Wrasslin’ February 1984: Death of David Von Erich

WWF champion Hulk Hogan headed for Japan where he beat Rusher Kimura in several singles matches before spending the rest of his tour there splitting wins in tag team bouts.

Andre the Giant got involved in a mini program with the Masked Superstar, beating him several times at house shows after they got into it on TV.

Tito Santana defeated Don Muraco for the Intercontinental gold February 11th at the Boston Gardens.

Jimmy Snuka has been missing house shows and the WWF brass is no longer willing to overlook this kind of behavior from Snuka now that he is not being counted on as a top draw.

Paranoia is running through promoters across the country as Dick Slater, Butch Reed, Bob Orton Jr, Magnum TA, Mike Rotondo, Nikolai Volkoff, Jimmy Valiant and others are all rumored to be on Vince’s wish list.

New Japan and the WWF are supposedly trying to work out a deal to send Bruiser Brody to the WWF to work a program with Hogan.

The Road Warriors are also negotiating to come in for Vince.

Verne Gagne lost his AWA TV in San Francisco after McMahon worked out a deal with the station to air the WWF instead.

Detroit area promoter/ former wrestler George Cannon agreed to work with Vince to protect his own interests. McMahon ended up buying his TV time anyway and then fired Cannon.

There is talk of Lord Alfred Hayes being sent to England to set up a U.K. office, and the WWF also has irons in the fire in Japan, where they may help the upstart “Universal Wrestling Federation” that is beginning there.

Sgt. Slaughter turned babyface after having several confrontations with the Iron Sheik on TV. The turn was further solidified by Sarge arguing with several heels who he was teaming with at house shows.

Incidentally, I just met the Sarge this past weekend:

andy 2

The Hogan era kicked off with big box office results as Boston drew 15,000 people to see Hogan best the Iron Sheik, Andre team with Atlas and Johnson to conquer Slaughter, Mr. Fuji and Tiger Chung Lee and Santana beating Don Muraco for the IC title.

Then 16,000 fans came to the Philly Spectrum to see Hogan batter the Masked Superstar, Andre and Snuka teamed to best Schultz and Slaughter by count out, Tito Santana battled The Iron Sheik to a double count out, and Atlas and Johnson scored a pin over Muraco and Piper.

MSG was sold out to the tune of 26,000 fans who came to witness Hogan beating Orndorff via count-out, Santana besting Muraco via count-out, Andre pinning the Masked Superstar, plus Piper, Schultz, Slaughter and others in action.

Pittsburgh drew 18,000 fans to see Hogan go over the Iron Shiek and Andre, Atlas and Johnson beating Afa, Sika and Slaughter.

The California expansion continued in Los Angeles where Hogan pinned the Masked Superstar, Santana bested Muraco in a Texas Death match, Snuka and Adrian Adonis went to a no-contest, plus Mascaras and Slaughter were in under card bouts.

Dick Slater’s big push continued as he pinned NWA World Champion Ric Flair in several non-title matches. Slater defended his US title against the likes of Greg Valentine and Wahoo McDaniels when he wasn’t hounding Flair.

Ricky Steamboat’s “retirement” has already became a storyline as Jim Crockett Jr. offered Steamboat a title match with Flair and 10 grand in cash if he agreed to come back in March. Steamboat mulled the idea for a week, then declared his intention to take the match.

Tully Blanchard began his legendary run for JCP this month. JYD is also in making some appearances for Crockett.

Angelo Mosca Jr and Sr took up the fight against Gary Hart’s men as the father/son duo battled NWA tag champs Don Kernodle and Bob Orton Jr. Mosca Jr. also defended his Mid-Atlantic title against Ivan Koloff multiple times.

Orton and Kernoodle defended the titles against Flair and Wahoo McDaniel as well as Jay and Mark Youngblood.

Jimmy Valiant has enlisted Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes and Dory Funk Jr. to help him battle Paul Jones and the Assassins.

