Barry Windham: WCW Time Line 1991
DVD produced by the Kayfabe Commentary crew
The Man: Barry Windham is a second generation wrestler, son of the legendary Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan and brother of journeyman Kendall. Windham was probably destined for wrestling success from birth not just because his father was a 6’7, 320 pound former football player and wrestling star, but also because Blackjack happened to be best friends with one of wrestling’s biggest draws and most influential bookers of the time: Dusty Rhodes.
Barry broke in wrestling as a ref in Texas while going to college. By age 19 Barry was wrestling, having debuted in November of 1979 against his future manager J.J. Dillon. After that brief period in Texas, Windham moved to Florida. Dusty Rhodes had Florida Championship Wrestling promoter Eddie Graham’s ear and thus Barry was protected from suffering on the lower card, doing jobs on TV and other indignities that many rookies suffer.
In 1984 Barry starting teaming with fellow youngster Mike Rotunda creating a bit of a dream team for the Apter Magazines of the time, who put both men on their list of potential future NWA champions. Mike and Barry worked in Florida and then briefly in Jim Crockett Promotions before agreeing to work for the quickly expanding WWF in October of 1984.
Dubbed the U.S. Express – the 2 men got a lucky career break when the veteran brother team of Jack and Gerald Brisco abruptly retired and thus forfeited their expected tag title run (a reward for selling their Georgia Championship Wrestling stock to Vince McMahon). The Express won the tag belts twice during their 10 month WWF partnership. Any future success for the team was negated when Barry burned out of the WWF schedule and quit abruptly at the end of the summer of 1985.
Barry spent much of the rest of 85 and 86 in Florida, but would be called up to Jim Crockett Promotions in late 86 and pushed up the card right off, helping Dusty with his never ending feud with the Four Horsemen. Windham’s next big push came about in 1988 when he turned on Lex Luger and handed the Horsemen the World tag titles. Windham then engaged in a personal feud with longtime friend Dusty Rhodes. Barry scooped up the US title along the way in a tournament – a belt that Dusty had been stripped of – adding more heat to the feud. Windham lost the belt in February of 1989 and soon after jumped ship back to the WWF for a unmemorable run as “The Widowmaker”. Barry quit to save Vince from embarrassment after his brother and father went to jail for counterfeiting money.
In May of 1990 Barry showed up in WCW and was placed right back into the Four Horsemen with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Sid Vicious. Windham remained a top heel for over a year battling Brian Pillman, Doom, Bobby Eaton, and many other top faces before Windham himself turned to the side of good in 1991 to chase Lex Luger’s World title. After that feud, Windham worked along the upper mid card feuding with Steve Austin over the TV belt and winning the World tag belts with Dustin Rhodes from Dr. Death Steve Williams and Terry Gordy. The title win would ultimately cause Barry to turn back to the dark side as he turned on Dustin for Rhodes’ unwillingness to take advantage of an injured Ricky Steamboat during a title defense.
The heel turn propelled Barry Windham to beating The Great Muta for the NWA World title in January 1993 and then feuding with old friends Arn Anderson and Ric Flair for the belt. Ultimately Barry dropped the belt to Flair that summer and left wrestling. He was used the following May by WCW as a mystery opponent for Flair at a PPV – basically WCW wanted to tease Hulk Hogan would be the opponent and with Windham they could still promise “a tall blond challenger” and not be dishonest.
Windham had an unremarkable and mostly unmotivated WWF run from 1996 to early 1998, starting with a “Stalker” gimmick of being a expert tracker or bounty hunter or something. Barry hated the gimmick and tried to get away from it as quick as possible. His run with a young JBL as the “New” Blackjacks was hardly noteworthy either. Barry finished up his WWF run by being part of an angle of “NWA” invaders who Jim Cornette brought in to bring wrestling back to the WWF. This was Vince Russo mocking Jim Cornette’s love of old school ‘rasslin and ended quickly.
Barry’s career in the mainstream ended with a late 90’s WCW run which saw him net another tag title run and be part of the cult favorite “West Texas Rednecks”. Barry was released in 1999 and sporadically worked the indy circuit and later worked behind the scenes in the WWE.
The Shoot: The first impression that hit me when I started to watch this was that Barry Windham is a BIG BIG man. His 6’6 280 lb wrestling body blended in with the other steroid injecting mammoths of Barry’s prime – but make no mistake – Windham is a massive human.
Barry talks about how NFL great Lawrence Taylor ended up seconding Lex Luger on an early January house show. Luger’s USFL playing days saw him connect with L.T. and 5 years later, WCW tried to pop New York attendance with the Giants linebacker in tow.
Ric Flair was one of Blackjack Mulligan’s friends, so Barry knew him growing up and idolized his wrestling persona.
Ron Simmons was one of the guys Windham helped train in Florida, so he enjoyed the Four Horseman’s feud with Doom that was wrapping up around this time.
Barry talks of drinking in a private room with Rotundo, Flair, Alexandra York and L.T., among others. I wish Barry would have shared some of these tales.
Rotundo quits WCW over a money issue. Windham talks about how much Vince McMahon loves Mike. Barry of course is happy Rotundo is still with Vince since Mike is his brother in law.
Dusty Rhodes returned to WCW after 2 years. Windham had been booking WCW in between Ole Anderson being removed and Dusty taking over. Windham says he made a point to avoid pushing himself hard while controlling the book.
