CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING WISHES YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR...
...FROM THE EMPTY RICHMOND COLISEUM
Of all the memorable Friday nights I spent watching
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling at the Richmond
Coliseum over the years, the card I attended on New
Year's Day 1982 had to be memorable for the strangest
reason. That reason being that nobody came to watch the
matches! Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but
not much of one. I would guess that if 500 people total
were in the 12,000 or so Coliseum seats that night it
would be a stretch on the high end. No joke, my cousin
Jamie and I were counting heads that night to see just
how low the record turnout was! However, we never
finished counting as the wrestling was actually good,
and I have always remembered how hard the wrestlers
worked and the effort they put out on a holiday with so
few in attendance.
Perhaps the reason this card stands out for me so
much is that the Richmond Coliseum always had
spectacular cards in the Mid-Atlantic Championship
Wrestling days, and the building was almost always
packed and the fans were ultra high energy! On this
night, I remember wandering into all parts of the
cavernous building, seeking out the lone fans who were
sitting by themselves in large sections of the building.
It was kind of neat talking with the other handful of
fans who opted to come out to the matches on New Year's
Day. When we yelled, we could hear our own voices echo!
What was even better was that the wrestlers performing
in the ring could hear us, even from the upper deck, and
responded directly to us from the furthest reaches of
So, why didn't anyone show up at the Coliseum on
January 1, 1982? Well, I believe it was a combination of
factors. Of course, it was a holiday and some folks
undoubtedly had other plans. Richmond never had a
tradition of its cards being held on a holiday, like
some of the other towns around the circuit. This
particular year, the calendar fell right (or maybe
wrong!) to have a Friday and a big holiday hit together.
And with New Year's Day falling on a Friday in 1982, I
suspect many were still recovering from a long
celebratory night before with a long weekend looming
ahead. New Year's night 1982 also had a huge college
football game being played at the same time the matches
were going on, with Mid-Atlantic area ACC power Clemson
playing Nebraska for the national championship in the
Orange Bowl. The Tigers won that game 22-15 to claim the
national championship, and several people I talked to at
the Coliseum were speculating on what the football score
might have been as the matches were going on. I have no
doubt that a lot of folks stayed home watching the
Orange Bowl, to see if an ACC school could actually win
the national championship in college football.
But in the end, I think "wrestling factors"
also had a lot to do with the lack of attendance for
this New Year's Day show. The calendar being the way it
was, Christmas Day December 25, 1981 the week before
also fell on a Friday night, and Jim Crockett Promotions
put on a spectacular show at the Coliseum on Christmas
featuring newly crowned NWA World Heavyweight Champion
(and Richmond legend!!) Ric Flair defending his title
against Ole Anderson. Why the promotion felt like they
needed to put on TWO holiday shows that holiday season
was perplexing, especially since weekly cards in
Richmond were a thing of the past by 1982.
The card as promoted for the January 1, 1982 show was
a strange one, and didn't really give many fans a reason
to hit the Coliseum for a second holiday show. The top
three matches on the card were not promoted sharply, and
there was no significant buildup or angles coordinated
to generate any interest. This card just sort of seemed
to be thrown together in haste, which I suspect it was.
But all in all, the wrestling this night was very
I actually do have some lasting memories of the
wrestling on this card. Lord Alfred Hayes, the surly
English TV commentator was actually in the ring
wrestling--and wasn't half bad. Amazing!
The match between AWA star Billy Robinson and Johnny
Weaver was an intriguing one. It was for Robinson's
"European Title," whatever that was. Robinson
was making a quick run through the Mid-Atlantic area,
and I had read about him for years in the Apter
magazines, so I looked forward to a rare chance to see
him in person. As might be expected, this was a great
scientific bout, one where Robinson played the "out
of town scientific heel" role to perfection against
"Mr. Mid-Atlantic Babyface" Johnny Weaver. I
thought this was the best match of the night.
Twenty-one years later, I'm still scratching my head
over the "Handicap Match" that paired newly
turned babyface Ray Stevens with former archenemy Ricky
Steamboat. I have to admit I was curious to see if these
two would actually team up (they did), and if Stevens
would turn on Steamboat (he didn't). But these two
didn't mesh at all in the ring, and Stevens looked like
he was moving in quicksand. Watching this match, it was
clear at this point that as great as Ray had been in the
past, it was time to hang the boots up. Within a couple
of months, Stevens would move to the announcing table
and then out of the area completely. Don't ask me why
this thing was booked as a "Handicap Match,"
as this was the first one of these I had ever seen that
didn't involve Andre The Giant! And please check out the
picture on the promo ad for this card, as one of the
great mysteries to me is whether the picture directly
under Ricky Steamboat is Ray Stevens or Dusty Rhodes? If
it's Rhodes, then every promo ad involving Ray Stevens
appearing in Richmond from 1979-1982 is screwed up!
I had very low expectations going in regarding the
United States Title match between Sergeant Slaughter and
Blackjack Mulligan, Jr., and you might say I wasn't
disappointed! This "feud" was a total
mismatch, and in my opinion Mulligan, Jr. was pushed way
too hard way too fast at this time. While I was (am!) a
huge Blackjack Mulligan, Sr. fan and enjoyed Barry
Windham's work later in his career, I did not care at
all for the very green Mulligan, Jr. Their match as a
semi-final bout on this card wasn't all that bad, but
had one of those false finishes where it appeared for an
instant that Mulligan, Jr. had won the U.S. belt……please
say it ain't so! Thankfully it wasn't, and Slaughter
walked back to the dressing room carrying the United
States Title belt. WHEW!
The Main Event match on this New Year's Day 1982
Richmond card is one that I chuckle about occasionally
to this day. Paul Jones versus Ole Anderson in a Loser
Leaves Town Fence match. Five to six years before this
1982 match, a bout between these two with these
stipulations would have sold out two Richmond Coliseums!
And this night 500 people show up! Well, there are some
reasons for this I think.
Primarily, there was NO buildup for a match like this
with these stipulations…..NONE! At this time, Jones
had virtually slipped to mid card status and was in the
midst of his most unproductive run with Jim Crockett
Promotions that I can remember. He had returned to the
area in mid 1980 and begged for forgiveness after his
heel run, teamed up with the Masked Superstar and won
the NWA World Tag Team belts into mid 1981, but after
losing them he was a babyface that nobody seemed to care
about anymore. Later in 1982, Paul would turn back and
remain a heel for the remainder of his time with JCP.
Ole Anderson, by this time for all practical purposes
was done teaming with Gene, and as such was in sort of a
"lull" himself. But more to the point, when
this match with these major stipulations was thrown
together, there was absolutely nothing going on between
these two wrestlers. So essentially, this was to be the
ultimate match to end a feud that didn't exist at the
The match itself was decent, but I couldn't help
thinking (then and now) how HUGE this would have been in
the mid 1970's, or even if it had been properly promoted
in 1982. Ole won, and Paul Jones left town (yea,
right!). Paul, not surprisingly, was back "in
town" three weeks later after what I imagine was a
nice vacation. While Clemson was winning the national
title in the Orange Bowl, I was watching Ole versus
Paul, Loser Leaves Town, with a couple of hundred other
MACW faithful in the "Who Cares Bowl."
But for some reason, I've always remembered this New
Year's Day 1982 card in the empty Richmond Coliseum
fondly…….I guess all that really mattered was that
the wrestlers and the few Mid-Atlantic Championship
Wrestling fans that decided to show up DID care. And for
this one holiday, we had each other.
Happy New Year!