I have been having a ball watching old episodes of NWA Championship Wrestling from the 1980s lately via the WWE Network! Reliving childhood memories is fun and I enjoy remembering how much different wrestling’s television product was back then. One hour of in-ring action and interviews was only a sample of what you could see if you bought a ticket to an arena event. Most of the TV bouts were an obvious mismatch pitting marquee talent like, say, the Road Warriors against a team of absolute nobodies. These bozos always stood a snowball’s chance in hell of even gaining effective offense on their opponents, much less coming close to winning! Known within the industry as “enhancement talent” or the less-flattering “jobbers” or “jabronis,” these human tackling dummies served a greater purpose than most of us immediately realized. Jobbers taking beatings on a weekly basis made the marquee talent look UNSTOPPABLE! Although Hawk and Animal dispatched their hapless foes with ease, you had to wonder how they would do against other wrestlers of comparable ability. However, you had to go to your local arena to find out!
Two of my favorite jabronis of all time are Bill and Randy Mulkey, a pair of white blonde mulletheads from South Carolina. I cannot begin to count how many times I watched these two all but die on television, only to come back for more punishment the following week! Name a worthy wrestler who passed through the NWA’s Mid-Atlantic territory during the 1980s; chances are better than good that he had the opportunity to beat the brakes off a Mulkey at least once! Bill and Randy flew through the air with the greatest of ease, especially when tossed out of the ring like yesterday’s garbage! Extraterrestrial beings from galaxies away could hear their bodies hit the cement floor with a sickening SPLAT! Bill and Randy Mulkey may have been perennial losers, but they were two of the best losers the True Sport of Kings ever saw!
Many of Bill and Randy’s most memorable massacres occurred courtesy of Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton of the Midnight Express, whose motormouth manager Jim Cornette was never without something derisive to say about their opponents. Although his main rivalries involved either Baby Doll or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Cornette always had plenty of verbal venom reserved for the Mulkeys. One of his offhand comments about them started a cult movement one Saturday morning! Loverboy Dennis and Beautiful Bobby had finished murdering the Mulkeys for the umpteenth time when Cornette sarcastically declared, “Mulkeymania is running wild!” as an obvious jab at the WWF’s top dog. MULKEYMANIA caught on among die-hard Mid-Atlantic fans and it actually became a real thing! Maybe it wasn’t a ‘thing’ on Hulk Hogan’s level, but the fans in the TV studio certainly got behind them! Most wrestlers attain popularity by winning matches, but it takes a special breed to get over by their inability to attain victory!
MULKEYMANIA had run wild for quite some time, firmly establishing Bill and Randy as the NWA’s lovable losers when they somehow found themselves in a qualifying match to advance to the Jim Crockett Senior Memorial Cup tag team tournament. Their opponents: a masked tag team called the Gladiators, who had arrived on the scene with high expectations. Word had it that they maintained a stranglehold on West Coast tag team gold. Some might even have said that the Gladiators were the best masked duo that the NWA had seen since the Assassins! Hell, they may very well have been the NWA’s best tag team since the days of Gene and Ole Anderson! That is no small feat, folks! Fans had every reason to believe that this terrible twosome would take the Mulkeys back to the days of the original gladiators of the Roman Empire. Feel free to look this match up on YouTube and continue reading.
“War Machine” by KISS hits the PA speakers as the Gladiators charge into the ring and attack the Mulkeys. They send Bill flying out of the ring so they can stomp the bejeesus out of his brother. We need a fair tag team match, so the referee orders Gladiator #1 to the ring apron. Gladiator #2 scoops Randy over the ropes to bodyslam him when he trips over Bill inadvertently crouched behind him. He tumbles to the canvas with Randy on top of him, in which the referee counts 1-2-3! Holy crap, the Mulkeys actually won! Bill and Randy Mulkey qualify to compete in the prestigious Jim Crockett Senior Memorial Cup! Fans start laughing and cheering as announcer David Crockett erupts in disbelief! THEY WON, TONY! Bill and Randy cannot believe their dumb luck! MULKEYMANIA IS AT A FEVER PITCH! Both Gladiators are beside themselves, as they had flown in from California! They knew that the NWA stood for NO WIMPS ALLOWED, but were defeated in short order by a couple of geeks! Announcer Tony Schiavone calls this one of the greatest things he has ever seen on this television program as we go off the air!
Wrestling nerd trivia: George South and Gary Royal—two more NWA wrestlers who excelled as enhancement talent—were under the masks for the Gladiators’ sole appearance on Superstation TBS.
I’m not going to lie to you, wrestling fans—as a little kid with a meager roster of wrestling action figures, I concocted scenarios where the Mulkeys attained the impossible. They beat the Midnight Express for the tag team titles; Randy may have gotten a lucky pinfall over Ric Flair to become the world champion on his own. Neither of their reigns lasted very long in my ring, nor did the Mulkeys’ win streak on TV. Things went back to normal as they went on to lose to Denny Brown and Chris Champion in the 1987 Crockett Cup’s opening round. Most wrestling fans of the time probably do not recall that, but you can rest assured that they do remember the day that the Mulkeys finally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat! MULKEYMANIA WILL LIVE FOREVER!