Barry tells how Terri Runnels went from WCW’s cosmology girl to being manager Alexandra York by sleeping her way to a push.
Dusty brings his son in and pushes him only weeks after taking over as booker. Barry is friends with Dusty and Dustin, so he defends the move.
Larry Zbyszko was hard to work with due to his slow paced style and was more suited for a WWF pace.
Dusty next brings in Mike Graham as an agent, continuing to perhaps abuse his position of power to surround himself with his comrades. Windham says Mike was a great finish guy.
El Gigante was a nice guy but stunk in the ring. Not breaking news there. Windham had to try and work with the big man frequently in Gigante’s early days. (I’m pretty sure Barry bladed to Gigante’s claw hold to help put him over during this run.)
Nikita Koloff returns in February (more Dusty influence). Barry thinks Nikita stunk as a worker and was hard to get a good match out of.
Micheal Hayes is put over for having a mind for the business, but Windham feels Hayes’ in ring skills were lacking.
Flair, Arn Anderson and Windham tried to mold Sid Vicious into a better all around worker during his time as a Horseman, but Sid largely did his own thing.
Buddy Landell is fired in late February for drunkenly blowing his nose on a woman who was acting up at a bar. Windham is disappointed in the fact that Buddy couldn’t control himself out of the ring, because Landell was very skilled in ring.
Windham mentions one of the Hart brothers coming in for a few matches in WCW, then (VERY briefly) elaborates on why.
Windham says he personally worked a stiffer style of wrestling, so he was fine with going to Japan and working their physical bouts. He cites working Mr. Saito in Florida in the early 80’s as a great learning curb for how not to let your opponent eat you up offensively.
WCW President Jim Herd failed because he tried to be a bully to a locker room full of bullies, as far as Barry is concerned.
PN News was caught stealing from the boys and received a beating as his comeuppance from persons unnamed. Barry can’t understand how News ever got a push.
Scott Hall was another guy that Barry trained down in Florida. This leads to Windham talking about DDP morphing from a manager and into a worker. Barry was unimpressed with DDP’s skills but “World Champions didn’t need to be able to work in WCW by then”.
Marc Mero hated the Johnny B. Badd gimmick. Steve Austin starts at the same TV Taping as Badd and Bad Blood (Billy Jack Haynes in a mask as an executioner). Windham calls Haynes “Billy Wack”, That is actually a great nickname for Haynes. Windham didn’t mind WCW coming up with these crazy gimmicks since he worked in Vince’s cartoonish WWF.
Windham talks of Paul Jones and Flair teaching him to blade. Barry says he was a lot safer with the blade than other guys who would gouge you by accident.
Dick Murdoch is put over as a much deserved uncrowned World Champion. Barry can’t confirm some of the wackier Murdoch stories – such as sneaking onto a college campus and making the football team despite not being enrolled there.
Windham preferred playing heel but felt others like Ricky Morton just didn’t have it in them.
Dan Spivey refused to job to Tom Zenk and PN Newz and quits. Barry suspects Spivey had a deal set elsewhere.
Ric Flair is fired while World Champ. Barry discusses the reason he believes Flair left, and gives an explanation not many seem to agree with, which is surprising.
Barry talks up what a great concept “War Games” was. Barry loved the uniqueness and they popped a house.
Barry suggests that Luger getting the World title was a last second reaction due to Flair leaving. Ditto Luger’s heel turn that night. Barry buries Luger’s abilities and says Harley Race and Mr. Hughes had to be added to make Luger’s heel run work.
Dusty brings in Abdullah the Butcher who was over the hill but Rhodes liked him. Barry says Abby was fun in the locker room, despite sucking in the ring.
Jim Cornette sent Jim Herd a funeral wreath after Flair’s dismissal congratulating him on killing the company. Yet another reason to like Jim Cornette!
Bill Kazmaier was a great guy but was unpolished and WCW rushed him up the card.
Sting wasn’t comfortable with his gimmick in his early NWA days and Barry and JJ Dillion had to help him remember to “howl” among other things.
WCW’s ring crew caused a house show to be canceled when the wrong materials were shipped into a town. Barry suggests foul play was involved from a rival promotion.
Windham bemoans having to work short matches in the more modern era, having come from the days of working hour broadways with Flair in the 80’s.
Sid told Brian Pillman that Brian couldn’t work and refused to feud with Pillman because of his size.
A WCW overseas plane ride to the United Kingdom saw a lot of rowdiness out of the guys from drinking and whatnot. This featured the infamous story of Ric Flair strutting down the plane aisle naked under his robe. Windham says the modern WWE guys are nowhere near likely to commit such outrageous behavior.
Final Thoughts: Barry Windham talks in a slow southern drawl and offers up the answers to what is asked, but he doesn’t really expand into side stories or rants that you get in some shoots. I have to believe that the main reason the Kayfabe Commentary crew chose Windham to cover WCW in 1991 was due to Windham’s direct involvement in the biggest news of the year for the company – that being the firing of Ric Flair, company standard bearer and long time legend. That said, Barry really does not elaborate much on the whole situation and that segment is vastly disappointing. Overall I’d have to say that the shoot was somewhat lackluster. Barry only really came out of his shell when telling a few stories of his father. It was at those moments you saw the excitement and passion out of Barry that made you wish he had utilized throughout the interview.