we hadn’t seen, in fact we’d never seen before! You jump around a lot, and it looked like you kind of befuddle and mix up your opponent some.” Apollo agreed and noted, “Well, that’s why I say to be a wrestler you need to train very, very hard like I do. I get up early every morning and I train very, very much. I eat well; but I try to stay in good shape.”

Apollo then chuckled, “I’m in the best country in the world, and eat good, and try to keep in better shape even when I eat good! Of course, it’s very important for everybody, mostly the young generation, to train like I do and be in better shape than I do.”

Pond then segued to Apollo’s first arena bout in the territory saying, “Alright Argentina, you’re going to go against a tag team Tuesday night here in Raleigh, you’re going to be teamed with a great wrestler, the U.S. Negro Heavyweight Champion Luther Lindsey and you’re going to meet Chris Markoff and Bronco Lubich, two tough guys from Yugoslavia.” Apollo answered, “Well, it will be my first time over here in Raleigh, and I’m very proud and happy to be over here and I have in mind to be here a long, long time. As I told you these two men are very tough men Chris Markov and the other man, I’ll do my best to beat these men.”

Argentina Apollo's debut in Raleigh for Jim Crockett Promotions

 Apollo concluded, “I want to tell all of you people over here in the South, I’m very proud to be over here. I have never seen so many friendly people like I see over here in the few days I’ve been over here. I say ‘Thanks’ very much and I will repay you people the best I can and do everything I can to beat these men.” 

The November 17, 1970, card at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh saw Apollo’s career in the area’s arenas get off to a flying start as he and Luther Lindsey polished off Markoff and Chris Tolos, who was subbing for Bronco Lubich. Despite the constant interference by the bad guys’ manager Mr. George “Two Ton” Harris, Apollo and Lindsey got the dukes when Lubich and Tolos were disqualified in the third and decisive fall. 

The high-flying Argentina Apollo was off to the races and would have a strong year and a half run in Jim Crockett Promotions after these initial days in Raleigh that are memorialized on my oldest “oldie but goodie” wrestling tape!

Saturday, March 04, 2023

The Big Gold Nameplate Exchange


By Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Take a look at the image above and just imagine Klondike Bill’s workbench in his shop behind the office on Briarbend Drive a few days after the Great American Bash in Greensboro, July 26, 1986.

Yes, that's the Dusty Rhodes nameplate on the original 1986 Big Gold belt. It was rumored to not have existed. Jim Crockett told us on television that next Saturday afternoon that a nameplate for Dusty had been ordered and would be on the belt soon. But we never saw it, and most of us never believed it. As fans, we all were pretty confidant Ric Flair would get the Big Gold belt back soon and his iconic nameplate would go back on the belt. So we figured, why would they go to the trouble and expense behind the scenes of ordering a new nameplate?

But the Dusty nameplate was indeed ordered. And it was delivered. It just didn't make it in time for Dusty to have it on the belt when he was NWA champion for the third and final time. 

We verified the order later with the actual Crumrine order form and art work (it's all in the Big Gold book by the way - - thank you Teddy Srour.) But what we didn't know when the book was published was that the Dusty nameplate had actually been made until Cody Rhodes posted about it on Twitter several years ago. (See that story: American Dreams Come True.) Cody found it in a cigar box when going through his dad's belongings after Dusty had passed.

The original photo above was taken by Clint Beckley, and we created the special fantasy image above.   

See also: Big Dust, Big Gold

Edited and expanded from an original Twitter and Gateway post in September 2022.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Mooneyham Reviews "United States Championship" (2015)

Another special thanks to Mike Mooneyham for his great 2015 review of "United States Championship", our book on the history of the Jim Crockett Promotions version of the U.S. title and the five belts that represented it. The review was posted on the Charleston Post & Courier website.

The book is available via links in the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Book Store or go directly to

Bourne strikes gold with new book on U.S. wrestling title
Oct 25 2015
by Mike Mooneyham, Charleston Post & Courier

Dick Bourne has done it again.

Bourne, who runs the popular Mid-Atlantic Gateway site, has followed up his “Ten Pounds of Gold” and “Big Gold” books with an informative and entertaining volume on “Jim Crockett Promotions’ United States Heavyweight Championship.”

The book, which takes a comprehensive look at one of pro wrestling’s most revered titles, just might be Bourne’s best effort yet.

A lifelong follower of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, Bourne explores the five classic U.S. title belts that were worn by some of the profession’s greatest performers over a 13-year period.

Just the images — more than 100 photographs of both the champs and the belts — are worth the price of admission....

Read the full review on >>>


Just the images — more than 100 photographs of both the champs and the belts — are worth the price of admission.

Examined are every title change, the stories behind the angles, and even every scratch and dent on the various championship belts and replicas.

