One of the Holy Grails of "lost wrestling matches" was not only found, but uploaded on the WWE Network which is available for just $9.99 per month. When the news first broke I could not believe it. How did this legendary match go from, "It's most likely gone" to "It's being uploaded on Tuesday to WWE Network" after 30 years?
The party line appears to be that it was poorly labeled on a reel titled "Omni Live Events". Others have insinuated that Paul Ellering had the footage and finally turned it over to WWE, possibly in exchange for favors as it related to his daughter's (Rachael Ellering) promising wrestling career.
Honestly, it doesn't matter to me about the hows and whys, although it adds a layer of intrigue to this story, I am just glad I finally got to lay eyes on this thing. At this point I guess I should share that The Last Battle of Atlanta was a cage match with Tommy "Wildfire" Rich taking on "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer. The cage was a bit unique in that it had a ceiling. Sawyer's manager, Paul Ellering, was in a cage hanging from the ceiling to keep him out of the match as well. The other stipulation was that Ole Anderson (a face at that time) got a match with Ellering in the cage if Rich won. That's the setting for this match.
All that said, I watched it yesterday with my son when I got home. Did it live up to the hype? Of course not. Given it's legendary status there was absolutely no way it could. Was it one heck of a fun, bloody brawl? Absolutely.
This is high praise, but it reminded me in its intensity of the I Quit, Steel Cage match from Starrcade '85 between Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard for the US Title. The post-match stuff where Ole Anderson got a piece of Paul Ellering if Rich one was excellent as well. As one of my favorite guys ever, it was also nice to see a Jake "The Snake" Roberts appearance after the match as well.
So when I say the match didn't live up to expectation I am NOT saying it isn't an excellent match. What it lacks for me is context and emotional investment. That's why it is hard to judge the Last Battle of Atlanta on first view in 2016.
To me, wrestling is all about emotional investment. That is really what The Last Battle of Atlanta was missing for me. The match was entertaining, but I wasn't in The Omni back then soaking it all up in the moment. So I while I say it didn't live up to the hype, I will not call it overrated or overhyped. I am sure witnessing that as it happened was a great, memorable moment. It is just hard to get that to come across on first viewing 30+ years later.
I am glad WWE unearthed this gem. It really is a great moment and a phenomenal use of the WWE Network. I never believed we would see this match unearthed, but here we are. What a time to be alive!
Also, this WWE article from 2012 is an excellent look at the match itself if you find my description above to be a bit lacking.