One of the most exciting moments from WWF Saturday morning wrestling: When Atlas and Johnson won the tag titles

If you want to see a small crowd go crazy for a title switch at a TV taping, check out the ending sequence of this match from late 1983, when Tony “Mr. USA” Atlas and  Rocky Johnson defeated the Wild Samoans for the WWF Tag Team Title.

The match was big because Atlas and Johnson were the first African-American tag team to win the belts in WWF history. At least one African-American had held gold before in the WWF (Sonny King held the tag belts with Chief Jay Strongbow in the 1970s), but certainly not many black pro wrestlers had held any straps in the WWF up until that point.

Atlas and Johnson (the father of WWE legend the Rock) were both established single stars in the WWF before they became a team, which probably made the program with the Samoans bigger. At the end of their no disqualification match on Saturday morning Championship Wrestling, Afa held Atlas and manager Captain Lou Albano came into the ring with a wooden folding chair.

Even if you’ve never seen this match, you know what happened. Albano swung for Atlas, who ducked, and Albano instead broke the chair over Afa’s head. Watch for the clumsy moment just before in which Johnson and Sika are supposed to tumble from the ring. Although it’s not on the clip, I think Afa was bleeding slightly from the chairshot, too. And it’s great how Afa keeps the broken chair around his neck after the match.

During the finale, you’ll also get a classic Vince McMahon line: “Oh, come on!”

I vividly remember Atlas dancing around after the pinfall and how nuts the fans were going. It was a big moment for tag team wrestling in the WWF, which to be honest, hasn’t had many of those moments since then.

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3 comments

  1. Anonymous

    I always had the feeling about this tag-team, that this duo could possibly do less damage as a tag-team than as singles wrestlers wanting to set another precedent by pressuring for a title match–just my opinion. Rocky Johnson was one of the best regional champions in the NWA throughout the 1970s, but I read in The Ring Wrestling that he was always pressuring promoters for a title shot due to his sustained ability to fill areans. The WWF acquired him after the NWA seemed to want to get rid of him, but he was then underutilized as a tag-team wrestler. His son is a better actor but the dad was a better wrestler who seemed to fade away before a more favorable scenario.

  2. Joe Lowry

    Great match for a ho-hum Saturday morning wrestling show. I vividly remember this match as it was historic in some respects due to the fact that both Johnson and Atlas were WWF’s first african american tag team champions. The Captains classic chair shot on Afa made for a great photo which was run in just about every wrestling publication. I recall a rematch at the Boston Garden in December and remember after the matches were over Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson actually walked up Landsdowne Street with the tag titles. People were going ecstatic. Furthermore, watching WWE legends series on demand, Tony Atlas talks about his relationship with Rocky Johnson after the title win. It was shortly there after that both men had developed a “rocky” (no pun intended) relationship. Tony Atlas’ drug use was a major factor as well as a couple of no-shows at house events during there championship title run. This type of thing was not tolerated with Vince due in part that he was trying to take the company nationwide. So it was decided that their tag team title run would end a mere five months later to Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis. But nonetheless, Soul Patrol made history on November 15, 1983 on Championship Wrestling….

    • bostongardenbalcony

      Oh my God, I can’t even imagine in 1983 seeing wrestlers walking on the street with the title belts. That is a great memory. The only thing better is if they had walked into the Kowloon with them.

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