They aired a vignette of a down and depressed Valiant sitting on a street corner before a limo arrived for him. Valiant then picked up a prostitute to end the vignette. Big Mama, Valiant’s real wife, played the whore.

Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen made a special appearance, beating Dory Funk Jr and Terry Gibbs at a house show.

The Road Warriors came in for some shots against the team of Wahoo and Angelo Mosca Sr., which must have been a potato-fest of a match. The Warriors also battled Wahoo and Greg Valentine, which sounds equally stiff.

17,000 fans came to the Maple Leaf Gardens to see NWA Champ Ric Flair defend his title against Harley Race in a steel cage. Dusty Rhodes and Jimmy Valiant bested the Assassins in the top under card bout.

St. Louis/Central States
The WWF headed into battle in St. Louis by presenting a card with Hogan beating the Masked Superstar by DQ, Andre the Giant beating David Schultz, Big John Studd winning a battle royal by tossing Andre and Hogan out together, Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch going over Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, plus Paul Orndorff, Mil Mascaras and Snuka in under card action.

The local St. Louis promoters (Verne Gagne/Bob Geigel)  drew 11,000 fans to the Kiel Auditorium to see a battle royal win by Barry Windham, earning him a future match at Flair. Wahoo bested Harley Race, Slater and Funk Jr. went to a double count-out, Windham got by Ken Patera, Jim Brunzell drew Buck Robley and Blanchard and the Youngbloods filled out the prelims.

A second show that month saw Flair successfully defend his title against Windham, Wahoo beat Race by DQ, Dusty Rhodes pinned “Crazy” Luke Graham, Patera and Jerry Blackwell got by Buck Robley and Ron Ritchie plus Slater, Blackjack Mulligan and the Youngbloods in prelim action.

Elsewhere in the territory Flair defended his gold against JYD, Buzz Tyler and Bob Brown in various towns.

The big news of the month for the AWA is that champion Nick Bockwinkel was dethroned in Japan by International champion Jumbo Tsuruta. Terry Funk served as the special guest referee. This caused problems right away as Gagne booked Jumbo for matches in America that Tsuruta had to cancel due to having Japanese commitments. I have to question the move of putting the title on a virtual unknown (to Midwest fans) when you’re in a wrestling war.

Larry Zybyszko is in talks with Verne to come in for a feud with David Sammartino to play off Larry’s famous feud with Bruno.

Jesse Ventura was asked to turn babyface to replace Hulk Hogan, Ventura refused as he was already thinking ahead to jumping to the WWF and working on top with Hogan.

“Superstar” Billy Graham is out with an injury.

Blackjack Mulligan returned to the AWA and reformed the Blackjacks with Lanza. They battled Bockwinkel and Harley Race as well as Patera and Blackwell. Lanza also hounded Bockwinkel in singles matches.

Da Crusher has been battling Crusher Blackwell in many towns. Jesse Ventura and Mr. Saito have also taken up the challenge of Crusher and Baron Von Raschke in a number of matches.

National champion Ted Dibiase continued his feud with “Mr. R” aka the masked Tommy Rich. During a TV match between the two, Rich surprised Dibiase by having Brad Armstrong don the mask. Once an unmasked Rich showed up at ringside and distracted Dibiase, Ted was rolled up and pinned.

Ronnie Garvin and Jake the Snake are feuding over the TV title.

The war with the WWF continued as both companies held events in Baltimore. GCW drew 7500 fans to see Mr. R beat Dibiase, Wahoo McDaniel, Stan Hansen and Pez Whatley bested The Road Warriors and Paul Ellering, Larry Zbyszko lost to David Sammartino via count-out, Jake the Snake outshined Brad Armstrong, Whatley overcame Bob Roop, King Kong Bundy smashed Ronnie Garvin and Les Thornton pinned Tommy Rogers. The WWF came in two weeks later and sold out the place with Hogan headlining against Paul Orndorff.

The companies also butted heads in Cincinnati where the WWF drew 3000 fans to see Andre team with SD Jones and Rocky Johnson to batter the Samoans. Ivan Putzki vs. Paul Orndorff was the only other match of note on the card, minus Roddy Piper and David Schultz beating Eddie Gilbert and Tony Garea in the prelims.

