The Last Battle of Atlanta (found untelevised professional wrestling steel cage match; 1983)

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This article has been tagged as NSFW due to its graphic content.


Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer battling inside the cage, with Paul Ellering trapped in a cage above as per the stipulations.

Status: Found

Date found: 6 Sep 2016

Found by: WWE

The Last Battle of Atlanta is the name given to a Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) professional wrestling steel cage match between Tommy Rich and Buzz Sawyer. Occurring on 23rd October 1983 at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, it culminated the near-two-year feud between Rich and Sawyer. It is also credited for being the inspiration for WWE's Hell in a Cell matches.


The feud between Rich and Sawyer originated over the NWA Georgia National Title. On May 2nd, 1982, Sawyer defeated Rich for the title, holding it for 49 days before dropping it to Paul Orndorff. Even without the title, their rivalry intensified as it progressed,[1] and their matches gained notoriety for the violence displayed and bloodletting.[2] Seldom would the matches stay exclusively in the ring, with many ending up occurring across the arena, even into the dressing rooms and parking lots of the arenas. In essence, "Mad Dog" Sawyer had managed to bring the ugly out of Rich, who at the time was known for his good appearance and charisma. Throughout the Sawyer feud, however, Rich was able to deal just as many rough hits as Sawyer did to him.[3]

The Last Battle of Atlanta

Eventually, with their rivalry causing carnage that interrupted not only GCW but also the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), NWA President Bob Geigel announced that the two would have one final match to settle the score.[4] Rich and Sawyer would fight in a steel cage, but unlike with the traditional steel cage match, it would be fully enclosed, the first of its kind. Additionally, Sawyer's manager Paul Ellering was locked in a cage that was lifted above the ring, thus making him unable to interfere in the proceedings. The event would be called The Last Battle of Atlanta.[5]

The match took place at a sold-out Omni Coliseum on October 23rd, 1983.[6] As expected, it was a highly violent, bloody affair.[7] Wrestling reporter Bill Apter recalled that the crowd was reacting to the brutality involved, noting their intense hatred of Sawyer and likely wanting Rich to "practically kill Buzz Sawyer". Rich ultimately won at 12:06 by pinfall. Apter would compare the match to the third Muhammad Ali–Joe Frazier fight, in that how both ended up so badly beaten up, they essentially lost something following that match, despite remaining good competitors.[3]

The steel cage itself inspired the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) to create a new match type, titled Hell in a Cell.[8] The Cell would make its first appearance at the 1997 pay-per-view Badd Blood, with Shawn Michaels successfully retaining his WWF Championship against The Undertaker, following a debuting Kane attacking his kayfabe brother.[9] Since then, Cell matches have gained a reputation for their brutality, most notably at the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view, where Mankind was both thrown off the top of the Cell and chokeslammed through the Cell roof by The Undertaker.[10]

Recovery of the Footage

The Last Battle of Atlanta was considered one of the holy grails among professional wrestling tape collectors, alongside the 1986 Bret Hart-Tom Magee match.[11] Despite many GCW fans seeking to learn of the match outcome and details, the company never aired any footage of it. Attempts to find any recordings of the match were to no avail, with some speculating that Ole Anderson had destroyed all copies of it.[12] It was also speculated that because GCW, like many other wrestling territories back then, conserved costs by reusing its tapes, possibly overwriting The Last Battle of Atlanta as a result.[7] Despite rumours that a tape trader may have been in possession of the tape, the only publicly accessible media of the match prior to its eventual recovery consisted of a few photographs.[13]

On March 23rd, 2001, the WWF purchased rival company WCW, and with it the company's tape library.[14] What the company did not realize initially was that within the WCW tape library was an unlabelled reel containing the match footage. Eventually, in September 2016, it was announced that the WWE had identified The Last Battle of Atlanta tape, and it was set to be included as part of the WWE Network's Hidden Gems collection.[15] On September 6th, the match would become publicly accessible on the WWE Network, and has remained as such as of the present day.[16]



The Last Battle of Atlanta.

Tommy Rich discussing The Last Battle of Atlanta.


See Also


  1. Kayfabe Memories detailing the early stages of the Rich-Sawyer feud, and how it intensified once the title was out of the picture. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  2. PW Mania detailing the Rich-Sawyer feud, The Last Battle of Atlanta, and how the footage was recovered. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  3. 3.0 3.1 WWE article where multiple wrestling personalities discussed the Rich-Sawyer feud and The Last Battle of Atlanta. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  4. NWA President Bob Geigel announcing the match. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  5. PDR Wrestling detailing the stipulations for the match. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  6. Cage Match listing the event where The Last Battle of Atlanta took place at. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  7. 7.0 7.1 WWE Network News reviewing the match and noting how it was lost for many years. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  8. 411 Mania detailing how The Last Battle of Atlanta inspired the Hell in a Cell concept. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  9. TJR Wrestling reviewing the 1997 Badd Blood Hell in a Cell match. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  10. Pro Wrestling Stories detailing the Mankind-Undertaker Hell in a Cell match. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  11. The Sportster listing The Last Battle of Atlanta among other rare matches. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  12. Bleacher Report discussing The Last Battle of Atlanta, how it never aired on GCW television, and how footage might have been destroyed. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  13. WWE noting only a few photographs of The Last Battle of Atlanta existing by 2012. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  14. CNN Money reporting on the WWF buying WCW. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  15. WWE Network News reporting on The Last Battle of Atlanta tape being recovered. Retrieved 16 Dec '21
  16. The Last Battle of Atlanta on the WWE Network. Retrieved 16 Dec '21