“The Last Battle of Atlanta” surfaces: Wrestle Me This!

When I started “Live and Groove”, I said I would refrain from including a wrestling section on the site and, save a lengthy post giving me woefully inaccurate Wrestlemania predictions, I held steady to that statement.

I then realized, well, this is my site and my rules and I can break them as I see fit so welcome to the first “Wrestle Me This!” post here on “Live and Groove”. These posts are going to be a weekly look at something that’s happened in the world of professional wrestling, whether it was a hot segment on Monday Night Raw and/or Smackdown, a PPV preview or recap, or something else that catches my eye.

This first post is going to fall under the category of “something else that catches my eye” because this week the Holy Grail of wrestling footage was uploaded for the world, at least the WWE Network subscriber world, to see.

The WWE Network, as part of their “Hidden Gems” collection, put up the match known as “The Last Battle of Atlanta“, which took place at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia on October 23rd, 1983. It was a steel cage match between “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer and “Wildfire” Tommy Rich. This cage match, though, was different than any other cage match at the time. This cage had a roof on it so no one could get in or out.

For good measure, Sawyer’s manager, “Precious” Paul Ellering was suspended in a smaller cage above the ring and, if Sawyer lost, Ellering would have to face a then babyface Ole Anderson.

The Last Battle of Atlanta

(Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer fight in “The Last Battle of Atlanta” with Paul Ellering confined to a cage above the ring.)

Plain and simple, this was the definition of a “blow off” match, right down to the name of the encounter. Everything about it was designed to end the blood feud Sawyer and Rich had with each other.

And it did just that. Once the match ended, that was it. There was no acknowledgement of things on television. No footage from the match. Nothing. Georgia Championship Wrestling moved on and continued trucking, until the summer of 1984 when Vince McMahon came into the picture, but that’s a different story.

The lack of video footage from the match, coupled with the insanely bloody photos that appeared in the Apter magazines, which served as the only hard evidence of the match, built up a sense of myth over the years. In a world where a wrestling fan can find pretty much any historic match that’s ever taken place, “The Last Battle of Atlanta” was simply one that was not available. As a result, the legend grew.

The match even inspired the first “Hell in the Cell” match as Shawn Michaels remembered the Sawyer/Rich blow-off and, specifically, how the cage had a roof on it to ensure there would be a winner.

The general belief was that Anderson had the only footage but then either intentionally destroyed it or just lost it over time. Another theory was that Ellering had the tape all these years and finally gave it to the WWE.

Both turned out to be wrong. When asked on Twitter, the “WWE Archivist” stated the match was found in the tape library on a reel that hadn’t been digitally transferred. It was simply labeled “Omni Live Event”. The WWE came into possession of the GCW tape library by way of their purchase of World Championship Wrestling in 2001 so the match has been in their possession all these years, but they just now came across it.

That’s wild when you consider it, and it’s even wilder when you realize how big an asset the tape library really was in the purchase of WCW. Remember, the WWE got it all for $2 million, which remains an absolute and total steal when you think of all the things the company has done with that tape library.

In terms of the match itself, the video quality is actually quite good for something that was shot in 1983. The footage consists of the hard cam angle with no announcer. The crowd in the Omni is hot right from the get go as Rich and Sawyer start throwing down inside the cage, which is your standard chain link fence type cage that has a roof just laid over the top of it. It’s a crude design, but, for 1983, it was totally different from the norm.

Sawyer, who was fantastic in his day as a complete nutcase heel, because that was his actual personality, dominates the early portion of the match to let Rich, one of the biggest babyfaces of his day due to the rise of TBS and its availability beyond Georgia, earn the early sympathy. It doesn’t take long for Sawyer to bust Rich open with repeated tosses into the cage. This also lets people remember how good a bleeder Rich really was, especially with the platinum blonde hair that allowed the blood to really stand out.

Rich eventually makes his comeback with a series of low blows and even a piledriver. He also gets Sawyer to bleed and, for the bulk of the match, both men gush blood. Rich does further damage by tossing Sawyer into the cage over and over again. This is the type of match that dictated both men had to bleed like stuck pigs. They definitely accomplish this task.

Because of the way the match was built, there is no referee in the ring so he’s on a microphone at ringside to do the 10 count when both men are down or the 3 count when one goes for a cover. This adds the feeling of a “legit fight” to things as the referee isn’t in the ring to serve as a distraction point.

After about 10 minutes, Rich gets the victory in “The Last Battle of Atlanta“. The video doesn’t end there, though, as it also covers the Anderson/Ellering match directly after Rich and Sawyer leave the ring. Anderson pretty much dominates Ellering because, well, he’s the booker and it was always going to be about him. He comes into the match like a house of fire, and the crowd eats it up completely.

Ellering, though, does mount a comeback, even causing Anderson to split his pants in a hilarious yet awkward moment. The comeback isn’t for long, though, as Anderson eventually gets the win to close out the evening. Anderson’s success is short lived because he’s soon attacked by Jake Roberts, one of Ellering’s charges at the time, and that’s how the footage ends.

Overall, it was a lot of fun to finally watch “The Last Battle of Atlanta” and see a part of wrestling history everyone thought was lost to the ages. I know the old matches don’t do a lot of traffic on the network, but I sincerely hope there will be some more GCW content uploaded in the future because that territory was red hot in its day. With the whole “Black Saturday” situation that happened, the WWE could easily post the year or so leading into their take over of the TBS time slot.

For those wanting to check out “The Last Battle of Atlanta” and the other gems the WWE Network just put online, you can find them in the “Collections” category. They are not in the “Vault” category where most would initially go to find them.

You can also directly access the match by going to this link: “The Last Battle of Atlanta“.

I hope you enjoyed this debut of “Wrestle Me This!” on “Live and Groove”. Let me know what you think, and let me know what you’d like me to talk about in the future!

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