Friday, December 14, 2018

One More Silver Dollar (But I Ain't Gonna Let Them Catch Me)

Bob Geigel takes the NWA belt from the Midnight Rider when he refused to unmask after
pinning NWA World Champion Ric Flair.

Another in our series of "Great Pretender" photographs, wrestlers photographed with the NWA World Heavyweight championship belt, but who never held the title.

Well, except, this one is a bit of a cheat. The man under the mask is none other the American Dream Dusty Rhodes who did indeed hold the NWA title (including the domed globe version of the title twice) on three different occasions.

Or was it Rhodes? We may never know for sure.

I've got to run to keep from hiding
And I'm bound to keep on riding
And I've got one more silver dollar
But I'm not gonna let them catch me, no
Not gonna let 'em catch the midnight rider

The Midnight Rider pinned Ric Flair to apparently win the title on February 9, 1983 in Miami, Florida. But NWA President Bob Geigel, who served as special referee for the bout, ruled that the NWA would not recognize a masked wrestler as NWA champion without knowing their identity. If the Midnight Rider wanted to keep the NWA title belt and be recognized as champion, he must unmask.

This was a problem for the Midnight Rider.

You see,  Dusty Rhodes had recently lost a loser-leaves-town match to Kevin Sullivan, and was barred from wrestling in the state of Florida for 60 days. If the Rider unmasked and proved to be Rhodes, he would be barred from wrestling under the NWA banner for a year. Stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Rider refused to unmask, and the title was returned to Flair.

One of our favorite wrestling stories ever, the entire story of the Midnight Rider (at least his first run) is told in great detail by Jason Tepper on the Kayfabe Memories website. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ric Flair: "And then it was my turn."

On Monday night May 8, 2000, Ric Flair appeared on WCW Monday Nitro on TNT and brought with him the old NWA World Heavyweight championship belt that he wore beginning in 1981 when he defeated Dusty Rhodes until February of 1986 when the belt was replaced by the famous "Big Gold" version of the NWA title.

It was a big surprise and a very nostalgic moment for fans from the 1970s and 1980s who so connected with the "ten pounds of gold", which was the top title and top belt in all of professional wrestling during the territory years.

Nitro was in St. Louis, MO, that night, historically the most important city on the National Wrestling Alliance map. Flair spoke generally about how important it was to work there for Sam Muchnick if you wanted to become NWA champion one day. He also spoke eloquently about seeing that belt for the first time.

That had to be a very cool moment for old-school fans of St. Louis wrestling.

Here is a transcript of Flair's remarks as they pertained to the "ten pounds of gold."

"In the year nineteen hundred and seventy eight, Terry Funk told me if I wanted to be a star in this business I had to get to St. Louis on Friday night. You know what I'm talkin' about. I had to be at the Kiel or The Arena, I had to be live at the Chase, I had to be in St. Louis if I wanted to be a star.

And then I saw this for the first time. It was around the waist of the legendary Jack Brisco. And I said, "Jack, do you think I could ever be World champion?" He said, "Kid, keep workin'. Work at it every day and every night and maybe by the grace of God you might get it some day.

And then there was Terry Funk, and then it was Harley Race, and then it was Dusty Rhodes.

And then it was my turn.

And this is what we all desired to have and be, the World Heavyweight championship. We gave up everything. We gave up life, we gave up our families, we worked every day, we partied all night. We were the champions of the World. The best this sport had to offer."

That episode of WCW Monday Nitro is available on demand on the WWE Network. The interview with Flair is at approximately 25:20 into the program.

A very bright moment during a really sad time in WCW.

(Look for a story here soon regarding how this promo in St. Louis impacted a foreword for the original release of the book "Ten Pounds of Gold.")