This series of articles aim to cover the times when pre-determined professional wrestling matches became all too real. This will not cover stiff shots that were delivered in the course of battle or backstage brawls, but true moments when the punches were no longer pulled and shit got real!
Adrian Adonis vs. Terry Daniels: 1981 or 82
Prior to gaining a massive amount of weight and turning gay, Adrian Adonis was a leather wearing New York tough guy. Adonis was broken in sport in the early 70’s via the rough and tumble training methods of Fred Atkins, who taught a very amateur minded style of the sport to his trainees, along with the grit to survive the bumps. After almost ten years in the sport, his legitimate stance as a bad ass had Texas promoters using Adonis in the role of the big time pro wrestler who challenges fans to show how tough the sport really was.
Adonis was in between runs in the AWA and WWF, and was receiving a push in the Amarillo territory. The fan that challenged him on this night was Terry Daniels, a legitimate Army private from the area. Daniels used his squatty build and military based skills to give Adonis a much tougher go of it than anyone expected. The actual final result is not known but Daniels fared impressively enough that he was welcomed into the wrestling business. The clip included above is particularly interesting as Lou Thesz tells the story I just shared while the men go at it in a worked match.
Daniels went on to have a fairly nondescript career that went into the mid-90’s. This included stops in the WWF and Mid-South as a lackey for Sgt. Slaughter. Adonis went on to infamy in the WWF during the expansion era with his turn as a homosexual. He was eventually released and died a little over a year later in a tragic automobile accident.
Akira Maeda vs. Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama): September 1985
Satoru Sayama started wrestling in 1976, but his 160-pound frame made it impossible for him to get any sort of real push in Japan. This led Sayama to travel to Mexico and England where his size was less of a hindrance. In 1981 New Japan was looking to take advantage of the popularity of the anime Tiger Mask, and Sayama was chosen to fill the role. His performances over the next several years are the stuff of legend, as he and other lightweights wowed crowds in many countries.
Akira Maeda survived the brutal training regiment of the New Japan Dojo in 1978 and spent the next five plus years working his way up the New Japan rankings as well as working in England as Kwik-kik-lee. By 1983 he was thought highly enough of to be one of only three Japanese representatives in the first International Wrestling Grand Prix tournament held that summer.
In 1984, several wrestlers became disenchanted with the traditional working style of wrestling and wanted to start a promotion that focused more on submissions and strikes. Thus the UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation) was born. The following year, the concept had created a rift among top names Maeda and Mask as both men had visions on where they wanted the promotion to go. Maeda was also reportedly resentful of Mask booking himself to constantly win all of his matches. When the two principals met several times in the Fall of 85, the blows thrown were not held back and the two men laid in the shots to a very real degree. Their second encounter ended with Maeda blasting Sayama in the groin and being DQ’d. Maeda ended up suspended and eventually fired from the UWF over the incident. Sayama ending up quitting wrestling after this event as well and the promotion effectively folded.
The promotion would make a comeback several years later and spawn some of the largest gates in pro wrestling history up to that point.
Wendi Richter vs. The Spider Lady: November 25th, 1985
The Fabulous Moolah had dominated women’s wrestling for decades leading up to the Rock n’ Wrestling Era of the WWF. By this time Moolah was in her early 60’s and hardly someone who figured into Vince McMahon’s long term plans for world domination. Moolah did have the WWF Women’s title though, which according to the storyline she had held since 1956 (in actuality she had lost it many times for brief periods.) With pop sensation Cyndi Lauper being thrust into the WWF’s world, it seemed natural that she align with a woman wrestler and give someone the rub from her fame. A storyline was constructed in which Moolah was seconded by “The Guiding Light” Captain Lou Albano, a man who was at odds with Lauper. Lauper’s response was to pick Wendi Richter as her charge and go after Moolah’s gold.
Richter wasn’t a particularly special talent, and she actually was working with Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling concurrently with her early WWF dates and was just another lady wrestler who was passing through the territory. In the WWF though, the Lauper connection earned Richter a big push and in July of 1984 Richter defeated Moolah on an MTV special called “The Brawl to End it All.”
The event was meant to showcase the women as the featured bout, but when ticket sales lagged, a Hulk Hogan title defense was added to the card to ensure a big audience in the stands for the MTV viewers to see.
Richter and Moolah remained at odds over the next year on the WWF broadcasts. Things came to a head one final time in November of 1985 when Richter was set to defend her title against the masked “Spider,” a woman wrestler who was working the circuit. Prior to the match, Gorilla Monsoon approached Richter about signing a new contract, and Wendi wasn’t happy that her guaranteed cash per night was a paltry 25 dollars given her status as one of the faces of the Rock’n Wrestling movement. Vince McMahon had tried for months to secure Richter to a new contract and she kept refusing, telling Vince she needed more money for all the traveling that came with her role. Vince would protest and the circle would continue. Supposedly at some point Richter even told McMahon, “You can’t fuck with me, Cyndi Lauper made me!”
