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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Nostalgia Pop #6

July 14, 2004 - by Brad Dykens

The 20th Anniversary of Black Saturday


"Black Saturday" is the term given to the day (July 14, 1984) when WWF programming, out of nowhere, replaced Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS, thus changing pro-wrestling forever. Imagine all the GCW fans sitting down in front of their Television sets on Saturday morning, looking forward to seeing Gordon Solie, Ric Flair and other wrestlers, but instead watching Gorilla Monsoon pop up on their screen! It was totally out of the blue and took the majority of fans by surprise.

At the time, Georgia Championship Wrestling was being run, for the most part, by Ole Anderson. Ole was a naturally bitter man and this event only feuled his anger. The Brisco Brothers (Jack & Jerry) were shareholders in GCW and went behind everyone's backs and sold their shares to Vince McMahon, who was orchestrating his plans to take his WWF national and crush (or buy out) all his competition coast to coast.

July 14, 1984 will forever be known as the day that Georgia Championship Wrestling died, and the course of Nationally Televised Wrestling drastically changed direction.

The following is an article written by Steve Beverly which was posted on http://www.ledger-enquirer.com

http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/living/9107462.htm .

'Black Saturday' changed wrestling as we know it.

With Ole Anderson (Al Rogowski) back in town Tuesday night to present the belts to the new Georgia tag team champions at the GCW Arena on Burnham Boulevard, memories drift back to a wrestling anniversary forever etched in the minds of fans over the age of 30.

Next Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of Black Saturday. The date: July 14, 1984. The day was one which forever changed the face of television wrestling in Georgia and the entire nation.

Since 1948, NWA wrestling had been a staple in Atlanta. In the years before cable, Columbus was treated to filmed matches in the '50s from Chicago. From 1961-64, Gordon Solie's "Championship Wrestling from Florida" was featured on WRBL before Fred Ward began producing live weekly TV matches for WTVM (and later WRBL).

When "Georgia Championship Wrestling" moved from WAII in Atlanta to Ted Turner's WTCG in early 1972, cable viewers in Columbus made the Atlanta show appointment television at 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Over the years, the show expanded to two hours and became the flagship and highest-rated program for Turner when his channel 17 expanded to national cable coverage via satellite as Superstation WTBS.

When Solie took over as host in early 1973 for Ed Capral (after a five-week run at the mike by Alabama commentator Sterling Brewer), he became a national star. Arguably, only Hank Aaron, Andy Griffith and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver were better-known names to WTBS viewers.

For 11 years, every major wrestler in America ventured to Atlanta to make guest appearances on "GCW" (re-christened "World Championship Wrestling" in early 1982).

Saturday, July 7, 1984, "WCW" began with Solie announcing Columbus' Jerry Oates and Ronnie Garvin had done the unthinkable: upset the then-hated Road Warriors for the national tag team championship.

The following Saturday, long-time Atlanta viewers were shocked at 6:05 p.m. Solie was not at his usual podium. Anderson, by then Solie's mike sidekick, was missing. The live audience was gone.

Instead, Freddie Miller -- a long-time Atlanta TV mainstay who had plugged Georgia matches in the '70s by barking "beeeee therrrrrrrrre" -- was in that quiet, empty WTBS studio introducing matches taped at Madison Square Garden and in Toronto.

Gorilla Monsoon, who was largely unknown to Georgia fans, was the play-by-play announcer.

No Oates. No Garvin. No Tommy Rich. No Jake (The Snake) Roberts. No Brad Armstrong. No Ted DiBiase.

Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Bob Orton Jr., Sgt. Slaughter, Paul Orndorff and The Iron Sheik -- all former Georgia mainstays -- had taken over.

Over the next three weeks, we venture back to how Black Saturday immediately changed the face of wrestling, how Ole Anderson was a major player in what led to the shocking day and how the transition was the first significant step leading to what pro wrestling is today in America.

- by Steve Beverly

Note To Steve Bradley: I tried obtaining permission to post this by emailing you, but the address provided did not work. If you see this, please email me at oww@onlineworldofwrestling.com thank you...
http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/entertainment/9272300.htm .

The beginning of the end

Twenty years after Black Saturday, the day when Vince McMahon took over wrestling on TBS in Atlanta, the question remains: How did that dark July day affect wrestling fans nationwide? In a nutshell, here is the digest:

The takeover erupted a feud between McMahon and TBS owner Ted Turner which never ceased until Turner was forced out of his company by AOL/Time Warner merger.

Turner countered by offering not only Columbus promoters Fred Ward and Ralph Freed a Saturday morning show for a year, he scheduled Bill Watts' "Mid-South Wrestling" Sunday nights, which quickly became the number one show on cable television.

In a bitter dispute over who would sell the advertising for the World Wrestling Federation on TBS, Turner kicked McMahon off the Superstation and Carolinas/Virginia promoter Jim Crockett took over the prime Saturday night slot

By 1986, weekly wrestling at the Columbus Municipal Auditorium ceased, giving way to periodic TV tapings for Crockett's syndicated mat series. Over the next four years, the old tradition of weekly matches in small cities across America would be dead.

In October 1988, Crockett sold his wrestling organization to Turner -- who assumed control of producing NWA wrestling on the Superstation.

By 1994, Turner went on a spending spree, acquiring former WWF stars Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash (Diesel), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and The Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig). The era of the Monday night television wars began, which signaled the beginning of the end of Saturday nights as a flagship evening for TV wrestling.

By 1998, TBS's rechristened WCW overtook McMahon's WWF in television ratings and pay-per-view subscription sales. A new star, former University of Georgia football alum Bill Goldberg, captured the nation's fancy. Goldberg's win over Hogan on "WCW Monday Nitro" drew the highest ratings ever for a weekly prime time wrestling event on TV.

After a series of missteps which saw Goldberg's star status restricted by Hogan, WCW plunged again in the ratings while the WWF emphasized sex, extreme violence and gutter language to return to the top.

March 21, 2001: The end of an era. WCW is sold to McMahon and a 53-year history of live television wrestling originating from Atlanta ends.


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