It's probably a safe bet that most younger fans of today's version of professional wrestling aren't familiar with the name George Scott.

And that's a shame.

Scott, who passed away last week at the age of 84, was one of the most influential men in the business for several decades.

During the '50s and '60s, Scott was a top-flight wrestler, forming one of the sport's most successful brother duos, The Flying Scotts, along with younger brother Sandy.

During the '70s, Scott used his considerable talents as a booker to turn the storied Mid-Atlantic territory into one of the hottest promotions in the country.

During the '80s, Scott played a key role in Vince McMahon's national expansion of the WWF and the creation of Wrestlemania.

George Scott did all this and much more during a career that spanned from 1948 until his retirement in the early '90s.

"George Scott took a kid who was rough around the edges and molded him into a champion," said 16-time world champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. "He was the biggest influence in my career. He was totally responsible for my makeover after the (1975) airplane crash."

Scott, indeed, modeled Flair after close friend "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, helping the young Minnesotan fine-tune the gimmick and elevating him to main-event status early in his career in the Carolinas.

"My career took off with George's help and guidance, and I owe much of my success to him," adds Flair.

Scott also was responsible for bringing in a greenhorn named Richard Blood, billing him as Ricky Steamboat and matching him up against Flair, the territory's top heel. Their rivalry would become legendary, and Steamboat would become one of the top babyfaces in wrestling history.

When Scott, having retired from the ring due to a broken neck and other lingering injuries, took over as booker in 1973 following the death of longtime promoter Jim Crockett Sr., he infused the Mid-Atlantic area with new talent.

WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Brisco, younger brother of the late great Jack Brisco, was one of those Scott turned to.

"George gave me my first big break when I came into the Carolinas," says Brisco. "He made me a star in the territory and booked me with all the great workers that he had brought in."

The Carolinas had been known as a hotbed for tag-team wrestling during the '60s. But into the '70s, headliners had grown older, talent had become stale and crowds had declined.

Scott decided to take an entirely different approach when he brought in a number of top singles stars to help jump-start the promotion.

Main-event performers such as Johnny Valentine, Wahoo McDaniel, The Super Destroyer (Don Jardine) and Blackjack Mulligan slowly but surely began popping the territory.

And with the rapid development of young talent such as Flair and Steamboat, the Mid-Atlantic area became a wrestling fan's paradise with a "who's who" of grappling talent.

"George really helped advance my career by giving me the opportunity to work with guys like Johnny Valentine and The Super Destroyer," say Brisco. "I just had tremendous respect for his knowledge of the business, how he handled himself, how he handled talent."

Ironically, adds Brisco, "When Rip (Hawk) met me in Australia in 1970, the whole premise of me coming to the Carolinas was to take George Scott's place. And I ended up teaming with Sandy."

The Scotts, in fact, had provided the blueprint for top babyface brother duos - such as Jack and Jerry Brisco - to follow.

"What people forget is that George was a great worker," says Brisco. "He made that great transition long before it was popular for a wrestler to come into that position. He became a highly successful booker and matchmaker. Both George and Sandy were very creative in the business. They were the model of a tag team that many aspired to be."

"George really re-invented the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic area to be the great territory it became," says Brisco. "He was the architect of Mid-Atlantic."

Flying Scotts

While George and brother Sandy (Angus Scott) both played key roles in the promotional and creative end of Mid-Atlantic wrestling during the '70s and '80s, it was inside the ring where they had become the darlings of a generation of fans in the Carolinas and Virginia.

George, already an established star at the time, helped break Sandy, five years his junior, into the business in the early '50s.

With youthful good looks and polished mat skills, the brothers were dubbed "The Flying Scotts" due to their speed and aerial antics, which included dropkicks and flying head scissors.

They spent nearly six years as tag-team headliners in Stu Hart's Calgary-based Stampede territory where they won the Canadian tag-team belts within months of their arrival. Torrid matches with another top team of that era, the Miller Brothers, set records at the Calgary Stampede, an annual festival and rodeo that featured wrestling spectaculars, in both 1957 and 1958.

The Scotts, main-eventers everywhere they went, bounced from western Canada to Toronto and Buffalo, adding to their tag-team title collection at every stop.

But it was a warmer climate and another veteran promoter, Jim Crockett Sr., that lured the Scotts to an area they would eventually call home and achieve their greatest success, both as wrestlers and as bookers.

Born in Scotland and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the Scotts would settle in the Carolinas-Virginia area, where Jim Crockett Sr. told his headliners that they had a home for life.

The Scotts also found an abundance of top-tier teams to feud with in the Mid-Atlantic area during the '60s. For a decade the Scotts battled the likes of such heel tandems as Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, The Assassins, Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard, Aldo Bogni and Bronko Lubich, Bob Orton and Boris Malenko, and The Andersons.

The Scotts became involved with every aspect of the promotion, and were responsible for giving a number of young stars their first break in the business.

"George Scott is the only father I've ever known," says WWE Hall of Famer Tony Atlas, who was "discovered" by George and brother Sandy at a YMCA in Roanoke, Va., during the early '70s. "He was a wonderful man. Everything I learned I learned from him. He always took care of me. He and his brother were both wonderful people."

Veteran fans who were weaned on the old days of Carolina wrestling also recall George Scott with fond memories.

"George Scott 'booked our youth,'" wrote Dick Bourne of the popular Mid-Atlantic Gateway website. "He was the man behind the scenes during our favorite years in Mid-Atlantic wrestling."

