Rock ‘n’ Wrestling: The Fabulous Freebirds

Originally published in PORK #21, Winter 2015


Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy were teenagers when they began teaming together as the Fabulous Freebirds in 1978. Legend has it that Gordy had started wrestling at the age of fourteen when he supposedly lied about his age to obtain proper licensing. Nobody questioned him because he was already over six feet tall and approaching the 300-pound mark! Hayes was originally known as the aristocratic Lord Michael Hayes, which I can imagine being something akin to putting perfume on a pig. They both noticed that wrestlers were becoming more stylish and flamboyant during the 1970s and decided that their new tag team would take it to a different level by being exactly who they were outside of the ring—longhaired Southern boys who fought hard, partied harder, and loved their rock ‘n’ roll! Buddy Roberts would complete the group in 1980 when the Freebirds arrived in the Mid-South territory. Roberts was a fifteen-year veteran of the mat wars, making his mark in various regional promotions as one half of the original Hollywood Blondes tag team with Jerry Brown. Buddy could get down on the mat and wrestle while Terry was the fearsome brawler. Hayes took on more of a manager’s role in Mid-South, raising many a wrestler’s wrath on the microphone before hiding behind his Freebird brothers. They made one nasty trio! Terry Gordy hospitalized Ted DiBiase after a vicious piledriver into the WTBS studio floor during a Georgia Championship Wrestling broadcast. Hayes managed to blind the Junkyard Dog not once, but TWICE in Mid-South and Georgia! Hell, they even turned on each other at one point, waging a bloody war before realizing the error of their ways! Freebird Fantasia then migrated to Texas, where the boys from Badstreet in Atlanta, GA would find their greatest fame.

World Class had no idea what they were in for when the Fabulous Freebirds arrived in the Dallas territory in the fall of 1982. Texas was ruled by the Von Erich brothers—Kevin, David, and Kerry. I can’t begin to tell you how much the Texas wrestling fans loved these guys! Parents would have proudly called the Von Erichs their sons. Boys would have been overjoyed to say that they were their older brothers. Girls would have happily died to be married to them. All lived vicariously through the Von Erichs as they each worked hard to become top contenders for the NWA world heavyweight championship. David was always the most rebellious of the Von Erich boys, which explained how he had apparently befriended them while wrestling outside of Texas. He welcomed the Freebirds to World Class, even filling in for Buddy Roberts to help them win the six-man tag team championship on Christmas Day of 1982. Touched by the selfless gesture, Michael Hayes hoped to reciprocate the favor later that evening. Kerry Von Erich was challenging Ric Flair for the world title in a cage match, in which fans had voted for Hayes to act as a special referee alongside senior official David Manning. Terry Gordy stood in at ringside to guard the cage from any outside interference. Texas wrestling fans had waited six months for this match and a lot had gone down along the way. Nothing could possibly stand in Kerry’s way now…right?

Hayes wanted to be an impartial enforcer, but it appeared that the pressure of being involved in an important main event match was too much for him to handle. He frequently got physically involved in the match and eventually found himself shoved to the mat by Ric Flair. Incensed, Hayes leveled the Nature Boy with one punch and ordered Kerry to cover him for the easy three-count and world title victory. Although Flair had screwed all three Von Erich brothers out of rightful title wins numerous times before, Kerry refused to win that way. Hayes felt that he was repaying David’s favor from earlier. Von Erich was clearly being ungrateful, so Hayes decided to walk out on the match. Kerry tried to reason with Michael as he was exiting the cage, but a charging Ric Flair nailed him from behind. Kerry collided with Hayes, sending him falling out to the arena floor. Gatekeeper Terry Gordy failed to see the collision, but damn sure saw his blood brother lying on the floor. With a mighty swing, he SLAMMED the cage door shut on Kerry’s head! Von Erich collapsed to the mat as the Freebirds shoved their way through irate fans and left the arena. Kerry failed to win the NWA world title and the Von Erich/Freebird war was on!

The Von Erichs were clean-cut, god-fearing jocks who got away with abusing their privileged status plenty of times.

Angels are nothing without devils and the Freebirds were the perfect foils to the Von Erichs. I enjoyed reading about the Freebird/Von Erich rivalry because it was like watching two sets of brothers fight it out over who gets control of the neighborhood. When I was a little kid and didn’t know any better, I wanted guys like the Von Erichs as the older brothers that I didn’t have. Over time, I realized that being the Fabulous Freebirds’ younger brother would have been much more fun! Frankly, the Von Erichs were a bunch of goody-two-shoes squares that probably represented everything that the typical PORK reader hates—they were clean-cut, god-fearing jocks from the right side of the tracks and behaved accordingly. Who did Kevin Von Erich think he was when he claimed that their rivalry was “a war between DECENCY and FILTH!” anyway? Like the jocks who bullied you in high school, the Von Erichs flaunted their privileged status and got away with abusing it plenty of times—especially out of the ring! I eventually came to the realization that I never actually aspired to be anything like them; I had always wanted to be a wild-haired rock ‘n’ roller with a head full of bad ideas like the Freebirds! I wanted to party on Badstreet! I wanted to be the hot child of the city, running wild while they looked pretty! Decency and filth, my ass—PORK readers can probably agree that the Fabulous Freebirds are far better role models than the Von Erich boys are!

Although the boys from Badstreet were not the first wrestlers to make the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection, they certainly deserve credit for popularizing the idea. They were among the first to utilize entrance music when they demanded that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”—what else?—play them out to the ring each night. You might find it hard to believe now, but “Freebird” was an anthem for rebellious youth across Dixie and it was no coincidence that the trio named themselves accordingly. World Class picked up on the idea upon their arrival; before long, most of their roster had their own entrance theme culled from popular music! This was two years before the WWF’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era took place and I think it is safe to say that the Freebirds were something of an influence in that regard. They became Rock ‘n’ Wrestling icons when Michael Hayes & the Fantasia Band recorded the “Badstreet USA” 45 for Grand Theft Records in 1983. You can look up the video on YouTube and enjoy the song for what it is; a fun slab of ‘80s arena glam metal that speaks to everything the Fabulous Freebirds embodied! Michael Hayes went on to record a few more records, including the Off the Streets LP with the Badstreet Band in 1987.

WrestleMania XXXII is right around the corner, meaning that we will also see new inductions into the WWE Hall of Fame. Festivities will emanate out of Dallas this year, which is where the fabled Freebird/Von Erich war made wrestling history. Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts left this mortal coil in 2001 and 2012 respectively and I think it is about time that Michael Hayes finally gets his wish and sees himself and his brothers go into the Hall once and for all! WWE has recognized the Von Erichs’ contributions to professional wrestling and they need to do the same for the Fabulous Freebirds! Do the right thing, Vince! Make it happen, rebel flags and all!

 

Written by Jake Kelly

Proud author of the Rock 'n' Wrestling column as seen in PORK, a free quarterly magazine from Portland. Wrestling fan since 1985. TSM lurker since 2003. Semi-functional human being since 1978.