David Chappell and I joke all the time
that to this day when Saturday afternoons roll around, our internal
clocks still tell us it is time to watch Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on
TV. It is a feeling I can't seem to shake, even some thirty years
When I was a young teenager and first got hooked on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, I would go to a local
convenience store called The Garden Basket every Wednesday
school and pick up the new TV Guide for 25 cents. I wanted to make sure
I knew when wrestling was going to come on that weekend. It
typically did air every
weekend at the same time, but I never really felt comfortable about
that until I saw it in
the listings. Once I knew
on Wednesday that wrestling was set for
1:00 PM on Saturday, the rest of my week was good. (Wouldn't it be
nice if that was the extent of our worries after we got older? But
hey, at age 14 I had my priorities in order.)
This photo of the Garden Basket is from 1957, the only photo I've ever been able to find of the old
This fruit and vegetable stand had become a full fledged convenience
store by the early 1970s when I started dropping by, but that great
sign atop the structure, seen here, remained exactly the same.
The Garden Basket, as an aside, was
also the same place I bought my wrestling magazines, as well as the
occasional cold bottle of Mountain Dew in those classic old
hillbilly bottles. When Jim Crockett Promotions began running semi-regular spot shows at Dobyns-Bennett High School
in the late 1970s, the American Legion post that sponsored
these events put posters up all over town, including one that was
always in the front window of the
One of the owners was James McAninch,
who was either the father or uncle of a Dobyns-Bennett High School
classmate and football teammate of mine, Brian McAninch. Brian
worked after school, on weekends, and during summers stocking
shelves and running the cash register behind the counter at the
Garden Basket and would save the wrestling posters for me.
Regrettably, like those hillbilly-style Mountain Dew bottles I
those wrestling posters are long gone.
Brian also was a bit of a legend
within my circle of wrestling friends as he briefly wrestled
professionally for a few "outlaw" wrestling groups after high school
graduation. He even had a shot or two working as enhancement talent
for Angelo Poffo's International Championship Wrestling (ICW) in the
late 1970 and early 1980s. We would always talk wrestling when I
would go by the Garden Basket and I'll never forget how proud Brian
was when he got to wrestle the original Sheik, Ed Farhat, on a local
"He cut me," Brian said with a big
smile on his face.
"He what?" I asked in horror.
"He cut me," Brian repeated. "He took a
small razor blade and cut my forehead. I never felt it, but I bled
like crazy. The sweat sure made it sting." He showed me the scar.
This was a rite of passage for a young professional wrestler.
But I digress; back to those TV guides
Sometimes in life, we just get lucky.
Such were the circumstances that allowed me to grow up watching
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. It was a form of unexplained, pure dumb luck.
I grew up in Kingsport, TN, in the
1960s and 1970s and by all
rights, based on geography alone, should have never had the privilege of watching
the glory years of Mid-Atlantic wrestling. Kingsport was part of the
Knoxville wrestling territory, at that time called Southeastern
Championship Wrestling run by Ron and Robert Fuller, and their TV
program aired in our market on WJHL-11 out of Johnson City. None of
the stations we picked up on our small rooftop antenna carried
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. But when
cable TV came along, our local cable system carried not only the
NBC / ABC / CBS network affiliates from our local TV market in east Tennessee, but also
a half dozen other broadcast stations from other cities, including NBC and ABC stations from the Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville
market. And as fate would also have it, these two stations were the two
stations in that market that carried the two Jim Crockett Promotions
wrestling programs, Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and
Wide World Wrestling.
The two out-of-market stations on my
cable system that carried the Jim Crockett Promotions TV shows were
affiliates: WFBC-4 in Greenville , SC (which later became WYFF) was an affiliate of the NBC
WLOS in Asheville NC was an ABC affiliate. Our market of course
(Kingsport / Bristol / Johnson City) had its own affiliates of these networks.
To this day I've wondered why my east
Tennessee cable system carried two stations on the other side of the
Great Smokey Mountains, an average of 120 miles away. (See map
above.) The answer might have been as simple as this -
because they could. Back then, before government regulations made
changes in what stations could be seen in local broadcast markets
(or DMAs - designated market areas), cable systems could carry any
broadcast signal they could pull in with their big antennas. Not
only did my cable system carry the two signals from Greenville and
Asheville mentioned above, but they also carried selected network
affiliates from Knoxville TN and Charlotte NC as well. Remember,
this was back before the advent of cable-only networks like ESPN or
USA, which came along in the early 1980s. Cable systems back then
simply delivered clear broadcast signals from local network
affiliates like CBS and NBC, without the need of an aerial antenna.
The closest of the two stations that
carried Jim Crockett Promotions, Asheville, is approximately 85 miles
from Kingsport. Of the two remaining major network affiliates in
that market, Spartanburg is closer to Kingsport than
Greenville, yet Greenville was the second of the three market
stations to be included on Kingsport cable. This apparently had
to do with the locations of the broadcast towers for each station,
which were located high in the mountains and in range of the my
cable system's antennas while Spartanburg was apparently not. Had
the second out-of-market station been Spartanburg instead of
Greenville, I never would have seen Mid-Atlantic Wrestling until
years later when Crockett got on Bristol, Virginia TV.
Our cable system also briefly carried the CBS
affiliate from Charlotte NC, WBTV-3, which also carried Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. More good fortune.
Whatever the exact reasons our
cable system carried these out of market stations, I always consider
it a special blessing that Brian McAninch and I, and many others,
were able to grow up watching
- Dick Bourne
* * * * *
This article is an expanded revision
of an earlier article on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway published March 2006,
updated with the 1976 TV Guide images in March 2008, and now revised
Special thanks to Carroll Hall of
All-Star Championship Wrestling blog who
helped me locate an original 1976 TV Guide from my home market.
Copyright © 2010 Mid-Atlantic Gateway