Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Magnum TA Shoot Interview NWA 1985

Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries
“The History of the NWA – 1985”

We start with Magnum explaining that he had been working for Bill Watts’ Mid-South and making six figures a year when JCP called him to jump ship. Dusty Rhodes had become booker some months before and was grooming Barry Windham to be the top babyface of the future. Windham ended up leaving for the WWF’s big money as JCP was struggling a bit. Rhodes wanted Magnum to come in to be the star of the future and since they had a connection from working together in Florida. Magnum agreed.

This was risky as Watts had made TA a star and now he was going to be almost starting over. JCP would acquire the TBS TV by mid 1985 which allowed them to make a nationwide impact and create true superstars.

Rhodes was personally hurt by his long time friend Windham leaving him.

Watts told Magnum he was foolish to leave the red hot Mid-South to toil in the Carolinas for a fraction of the money (at first).

The Mid-South was a tough gig as Bill Watts was a megalomaniac who liked to discipline his talent, and the drives were long.

Jim Crockett was a nice man, and didn’t want to be on TV for the sake of his own ego.

Rhodes thought of big picture ideas and sold Crockett on reaching towards large scale plans.

Wahoo McDaniel was the first program Magnum was put in. The battles were for the US title and TA got the rub of surviving battles with the crusty local legend.

TA won several “$50,000” battle royals and he had to explain to his family where the money was when he’d come home with just his standard smallish payoff.

The locker room embraced Magnum despite the monster push he received immediately.

Tully Blanchard chose Baby Doll as his “perfect 10” because he thought that having a bigger woman propped up as sex symbol would create heat.

Baby Doll was stiff since she wasn’t trained to throw worked blows.

Eddie Graham committed suicide early in the year. Dick Slater and Magnum TA were in JCP at the time and were devastated since Graham had groomed both of them in how to become stars.

Barry Darsow came in as a communist and he worked fantastic as the big bumping monster. Ivan Koloff was slowing down by that point and Nikita Koloff was booked to not sell, so Darsow played an important role in their trio.

JCP started to expand north into Philly and New Jersey to find bigger revenue streams. The crowds were not great at first as JCP TV was limited in these areas but things grew and grew.

TA was big enough to fight monsters but “small” enough to believably feud with smaller guys, which made him a versatile and valuable worker.

Rhodes loved Scott Hall and Dan Spivey and tried to find them places to learn to work so he could eventually make them stars.

Arn Anderson joined JCP in March. TA had known him as a jobber elsewhere, but once he heard him cut a promo, TA knew Arn had the chance to be a real draw.

Ole Anderson was a funny guy to be around when he wasn’t in charge.

Buddy Landell also entered JCP in March. Buddy had a way of ruining his own career by being tactless as well as suffering from substance abuse.

Ricky Steamboat quit and Sgt. Slaughter came in to replace him during a big “Silver Star ’85” card.

Rhodes loved Tully Blanchard because he was able to bump up and feed the baby faces at a rapid pace.

Magnum talks about putting Pez Whatley over one night when TA was not in his normal territory. He didn’t see any big deal since Pez had to stay and try and draw, meanwhile TA was going back home.

TA was put over Wahoo for the US title in late March. Magnum got his eye caught on the cage and tore a bloody gash in his head.  Wahoo and TA worked well together despite starting off early in their program with what could have been a sour note when TA accidently split Wahoo’s head with a chair which forced him to get 8 stitches to seal it.

JCP was running a house show the same night as Wrestlemania 1. The WWF was considered cartoonish but the big Mania success made everyone realize that the WWF might be setting a new course for wrestling.

Crockett was determined to stay a blood and guts promotion to counteract the WWF circus. Both groups drew big money.

JCP bought up Georgia’s TBS timeslot and the WWF’s TBS timeslots and suddenly business exploded.

The wrestlers got pussy everywhere already, the TBS deal just made it harder to go anywhere.

The guys weren’t shy, so any bar they went to would be turned into their playpen.

WTBS studios was super tiny and TA would change clothes in a empty cubicle.

The star power was huge in JCP by mid-85 and you had to have a niche to stand out among all the others.

Abby the Butcher came in during the summer. TA got to work with him and found out he was agile for a near 400 pounder.

Jimmy Valiant was subdued off camera, which made his on screen presence all the more shocking to see.

TA worked rough and a bit stiff which made him worry about hurting some of the guys who worked a far less physical style.

TV was meant to create stars to draw money on the house shows, so Magnum working brief matches never bothered him.

