MID-ATLANTIC TITLE HISTORY
ON THE MID-ATLANTIC GATEWAY:
3/9/75 Park Center,
Jones pinned Valentine in
a fence match, known today as a cage match.
As Jones pinned
Valentine, Valentine put his leg on the rope to break the count. The
referee did not see this, and Jones pulled Valentine's leg off the ropes
before the three count ended. Valentine protested, Ric Flair came down
to ringside and protested as well, but referee Angelo Martinelli raised
Paul Jones hand and awarded the title belt to Jones.
Johnny Valentine (2)
3/19/75. Announced at
taping in Raleigh (airing in most markets on 3/22/75) that Jones had
been stripped of the title and the belt returned to Johnny
Valentine by NWA President Sam Muchnick. Valentine is now recognized as
on the WRAL TV taping on 3/12/75 that he had sent the film of the 3/9
match in Charlotte to NWA president Sam Muchnick asking that the film
be reviewed and the title returned to him since he his leg on the rope
and the count should have been stopped (see Paul Jones above.)
Muchnick reviewed the tape, ruled in Valentine's favor, and returned the
title to Johnny Valentine, announced at WRAL TV taping on 3/19/75.
of the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
Mid-Atlantic Champions Photo Album
Why Paul Jones' victory over Johnny Valentine
for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship Should Be Recognized
by Dick Bourne
In the summer of 2005, I stumbled
across the first of what would eventually become five
pieces of evidence
of a 1975 Mid-Atlantic title reign by Paul Jones that had never
previously been recognized.
The first evidence came in the form of a Gene
Gordon photograph that you see above of a bloody Paul Jones
holding the Mid-Atlantic title belt, apparently shot in a locker room
after a match. The copyright owner of the photo, Scooter Lesley, asked if we were
aware of Jones ever holding this version of the Mid-Atlantic title. This
version of the Mid-Atlantic belt was only around from October of 1973 until some between March
and July of 1975. We had never known of a Paul Jones title reign
during this time or him holding this version of the belt (Jones held a
later version of the Mid-Atlantic belt in 1982), and we were very
curious as to the story behind the photo.
A few months later, I came across an audio
tape of a Greenville SC radio interview from November of 1975
where Paul Jones mentioned defeating Johnny Valentine for the
Mid-Atlantic title and NWA president Sam Muchnick stripping him of
the belt and returning it to Valentine. I immediately thought of the
photograph of Jones with the title, and began trying to link the two together.
When I mentioned this to my friend Carroll Hall,
an authority himself on the Mid-Atlantic area, he remembered seeing a film in
1975 on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling television of Jones defeating Johnny
Valentine for the title in a fence match. Carroll pointed out that clips
of that match could be found on a volume from the collection of 16mm
Crockett arena matches that have circulated since the early 1990s
(widely known as the "Cornette tapes").
Not long afterwards, we found the actual
audio from the TV broadcasts where Jones was recognized as champion. Valentine
also announced on these tapes that he would be taking the film to the NWA
for review, and then a
week later the NWA president Sam Muchnick returned the title to Valentine.
Research by Mark
Eastridge has uncovered further evidence of the title change. The most
significant piece of this evidence is a newspaper ad for a card on March
18, 1975 in Raleigh's Dorton Arena (seen below) which promotes Jones
defending the Mid-Atlantic title against Valentine, and specifically
mentions Jones as the new champion.
There are several other clippings from March
1975 that mention Jones winning the Mid-Atlantic title. A results clipping from three days earlier
(seen below) from a card held in Roanoke VA's Starland Arena mentions
Sonny King defeating Johnny Valentine in what was originally scheduled
as a Mid-Atlantic title defense. The results clipping reports that
King's win over Valentine did not yield him the Mid-Atlantic title as Valentine was
no longer champion. (What is odd about the report is that it mentions "Mid-Atlantic
officials" taking the title from Valentine and King earning the right to
meet whoever was eventually named champion. This is likely a confused reference
to the storyline on TV which explained that NWA President Sam Muchnick was to rule on
returning the title to Valentine.)
Also, two newspaper clippings promoting a 3/28/75
Charleston SC card at County Hall mention Jones' victory over Valentine
a few weeks earlier, and Valentine subsequently regaining the title.
Later, Eastridge also uncovered this rare
clipping promoting a March 29, 1975 card in Laurinburg NC, also
mentioning Jones as champion.
