Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jim Crockett's All-American Legacy

November 27, 1975. Greensboro, North Carolina. A night of wrestling presented by Jim Crockett Promotions. Terry Funk. Paul Jones. All the ingredients needed for what we would now look upon as a classic night of professional wrestling. Traditional wrestling. Wrestling the way that many still remember as the greatest era in the history of the sport. The one element that I failed to mention? The Funker and Number One were battling over the United States Championship. Funk had just won a tournament for the vacant title while Jones, an icon of Carolina wrestling, was the other wrestler who had made it to the finals. Who won the epic Thanksgiving night rematch? You could go look it up and simply see the result, but I have a better idea. How about learning each nuance of the match. Why it happened, what happened during, and what the ramifications were. This is where a brand new book comes into the picture.

Dick Bourne's newest in a line of books is titled "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship." You may already have read some of Bourne's other titles including "Big Gold," "Ten Pounds Of Gold," and "Minnesota Wrecking Crew." Bourne is also one of the creative forces behind The Mid-Atlantic Gateway website. The Gateway is a site that I'm sometimes too scared to surf over to. The reason is that I know I'm about to lose an hour or two getting absorbed into the great content covering anything and everything that you ever would want to know about Jim Crockett Promotions and the rich Carolina wrestling history. Everything from wrestlers to venues to food (yes, food!) is covered there. The writing and photography pulls you in and actually almost transports you back to the era that's being described.

That same style of publication carries over into the new "United States Championship" book. As any fan of wrestling's past will tell you, history isn't always easy to follow. The promoters of the day probably never imagined that nearly a half century later, their moves and tactics would be studied. This was a business designed to draw fans into a building to buy tickets, Cokes, and popcorn. It wasn't rocket them. To a lot of us, it's a form of sports and entertainment that is as worthy to chronicle as is cinema or pro football. That's the kind of history that is presented at the Gateway and the same level of dedication went into this book.

Bourne traces the Crockett version of the United States title all the way back to it's origins and brings it to present day. You'll see why this version of the championship (there were several around the country) is in fact the predecessor to today's WWE United States Championship. With so much focus on that particular title over the past year, a book like this could not have come at a better time.

Detailed descriptions and stories are given with each title change. Rare photos, newspaper clippings, and even newly created art and charts break down the fantastic title lineage. Can you believe that some wrestlers who held the title were never even photographed with it? And there wasn't just one physical belt. As the cover illustrates, there were actually five different versions of the belt while it was under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner. Before this book, I could have described three of them. I never before realized that two others existed, both of which look very much like other title designs. You'll see them all, as well as impressive replicas of some that are now missing in action.

Perhaps the most striking takeaway from the book is just how many of wrestling's biggest legends held this belt. Ric Flair, Harley Race, Jimmy Snuka, Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Blackjack Mulligan, Ricky Steamboat, Sgt. Slaughter, and Wahoo McDaniel just to name a few. Sure, we hear Michael Cole rattle off a few of the names every so often during a WWE U.S. Title match, but the complete list is absolutely mind-boggling. A line on the cover describes the book as "A Close Look at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's Greatest Championship." With a list of title holders like that, it's hard to disagree with that description of the title.

If you're familiar with Bourne's books on the most recognizable versions of the NWA Championship, you remember the great "belt photography" that went into those. This volume is no different, with photos so clear and close that you might think Reggie Parks etched the belts right into the book. There are also plenty of shots of the various title holders wearing the championship, some of which have never before been published, as well as replicas and memorabilia.

If there's a classic wrestling fan on your list this holiday season, look no further. The legacy of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling and one of its best draws is all right here. For more information and to order, check out the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. While you're there, stick around and check out some of the great content. Just grab a drink, make a sandwich, and reserve an hour or two. You'll be hanging out awhile!

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