UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT

November 9, 1975    Greensboro Coliseum  Greensboro, NC

 

 

Looking Back: Eye-Witness Accounts


 

Only the aches in some of my joints reminding me time passes convinces me that it has, indeed, been thirty years since the NWA U.S. Heavyweight Championship Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. November 9, 1975---a crucial and pivotal night for Jim Crockett Promotions, reeling from the devastating plane crash in Wilmington weeks before that ended the wrestling careers of Johnny Valentine and Bob Bruggers, seriously injured Ric Flair and David Crockett, and eventually killed the pilot. 'Mr. Wrestling' Tim Woods escaped with minor injuries. But could the Crockett wrestling company founded by 'Big' Jim Crockett decades earlier survive losing forever the wrestler that booker George Scott was re-building the company around (U.S. Champion Valentine) and possible forever the company's hottest and most promising new performer (Flair)? Just about the entire ball of wax was on the table that night in Greensboro.

I was fortunate to be there, along with around 14,000 other people. I had been to the Greensboro Coliseum for wrestling shows a considerable number of times prior to this night, and had witnessed some huge crowds, but nothing like this. Getting to the building, into the parking lot, and inside was a nightmare, making one think that perhaps Elvis was performing there instead of wrestlers.

Although I can't recall every match, I do remember my man Johnny Weaver going a twenty-minute Broadway with Gene Anderson, with Weaver getting the referee's decision to advance to the next round. I believe Johnny was eliminated in the next round by soon-to-be finalist Paul Jones. I remember them working an injury angle between Blackjack Mulligan and Tim Woods, with Woods having to drop out of the tournament because Mully had injured Woods' arm in what was actually a 'phantom' match (the arm injury was incurred in the plane crash). But the business was still heavily protected in 1975, and no outsiders actually knew the truth about the injury.

As the tournament progressed towards a conclusion, the legitimate standing-room-only crowd was really into the show. And when the two finalists were determined---our own babyface favorite Paul Jones, and some 'kid' from Texas, Terry Funk...well, we knew Paul would win and keep the title in JCP territory. I seem to recall Funk told Mid-Atlantic fans in a sent-in interview on TV that if he won the title, he'd take the belt back to Texas.

 
The Funk kid beat Paul in the finals to win the U.S. title, a championship Mid-Atlantic fans had become used to having in our area, even if it was held by heel Johnny Valentine. At least, as long as the belt was in the area, Wahoo, Rufus, Tim, Paul, or someone had the chance to win it. But to have Terry Funk win it and take it back to Texas...ouch!
 
Much of the crowd left the building that night disappointed one of the locals hadn't won, not knowing what was in store just a few weeks later. I remember getting a phone call at work the next morning from a friend who hadn't been able to attend the show, asking me who had won. When I told her, she screamed, "Terry Funk? ---Who is he?"  A month later I could have answered her by saying that he's the NWA World heavyweight Champion, and indeed he was, after dropping the U.S. title to Paul in the Thanksgiving rematch in Greensboro.

So, at that point in time, things worked out well for all concerned. The fans were happy, Paul was U.S. champ, Terry was World champ, and Jim Crockett Promotions survived that terrible tragedy and would continue on being the hotbed of professional wrestling for another decade.

 

- Mike Cline

November 16, 2005


 

After the Plane crash that crippled Johnny Valentine and hurt Ric Flair, Bob Bruggers, and David Crockett, there had to be a tournament for the vacant U.S. Title. What a line-up and a sell out crowd! This was a big deal for the N.W.A., as wrestlers from all over were brought in for the one night U.S. title tournament.

Attendance was 15,076 (sellout) with over 1000 turned away. The tournament ran three and one half hours.

The Greensboro Daily News ran two huge articles before and after the tournament. The paper treated this a real sporting event.

It was a huge surprise that Jones got to the finals and a bigger surprise that Funk won in Greensboro. A month later the card featured Jones winning the title from Funk. Terry promptly won the NWA World Title from Jack Brisco two weeks later in Miami. Good job Terry!

 

- John Hitchcock

from the article "Mid-Atlantic Memories: A Look Back at the N.W.A. 1973-1976"

Originally Published in the Wrestling Observer Yearbook 1990, Dave Meltzer, editor.

 


 

 


NOVEMBER 1975 INDEX