Yet another set of clippings from a June 19th
Wilson NC card made several mentions of Jones having won the title, but
having to "return it" on a technicality.
Click the above image for a larger view
of these clippings.
Feeling as though I had discovered some long
lost treasure, I immediately began going through the thought process of
whether the Paul Jones title win should be recognized. My initial
thought was that it should not be recognized because the title was
"returned" to Valentine. However, I started reviewing other
evidence and took into
consideration a situation a year later involving similar circumstances
with Paul Jones and Blackjack Mulligan over the United States title in
December of 1976. In this case, Jones had defeated Mulligan but the NWA
(this time by ruling of president Eddie Graham)
again took the title from Jones and returned it to Mulligan after a
review of the film of the match. In this case, the title change was
clearly recognized and in later accountings of title reigns, Jim
Crockett Promotions gave
both Jones and Mulligan credit for those title wins. An argument can be
made (and I am basically making it here) that if the
Jones/Mulligan U.S. title switch in 1976 was recognized, then the Jones/ Valentine
in 1975 should
also be recognized.
The argument against recognizing the switch
was presented very well in an e-mail we received after recognizing this
switch on the Gateway:
" It was clear on the description [on the
Gateway] that the March 9th match ended in controversy (Valentine's foot
was on the rope) and NWA President Muchnick returned the title to
Valentine on March 19th when he reviewed the tape. On the description
you gave, my impression is getting the belt returned tells me Paul
Jones' title reign here is invalid from the start and that Valentine's
Mid-Atlantic title reign starting from January 1974 should be still
unbroken. In my point of view, these two title switches should be
footnotes at best. - Billy Wong, Boston MA."
That is indeed a reasonable
way to look at this. But "reasonable" and "wrestling history" don't
always see eye-to-eye. One could also reasonably argue Valentine's reign as
Mid-Atlantic champion had a dubious beginning in the first place, since
he apparently never won the title in the ring. He was awarded the title
when reigning champion Jerry Brisco briefly left the territory while
champion. Valentine was simply given the title, much in the same way he
was given the title following this win by Paul Jones. If Valentine's
initial reign is
recognized after being simply handed the title, certainly Jones should be
recognized for winning it in the ring.
In summary, here are the major points to the
argument supporting the
contention that the 1975 Paul Jones/Johnny Valentine title changes should be
Paul Jones pinned Valentine in the
ring on 3/9/75, no foot on the ropes at the final third count. His hand was
raised by the referee and he was given the title belt.
Jones appeared on TV on 3/15/75 with the
title belt on, and was announced as champion.
Jones defended the title at least
once, on 3/18 in Raleigh, during the period after he won the title in Charlotte and
before having Sam Muchnick strip him of the title. This actual
defense of the title adds a level of
authenticity and credibility to a claim of being recognized as
Several newspaper reports document
Jones' title win over Valentine, as seen above.
Crockett Promotions recognized the
Jones/Mulligan U.S. title changes that took place in almost identical
circumstances in December of 1976.
The three count included Valentine
placing his leg on the rope as the count started, but Jones
subsequently removing his leg before the final count of three. When
the third count was made, Valentine's leg was no longer on the rope.
In the end, it was the similar situation with
Mulligan and Jones and the U.S. title a year later, as well as Jones
actually defending the title in the ring, that carried the most weight and that ultimately led to the decision to recognize the
switch between Jones and Valentine. Also, Jones won the U.S.
title from Valentine and then
was stripped of the title. The title reign was not declared null
and void, just as other title reigns where a champion was later stripped
of a title are not declared null and void. The title was then returned
to Johnny Valentine by decision of the NWA president.
These arguments, and the decision to
recognize Jones' title reign,
are certainly controversial, especially to those who might prefer to
recognize Valentine's Mid-Atlantic title reign as one single, uninterrupted 18 month reign.
But based on documented evidence and precedent, we recognize the
switch in our title history, with the supporting arguments made above.
I eagerly solicit further feedback and
opinion on this subject at
Originally published May 2006
Revised with supporting newspaper clippings in
Revised with additional supporting documentation from
Charleston SC on June 18, 2008
Revised with additional documentation from
Laurinburg NC on September 30, 2008
Special Thanks to Mark Eastridge
Johnny Valentine photo by Bill Janosik © Bill
Paul Jones photo by Gene Gordon © Scooter
Lesley, Ditch-Cat Photography