Fans in Richmond, Virginia were blessed during the Mid-Atlantic years with star-studded card after star-studded card. Trying to pick out a single card that stood above all the rest proved to be a formidable task, to say the least! My criteria for what constituted a top card covered several areas. One, because this is a historical list by its nature, a top card had to have a historical impact on professional wrestling in general, the Mid-Atlantic area in particular and at least one of the wrestlers participating. Secondly, the matchups on the card should showcase wrestlers and programs that were “must see” from a fans perspective at the time they occurred. Finally, the card from top to bottom needed to have strength throughout, that is, even the bouts at the beginning of the card had to have significance in building to the crescendo of the main event.
In my opinion, the card that Jim Crockett Promotions presented on July 29, 1977 at the Richmond Coliseum topped all the others under my ranking criteria just mentioned. It was clearly number one in historical impact, it was top 10 in “must see” matchups, with two in that category outside of the main event and finally it was top 15 in overall card strength, with the opening bout featuring a wrestler who was the Mid-Atlantic Television Champion only three years earlier! When all of those factors are considered, the July 29, 1977 super-spectacular card rose to the very top of the heap.
Enough of how I wound up at July 29, 1977. Let’s go back in the time capsule, and relive Richmond’s Number One Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling card of all-time! And to build the card like we were all present at the Richmond Coliseum on that hot summer night, I will start at the bottom of the card and work up to the main event, unlike the top-bottom rundowns I did with the previous cards on Richmond’s Top 15.
*Opening Bout: Danny Miller defeated the Blue Scorpion---To me, having an accomplished wrestler like Danny Miller opening the card showed the incredible overall strength of this night of wrestling! As mentioned earlier, Danny wasn’t that far removed from holding a significant championship in the Mid-Atlantic area. And even by mid-1977, Miller had lost little of his wrestling prowess or fan popularity. And the man Danny wrestled on this night, the masked Blue Scorpion, was a tough customer who had been around the area for a couple of years. In this bout, Danny Miller was as smooth as ever, but he had to weather several storms of rugged offense by the Scorpion. Danny was finally able to wear the masked man down, and the Scorpion succumbed to Danny’s famous “chicken wing” hold, as so many of his other opponents had over the years.
*Match # 2: Tully Blanchard and Ted Oates defeated Charlie Fulton and Scott Irwin --- The only tag team match of the night didn’t disappoint! Both Blanchard and Oates were new on the scene, and their potential upside looked to be unlimited. Blanchard was very young, but had tons of speed and had the look of an outstanding athlete. Oates at this point in time appeared a bit more polished than Blanchard, but he and Tully blended well as tag team partners. On the other side of the ring, burly Scott Irwin clearly was the biggest and most powerful of the four wrestlers in this match. Like Blanchard and Oates, Irwin was also a new hand in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Irwin’s partner, Charlie Fulton, was the Mid-Atlantic “veteran’ of this group.
This bout was a classic confrontation of speed and youth against power and experience. And while in this case the speed and youth of Blanchard and Oates ultimately prevailed, it wasn’t without quite a battle. For much of the match, it appeared the size and strength of Scott Irwin was going to carry the day for the “bad guys.” And the crafty experience of Fulton in the early going also gave the “good guys” fits. Pulling out this victory over two really tough competitors was quite a feat for the youngsters, and the sky appeared the limit for Tully Blanchard and Ted Oates!
*Match # 3: Johnny Weaver defeated the Russian Stomper --- I’m not sure there could be a truly great Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling card, if the beloved Johnny Weaver wasn’t on it! By this point in his career, Johnny was put in the path of any “bad guy” entering the area to see if he could cut the mustard. So, by mid-1977, this was a classic Johnny Weaver match. The Russian Stomper would be tested to see if he belonged as a star in the Mid-Atlantic area.
Frankly, at the time of this bout, it looked like Johnny Weaver might be overmatched by this newcomer. The Stomper had debuted on television just prior to this match, and was extremely impressive. He was powerful with an extremely muscular physique, and being called the “Stomper” appeared to be an apt name for the Russian, as he would put the boots to his opponents with a viciousness that was appalling.
The moral this story (and match) would be to never underestimate the greatness that was Johnny Weaver. The Russian Stomper started the bout with a barrage of kicks that would have demoralized and disheartened most normal wrestlers. But the Russian would soon discover that Johnny Weaver was no normal wrestler. Johnny hung tough, took a ton of punishment, and the tide started to slowly shift his way. The muscles that the Stomper used to pulverize Weaver at the outset slowly began to tire, and Johnny had enough gas left in his tank to make the Stomper pay.
