The year 1976 is my favorite year
ever in wrestling. I had watched wrestling off and on since 1974, and it
was the 1975 Anderson Brothers vs. Wahoo McDaniel/Paul Jones
"supreme sacrifice" match that got me hooked on wrestling. But
1976 just seemed to blow all other years away, at least in my wrestling
Ric Flair returned to action after recuperating from injuries in the
infamous Wilmington plane crash. He plunged head long into a feud with
Wahoo McDaniel over the Mid-Atlantic championship, what many consider to
this day the greatest feud in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling history. Blackjack
Mulligan established himself as the number one "bad guy" with his U.S. Title victory
over Paul Jones, a title he would hold most of that year as well as the
next. The Anderson
Brothers, Rufus R. Jones, Angelo Mosca, Greg Valentine, Professor Boris Malenko and
the Masked Superstar; they all made for a terrific line up of great talent, and
produced some of the greatest interviews of all time, too.
1976 was also the year I attended my first live wrestling event. My
parents were from Spartanburg, SC, and most years we would make the trip
from our home in Kingsport, TN to Spartanburg to visit family at
Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving weekend of that year that my uncle
dropped off my cousin Miller and I at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium to
witness our first live wrestling matches. Reflect on your own experience
seeing wrestling live for the first time and you will understand how we
felt. Saturday night in Spartanburg, and we were in
Wahoo McDaniel wrestled the Masked
Superstar in the main event that night, and the image I most
remember is of manager Boris Malenko standing on the ring apron
lighting his victory cigar as the Superstar had his finishing cobra
hold on Wahoo. It was a sure sign that victory was at hand for the
Superstar; his manager only lit the cigar when victory was
guaranteed. Except this time, Malenko turned his back on the ring
while lighting the cigar, and Wahoo grabbed him by his coat and
pulled him hard into the Superstar, their two heads colliding.
Malenko fell hard to the auditorium floor. The force of the blow
broke the Superstar's cobra hold and sent him falling to the mat. We
had never seen the cobra hold broken before! The auditorium crowd
Photos by Bill Janosik
And you upstate South Carolina
wrestling fans that attended cards at the Spartanburg Memorial
Auditorium know what a crowd going nuts in that building can do to
your hearing. That low ceiling in the basement of that old building,
the sound reverberating off the block walls and cutting itís way
through the thick smoke. My ears rang for hours after that show. My
heart pumped fast as well; I was hooked on wrestling for life.
I can still hear the packed auditorium
crowd chanting Wahooís name. Veteran newsman Charles Kuralt would
later say on the CBS news magazine Who's Who:
"Only a hardened cynic indeed would
not suspend his disbelief and scream for Wahoo McDaniel."
Spartanburgís wrestling faithful were
all screaming that Saturday after Thanksgiving in the Memorial
- Dick Bourne
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During an interview with Les Thatcher
(Mid-Atlantic Wrestling alumnus serving in many functions, including
wrestling in the ring, announcing matches on television, and writing and
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine), we briefly chatted about that great
old smoke filled room, and other old arenas that always seemed to have
those great, loud crowds.
An excerpt from that conversation
I read the story on Tommy Young for your site, and I noticed you had the
cover of (Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine) Vol. 2 Number 4 from 1976
with P.J. on the cover.
Thatís right. Thatís a sentimental favorite issue of mine because it was
the issue I bought when I was 15 years old at my first wrestling match
that I went to in Spartanburg, SC.
LT: Is that right? Was that at the old .
. . .what was the name of the building we used to wrestle at in
DB: The Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium .
DB: Itís still there, as a matter of
fact, all my family are from Spartanburg, and it was one Thanksgiving
when I went. But that building is still there and I think they have
remodeled or refurbished it and they still host some independent shows
LT: Is that right? I remember watching
some of the Crockett stuff from the mid-eighties that was taped there
and they made the place look like it was ten times bigger than it really
DB: (Laughs) The great thing about that
building, and a lot of those old buildings and the thing I loved most
about Spartanburg was that low ceiling . . .
LT: Right . . .
DB: . . . and the noise was unbelievable!
And especially during the time you mentioned in the eighties when the
Ricky and Robert thing was so big, the 16 year old girls screaming . . .
you couldnít stand it, it would blow your ears out!
LT: (Laughs) Iíll tell you another crowd
that was vocal, one of the most vocal crowds Iíve ever seen was in the
old Columbia Township Auditorium.
DB: I never had the privilege of going
there but thatís another one of those old "smoke filled rooms" that was
so great. I think Crockett did a lot of tapings there in the
LT: I think so, too. You know, Iíve told
this story to the kids that I train, but Nelson Royal and I were working
with Mike DuBois and Freddie Sweetan and when we came to the ring, they
attacked us before we ever even got our jackets off. We sold our butts
off, and then when we finally started our comeback in the middle of that
ring, the crowd popped so loud, Nelson and I were within only a foot and
a half of each other back to back, but yet weíre screaming spots out to
each other because we couldnít hear ourselves over the roar of the
people. And of course when you hear something like that, you realize
youíre doing your job, and it elevates you and the adrenaline starts
pumping, and man it doesnít get much better.
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