Jim Crockett Promotions
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina
Dallas, Texas, United States
|South-eastern United States|
|Owner||Jim Crockett, Jr.|
Jim Crockett Promotions, Inc. (JCP) was a professional wrestling promotion owned by Jim Crockett, Jr. until 1988. It was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and was the forerunner to World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
In 1931, Jim Crockett, Sr. began promoting professional wrestling from his home base of Charlotte, North Carolina (though his first shows were in eastern Tennessee). Crockett also promoted other events (including musical concerts, theatrical plays, and minor league baseball and ice hockey) under the banner of Jim Crockett Promotions (with the company being officially incorporated as such in the 1950s).
The company was called Jim Crockett Promotions throughout its history and used many brand names for its various TV shows, newspaper and radio ads, and on tickets. Among those brand names were the generic standbys "Championship Wrestling" and "All Star Wrestling", as well as "East Coast Wrestling", "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling", "Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports", "Wide World Wrestling", and "World Wide Wrestling".
Crockett joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1952, and his territory covered Virginia and the Carolinas. He promoted shows in this region for 38 years until his death in 1973, when his son, Jim Crockett, Jr., took over. The name "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" then became the company's primary brand name in print, radio, and other forms of advertising (the name was also used for their main television programs). Two years later, they introduced the Wide World Wrestling brand and television show (which was changed to World Wide Wrestling in 1978 and which existed later as WCW WorldWide after the company was sold to Turner Broadcasting System). The "World Wide" brand was used concurrently with the "Mid-Atlantic" brand.
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
Headed by the younger Crockett, and under the guidance of a new creative force, former wrestler George Scott, the promotion moved away from a tag team product to focus more on singles wrestling, though tag team wrestling continued to play a big part in the company.
JCP gradually phased out its multiple weekly television tapings in such cities as Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; and High Point, North Carolina and eventually consolidated their taping schedule into one shoot, a Wednesday night affair at WRAL in Raleigh, an agreement that last until 1981, when they moved to WPCQ studios in Charlotte (a station once owned by Ted Turner). By the early 1970s, JCP began to consolidate its various local television shows, doing one master taping at WRAL studio in Raleigh, NC, which was then syndicated to stations throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
The local shows hosted by announcers like Big Bill Ward (from WBTV in Charlotte) and Charlie Harville (at WGHP in High Point) gave way to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (known briefly in 1978 as Mid-Atlantic Championship Sports). Mid-Atlantic was hosted by Bob Caudle (the longtime WRAL weatherman who handled the Raleigh wrestling duties). Caudle was joined by a rotating host of co-hosts (everyone from Les Thatcher to Dr. Tom Miller) before David Crockett stepped out of the ring after a short, uncelebrated career as a wrestler to become Caudle's color man. For a brief period, a secondary show called East Coast Wrestling was taped at WRAL. It was basically a repackaged version of 'Mid-Atlantic' and was announced by Big Bill Ward.
In 1975, JCP premiered a new syndicated "B-show" entitled Wide World Wrestling (renamed World Wide Wrestling in 1978). The original host of this show was former Georgia Championship Wrestling announcer Ed Capral. Subsequent Wide World/World Wide announcers included Les Thatcher, George and Sandy Scott, and Dr. Tom Miller. It was also hosted by the team of Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver in the 1970s. In 1978, JCP later added a short-lived show called The Best of NWA Wrestling which was taped at WCCB studios in Charlotte (across the street from the old Charlotte Coliseum) and which featured then-active wrestler Johnny Weaver sitting down with top stars in a "coach's show" type environment, in which they commentated over 16 millimeter films shot at local arenas. Rich Landrum and David Crockett appeared on "Best Of" doing promo interviews for local arena shows.
JCP gradually began to expand, running shows in eastern Tennessee, parts of West Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they moved into Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. Crockett and Scott also bought into Frank Tunney's promotion in Toronto, which ran under the Maple Leaf Wrestling brand name. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was seen on a station out of Buffalo, New York, which allowed the joint Tunney/Crockett/Scott effort to bring a full slate of shows to Ontario and upstate New York.
In 1980, Jim Crockett Jr. was elected President of the NWA. In 1981, Crockett moved his taping site from WRAL in Raleigh to WPCQ studios in Charlotte. Former (and future) Georgia Championship Wrestling booker Ole Anderson took over as his booker this year (the following year, Anderson booked both JCP and GCW at the same time).
In 1982, Crockett partnered with wrestlers Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan to start a secondary company out of Knoxville, Tennessee, which operated under the brand name Southern Championship Wrestling. That group featured such stars as Mulligan, his son Barry Windham (then wrestling as Blackjack Mulligan, Jr.), Kevin Sullivan, Wayne Ferris, The Mongolian Stomper, Terry Taylor, Tim Horner, and others. The group lasted less than a year.
By the 1980s, the wrestling world was undergoing significant changes. The old NWA territory system was collapsing under pressure from the Vincent K. McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWF), which began to operate nationwide. Crockett had similar plans, envisioning a united NWA by purchasing or merging all of its member territories.
