The Legacy of the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup

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Photo: NWA

In October at NWA 70 in Nashville, TN the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) announced the return of the Crockett Cup in 2019. The response was lukewarm. Some old-school fans were excited while some received the news with a yawn. However, Ring of Honor made it official they will partner with the NWA for the return of the Crockett Cup and this news was greeted with enthusiasm. Ring of Honor boasts tremendous tag teams on their roster despite the recent departure of the Young Bucks.

In a press release by Ring of Honor on Wednesday, NWA President Billy Corgan stated that “…the NWA is known for the legends who have carried the famous Ten Pounds of Gold. Jim Crockett Promotions built a foundation in the Mid-Atlantic region with their tag team wrestling in the 70s and 80s.  The Crockett Cup in 1986 brought together the best tag teams in the world under one roof.  It’s our honor partnering with Ring of Honor to bring this tradition back to North Carolina while supporting the Crockett Foundation with their philanthropy for veterans.”

Photo: ROH

ROH General Manager Greg Gilleland also stated that “our utmost important stakeholders, investors, or partners in this business are the wrestling fans. Partnering with The NWA to bring back this prestigious tournament and truly create a special event is a responsibility that we have to all fans, and is one of many other special events to come.”

The tournament is named after Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) founder “Big Jim” Crockett Sr. who took over the Charlotte area in the early thirties after the permanent blacklisting of former promoter John Francis “Irish” Horan. Big Jim began promoting in Virginia and eventually expanded into Tennessee before his Charlotte invasion in 1934. Crockett built the Charlotte territory eventually expanding into Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina. After Big Jim’s death in 1973, the promotion continued to grow and thrive into 1986.

Jim Crockett Sr.

On April 19, 1986, JCP and Bill WattsMid-South Wrestling would co-promote The Inaugural Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament in New Orleans, LA.
The Superdome was the site as the best tag teams in the world descended on the Crescent City. It was a 24 team field competing in one day with afternoon and evening shows. Legendary announcer Jim Ross served as the ring announcer for the event. Ross was the play by play man for Mid-South at the time. This event also featured one of the first times that Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard would team. Up. One of the greatest teams in history, Blanchard and Anderson would be paired up after Arn’s regular partner Ole was injured. They would lose to The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton/Tommy Rogers) in the first round. In a surprise, the Rock-N-Roll Express were knocked out in round one by the Sheepherders after they were disqualified. This would be the only appearance in the Cup by the 4x NWA World Tag Champs, and WWE Hall of Famers as they didn’t compete in the final two editions. The Road Warriors would win the tournament against Magnum TA and Ron Garvin in the final.

Baltimore hosted the Crockett Cup in 1987 with more hype and fanfare than the first one. A win by the Legion of Doom in 1986 gave the tournament legitimacy, and the addition of seeds for the second tourney added to the intrigue. The top seed in 1987 was current NWA World Tag Team Champions Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude, who were managed by Paul Jones. Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff united as the Super Power as “The Russian Nightmare” Koloff turned face after the terrible injury to Magnum TA in a car accident the year prior. Lex Luger had joined the Four Horsemen and teamed with Tully Blanchard for the event. The Baltimore Arena also hosted Ric Flair’s defense of the World Title against Barry Windham. Flair got the win on a roll up with an assist from a handful of tights. Magnum TA returned in an emotional reunion on the final night, and the Super Powers went on to win the Cup with a victory over Luger and Blanchard.

Photo: PWI

Two cities hosted the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup in 1988 as Greenville, SC hosted the action on night one, and JCP mainstay Greensboro, NC hosted the final night. There would be no repeat champion again as Dusty Rhodes was suspended for 120 days (Rhodes hit Jim Crockett with a baseball bat) which meant the Super Powers could not compete and defend the title. Although a wrestler calling himself the Midnight Rider would fight Four Horsemen boss J.J. Dillon in a Bull Rope match, everyone knew that Dusty was the mysterious masked man.

After a series of twists, turns, betrayals, and injuries, the Cup saw the teaming of Lex Luger and Sting in what was the beginning of a nearly fifteen-year career together. The team were accomplished singles grapplers and that paid off in the Cup despite their inexperience together. With wins over Ivan Koloff/Dick Murdoch, The Midnight Express (Stan Lane version), and Powers of Pain, the duo marched to the finals against Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard who went on to become one of the greatest tag teams in history. Sting and Luger got the victory that night and the Crockett Cup Title.

The tournament lasted three years and featured three different champions. The Road Warriors were the only team to compete in each edition of the Cup with the same two members. The Midnight Express was also in all three, but not the same duo as Bobby Eaton teamed with Dennis Condrey in ’86, and Stan Lane in ’87 and ‘88. The three tournaments featured some of the best tag teams of all time with the Road Warriors, Fantastics, Midnight Express, Tully & Arn, Luger & Sting, Rock-N-Roll Express, Sheepherders, and many individual stars.

Photo: PWI

I applaud the National Wrestling Alliance. They are taking chances and trying things to change the sport. Billy Corgan and his team have partnered with the right people while maintaining the NWA’s unique brand, and Ring of Honor is no exception as these two join forces in what is likely to be a chaotic 2019.

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