James Allen Crockett, promoter, administrator and wrestling personality has passed away aged 76 years old. By the time he was born, his family was firmly established as THE promoter on the Mid Atlantic coast of the Eastern Seaboard. Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, Crockett Promotions would grow to become the powerhouse of the NWA in the eighties, largely thanks to Jim Jnr’s direction. However, he came to the business reluctantly.
When Jim Snr passed away in 1973, the children of the family had not been involved in the wrestling side of the business. Crockett Promotions had fingers in many pies including the Minor League Baseball team the Charlotte Orioles and the Minor League Ice Hockey team the Winston-Salem Polar Twins. While the day to day business of JCP would be taken over by his Brother in Law John Ringley, Crockett would take ownership of the company and marshall a period of steady but purposeful expansion. Singing both big stars like Wahoo McDaniel, BlackJack Mulligan, The Brisco Brothers and Johnny Valentine, he also signed up youngsters like Greg Valentine, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. With George Scott in charge of the book, Mid Atlantic became THE place to be for hot TV, good wrestling and long term NWA Champions.
Crockett would become the President of the NWA in 1980. While he was President he would orchestrate Rick Flair’s first run with the championship, a run that Flair himself has said he was not ready for, but it was a good dry run and set up Crockett when it came to cross-promotional work. He negotiated and maintained a working relationship with Frank Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling, and also broached a deal with the AWA as Vince McMahon’s expansion began to bite.
However, JCP’s first promotional peak came in 1983 with the first JCP wrestling event on Closed Circuit TV, it had a perfect build pitting NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion Harley Race against the former champ Flair, in the Greensboro Coliseum, in a steel cage for the first time. With Race ready to pass the torch, Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper ready to mutilate one another, the red hot Briscos vs Youngblood and Steamboat along with help from localised feuds like Abdullah the Butcher vs Carlos Colon. It would be a blueprint for JCP’s success over the next six years.
Buying up territories as the came under more and more financial pressure from the WWE, JCP would own six of the former NWA offices by the time Crockett got back to the NWA Presidency. Scott had moved on to the WWF and buying up Championship Wrestling from Florida enabled Crockett to absorb the booking talent of Dusty Rhodes. With Flair turning heel and joining forces with his former driver Arn Anderson, his storyline brother Ole, and JJ Dillon’s charge Tully Blanchard, otherwise known as The Four Horsemen, and with that Crockett found a licence to print money.
He used it wisely buying out Kansas City and the UWF, with other innovations such as The Crockett Cup, War Games and the best roster in North American wrestling, Magnum TA, Nikita Koloff, Lex Luger, The Road Warriors, Barry Windham were just some of the names that came through the JCP Doors. Expanding into PPV JCP was the rising star of the south, however, there was trouble ahead.
Napoleon lived by the point that his army could never outrun its supply lines, not following his own advice he was of course defeated in Russia because he outran his own supply lines. JCP spent most of 1988 looking West to Chicago and should have spent more time stocking fires at home. Leaking staff, Windham, Blanchard and Anderson were WWF bound in 1988, Vince McMahon reportedly saying “It’s like the Horsemen took over my locker room.”, and with the pressure on Flair as champion JCP was on top of the world creatively, but flat out running out of cash.
Ted Turner had been tacitly backing JCP for years with itsTBS Superstation TV show having bought out the WWF’s Saturday Night time slot in 1985. Turner Broadcasting would eventually buy out the company through liaison Jim Barnett from the Atlanta territory which had been brought out by Crockett. Facing bankruptcy was a timely business intervention. Crockett would remain the President of the NWA from 1987 until 1991mainly because there were no more offices left, Crockett had bought them all.
He would in time try and make a comeback in the wrestling world once his no-compete clause with WCW had come to an end. He would try and pioneer the online concept with World Wrestling Network, which was essentially a reworking of the ECW roster and crew. Years ahead of its time, it was not destined for big things.
Crockett was a pioneer of national expansion, understood moving markets and new how to promote great wrestling. Largely responsible for the way you absorb and watch wrestling today, his ideas live on in both WWF and AEW which has adopted more and more of the JCP look in recent months. It was wrestling as a style which Crockett knew how to adapt to new audiences which is why his expansions succeeded where Vince McMahon did not, attentive to the market and its needs, he just ran out of money when he needed it most but for twenty-five years of his thirty in the business, he had succeeded far beyond the localised office Jim Crocket Snr founded in the 1930s.
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