George Scott: Making Mid-Atlantic sizzle
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling
Early in his wrestling career, George Scott realized that he wanted to work behind the scenes.
In the 1950s, he helped Stu Hart
make matches in Stampede Wrestling, dreaming of the day when he would be the sole booker.
That chance finally came in 1973. Scott had been knocked out of in-ring action by a broken back in Texas. John Ringly, Jim Crockett Sr.'s son-in-law, called up Scott and asked him to come to Charlotte, N.C. to help out.
Pretty soon, Scott had gained the confidence of the Crocketts. It was a changing of the guard there, as the senior Crockett was turning things over to his sons Jim Crockett Jr. and David Crockett.
Scott had a radical idea for the promotion, Les Thatcher told Dick Bourne in an interview with Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Gateway
. "What I do remember is George Scott mentioning to the Crocketts that he was going to kill the territory in essence to rebuild it, which was a bold statement to make back then, or to make anyway when your looking for a job, 'I'm going to kill your business so I can build it back again'!"
Scott's big plan was to bring Johnny Valentine
in to the territory and base the promotion around him. Charlotte had traditionally been a tag-team territory, and the idea was to change the focus. Wahoo McDaniel
and The Super Destroyer (Don Jardine
) were the two other initial singles stars.
Valentine's ascent took time. "When I did the promotion for the cards in the Carolinas, [Valentine] was probably the hottest card I had in there," Scott said. "But it took me six, seven months for people to start coming, getting to him. But after then, he was ungodly real, we did ungodly business with him."
In Scott Teal's Whatever Happened to ...?
newsletter, Ronnie West talked about him. "George Scott was a good booker, too. It would take him awhile to get things going, but once he got things rolling, it really popped." Later West worked with Scott in the Atlanta territory, controlled by Jim Barnett. "I was his assistant when he booked Atlanta. Everybody was hollering, 'Man, he ain't drawing no money,' but you could see that it was going in the right direction. They just didn't give him time in Atlanta to do it."
was the NWA World Champion when Scott began to book in Charlotte. "All the boys in the business always thought that George was -- he and Louie Tillet were two of the best bookers ever. Everybody thought that George was a great booker," Brisco said. "What made George different as a booker and an excellent booker was that he would always approach each individual involved in the match and get their side of it, their opinion of everything. Most bookers, when you got there, they had the finish laid out and what they want to do and what direction they we wanted to go, between them and the promoter. But George took the approach of getting the input from each wrestler involved in it."
In a different interview on Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Gateway
, Thatcher said that he remembers Scott making Ric Flair
sit down and watch tapes of 'Nature Boy' Buddy Rogers.
Brisco remembers how hot the territory was. "We had a real good run when George was booking Mid-Atlantic. That was THE territory to be in at that time. It was extremely hot. Of course, they were loaded from top to bottom with great talent."
There was indeed some incredible talent starting to appear in the mid-'70s. Names like Ric Flair, Rick Steamboat, Superfly Jimmy Snuka
and Roddy Piper
owe a lot to George Scott. "All those guys were my proteges," he said. "Flair wanted to be a cowboy. I said 'You ain't going to be a cowboy!'"
Besides booking, Scott would appear on TV as the NWA 'Trouble Shooter' and would lace up his boots on occasion to put guys over.
In the late '70s, Scott joined up with Crockett Jr. to buy into Jack Tunney
's Maple Leaf Wrestling promotion. Scott's third of the promotion came out to $100,000. That opened up Toronto, Buffalo and the rest of southern Ontario to an NWA invasion of sorts, bringing different talent into the area. In the mid-'80s, Tunney sold out to Vince McMahon Jr. and the WWF. That lead to Scott suing Tunney, and in 1992, Scott got a $500,000 settlement, with $150,000 in lawyer fees.
In the early-'80s, Scott left the Mid-Atlantic territory. He insists that he quit. "And that's a true story. I quit. I've heard other stories," he said. "Everything I opened, I was supposed to get 5% of the gate."
Scott gave six-weeks notice before leaving. The success of the promotion meant that egos were out of control. "They were getting big heads" from bringing in so much business, he said. Payroll had grown from $20,000-$25,000 a week when he started to $100,000-$200,000 a week.
Crockett Jr. took Scott to court after he left, but the matter was dropped.
His success out of Charlotte meant that he had many opportunities. "I had so many offers it was unreal." After taking a couple of months off, he ended up with Jim Barnett and Georgia Championship Wrestling. Barnett said that he needed help, and Scott agreed to help out, but only for a short while. He lasted just two months.
On another occasion, Scott said that he was approached by Eddie Einhorn to help out with his big plan for a national wrestling promotion, which eventually was the IWA. Scott said that he was offered $250,000 a year and a percentage of the business, but that he turned it down.
When Atlanta fizzled, Scott looked into the Oklahoma promotion, which was up for sale. They were asking $250,000 for the territory. Scott investigated and found that the taxes hadn't been paid and said no. Bill Watts then came in.
His stint in the WWF was next up, and sealed Scott's legacy as one of the most important behind-the-scenes personalities ever in wrestling.
When asked about his booking success, he chalks it up to thinking the right way. "Positive thinking in how to draw money, how to draw people in there... it's a completely different thing now."
Scott didn't believe in wrestling and booking at the same time, except in specific cases, like when he took on Johnny Valentine and put him over, further elevating his star. He also had specific rules that seem quaint now -- only one save in a tag team match, no going over the top rope.
The kid from Hamilton sure meant a lot to the wrestling business from 1948 to 1986. Hopefully, after reading his story, more fans will come to appreciate his legacy.