Yesterday, the website WWENetworkNews.com revealed that WWE would be releasing a "Hidden Gems" collection on Tuesday, September 6 as they had revealed for many previous new network collections and other classic content. The listing includes lots of exciting rare matches featuring legends like Steve Austin, Roddy Piper, and Ric Flair and current superstars like Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe, but there was one match that stood out among the rest to anyone familiar with wrestling history:
10/23/1983 - The Last Battle Of Atlanta
In this historic confrontation, Buzz Sawyer and Tommy Rich battle inside a Steel Cage while Paul Ellering is confined to a cell of his own.
When I saw this listing I had to do a triple take, and still didn't believe what I was seeing. The Last Battle of Atlanta has long been considered the Holy Grail of lost wrestling footage. It was the incredibly hyped blowoff to a two year long feud featuring the aforementioned "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer and "Wildfire" Tommy Rich built around the stipulation that this would be the last ever match between these two bitter rivals. The feud had been on national television throughout, but the blowoff match was never seen. Nothing so much as a clip had made its way to television (or now the internet) since the match happened in 1983.
It is also the match that Shawn Michaels credits with being the genesis of the Hell in a Cell concept, as this was not a traditional cage match. In addition to the normal four chain link walls, it also had a covered steel chain link roof, like the modern Hell in a Cell structure. Manager Paul Ellering was confined to a smaller cage that was on the roof above the enclosed cage.
Even after the listing, I still didn't believe they actually had the Last Battle of Atlanta somehow, someway after wrestling fans had been looking for it for three decades, but then at around noon today, this preview video from Facebook showing the commercial for the Hidden Gems collection came across my twitter search of "Last Battle of Atlanta" that I had loaded up since yesterday.
At approximately :29 of the video, when I saw the actual film of Tommy Rich being thrown against the cage it became unmistakable, WWE actually has somehow against all odds found the Holy Grail. The Mountain Eagle of wrestling footage is about to be released on Tuesday among other rare classic footage and I could not be more excited. We still don't know for sure whether it will be the full match or will be clipped, but at the very least, we know they have some footage of a classic wrestling moment that was thought lost to history.
For those unfamiliar with the story behind it, WWE had put up a short playlist documenting some of the build a few years prior here.
Even beyond the excitement of the Last Battle of Atlanta being discovered, this also raises the question of whether WWE discovered (or had tucked away) a bunch of GCW footage from the Omni that they had not cataloged since buying the tape library decades ago. My personal holy grail match, a 1982 NWA title defense by Ric Flair against the man I consider the best wrestler to ever live, Stan Hansen (one of two times they ever squared off, and the other is also lost Omni footage from 1978), is yet another GCW Omni match that was thought lost forever, but this incredible discovery gives me hope that more iconic lost wrestling footage will be released in the future.
And here's the rest of the exciting collection that will be released on Tuesday under the ‘Collections' tab on the Network:
05/30/1951 - Texas Rasslin': Thesz vs Gunkel
Journey back in time to see Lou Thesz defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Ray Gunkel in a 2-Out-of-3 Falls Match.
09/23/1964 - Gagne-Metrics
Learn a different way to get in shape and feel great with Gagne-Metrics, courtesy of the Verne Gagne Foundation for Physical Fitness.
03/16/1961 - Gino ‘Gorilla Monsoon' Marella
The dominance of the late Gorilla Monsoon is on display in this hidden gem, as Dave Ruhl tries to defeat Gino Marella for a monetary prize.
02/11/1969 - NWA Title: Funk, Jr. vs Kiniski
Witness Dory Funk Jr. establish his legacy when he battles the legendary Gene Kiniski for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
01/12/1976 - Andre The Giant Feat Of Strength
Discover why Andre The Giant earned the moniker of The Eighth Wonder of The World through these impressive Feats of Strength.
06/12/1976 - McMahon Interviews Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali uses his extraordinary charisma to show his determination to dominate the wrestling world in an interview with Vince McMahon.
07/07/1982 - Roddy Piper vs Jack Brisco
Will the dirty and underhanded tactics of Roddy Piper cost him when he challenges Jack Brisco for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship?
09/22/1980 - Champs Collide: Race vs Backlund
Styles clash when NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race collides with WWE Champion Bob Backlund to see who is the Undisputed Champion.
01/20/1987 - Ric Flair vs Barry Windham
The allure of championship gold leads Barry Windham to push Ric Flair to the limit in this classic bout for the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
08/19/1995 - Brothers Of Destruction
Before waging war with Kane in WWE, The Undertaker traveled to Smoky Mountain Wrestling to go one-on-one with Unabomb.
09/14/1996 - South Africa: Austin vs Bret
Far from their battle at Survivor Series '96, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart lock up in this rarely seen encounter from South Africa.
09/11/1997 - ECW: Bret Hart vs Terry Funk
Go beyond the mat to relive the first of many ‘Retirement Matches' for Terry Funk when he faces off against WWE Champion Bret Hart.
10/11/2000 - Samoa Joe vs William Regal
In a sign of things to come, Triple H travels to Ultimate Pro Wrestling to witness William Regal face future NXT Champion, Samoa Joe.
04/29/2012 - FCW Champion: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins proves he has the heart of a champion early in his career by defending the Florida Heavyweight Title against Kassius Ohno.
Given the unbelievable excitement this has fostered, there's always the concern of an Al Capone's Vault situation, but regardless, I can't not be unbelievably excited that we're finally going to see something that long-time fans thought they would never see. Hopefully enough people check out this collection that WWE will be encouraged to continue to unearth more hidden gems that have been thought lost to history.