To the delight of the enormous Coliseum crowd, Weaver was able to stun the Russian with his “bulldog” maneuver and then clamped his patented “sleeper” hold on the muscular Stomper. While it took some time, the Stomper did go “lights out” to the sleeper, giving Weaver the victory. The mighty Russian thought Johnny Weaver was going to be stepping stone to greatness in the Mid-Atlantic area, but he found out that the stepping stone called Johnny Weaver was still a little slippery! What looked like a promising run in the Mid-Atlantic area for the Russian Stomper was stopped before it really ever got started.
Match # 4: Blackjack Mulligan defeated Paul Jones --- Okay, let’s face it…this card was big-time special when a battle between Blackjack Mulligan versus Paul Jones is not a main event or even a semifinal match, but is billed third from the top! What made this matchup even more intriguing is that both Blackjack and Paul had a LOT to prove in this bout.
Mulligan had dropped his prized United States Heavyweight Title to Bobo Brazil several weeks before this bout, and was desperate to regain it. Blackjack had tried to get his U.S. belt returned to him by sending a film of his match with Brazil to NWA President Eddie Graham, but that ploy didn’t work. Mulligan was furious at Graham and NWA “troubleshooter” George Scott for not returning his Title to him, and he was determined to take it out on Paul Jones. In the Richmond pre-match buildup, Blackjack accused Paul of costing him a return U. S. Title match on this night with Brazil.
“Mr. # 1” Paul Jones had his own reasons for treating this match as a very big one. Paul had left the Mid-Atlantic area after dropping a one-sided decision to the “Korean Assassin” Kim Duk at the Richmond Arena on March 11, 1977. This was by far Paul’s biggest match upon his return to the area, and what better opponent to make a statement about than Blackjack Mulligan!
This bout between Paul and Blackjack was the first between these two after the epic program they had over the United States Heavyweight Title that ran from late 1975 through early 1977, and was the first time they wrestled against each other when at least one of them didn’t hold the U.S. belt. Belt or no belt, both combatants went after it in the early going like there was no tomorrow. Blackjack’s questionable tactics gained him the upper hand at the outset, and Jones was slow to recover. However, Jones battled back, and stood toe to toe with big Blackjack, rocking Mulligan with a flurry of punches that got Blackjack off his feet, to the delight of the huge crowd! This even led to Paul getting his deadly “Indian Deathlock” hold on Mully, nearly making Blackjack submit before Mulligan barely reached the ropes.
Blackjack’s narrow escape seemed to embolden him, and the massive Texan from Eagle Pass slowly assumed control, using his superior size to wear Jones down. A flying elbow dazed Paul, which led to Mully disabling Jones with his brutal “Claw” hold. Soon thereafter, Paul succumbed with Blackjack getting the three count.
This magnificent battle showed that Mulligan was still a top contender for the U.S. Title, and despite the loss, that Paul Jones was back and was going to be a force to reckon with in the Mid-Atlantic area!
SEMIFINAL: Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title Match --- Champion Greg Valentine and Challenger Wahoo McDaniel were both disqualified.
I never thought there would be a more physical program over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship than the one between “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny “The Champ” Valentine during 1974-1975, but the battles in 1977 between Johnny’s “brother” (later revealed by Wahoo to be “son”) Greg Valentine and Wahoo were reaching that same level of intensity. This Richmond match between Greg Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel was the wildest yet between these two! In the Richmond pre-match promos, Wahoo said this match was going to be one of the toughest battles that the people had ever seen. And the Chief turned out to be a prophet!
During the spring of 1977, Valentine began setting his sights on Wahoo’s Mid-Atlantic Championship belt. Greg cast the first salvo when he tore up a portrait that was presented to Wahoo on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television, which had been presented to Wahoo for him winning the “Wrestler of the Year” contest for the year of 1976. After that provocation, the feud between Wahoo and Greg took off in earnest.
Valentine captured the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship belt from Wahoo in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 11, 1977, and it wasn’t without its share of controversy. As Wahoo was approaching the ring to face Valentine, Greg’s buddy Ric Flair attacked Wahoo before the Chief could even make it to the ring. Flair had just finished his bout with Bobo Brazil. Wahoo was significantly hurt by Flair, but still insisted on defending his Title against Valentine.
Greg took full advantage of the injured McDaniel in Greensboro, pinning him in less than ten minutes to become the new Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion. After winning the belt in this underhanded way, Greg continued to slip by Wahoo in return Title matches. The frustration on both men’s part was quite evident in their battle in Richmond!