GCW drew 1000 fans for their Cincy show in which Ted Dibiase fought Stan Hansen to a draw, The Road Warriors battled Bundy and Whatley, Garvin bested Jake the Snake and Tommy Rich pinned the Spoiler.

GCW drew only 1,000 fans to the Omni to see Jack Brisco challenge Ted Dibiase. Rich faced the Spoiler, The Road Warriors lost via DQ to Sweet Brown Sugar and Whatley and Jake the Snake bested Jerry Brisco.

The follow up Omni show later that month saw NWA champ Flair defend against Brad Armstrong, plus the Road Warriors battling Stan Hansen and King Kong Bundy to a double-DQ, Jake the Snake besting Ron Garvin, Wahoo and Nikolai Volkoff fighting to a draw, Rich beating Dibiase via DQ and other action. I’d have certainly bought a ticket to that second show!

Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki are putting aside their differences and discussing putting on a summer super show to combat the newly formed UWF, which may or may not have the WWF’s help coming in.

NWA champ Ric Flair came in to defend his title against Mike Rotondo and Barry Windham.

Dusty Rhodes is still clashing with Kevin Sullivan’s Army of Darkness.

“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan has come in as a heel and is facing Rhodes, among others.

The Rock and Roll Express debuted and became an instant sensation with the fans.

JYD is still battling the communist menaces Nikolai Volkoff and Crusher Darsow, with Terry Taylor also honing in on the big Russians as well.

Butch Reed is colliding with his former partner Jim Neidhart across the territory.

The Midnight Express are embroiled in a feud with Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II. The issues with Cornette and Bill Watts continue to simmer as well.

Mike Von Erich faced Buddy Roberts in a special bout imported from WCCW.

Before the Rock and Roll Express jumped to Mid-South, they put over the Fabulous Ones in a battle of the pretty boy tag teams. Memphis promoters are seeking replacements for the Fabulous Ones as Lane and Keirn are beginning to have ego problems stemming from their big push. Koko Ware and Norvell Austin (The P.Y.T.’s) are among those who may get the push. The Road Warriors are also being courted, but Memphis doesn’t pay well. The Warriors did come in to battle Austin Idol and Jerry Lawler though. The Zambooie Express would ultimately get the spot the Warriors were offered.

AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel successfully survived a title challenge by Austin Idol early in the month.

Joe LeDuc and Buzz Sawyer are having wild brawls in many towns. I want to see that!

Dutch Mantel and Randy Savage are at war.

All time legend El Santo passed away February 5th.

UWA Champ El Canek bested Andre the Giant in a legendary best of 3 falls match on February 12th. Many reports had Andre being pinned, but video came out years later to show that was false.

This wild Texas promotion saw two brutal matches go down in February. The Sheepherders faced Manny Fernandez and Dick Murdoch in a match where the blading got so out of hand that the local doctors thought the men had been in a car wreck when the wrestlers arrived at the hospital. In another match later in the month Butch Miller lost so much blood his immune system went out of whack and he ended up catching pneumonia.

World Class
By far the biggest news of the month came from WCCW as David Von Erich died in Japan while preparing for a tour there. An inflamed intestinal tract leading to a heart attack is the official cause of death, but drugs were always highly suspected.

His brothers all took several weeks off to mourn their loss before returning to the ring. It appears Mid-South sent in Butch Reed, Neidhart and JYD to help fill the cards up with the Von Erichs off, but that may not be the real reason.

Ricky Steamboat had to be flown to Japan to replace David Von Erich in a match with Tenryu to determine a new United National champ. The title had an odd recent history as Von Erich had beaten Michael Hayes for the title, however Hayes had won the title in a made up match with Ted Dibiase in late January.

Prior to Von Erich dying, he was battling the Freebirds as well as challenging NWA champ Ric Flair during the early part of the month. Flair also defended his title against Chris Adams.

No DVD to review this time, see you next week! 


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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