The Spirit of ’96: Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling—10/17/81

**I was born in 1990 and became a wrestling fan in 1996. Shawn Michaels was my first favorite wrestler, and I watched every minute of the Attitude Era religiously. Needless to say, 90s WWF is my wrestling foundation. I have heard about the mythic era of the NWA and the territories, (and of course I’ve seen bits and pieces) but never truly steeped myself in all its glory. Follow my fresh/ignorant breakdown of classic wrestling!**

Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling—October 17, 1981

Bob and Davy preview the show, which features the usual cast of characters, aside from one new face–Jimmy Valiant. According to Davy’s wonderfully Southern phrasing, Mid-Atlantic just “keeps getting on better and better!” The WWE Network has a gap in episodes, so we have skipped a few weeks ahead.

Jake Roberts, who seems to switch partners weekly, is now chasing the tag titles with Jay Youngblood. Jake calls out Ole over the fact that the NWA Tag Team Championship has not been defended in 60 days, (30 days overdue) so he will either have to get Gene out of retirement or find a new partner to give them a fair shot.

He throws it to Youngblood, who gives a complete mess of a promo. His bloodshot eyes suggest he may have just smoked a joint. He stumbles on his words, and at one point, completely turns his back to the camera. Jake even seems to be snickering at him in the background. (Maybe Jake just likes to pick partners that humor him.) They just send guys out there and let them do what they do on the mic, for better or for worse. I can respect that.  

Piper walks up to Youngblood and just tears into him, going on a breathless tirade about how he will fight Youngblood and his entire “squaw” family. He says they could fight have a deathmatch, until each literally cannot fight any longer and looks as if he might spontaneously combust at any second. In an unexpected turn, David steps in to tell Piper that the stipulation has already been made for this match, and his partner, Abdullah the Butcher, has been suspended, so he better just accept it. As David explains, it’s just a “regular match.” Youngblood comes back to fire back at Piper with the line, “you better not mess with any Indians…or any of these fans.” Yeah I’m pretty sure he’s stoned.

Youngblood cannot even come close to matching Piper’s intensity and really looks weak here. He has to have, of all people, David squeak something out to defend him against Piper’s ranting. Still, you get a face and heel confrontation to set up a good match later in the program, and Piper raving like a lunatic about deathmatches is fantastic.

Before we get to any matches, David and Bob are excited to show us some footage of Jimmy Valiant, and it might be the greatest montage ever spliced together at a TV studio in North Carolina.

Here are the highlights:

a.) The same clip of Handsome Jimmy strutting around ringside in a glittery hat with a cigar in his mouth. This clip appears about three times total from what I counted.

b.) Some short clips of him in ring punching people in a tiny tv studio illuminated with various colors of the rainbow. Also, the ring doesn’t even have a damn apron and looks to be on the verge on imploding with every step the wrestlers take. Really, I have seen better rings in backyard wrestling.

c.) Jimmy rocking out, though not necessarily singing, with his band in a foggy haze.

d.) Jimmy emerges from a limousine wearing a blazer with no shirt at what appears to be a smoky jazz bar.

e.) Jimmy beats up a man dressed in blue tights and diaper.

As Bob tells us, we now know “a few of the things Jimmy Valiant can do.”

Jimmy Valiant vs Jim Nelson
The match consists mainly of Valiant bopping around the ring and landing the occasional strike or toss on Nelson. There really isn’t much else to add.

Match Notes
The match basically served as an introduction to the entertaining Valiant and his mannerisms, including the way he constantly bounces from side to side. He’s a pretty cool character. If Santa Claus joined the Doobie Brothers, he would look like Jimmy Valiant. I’m looking forward to some Handsome Jimmy promos.

Winner: Jimmy Valiant via pin
Rating:  ½*

 Roddy Piper vs Jay Youngblood
The match broke down into three distinct segments that all made sense. In the early going, the two tie up, and Youngblood wins nearly every exchange, managing to toss Piper out or work him into a hold. Piper heads outside after each of these exchanges to regroup and do some quality pissing and moaning. Eventually, Piper takes control, works the back, and gets the sleeper locked in, only for Youngblood to get the ropes. Piper continues to work Jay over, but makes a crucial mistake of hitting his own head on a vertical suplex. When the two regain their strength, they trade big strikes back and forth until time expires. The pace ebbed and flowed nicely, and the narrative was rock solid.

Match Notes
There were so many great little elements that made this awesome. I loved how they used Piper’s earlier comments about wanting a deathmatch to build heat on him. He wanted this brutal deathmatch, yet complains every that Youngblood’s every move is cheating. By turning into a normal match, it allowed the two to build to a time limit draw through an awesome last sequence where both guys were groggy and just nailing each other until time expired. Youngblood’s chops (one in the early going especially) were just lethal. The pace was super quick early, but slowed as both guys wore down, building to the dramatic punchdrunk finish.

I love the use of the “critical mistake” as a storytelling device in many of these matches, and the guys really do a great job of executing it. When Piper hits his head on the suplex, it completely changes the momentum of the match and allows Youngblood to get back in it. It helps to transition between different sections of the match. 

Finally, it was a little uncomfortable to hear Bob call Youngblood “this Indian” so many times. “This Indian can really fight, David!” Piper proceeds to beat Youngblood down after the match until officials pull him off. Amazing that as legendary as Piper would become, some lucky folks in the Carolinas got to see him work great matches like this in a tiny venue for 80 people. 