Ted Turner had realized the value of professional wrestling for cable television in the early 1970s. This was a smart move for Turner, as wrestling was a source of cheap, live entertainment, well suited to his cable network. He could run per inquiry ads (Slim Whitman albums, Ginsu knives, etc.) and take part of the sales profits just by bringing in a big audience through pro wrestling (which generally did not attract big ad revenue due to its perceived demographic). In 1982, Crockett ended his second year as NWA president. Turner's SuperStation TBS had asked Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. to change its public brand name to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and there were rumblings that the Jim Barnett-controlled company would go national; Georgia Championship Wrestling was now able to be called WCW by the next year (1983).
By 1983, JCP went from recording its weekly shows in a television studio, to recording them live in arenas. After purchasing a mobile television unit for $1 million, Crockett created the new dominant supercard for the NWA, Starrcade.
In 1984, the WWF purchased a majority interest in GCW from a number of its shareholders, including the Brisco brothers (Jack and Jerry) and Jim Barnett, and thus controlled GCW's Saturday night timeslot on WTBS. This was part of the WWF's attempt to go national, in part by co-opting local wrestling timeslots. However, TBS received many complaints for the move, so much so that another promotion backed by holdout GCW shareholder and NWA member Fred Ward and former GCW wrestler/booker Ole Anderson was given an early Saturday morning time slot on TBS. This company (and its television show and brand name) was named Championship Wrestling from Georgia. This program, along with Bill Watts's Mid-South Wrestling, easily surpassed the WWF TBS clip show program. The decline in ratings for the Saturday evening show, and the fans clamoring for GCW, began to make the WWF's move one that lost the federation money. Eventually, McMahon cut his losses and sold the timeslot to Crockett for $1 million. This chain of events and McMahon's refusal to sell to Turner were critical in Turner's later decision to purchase Jim Crockett Promotions and form WCW in its wake.
An extra sense of urgency was added to Crockett's national ambitions when, after Frank Tunney's death, the Toronto promotion joined forces with the WWF. If Crockett wanted to run shows outside the Mid-Atlantic states, he would have to either find other willing promoters, or buy out their territories. This period also marked Crockett's first attempt to create a national federation; Crockett and other wrestling companies needed the opportunity after the buyout occurred, as well as after the WWF program The War to Settle the Score aired on MTV. Together with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA), Championship Wrestling from Georgia, and Memphis-based Jarrett Promotions, Jim Crockett Promotions would create Pro Wrestling USA. However, the organization fell apart in January 1986.
Crockett bought out Ole Anderson's GCW, on April 6, 1985, and was re-elected NWA president. This was to help counter the WWF after it became the dominant wrestling business after the first WrestleMania occurred. He then purchased both Saturday evening TBS slots from Vince McMahon, who needed extra money to create Saturday Night's Main Event, thus making Crockett the owner of WCW. He filled the timeslot with two hours of original programming filmed in Ted Turner's Atlanta studios. The programming aired under the World Championship Wrestling banner, which had been adopted by GCW before its demise. As a result of the success World Championship Wrestling now had from acquiring the Saturday night time slots, Crockett, along with JCP booker Dusty Rhodes, was able to establish the annual supercard known as The Great American Bash.
By 1987, Crockett was elected to a third term as NWA president and gained control (either through purchase or working agreements) of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, Heart of America Sports Attractions (Bob Geigel's Central States brand), Championship Wrestling from Florida, and Bill Watts's Mid-South Sports (which operated under the Mid-South Wrestling, and later, upon expansion, Universal Wrestling Federation brand names). Despite Crockett having six consolidated territories under his banner and being NWA president, JCP and NWA were two separate entities and Crockett, like all NWA promoters before him and since, was simply licensing the NWA brand name. This despite the fact that during his reign, Crockett had an iron clad grip on the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as by that point, Ric Flair was locked in as champion and any title changes that occurred henceforth were to other wrestlers (e.g. Dusty Rhodes, Ronnie Garvin, etc.) who were in Crockett's employ.
Crockett's rapid expansion had significant financial consequences for the company. JCP expanded operations, and by December, the UWF completely absorbed itself as part of WCW and JCP moved many of its employees from its Charlotte base to Watts's former headquarters in Dallas (with Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes manning the Dallas office, David Crockett was left in charge of the Charlotte wing). Bob Geigel, who bought his promotion back from Crockett in February 1987 through a partnership, had also withdrawn from the NWA as well. They began to run shows in new markets from coast to coast, greatly increasing travel costs and other overhead. Their first pay-per-view endeavor, 1987's Starrcade, was scheduled in its traditional Thanksgiving slot, but ran into competition from WWF's debuting Survivor Series. Not wanting to compete directly with the Survivor Series, JCP decided to move Starrcade to an earlier, afternoon timeslot that day. However, the WWF informed cable companies that if they chose to air Starrcade, they would not be offered future WWF shows such as Survivor Series '87 and WrestleMania IV. At the time, WWF was the uncontested market leader in PPV, and only a handful of companies committed to JCP, devastating the show's profitability.
