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MYSTERY SOLVED: HOW WWE UNEARTHED THE BATTLE OF ATLANTA

By Mike Johnson on 2016-09-06 16:43:00

As I noted earlier, one of the top questions we have received via email here at PWInsider.com has been how WWE suddenly had footage - complete footage, no less - of the infamous Last Battle of Atlanta, the October 23, 1983 finale of the feud between Tommy Rich and the late Buzz Sawyer, as for years, it was believed any footage of the event had been erased, or had never been recorded.

According to the Twitter account of WWE's Archivist, Ben Brown, the bout was actually in WWE's possession, but the company had (until now) never publicly revealed it.  While it is not clear what library aquisition led to WWE ending up with the footage or when that happened, Brown responded to a fan question about the origin of the footage, noting, "Simply a previously un-transferred "Omni Live Event" reel. Enjoy!"

So, where did the reel come from? 

It wasn't unusual for promotions to film live events so they had material from major angles or occurences that could later be spliced into the weekly TV.  It appears the reel somehow survived a number of years - a feat within itself, as outside of WWE, a good portion of the material that taped was either taped over to utilize the same tapes over and over or in the case of film reels, were often discarded over time, which is how Jim Cornette ended up with his Mid-Atlantic film reels that have been transferred to DVD - until WWE was able to transfer the reel, digitize it, clean it up and put the footage through the remainder of their process to make it presentable for the Video on Demand component of the WWE Network.

So how did it get into WWE's hands?

The best theory I have heard is that when WWF bought controlling interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling's stock (aka Black Saturday) back in July 1984, WWF took control of whatever assets there were and since WWF always maintained it's library, that material was quietly moved to Stamford. 

Another theory is that when Jim Crockett Promotions took over the former Georgia TV timeslot from WWF, they ended up with the material, which then went to WCW and finally to WWF when the company was purchased in March 2001.  The holes in that theory are that when Turner Broadcasting came to clean out the old Crockett office, they discarded all the aforementioned old Mid-Atlantic reels that are now on sale at Jim Cornette's website.

It's also quite as possible that WWE purchased the reels from a private collector who had somehow acquired them along the way, similar to the Crockett Promotions material they purchased a few years ago from videographer George Pantas - a purchase that netted WWE the only known existing Buddy Rogers vs. Ric Flair material, although that has yet to surface on the Network.

WHAT NOW?

The unveiling of the Last Battle of Atlanta leaves a few other questions to be asked: what else is in WWE's library that was assumed to have been lost over the years?  When will we see it?  Are there actual complete Omni house shows that era sitting there waiting to be used?  There were so many matches that took place over the years that have never been seen beyond the imagination of those who wonder how great they truly were - and like Rich vs. Sawyer, for all we know, it's just a matter of time before we learn WWE had them all along.

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