 Winner: Draw via Time Limit (10 minute)
Rating: ***½

After the break, we cut to  a completely different studio for a promo from Blackjack Mulligan Jr. (a super young Barry Windham), Johnny Weaver, and Paul Jones. Junior has an issue with Kevin Sullivan, while Jones and Weaver will face the Russians (along with their manager Lord Alfred!) and it might end up in the parking lot. This promo came out of nowhere, but regardless, you can check out all the action at the National Guard Armory in Ronceverte, WV. All I could focus on was Weaver’s gaping mouth through the entire promo.

The Great Kubuki vs Charlie Fulton
After some lengthy histrionics and unmasking, Kubuki nails Fulton with a stiff chop, a kick, another chop, and then pins him. That’s it.

Match Notes
Illustrated that by their fears that he may use a samurai sword in the match, Bob and David are completely befuddled by Kubuki. 

(Kabuki unmasks)David: OH GAA

Bob: (Deadpan) Heck, I still don’t know who he is.

Even though there wasn’t much to the actual match, I can’t completely thrash it because Kabuki did grab my attention and his theatrics at the start built some suspense around what he would actually do. He’s fully into the character, so I can appreciate that. Also, that first chop was vicious. Lots of quality chops on this show. Between Kubuki and Handsome Jimmy, more and more colorful characters are being introduced that I would have expected. 

Winner: Great Kubuki via pin
Rating: *

Next up, the promo carousel! Wahoo Mcdaniel is up first to run down Piper. In a nice touch, Wahoo’s forehead still looks purple from the slaughter by Abdullah a month ago. Jake steps up next to once again call out Ole for not defending the tag straps. Both of these guys have a more reserved promo styles that really draws you in. 

Bad Bad Leroy Brown and Jake Roberts vs Rick Harris and Ali Bey  
Despite his power, Leroy finds himself in his opponents’ corner until he manages to escape and tag Jake. Jake starts fast and furious, but eventually finds himself in peril. He finds a way to sneak to his corner to tag Leroy, who then rams Harris into his stomach a few times, then hits the big splash for the win. Solid, logical, and nothing spectacular.

Match Notes
On the surface it seems like an odd pairing, but Jake and Leroy make a pretty cohesive team. Jake can use his quick fiery offense and be face in peril, then Leroy can clean up with his big power moves.

Winner: Leroy Brown and Jake Roberts via pin
Rating: *1/2 

Announcer Aside
This might be the first time on these shows that the announcers all but ignore the action in the ring to discuss other wrestlers and angles. They still can’t get over Kubuki’s alleged purple tongue or the dastardly actions of Roddy Piper.

I’m starting to see that the focus remains on the in ring competition, but they still like to bring in wild characters and personalities. Still, even the odd characters are presented in a fairly serious way.

We get some more promos for the Armory show. Young Kevin Sullivan looks like a total stud (or a jacked up Owen Wilson) and will take on Blackjack Mulligan Jr.  Also, cool moment as we get to see a glimpse of Lord Al playing a smug British heel managing the Russians. A great one too, turning his nose to the cretins of Roncerverte who “quaff beer.” He is an entirely different character, far from yucking it up on TNT, and I can only hope for more Evil Al. Many of the older guys from the territory days can just transition seamlessly from face to heel.

US Heavyweight Champion Sgt. Slaughter vs Frank Monte
Monte tries to stave off Slaughter with some desperation blows. However, that does absolutely nothing, and Sarge beats on his midsection and lower back relentlessly, then locks in the cobra clutch for the win.

Match Notes
Slaughter deserves this championship because he has been nothing short of great on these shows. Like Piper, he fills the gaps with so many great heel moves, like screaming the Marines’ Hymn while Monte loses consciousness. He also delivers the third brutal chop of the show.  

Winner: Sgt. Slaughter via submission
Rating: *

We close with more interviews. Slaughter goes on a wild tirade about how he is best, and in the process, calls out Leroy Brown, Jim Crockett, the cameraman, the tape, and, of course, that blonde haired maggot whose the World Champion. Slaughter kills it here as always and has even more gusto after winning the US title.

Ivan Koloff shows up for the first time in a while, and Bob looks sincerely afraid that Koloff might bite him. He calls out Steamboat and then does some other general growling.

Finally, Ole  vehemently denies making excuses and says he will defend the title when he gets a partner. Ole always does a good job of showing that he really does see himself as a reasonable, respectable guy, when we all know he’s nothing of the sort.

The credits roll over a shot of Slaughter murdering Frank Monte.

End of Show Notes

MVP: Roddy Piper
Piper always brings the goods with his promos, but on this show he brought it in the ring as well, in the best match on these Mid-Atlantic shows so far. Go out of your way to watch this match.

If You Only Watch One Match: Roddy Piper vs Jay Youngblood

Best Nonwrestling Segment: “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant montage

Overall Impression: This was a strong show down in the Carolinas. You have the excellent Piper/Youngblood match, the fun Jimmy Valiant montage, and solid performances from Jake and Slaughter. Anytime you get a match between two featured guys, you savor it. And least we forget about the mysterious Great Kubuki. I’d call this the best so far.

Rating: 8/10

So long for now!

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