The “match” in Richmond was not really a wrestling match at all, it was a FIGHT!! Tremendous “hammer” punches by Valentine were met in kind by tremendous tomahawk chops by Wahoo! And this went on and on and on, with neither man willing to grudgingly give an inch. This bout was virtually devoid of any scientific wrestling, but both combatants did manage to get the other into a hard suplex to the mat, before going right back to punching and chopping.
The match came to a violent and sudden end when the referee could not get Valentine and Wahoo to break, and then both of the enraged wrestlers turned their wrath on the official! While the technical result of this battle was a double disqualification that preserved Valentine’s Mid-Atlantic Title belt, after this mayhem, there could be no doubt that the war between Wahoo and Valentine was just getting started!
MAIN EVENT: United States Heavyweight Title Match --- Challenger Ric Flair defeated Champion Bobo Brazil to become the new U.S. Champion.
Ric Flair was certainly a star before this match, but when it was over and the “Nature Boy” strutted out of the Richmond Coliseum with his biggest title to date, it was clear that Ric’s star was one of the brightest on the wrestling horizon.
The reigning U.S. Champion at the time was the veteran Bobo Brazil, who on July 7, 1977 in Norfolk, Virginia had aced the U.S. belt from longtime titleholder, Blackjack Mulligan. While Mulligan was the wrestler that was pushing hardest for matches for the U.S. belt, the Nature Boy was the one that was able to slip in and get the title shot on this fateful night in Richmond. While Flair and Bobo had wrestled before, this was the first time Ric had an opportunity to take Bobo’s belt. Flair would not need a second chance.
The promos on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television leading up to this epic matchup in Richmond were interesting, to say the least. Even for the confident Nature Boy, he was almost giddy as he approached the title encounter with Brazil. Ric told the Richmond fans that he had been studying films on Bobo, that he knew Brazil’s weaknesses and that he had the secret to defeating the big 300 pounder from St. Louis. And amazingly, Flair said he was so sure he would beat Brazil for the U. S. belt that he promised to STREAK the Richmond Coliseum if he didn’t defeat Bobo! That had to be one of the most unusual match stipulations of all time!
By contrast, Bobo Brazil was ready but much more reserved as he approached the match with Flair. Bobo told the Richmond fans that he had just won the United States Title, and he was not going to let the fans down by losing it so quickly. Brazil also said that Flair had been pushing a lot of younger wrestlers around, but he was now facing a man when he went after the U.S. belt. The battle lines had been drawn, and you couldn’t have had a greater personality difference…the young, brash and outlandish Flair versus the polite, unassuming and aging veteran Brazil.
Flair started out the bout showing his utter distain for Brazil, calling him every name in the book while ducking in and out from Bobo, slapping him in the face whenever he got close enough to land a blow. These tactics angered Brazil, and seemed to throw Bobo off his game. Ric’s speed advantage was on display early and often here, and was something that Brazil didn’t have an answer for.
Brazil was at his best during the midpoint of the bout when he was able to use his superior size and power to ground the Nature Boy. As part of Brazil’s onslaught in the middle of the match, Flair had to endure several of Bobo’s famed “Coco Butts,” with only the ropes saving Ric from a sure defeat. Being within a millisecond of having to “streak” the Richmond Coliseum seemed to awaken the deviousness of Flair. Dirty tactics galore came out of Flair’s arsenal, and Brazil seemed dumfounded on how to stop Ric, who was very close to getting disqualified on a number of occasions.
A low blow by Flair put Brazil on the defensive, and allowed the Nature Boy to catch Brazil in a devastating suplex. Bobo never recovered, and endured a foreign object to the head and a controversial roll up for the pin, which led Brazil in post-match interviews to declare that Flair stole the United States Title from him.
The vision of a bloody but triumphant Ric Flair holding his newly captured United States Heavyweight Championship belt in the center of the ring in the Richmond Coliseum is a fitting way to end this recap of Richmond’s greatest cards during the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling era. Ric Flair took the United States Title out of the ring in Richmond, and his career rose to new heights. Before and after this card there were lots of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling cards in Richmond that rose to great heights…just none quite as high as the one that took place on that unforgettable Friday night, July 29, 1977.
- David Chappell
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Press the play arrow on each sound file to hear the audio promos for this big card!
Blackjack Mulligan and Greg Valentine
Ric Flair won his first United States Championship in Richmond from Bobo Brazil!
The Legendary Bobo Brazil
US Title History (Red Strap)