"He made me a fan. Best eye for detail ever (along with Les Thatcher)," said filmmaker Richard O'Sullivan. "He was one of those visionaries who will never get the credit he deserves. If not for him, they'd be calling Wrestlemania 'the Colossal Tussle' (and no one could do that with a straight face). Best of all time."

Wrestling historian and author Bill Murdock remembers going to the Asheville Civic Center on Wednesday nights to see his hero in action.

"We'd stand at the front door just waiting for them (the Scotts) to walk out. They would be three feet away from us, and we just couldn't speak."

To Murdock and thousands of other fans, the Scotts were matinee idols, larger-than-life heroes who represented virtue and battled the bad guys on a weekly basis for mat supremacy.

"Sandy would put the abdominal stretch on one guy, and George would put the sleeper on the other," says Murdock, referring to the Scotts' trademark one-two punch.

George Scott didn't need a gimmick or a flashy name.

"Why would I change my name and want to make somebody else famous?" he'd wryly ask.

Sandy Scott died at the age of 75 on March 11, 2010, from pancreatic cancer.

WWF expansion

Brisco, a longtime Tampa resident, would remain friends with Scott, who moved nearly 25 years ago to nearby Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

Years after Scott brought him to the Carolinas as a rising young star, he would return the favor by helping bring Scott into the WWF fold as Vince McMahon was beginning his national expansion of the company.

"When Jack and I decided to sell our stock to Vince (in 1984), Vince asked us who we would recommend to be his booker when he took it over." Both immediately suggested George Scott.

"George got the job and went on to help create the first Wrestlemania. He was a very creative guy and he gave everything he had to the business. "

Scott booked the first show, as well as some of WWF's weekly programming, but he had a major problem with the proposed name for the inaugural mega-event.

"They were going to call it 'The Colossal Tussle,' notes Murdock. "But George said no way are we calling it that."

The rest, of course, is history, and three decades later the annual show is the biggest event in professional wrestling. A lot of the credit goes to Scott.

So entrusted by the McMahon family was Scott that, in later years, he would proudly display a letter from company owners Vince and Linda McMahon declaring that, if anything ever happened to them during that period, Scott was to take control of the organization.

But he eventually became disenchanted with the changing tide of the wrestling product. Less and less emphasis was being placed on traditional wrestling as Scott had known it.

Along with an increased spotlight on what many traditionalists called "cartoon characters," drug problems began to crop up on the WWF roster, and Scott grew wary of dealing with talent he deemed neither dependable nor accountable.

A few brief stints in the business followed, including a run as WCW booker, but nothing would ever recapture the magic Scott had enjoyed in earlier decades.

Pro wrestling had changed forever, and Scott knew when it was time to leave.

He finished up his career working for a regional outfit called South Atlantic Pro Wrestling.

'Always a wrestler'

George Scott also was instrumental in the early development of the Asheville, N.C.-based Eblen Charities, an organization that benefits thousands of needy families in western North Carolina.

"George helped grow that organization. He helped put together the first golf tournament. It's now one of the biggest charities in the nation," says Brisco.

To Bill Murdock, executive director of Eblen Charities, George Scott was a boyhood hero, mentor and close friend.

"Where everybody else had (heroes like) Joe Namath and Pete Rose, I had George Scott. I had George and Jack (Brisco) and Dory (Funk Jr.). But George was my first sports hero. He'll always be one of my heroes."

Their relationship extended beyond a professional one.

Scott was one of the first "celebrities" to help the Eblen organization its in early days as a mere fundraiser.

Murdock recalls reaching out to the local wrestling community, and being told by Ricky Steamboat to give George Scott a call.

Initially, says Murdock, he was in awe of actually calling someone he had idolized as a youngster growing up in Asheville.

"For three weeks I wouldn't call him. I'd call the president or the pope before I'd call George Scott. I was actually holding George Scott's phone number."

Murdock eventually mustered the courage to call his boyhood hero and found Scott as engaging and pleasant as he had imagined.

"He was just so nice. He invited me to come down to Spartanburg that Friday night. We went out to eat afterwards and had a wonderful time."

Scott helped recruit a group of pro wrestling stars for Murdock's first celebrity golf tournament, and the event has been going strong ever since.

An avid golfer, Scott enjoyed participating in the annual auction and golf tournament, which greatly added to the star-studded atmosphere, says Murdock.

"He had a good time with everyone. When Jesse Ventura was here for the event, George smiled and pointed out, 'I used to be his boss.'"

In 2004 Scott received the Frank Gotch Award recognizing individuals for bringing positive recognition to professional wrestling through work outside the ring.

"All of his accomplishments in the ring, in the office, paled in comparison to the man that he was and the wonderful heart that he had for others. He was a world champion in a lot more ways than in the ring," says Murdock. "I will forever be in his debt."

Murdock says he admired how Scott understood all sides of the wrestling business.

"George had such a love for the sport ... and for the guys. He was respected by so many people in this business. Being a wrestler, he understood the talent he was dealing with (when he became booker).

"No matter what position George had in the industry, as booker or matchmaker, he was always a wrestler. He took such pride and honor in that. I think the product he put out from behind the desk reflected that. He loved and understood the sport, he loved the fans and the towns, and he understood what the boys had to go through."

Scott, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November 2011, passed away on Jan. 20.

He left the wrestling profession with a legacy that will never be forgotten.

"George was a great wrestler, world champion, businessman, promoter and philanthropist. What an honor it was to have known him," says Murdock.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or mooneyham@postandcourier.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.