Only the aches in some of my joints
reminding me time passes convinces me that it has, indeed, been
thirty years since the NWA U.S. Heavyweight Championship
Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. November 9, 1975---a
crucial and pivotal night for Jim Crockett Promotions, reeling
from the devastating plane crash in Wilmington weeks before that
ended the wrestling careers of Johnny Valentine and Bob Bruggers,
seriously injured Ric Flair and David Crockett, and eventually
killed the pilot. 'Mr. Wrestling' Tim Woods escaped with minor
injuries. But could the Crockett wrestling company founded by
'Big' Jim Crockett decades earlier survive losing forever the
wrestler that booker George Scott was re-building the company
around (U.S. Champion Valentine) and possible forever the
company's hottest and most promising new performer (Flair)? Just
about the entire ball of wax was on the table that night in
I was fortunate to be there,
along with around 14,000 other people. I had been to the
Greensboro Coliseum for wrestling shows a considerable number of
times prior to this night, and had witnessed some huge crowds,
but nothing like this. Getting to the building, into the
parking lot, and inside was a nightmare, making one think that
perhaps Elvis was performing there instead of wrestlers.
Although I can't recall every
match, I do remember my man Johnny Weaver going a twenty-minute
Broadway with Gene Anderson, with Weaver getting the referee's
decision to advance to the next round. I believe Johnny was
eliminated in the next round by soon-to-be finalist Paul Jones.
I remember them working an injury angle between Blackjack
Mulligan and Tim Woods, with Woods having to drop out of the
tournament because Mully had injured Woods' arm in what was
actually a 'phantom' match (the arm injury was incurred in the
plane crash). But the business was still heavily protected in
1975, and no outsiders actually knew the truth about the injury.
As the tournament progressed
towards a conclusion, the legitimate standing-room-only crowd
was really into the show. And when the two finalists were
determined---our own babyface favorite Paul Jones, and some
'kid' from Texas, Terry Funk...well, we knew Paul would win and
keep the title in JCP territory. I seem to recall Funk told
Mid-Atlantic fans in a sent-in interview on TV that if he won
the title, he'd take the belt back to Texas.
The Funk kid beat Paul in the finals
to win the U.S. title, a championship Mid-Atlantic fans had
become used to having in our area, even if it was held by heel
Johnny Valentine. At least, as long as the belt was in the area,
Wahoo, Rufus, Tim, Paul, or someone had the chance to win it.
But to have Terry Funk win it and take it back to Texas...ouch!
Much of the crowd left the building
that night disappointed one of the locals hadn't won, not
knowing what was in store just a few weeks later. I remember
getting a phone call at work the next morning from a friend who
hadn't been able to attend the show, asking me who had won. When
I told her, she screamed, "Terry Funk? ---Who is he?" A
month later I could have answered her by saying that he's the
NWA World heavyweight Champion, and indeed he was, after
dropping the U.S. title to Paul in the Thanksgiving rematch in
So, at that point in time, things
worked out well for all concerned. The fans were happy, Paul was
U.S. champ, Terry was World champ, and Jim Crockett Promotions
survived that terrible tragedy and would continue on being the
hotbed of professional wrestling for another decade.
November 16, 2005
After the Plane crash that crippled
Johnny Valentine and hurt Ric Flair, Bob Bruggers, and David
Crockett, there had to be a tournament for the vacant U.S.
Title. What a line-up and a sell out crowd! This was a big deal
for the N.W.A., as wrestlers from all over were brought in for
the one night U.S. title tournament.
Attendance was 15,076 (sellout) with over 1000 turned away. The
tournament ran three and ½ hours.
The Greensboro Daily News ran two huge articles before and after
the tournament. The paper treated this a real sporting event.
It was a huge surprise that Jones got to the finals and a bigger
surprise that Funk won in Greensboro. A month later the card
featured Jones winning the title from Funk. Terry promptly won
the NWA World Title from Jack Brisco two weeks later in Miami.
Good job Terry!
from the article "Mid-Atlantic
Memories: A Look Back at the N.W.A. 1973-1976"
Originally Published in the
Wrestling Observer Yearbook 1990, Dave Meltzer, editor.