Dusty started to bring a man in a gorilla suit to cut promos next to. The gorilla was going to team with Rhodes against the Russians. A proper blow off never occurred.

Dick Slater thought he was going to become booker of a JCP sub-territory based out of Atlanta. TA doesn’t know where Slater got such ideas as he (TA) was not privy to any info like that and Magnum was driving town to town nightly with Dusty.

JCP ran a show at Pittsburgh’s Three River Stadium. It drew less than 4,000 people. A rainstorm hit during the match and TA and Flair went 54 minutes anyway.

Flair and Magnum wrestled in almost 20 one-hour draws in one month.

Magnum speaks briefly on JCP having a gazillion titles floating around and how only 3 of them meant anything.

Nikita was so jacked up that he was stiff without even trying to be.

Jimmy Valiant brought in his overly endowed wife as a prostitute. Rhodes got to take her for a ride in the story as well. Magnum said her look was amazing and she knew how to work.

Dusty wanted to buy up billboards with he and Magnum and others faces on them stating “These are the toughest men in America”. This would have been geared toward showing the NWA was the polar opposite of the WWF.

A tour of California drew poorly. The building blocks had to be placed for future success.

The Midnight Express came in and Magnum was glad to have them as he knew the guys were great workers and Cornette was able to cut among the best promos in the business.

The NWA drew 27,000 fans to a “Great American Bash” tour with David Allen Coe providing an hour long concert as well. Magnum disagreed with the concept of combining a music act with wrestling. The fans wanted to come see blood and guts and scream at the heels. A country act made them want to drink beer and relax. The concept was expanded the next year and bombed, costing JCP a lot of money in stadium rentals and music acts.

The Road Warriors were not an act that should have been seen 52 weeks a year. The aura wears off and eventually they have to sell and that hurts their gimmick too. TA likes the guys personally.

Rhodes was in a bit of a no win situation as he was still a draw and could go in the ring, but at the same time he had a creative mind and the territory needed him booking. Putting himself over was a necessary evil.

The Russians triple teamed Ric Flair at the end of a stadium show and nearly created a riot.

The Rock and Roll Express came in and were given the World tag belts on night one. The women were wild for them and that helped draw an audience that JCP had previously not captured.

JCP needed to develop a much better marketing department, which would have given everyone a new revenue stream and helped bring in and keep talent.

Tully beat Magnum for the US title after using a roll of coins. The fans fell silent in legit shock and concern and TA considers it the best real heat he ever experienced in the ring.

The JCP got a house show in Hawaii for promoter Lia Maivia. On the nine hour flight over, every drop of alcohol on the plane was drank and Flair ran around in nothing but a robe.  Jim Crockett nearly pulled his crew from the show after he and Lars Anderson got into a physical altercation. The details of what caused the argument aren’t known.

Baby Doll was going to be moved to Buddy Landell because Blanchard wanted to get rid of her but Landell was too unreliable to receive a sustained push.

Sam Houston was a problem drinker like his brother Jake the Snake. Houston developed an ego from getting a small push.

SuperClash 85 was basically the end of the NWA and AWA working together. The payoffs to the workers were much smaller than promised despite drawing a good house. Plus Crockett tried to sign the AWA’s stars while they shared a locker room.

Ric Flair turned heel on Dusty in September. Magnum feels Flair was a better heel than face anyway.

Magnum forced a kiss on Baby Doll as part of a TV angle. TA was told this was going to happen at the last second and his main concern was how Sam Houston would react to TA kissing his real girlfriend on TV.

The wooden spike that was created from a splintered chair was a happy accident during the brutal Magnum vs. Blanchard steel cage “I Quit” match at Starrcade. It made for an incredible crescendo to a war.

TA was suppose to fly straight from where his match with Tully was taking place to Starrcade’s other site where Dusty was scheduled to win the world title. The timing didn’t work out and TA missed his planned “surprise” appearance at the end of the show as Rhodes was celebrating.

You were expected to miss holidays with your family because they were great days for drawing big money.

TA feels his series of matches with Nikita Koloff in 1986 was the pinnacle of his career as it elevated both men to a higher level and proved Magnum could carry a lesser talent to good matches.

Final thoughts: Magnum still has the gift of gab that helped make him a star in several territories. He offered up several tidbits I was not aware of while diving into a fairly well investigated period of history. That’s pretty much all you can ask for with a shoot. I feel I should mention that the first six months of the year took up 90 minutes of air time, while the last six months was shot through in 30 minutes.

If you’re interested in hearing about Magnum’s whole career, I covered a longer shoot here.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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