Rocking the Cradle:

The Mystery of the Wrestlers in the Mid-Atlantic Open

by Dick Bourne



 

 

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"Cowboy" Frankie Laine wrestles Doug Somers (with referee Tommy Young) in the short wrestling clip seen on the opening title segment of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.  This opening of the show was seen every week by wrestling fans from 1977-1983, making it one of the most familiar visual cues for fans of that era.


 

When Mid-Atlantic Wrestling debuted its new musical theme and opening sequence in 1977, it was a sharp departure from the show opening Jim Crockett Promotions had used for the previous several years, which was a montage of wrestlers and wrestling maneuvers from the TV show. This new opening featured three distinct graphics and one brief wrestling scene, each one scaling down into a screen divided into four equal segments.

The four segments were as follows:

  • the familiar Mid-Atlantic Wrestling logo on a blue background

  • a short wrestling clip, shot in an dimly lit arena

  • the title Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling with a small wrestling icon

  • and five states that represented the Mid-Atlantic Wrestling area, in yellow on a red background.

 From the beginning, at age 15, I was fascinated by one of these four scenes in particular, the short wrestling clip, one wrestler cradling another for a pin, because I couldn't clearly identify the wrestlers. At the moment I first saw it I thought it might be Jack Brisco and Terry Funk from their NWA title match in Miami Beach in 1975. In that match, Brisco went to apply the figure four and Funk cradled him for the pin. In that brief opening wrestling clip, it looked at first as though perhaps the same thing was happening. Or maybe not.

The segment with the wrestlers only lasts about 2-3 seconds, and is full screen for less than a second. Keep in mind, in 1977 we didn't have VCRs yet. There was no way to replay the clip or to pause or freeze-frame the clip so as to better examine it. All I could do was wait until next week's show and try to get a quick look at that 3 seconds again.  The scene was a dimly-lit arena shot. And in the low-definition world of 1977, with small sets and spotty reception, it was hard to take a good look in those three seconds each week.

The wrestler on the mat had curly hair, and at a quick glance looked very much like Terry Funk did when he won the NWA title in 1975. The wrestler on one knee has his back tuned to the viewer, and then he is cradled by the wrestler on the mat, so it was nearly impossible to see his face. For me, at age 15 and having seen very little of Jack Brisco in the roughly three years I had been religiously watching wrestling on TV, it could have been Brisco as easily as it could have been anyone else, even though the wrestler on one knee had what appeared a horseshoe on his trunks, and I was pretty sure from seeing him in wrestling magazines that Brisco did not have a horseshoe on his trunks.  What also had me doubting my guess at that time, however, was the referee in the shot sure looked like Tommy Young. And I knew Tommy Young was not the referee for the Funk/Brisco match.

Several years later, after having the opportunity to look at it on paused VCRs, to run it in slow motion over and over, freezing the frame (and to have any number of people tell me that I needed to get a life while doing so), it became clear the wrestler on one knee wasn't being cradled when applying a figure four leg lock or a spinning toe hold, it was clearly from a hammerlock on the arm into the cradle. It was also now clear it wasn't Brisco and Funk.

In 1999, after first discovering wrestling message boards on the internet, several of us speculated on who the two could be. The transcript of that 1999 message board thread is found in the Potpourri section of the website.

Then, when first launching the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in 2000, I began collecting photographs and reviewing old material I had. I came across a photograph of "Cowboy" Frankie Laine and saw the familiar horseshoe on his trunks and decided then he must be the wrestler on one knee. Other than a little transcript I once had in the Potpourri section of the site, I had not really given this much thought for a long while.

When the WWE started airing complete episodes of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, the crystal-clear digital transfer from the master tapes allowed a much closer look at the short clip that had originally begun airing three decades earlier. At that point it sure looked like the wrestler on the mat was indeed Doug Somers. The digitally captured image on the WWE transfers basically verified both Laine and Somers as the wrestlers in the sequence.    

I recently received an email from a visitor to the website who asserted that the wrestlers in the opening were indeed Frankie Laine and Doug Somers. I realized I still had the original Potpourri article up with the unresolved speculation, and decided to update the information, which led to this article.

If there had been a contest, and winners were announced for the first correct guess, I'd have to award the prizes to Richard Sullivan for first guessing "Cowboy" Frankie Laine in that Wrestling Classics message board thread from 1999, and Randy Elrod for his more recent identification of Doug Somers.

"Cowboy" Frankie Laine and Doug Somers were seen more times on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling than any others wrestlers ever. The thing is, most of us were never aware it was them. 

Here is that opening theme sequence:

 

 

* The original theme music from 1977 used with this video opening was different than the more familiar music heard here. This combination of theme music and video ran together from 1979-1983.

Just for fun , check out the ORIGINAL theme music used for this opening.

 


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