Prior to the mid-1980s, the professional wrestling business consisted of a number of territories scattered across the United States. Many of those territories were aligned as part of the National Wrestling Alliance, and recognized one world heavyweight champion, but they were all very separate companies.
Of course, as we moved into the mid-1980s and beyond, that would change. Vince McMahon would take his northeastern promotion, the WWF, nationwide. Ted Turner would get involved with the NWA, create World Championship Wrestling, and that company would eventually break off from the NWA.
World Championship Wrestling is based in Atlanta. However, many of its roots are in the mid-Atlantic territory, the territory that really took the NWA nationwide in the mid-1980s, with guys like Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson, Magnum T.A., the Russians, and many others. (Much more about this period in wrestling history can be found in Arn Anderson's autobiography.)
Well, a DDT Digest reader, Larry Easler, was nice enough to scan in an old program from the Mid-Atlantic territory. No, not from the mid-1980s, but the mid-1970s, 1974 to be exact. It's fascinating especially in the context of how the promotion of wrestlers and their personas have changed in just the last 25 years. And, in no small shocker, you might notice that three of the guys in this program from 25 years ago are still wrestling!!! Before you scroll down, can you guess who they are?
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this stroll down memory lane. You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them; however, they are each 150K or so, so you may want to be selective. However, the inside back cover is a must-see. For those of you who believe the professional wrestling rule book is a figment of people's imaginations, guess again!
Editor's Note on 5/7/00: Eric B. in Cincinnati, OH, forwarded the URL of this feature to the great Les Thatcher himself. Les had these comments:
"Thanks for the memories! You can send this sidebar of history along to whomever posted the book. First, it wasn't a Mid Atlantic program but a photo album sold in the venues around the territory. Second, the editor of same and the guy who did the rough design for the states on the cover idea was a fellow named Les Thatcher.
Gene Anderson was not only a "tough old bastard" but a very good worker and was the guy who matured both Lars and Ole when they teamed up.
I did several of these photo albums for the Crockett office and we also did a nice four-color bimonthly magazine in '75 and '76. Also, I edited (out of the Crockett office) the only issue of a NWA magazine published in the '70s."
The front cover.
The inside front cover with Bearcat Wright.
Wahoo McDaniel and Bobby Shane. Bobby Shane was killed in an airplane crash in 1975. There were actually two plane crashes involving pro wrestlers in 1975. One was the one Ric Flair was in, where the pilot sustained fatal injuries and Johnny Valentine was crippled, and the other was the one where Bobby Shane was killed.
Bob Bruggers and Ivan Koloff. Bob Bruggers' career was ended in the plane crash with Ric Flair and Johnny Valentine. Although he wasn't hurt nearly as bad as Valentine, he was never able to wrestle again. According to Xavier Doom, it's generally accepted amongst the old-timers that Bob Bruggers was a guy who definitely had potential for stardom. As for Ivan Koloff, even up until the mid-1980s, he was known as "The Machine" by his peers for his ability to wrestle hour upon hour, night after night, without tiring.
"Cowboy" Bill Watts and Mike and Eddie Graham. Bill Watts would go on to be a promoter. He was responsible for the UWF in the mid-1980s, which I thought was a great promotion. But, he was also responsible for the dark days of WCW, in the early 1990s. Not the least of which was his prematurely pushed son, Erik.
Johnny Valentine and Paul Jones. Johnny Valentine was by no means a great technical wrestler, yet he was so tough that even the great hookers like Lou Thesz respected him. And, of course, Johnny Valentine is the father of Greg Valentine.
Johnny Weaver and Chuck O'Connor. Does Chuck O'Connor look familiar? He should. If you can't figure out who he is, click here. (Thanks to David S. from University of Hawaii for the heads up on that one.)
Les Thatcher and L.D. Lewis
Nelson Royal and Johnny Heidman
Ole & Gene Anderson and Abe Jacobs. Look at how young Ole looks in this picture. I've heard from multiple sources that Gene Anderson was one tough old buzzard. He doesn't look like much, but you know that move the "Test Of Strength"? Supposedly, he had one of the Road Warriors with one hand, and one with the other, and he had them crying like babies. And, at the time, he was over 40 and they were in their prime!
Sandy Scott and Bill White
Swede Handson and Brute Bernard
Terry Sawyer and Rip Hawk
The Super Destroyer and Danny Miller
Rick (sic) Flair and Scott Casey. Wow...talk about someone who looked different 25 years ago!
Jack and Jerry Brisco
Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk. Dory hasn't changed all that much in 25 years, but, man, does Terry Funk look different or what?
Bearcat Wright and Mr. Ota
The inside back cover. Includes the NWA rule book for 1974!
The back cover, a portrait of Paul Jones.