Nice Time for a “Black Saturday”: July 14, 1984

Say WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA??!!??!!??

In a world — say it in “the voice” — in a world, where we attach colors to days of the week (Black Friday, Black Monday, Blue Monday, etc.), when you look into the world of professional wrestling, this phenomenon can be found referring to the day of July 14, 1984, nicknamed Black Saturday.  On that July evening, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation took over the time slot on Superstation WTBS, typically the home station for Georgia Championship Wrestling’s (GCW) flagship weekly program, World Championship Wrestling, for 12 years. Why a big deal, you ask? Well, when thinking about the infamous Monday Night Wars, this occurrence was its genesis; McMahon’s purchase of the time-slot led to a longstanding rivalry between himself and WTBS owner Ted Turner, resulted in Turner’s purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions (formally GCW) and turning it into his own promotion, World Championship Wrestling.

Starting in 1972, Georgia Championship Wrestling’s World Championship Wrestling was one of the most popular shows on Superstation WTBS (now TBS), and was the first National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territory to gain a national cable television contract. The show’s popularity evolved from regional exposure to national prominence was WTBS started to be carried by various cable and satellite providers across the United States. The key component of the show’s success was its focus on the more physical and athletic “wrasslin'” style over the gimmicky, cartoonish presentation of the World Wrestling Federation.

Speaking of…..

As Vince McMahon’s WWF was expanding nationwide through buying Southern Championship Wrestling Sunday morning show on USA Network to air All American Wrestling and airing syndicated programs (Championship Wrestling, All-Star Wrestling, and Tuesday Night Titans). Wanting a second national cable outlet, McMahon looked to purchace the GCW time slot, but after Turner refused his offer, McMahon took advantage of some behind-the-scenes turmoil and bought shares of GCW from the Brisco brothers and Jim Barnett. This resulted in giving the WWF a majority stake in GCW, thus allowing them to control the Saturday night World Championship Wrestling program.

On the night of July 14, 1984, World Championship Wrestling opened with co-host Freddie Miller introducing Vince McMahon to welcome the WWF to TBS, with McMahon promising GCW’s loyal and dedicated fan base that they would enjoy the new program just as much. And guess what happened? It didn’t go so well. McMahon supplied the first show with taped highlights from WWF’s USA and syndicated programming and Madison Square Garden and Boston Garden house show clips rather than new original programming content, directly violating his promise when he purcahsed the majority shares of GCW. The only new content were in-studio “squash” (short) matches, and as a result the ratings were dismal, leading to angry letters and phone calls from GCW’s core audience.

In the end, Ted Turner offered an additional TBS time slot to Bill Watt’s Mid-South Wrestling (of whom are chronicled here) on Sunday afternoons, and a Saturday morning TBStime slot to Ole Anderson’s Championship Wrestling from Georgia (GCW’s successor). This resulted in a falling out between Turner and McMahon as both Mid-South and CWG pummled WWF in ratings on TBS. Finally, the WWF’s time slot was sold in a settlement with Jim Crockett Promotions paying McMahon $1 million dollar, which he later used to promote and launch WrestleMania I.

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