A similar incident occurred in January 1988, when WWF scheduled the first Royal Rumble special on the USA Network against JCP's Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view, again cutting into its buyrate. As a result, Crockett aired the first ever Clash of the Champions on TBS on March 27, 1988 to draw viewers away from WrestleMania IV, which took place the same night; this was one of the few strategic tactics to actually work for the fledgling JCP as the buyrate for WrestleMania IV was much lower than that of the previous Survivor Series '87. Clash of the Champions was now the only thing Crockett could use to keep the NWA alive, though it was not as watched as Saturday Night's Main Event. On the verge of bankruptcy, Crockett sold his company to Ted Turner in November 1988, where it became known as World Championship Wrestling.
The eventual downfall of JCP, leading up to its eventual sale to Ted Turner (and the birth of WCW) can be attributed to several key factors. Magnum T.A., who was the promotion's top babyface and scheduled to become the new NWA Champion at Starrcade 1986, was severely injured in a car accident on October 14, 1986, and had to end his wrestling career; Nikita Koloff turned face on October 25, 1986 and took Magnum T.A.'s place. JCP alienated loyal fans in the Carolinas by moving Starrcade '87 and Bunkhouse Stampede to Chicago and New York, respectively. Since JCP had no real history in those areas, they subsequently hampered JCP's drawing power for arena shows in the Southeast.
Booking decisions factored in. JCP flushed away a potentially profitable angle following the acquisition of Bill Watts's UWF by having their superstars bury the UWF's talent and treat the UWF's titles as being second-rate. Meanwhile, midcarder Ron Garvin beat perennial champion Ric Flair for the world title. Although Garvin was booked to be a babyface, fans did not find Garvin credible enough to be a serious contender for Flair's title.
JCP apparently neglected to monitor it's lavish spending. Crockett flew himself and the top stars of his promotion around in an expensive private jet. In addition to the expense of Crockett's personal jet, there were other extravagant purchases such as the limousines provided for various wrestlers and regular business parties held by officials throughout its offices in the region. In addition, as previously mentioned, with the large amount of capital needed to take a wrestling federation on a national tour, Crockett's aggressive territorial acquisitions had seriously drained JCP's coffers. (In purchasing the UWF, JCP also took responsibility for the UWF's large debt from TV contracts, etc.)
Compounding the issues that came with expansion was a lack of marketing needed to make it successful. As mentioned, major cards such as Starrcade and the Bunkhouse Stampede did not draw as well when moved out of JCP's traditional territory. According to Rhodes, JCP failed to gain the national name recognition that McMahon achieved with the World Wrestling Federation. Rhodes also pointed out that with the WWF's success, McMahon was financially able to lure the top talent away from other companies. Because of this, JCP offered many of its stars lucrative contracts to prevent them from leaving the company.
Another factor was the fans' exasperation with the swerve of the Dusty Finish. The Dusty Finish is a type of "screwjob" finish named after Rhodes, who did not actually invent the concept, but used it frequently not only at regular house shows, but major cards as well. Due to this heavy use, fans started to expect the finish to be invoked at any moment whenever a popular wrestler (usually a BabyFace) appeared to win a match and was about to be awarded a championship, or anything similar. As a result, attendance at live shows began to fall- even at venues where JCP had traditionally drawn well.
As previously mentioned, the competitive strategies by the WWF, who already held significant clout with PPV providers, had a negative impact on JCP's profitability as head to head competition increased.
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Championship
- NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Mid-Atlantic version)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic Version)
- NWA United States Women's Championship
- NWA Western States Heritage Championship
- NWA World Six-Man Tag Team Championship
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version)
- NWA World Television Championship
- NWA National Heavyweight Championship
- NWA National Tag Team Championship
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Women's Championship
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- So on September 25, 1987 in Detroit, Ron Garvin defeated Ric Flair to become the NWA Heavyweight champion. As some had predicted, this did not go down well with NWA fans, as Ric Flair states in his book, they were happy to see Garvin chase for the gold and give Ric a beating, but they didn't see him as someone who would actually be able to beat him. I guess a similar comparison at this point is if Charlie Haas had beaten JBL for the WWE World Title.
- In those pre-Internet days, in a time where kayfabe was still held sacred, they lived the gimmick as much as they could. They would always fly either first class or by private jet and be catered around in limos, staying at the best suites around while their fellow wrestlers were stuck in smaller hotels. They would actually fly down to the beach in Florida and then take the jet to Greensboro for matches. They partied all night in a way that would put rock bands to shame and Crockett was willing to foot the bill to keep it all going. Of course, such rampant spending would end up biting him in the ass in the end but at least it made for a good show.
- Williams, Steve and Tom Caiazzo. Steve Williams: How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life. Sports Publishing, 2007. (pg. 116) ISBN 1-59670-180-3
- Bourne, Dick. "The Birth of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling On Television". Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Wrestling-Titles.com: Jim Crockett Promotions
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- The Mid-Atlantic Getaway
- The Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling