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by David Chappell

Searching my memory, I can recall watching professional wrestling put on by Jim Crockett Promotions as early as the late 1960’s. That time frame put me around the ripe old age of eight or so, a pretty young lad to say the least. But even at that early age, there was something about professional wrestling that caught my attention. I remember All-Star Wrestling, as it was called then, always came on at 5:00 on Saturday afternoon’s on Channel 6 in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I would watch with a degree of interest in that time period from the late 1960’s into the early 1970’s, but pro wrestling was not a passion for me during those years. It was more a curiosity. But that was about to change.

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The year was 1973. A masked newcomer was on his way into the Carolinas. And in late 1973 the masked newcomer made his debut for Jim Crockett Promotions. And what a debut it was! His name was simply……..The Destroyer.

The Destroyer was unlike anything I had ever seen. Everything about him seemed to be a cut above his competition. He appeared invincible. The first thing that stood out about him was his intimidating size. He seemed so much bigger and stronger than the other wrestlers in the area. His agility was also amazing, particularly for a man as large as he was. He could walk and balance himself on the ring ropes like a high wire performer in the circus. And of course the mask. The Destroyer immediately let it be known to the Mid-Atlantic wrestlers and fans that he had held onto his mask for twelve years, and that no one in that time period had beaten him by pinfall or submission and forced him to unmask. No wonder that he demanded to be called the SUPER Destroyer several months into his Mid-Atlantic run! He was without a doubt, "super" in every sense of the word.

The Super Destroyer graced the rings of the Mid-Atlantic area during the remainder of 1973, all of 1974 and a portion of 1975. He met and defeated all of the greatest "good guy" wrestlers that Jim Crockett could find. Memorable feuds of his included classic programs with Johnny Weaver, Swede Hanson and Sonny King. It is no coincidence that the Mid-Atlantic promotion took off and became arguably the greatest regional promotion in the country during the Super Destroyer’s tenure. The Super Destroyer put a freshness and excitement into singles wrestling in the Mid-Atlantic area, an area that had relied for years on a large number of old familiar faces in its tag team division. Instead, everybody now wanted to tune in on Saturday’s and go to their local arena and see if the "good guy" of the day could somehow beat and unmask the Super Destroyer. I was no different than everyone else….and the Super Destroyer had hooked me on professional wrestling for life!

The Super Destroyer was also able to do something during his time in the Mid-Atlantic area that was unheard of in that era. At least for me, and I suspect many other fans. He transcended his "bad guy" heel persona that was part of the good guy vs. bad guy mentality of professional wrestling in the 1970’s. I openly cheered for this "bad guy" when he put his trademark "Claw" hold on an opponent and put him out to sleep. In addition to being bigger and more athletic than his competition, he was also one of the most articulate wrestlers on the microphone that I have ever heard. Something that always made an impression on me was listening to his "good guy" opponent doing an interview yelling and dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans, while the "bad guy" Super Destroyer would follow being dressed in a coat and tie, well spoken in measured but confident tones. Again, he was simply a cut above.

I remember the Super Destroyer appearing in the Richmond Coliseum on July 18, 1975. Then there were several weeks that went by without a mention of him on the Mid-Atlantic television show or any live appearances in Richmond. Surely, he was on vacation or something. It was summer time. There had to be some reasonable explanation for his four-week absence. Then, the bombshell dropped on the August 23, 1975 edition of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television program. There stood Rufus R. Jones saying that he, Wahoo and Paul Jones had unmasked the Super Destroyer. No, it just couldn’t be! Then they showed a picture of the Super Destroyer without his mask, and Bob Caudle even gave us his real name, Don Jardine. The sinking feeling then set in. You knew with all that being said and shown, the Super Destroyer would never be back. The end of an era. And a shocking end. In the days after that show, following the Crockett storyline, I reassured myself that no one man could take the "Super D." Hey, they even admitted on TV that it took three men to beat him!! You know why? Because the Super Destroyer was simply a cut above the rest…….