by Billy Carpenter
Growing up in Virginia & North Carolina in the 1980’s put me in a special place during a special time in the annals of pro wrestling history. I was right in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region during this time frame and in that part of the country, that meant being in the midst of a true ‘golden era’ with the wrestling being produced by Jim Crockett Promotions. Every Saturday when I was a youngster living in Virginia Beach, my stepfather would take me to Frank’s, a local hot dog joint, after little league practice to grab a few foot longs and sodas and head home before ‘World Championship Wrestling’ came on at 6:05 pm. This was a big part of my childhood and one of my fondest memories and as I got older, I watched it change and become WCW (and we all know how that turned out). However, the impression left by that period of my wrestling fandom was strong enough that it has remained my most favorite time as a fan. I’ve studied, researched, watched matches and talked to fans not just from the years that I knew as a kid, but those that remember going to shows at the Hampton Coliseum, Norfolk Scope, Greensboro Coliseum and up & down the coast. It’s the one promotion that I just can’t get enough of, even 28 years later. When I heard that there was a definitive documentary being produced, I knew that this was something that I had to get as soon as possible. The fine folks at Ellbow Productions really hit a home run here and what we got is one the best wrestling documentaries that I’ve seen to date.
A wonderfully engaging documentary makes up the first disc and it clocks in at a little over 2 hours. It begins with telling stories of “Big” Jim Crockett and how liked and respected he was within the business. We go through the surprising turn of events in which his son-in-law, John Ringley, got control of the business after his passing rather than any of his sons. They discuss the various bookers who worked for JCP and how the identity changed through the years—from being a territory defined by tag team wrestling, to Johnny Valentine being the top draw, to Blackjack Mulligan coming in and then the influx of great singles stars that helped to redefine Jim Crockett Promotions and the Mid-Atlantic territory. All of the major bookers are discussed, from George Scott to Dory Funk to Dusty Rhodes. Some of the sport’s most legendary feuds took place in this era and many are talked about including Ricky Steamboat/Mark Youngblood vs Sgt. Slaughter/Don Kernodle, which is such an important feud in the history of Mid-Atlantic. Kernodle says that the cage match between the 2 teams lead to the idea of Starrcade becoming a thing later that year.
We get in-depth stories on all of the major events in the JCP timeline: the plane crash, the birth of Starrcade, ‘Black Saturday’, the tragedy of Magnum T.A., The Four Horseman, buying the UWF and everything in between. Magnum’s story and the accounts of those interviewed (including Magnum himself) are interesting. Magnum T.A. was a HUGE star when I was growing up, especially in the area of the world that I grew up in. He certainly had the potential to be at a Hogan-like level, but unfortunately we’ll never know. He claims here that there were plans to send him to Hollywood, predating what the WWF/E did with Hogan/Rock/etc. years later. That should make an interesting debate somewhere down the road. Understandably, the further west I’ve moved in my life the less impact Magnum TA has seemingly had on fans. But for me and a lot of JCP fans, especially from the region, he was every bit of the superstar that they portray here.
Closing out the documentary is talk on just who exactly is responsible for the death of Mid-Atlantic. Most people that were interviewed point the finger of blame towards both Dusty Rhodes & Jim Crockett Jr. The Crockett’s accountant takes quite a verbal beating too, with Crockett Jr being the only one to stick up for him. Overspending and overreaching seem to be the key factors in why it went south. Being able to look back more objectively now, chances are the WWF & Vince McMahon may have just swallowed them up if they hadn’t tried some of the things they tried regardless. Eventually, the Crockett’s sell to Ted Turner and a true golden era in professional comes to an end.
One of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched, hands down. They got most of the big names from the time period involved in this—the Crocketts, Don Kernodle, JJ Dillon, Tully Blanchard, Magnum TA, the Rock & Roll Express, Jim Cornette, Tommy Young, Baby Doll, Paul Jones, Bill Eadie & Ole Anderson are among the names who were interviewed for the project. Add in archived interviews with Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes & Arn Anderson from past shoots and you’ve got the most complete telling of the Mid-Atlantic story that’s been put together yet. As great as the documentary, that’s really just the beginning of this set. The second & third discs feature extended interviews and, most importantly, never before seen matches from the private collection of George Plantas, who filmed matches from the late 70’s-early 80’s at the Hampton Coliseum. It’s a real treat to be able to see these and to hear the story on how he was able to film them. The aforementioned extended interviews are also great—the always-entertaining Jim Cornette tells a brief, albeit hilarious Ric Flair story that will leave a most interesting mental image with you. Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson talk about the ‘Rock & Roll Express “Super Summer Sizzler” Tour’, Tully Blanchard talks about leaving for the WWF and all of the other interviews make for great and entertaining viewing. I can’t recommend this DVD set enough, whether you’re an older fan looking to relive the glory days or a newer fan who wants to learn about one of wrestling’s greatest promotions. Pick this up now over at Highspots.com and I guarantee you that you won’t regret it.