“The book focuses on two main areas,” notes Bourne. “First, it looks at the five different physical belts that represented the Crockett championship from 1975 until 1988 (when the company was sold to Ted Turner.) Secondly, it chronicles the long title history of the championship, exploring every title change and tournament during those years, and all of the exciting angles and storylines.”

Bourne’s fascination with the territory — and the title — prompted him to write the book.

“The United States title was the main title for Crockett Promotions in the 1970s and 1980s, and was my favorite championship as a young fan of Mid-Atlantic wrestling. I also loved the belts. But what makes it relevant today is how it is the sole survivor from the territory days. This is the only championship from that great era to still be recognized today.”

While there were other regional U.S. championships under the NWA banner, the version recognized by the Charlotte-based Crockett Promotions was the biggest and most widely recognized of them all, and it served as the historical foundation for the U.S. championship recognized by WWE today.

“The WWE U.S. title traces its lineage all the way back to the beginning of Crockett’s U.S. title in 1975 — exactly 40 years ago this year,” says Bourne. “When you factor in that over 60 percent of the guys that held it are WWE Hall of Famers today, it makes the title — and its history — very relevant to fans today.

Credit for the formation of the Crockett U.S. title goes to George Scott, a longtime main-eventer-turned-booker who helped transform the Mid-Atlantic area from a tag-team territory to one built around singles competition.

With Scott bringing in some of the top talent in the country during the mid-’70s, he wanted a singles title that would be seen as the biggest prize in the territory and a nationally recognized one as well.

To that end, Scott brought in former NWA world champion Harley Race and billed him as the U.S. heavyweight champion, having defeated longtime Mid-Atlantic favorite Johnny Weaver in a phantom title change in Florida.

Johnny Valentine, at the time the territory’s most recognized national name and the Mid-Atlantic heavyweight champion, was tabbed as Race’s first challenger on July 3, 1975, at the Greensboro Coliseum. Valentine would defeat Race in a classic encounter, and the Crockett version of the U.S. heavyweight championship would begin its remarkable journey.

Twenty-one different men held the Crockett U.S. championship. Thirteen of them are current members of the WWE Hall of Fame.

The illustrious list of titleholders includes Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Mr. Wrestling (Tim Woods), Wahoo McDaniel, Roddy Piper, Paul Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Magnum T.A.,Tully Blanchard and Lex Luger.

Flair would hold the record for longest combined reigns with five over 651 days, closely followed by Mulligan’s 541 days (four reigns) and Greg Valentine’s 541 days (three reigns).

Longest U.S. title reign would go to Nikita Koloff, who held the belt 329 days, from Aug. 16, 1986, to July 11, 1987.

Shortest? That dubious distinction would go to “No. 1” Paul Jones with a six-day run in 1976.

The belt continues to evoke memories, as Bourne discovered when he showed “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka a replica of the U.S. belt he won from Flair in 1979. 

“Bruddah, this is old days!” Snuka said with a huge grin on his face. “Good times! Me and the Nature Boy!”

Bourne says Snuka likely hadn’t thought about the belt in 30 years, but the memories seemed to be flooding back.

“Mr. Gene Anderson, bruddah! Good times!” exclaimed Snuka, referring to his manaher at the time.

“I think he was surprised to see this because I’m guessing that most fans want to talk about his time in the WWF,” says Bourne. “But the sight of that distinctive-looking center plate on the belt from his Mid-Atlantic wrestling days definitely connected with him. He seemed almost nostalgic. He posed for a photo holding the belt, a genuinely happy smile on his face. ‘Very nice, bruddah,’ he said as he handed the belt back to me. ‘Very nice.’”

The book, says Bourne, was a learning experience.

“I thought I had a good memory on most of the title history, but it was amazing all the little details I had forgotten over the years. It was fun to piece that all together again.

“As a young fan, I didn’t realize that there were many other United States championships recognized in other territories. I wanted to put the Crockett U.S. title in context with the rest of those titles. It was very interesting researching those titles and looking at their histories for comparative purposes. I summarize the other titles in the book.

“I also didn’t realize how many times the Crockett title was defended outside the Mid-Atlantic territory, particularly in Georgia. During the 1970s both Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan were booked on a number of occasions out of other offices with the belt. Promoter Paul Boesch recognized the title in Houston on several occasions in 1984 and 1988.”

There isn’t much about Mid-Atlantic wrestling titles that Bourne, a longtime resident of Mount Airy, N.C., doesn’t know.

“Dick Bourne is the Indiana Jones of belt archaeology,” wrote Mike Johnson of PWInsider.

A mystery Bourne admits he didn’t solve: “What happened to the original belt (1975-1980 version)? Where is it today? Greg Valentine claims to have once had possession of it, which makes sense because he was the last person to hold it. But when I contacted him, he claimed to longer have it and couldn’t recall what happened to it. I still hope to find that original belt one day, it’s a holy grail for me.”

Oct 25 2015
by Mike Mooneyham, Charleston Post & Courier

Originally published October 2015