Thursday, June 28, 2012

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--Mid Atlantic Wrestling Magazine Vol. 3 No. 5 & No. 6

It seems like a veritable "who's who" of wrestling passed through the Crockett-owned Mid-Atlantic Wrestling territory at one point or another.  Those big names coupled with the beautiful Carolinas, great fans, historic venues, and hot in-ring action all combined to make Mid-Atlantic Wrestling as remembered and revered as it still is today.

I have lost hours combing through the great Mid-Atlantic Gateway website with all of the great features and pictures assembled there.  The stories and memories let you know exactly why Jim Crockett's business is remembered as a shining star of the territorial era in pro wrestling.  Another still-existing Mid-Atlantic morsel that can give you the same feeling are the remaining issues of Mid-Atlantic Magazine.

While every wrestling promotion of the era had programs, in the '70s and '80s Crockett put out a full-fledged magazine.  Produced in-house, the issues featured articles, amazing exclusive photography, and ultimately conveyed a very intimate feel for the promotions fans.  Encountering a Mid-Atlantic fan today, you can often get a sense that the wrestlers were viewed as local heroes who were larger-than-life yet also somewhat accessible.

The crown jewels of these magazines are the beautifully rendered covers highlighting the stars of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.  Done similarly to the WWWF's Wrestling Action in-house publication of the same era, I've often felt that the amazing covers, combined with relatively scarcity, has made these magazines so desired and collectible.  It should be noted that issues done in the 1980's have a photographic cover rather than art.

The Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Magazine issues labeled Volume 3 and numbered 5 and 6 are circa 1978.  The covers feature the famous artistic renderings of some of the territories most beloved stars.  Number 5 features Texas legends Blackjack Mulligan and Dick Murdoch while Number 6 shows then-up-and-comer Tony Atlas.

When purchasing these magazines second-hand, it can often be an adventure just opening the cover.  While you're always guaranteed a trip back in time with the great photos, sometimes you get just a bit more than you had bargained for.  Issue Number 5 features a roll call of the then-current champions on the inside cover.  In this particular example, a Don Kernodle autograph is featured in the middle of the page.  Surprises like this are not only fun, but they convey the feeling of the territory.  One can imagine a lucky fan catching Mr. Kernodle on his way out of the venue for the evening and asking for a quick autograph.

In addition to the article-accompanying photography, many of the issues included photo galleries of the stars.  These were photos that were exclusive to the territory and not something that you were likely to see published in other magazines of the day.  From those like Ric Flair who became a legend to others like Bryan St. John who disappeared after only a few years, many stars were featured in these full-color photo pages.  One star featured here is none other than Richard Blood.  While we all know that Richard Blood is the real name of Ricky Steamboat, the Richard Blood featured here would go on to greater fame as Tito Santana.

Features like "Ringside" would include a full profile and photos of a particular wrestler.  The wily Dick Murdoch is featured here in a pose that many could imagine without the accompanying photo.  On a dirt-covered ranch with the sun beating down, Murdoch looks ready for the next barroom brawl whether it be in Spartanburg, SC or Waxahachie, TX.

Issue Number 6 has a "Ringside" feature on the tag team of Greg Valentine and Baron Von Raschke.  Valentine had many tag partners in his long career, but captured both the NWA World and Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles with the grimacing German.  The photo of both in leisure suits with the tag straps is perhaps one of the best I've seen in any wrestling publication regardless of promotion or era.  Similar photos of other stars are featured in this and other issues.

In addition to highlighting the promotions stars like Paul Jones and Rick Steamboat, these photos were a true testament to the beauty of the area.  The lush greenery set a dynamic scene much different than pictures of the wrestlers set against the backdrop of a dingy locker room or other common scenario.  These Mid-Atlantic publications are visually spectacular in every sense and just another reason as to why they should be set apart from the rest.

The articles weren't just focused on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling but also included information from around the NWA that would be significant for Mid-Atlantic fans.  The NWA World Heavyweight Championship was defended in the Carolinas and the man to beat at the time was Harley Race.  Fans knew that when the title was coming through the area it was going to be a can't-miss show.  Deserving champions such as Race proved that night in and night out while shedding the blood, sweat, and tears that defined their legacies.  It's no surprise that so many of the sports biggest champions came through the Mid-Atlantic area whether it was before or after their national reigns.

On the back cover of Issue Number 6 we're treated to a look at one of those men who, in a few short years, would become "The Man" for decades to come.  "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, decked out in one of his original Olivia Walker-crafted robes, is shown in a classic pose using the same lush Carolina greenery as in the aforementioned shots.

Territorial wrestling will never come back, but it's nice that we can relive it through items like these.  For those of us that weren't there, it's a whole new experience.  Another of the ways that Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and other classic promotions are celebrated will sadly not be taking place in 2012.  The event in question would be the NWA Fanfest promoted by Greg Price.  If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know that around this time I often discuss what a great event Fanfest is.  This entry was originally slated to kick-off "Fanfest" season here on the blog.  A few weeks ago, Greg Price announced that due to a medical ailment and subsequent procedure, Fanfest would be postponed until 2013.  The Fanfest was to have a "Mid-Atlantic Memories" theme and return to Charlotte after a foray to Atlanta in 2011.  Just like everyone else who enjoys Fanfest year in and year out, I wish nothing but the best for Greg at this time and know that the big return in 2013 will be nothing but amazing.

After seeing these glimpses into Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, I know that you're making your 2013 plans already!

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