After months of getting nowhere, it was decided to take the title off Richter by force. The Spider was replaced that night by Moolah wearing the hood. Richter later admitted she was a bit confused but trusted the ref not to screw her over on the planned finish. She didn’t trust Moolah however.
After going through the motions of a normal match, Moolah went for a small package and Richter kicked out. The bell rang anyway and the ref moseyed around the ring until Howard Finkel also entered the ring. Richter, apparently thinking they were still working and the match wasn’t finished, pulled off Moolah’s mask and tried to pin her. Once the title change was announced, Richter still worked over Moolah with what appeared to be worked punches. Finally Richter fought with the ref for possession of the title and used the strap to whip Moolah several times before Moolah bailed out. Richter then seemed to finally realize she was screwed and stared disgustedly into the aisle way.
Richter left the arena as soon as the she got to the back and never looked back, working promotions across the globe for the next several years. Moolah went on to hold the title for two more years before losing it to Sherri Martel. Richter never spoke to Moolah, her trainer, ever again.
Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda: April 1986
(Starts at the 25:30 mark)
Andre the Giant had been a worldwide sensation for over a decade by the time this bout took place. His size, power, and undefeated record had created a legend that was nearly unparalleled.
Maeda, who I covered above, had returned to New Japan after the UWF went under. He was disheartened to learn that Antonio Inoki would not work a program with him and other stars like Tatsumi Fujinami and Riki Choshu were ahead of him on the promotional totem pole of pushed talent. This led to several frustrating years for Maeda.
The match between these two men fell apart right away; it’s obvious Andre wasn’t interested in working a match. He wrapped Maeda up and laid all his weight on him, forcing Maeda to struggle out from under his girth. Maeda attempted a shoulder block and The Giant smacked him in the face, knocking him to the ground. A similar pattern continued until Andre tired and Maeda was able to start kicking away at Andre’s legs. Eventually The Giant’s limb gave out and Andre sprawled on the mat and dared Maeda to pin him. Inoki showed up at ringside to try and settle things down. He denied Maeda permission to defeat Andre. Finally a disgusted Maeda stormed to the locker room.
As far as why this infamous encounter unfolded as it did – two different stories are floating around. The Funk Brothers, Terry and Dory have stated that Maeda was talking up his legit skills a little too much for Andre’s tastes and The Giant set out to show Maeda that his martial arts couldn’t hurt him. The second version of events is that Inoki asked Andre to show up Maeda as a means of putting him in his place.
I would venture to guess that it was Andre being exposed a bit in this match that led to Inoki’s decision to finally defeat him two months later and end their many years long feud.
Lex Luger vs. Bruiser Brody: January 1987
Lex Luger was a roided up ex-football player whom had Jim Crockett salivating over the prospects of stardom and drawing power that Luger would provide him. Brody had over a decade of experience by this point and was a physically imposing mass of man in his own right.
When the match began the first several minutes went without incident, however at the five-minute mark Brody stood in the corner of the ring and stared at Luger as Lex unloaded with a plethora of punches and kicks. After that very awkward exchange, things returned to normal briefly as Brody took back control. Once Lex tried to once again deliver his offense, Brody again stopped selling. This time Luger shot the ref a perplexed look. Luger and Brody stared down one another and Luger began to seek the ref’s advice on how to handle this situation. Brody halfheartedly applied some front facelocks but once Luger’s neck is cleared away from Brody, The Total Package intentionally knocked the ref down for the DQ and quickly climbed over the cage.
The best guess for Brody’s uncooperative behavior is that Luger had been a little too braggadocios about his large guaranteed contract from JCP and the no nonsense Brody decided to put him in his place, so to speak.
Akira Maeda vs. Riki Choshu: November 19th, 1987
Maeda was still brimming with frustration from not being able to move up the ladder in New Japan, and now in addition to the veteran crew that was ahead of him in the pecking order, New Japan had several young talents that were obviously being groomed for becoming the stars of tomorrow.
Things came to a head during a six man encounter as Maeda delivered several very stiff kicks and strikes to Choshu under the guise of working snug. Choshu is next blindsided while attempting to lock a Scorpion Death Lock on one of Maeda’s partners. The kick seen above caused immediate pain and swelling in Choshu’s face. Choshu attempted to continue the match, but then decided he’d rather get back at Maeda. Riki went to Maeda’s corner and took a wild swing toward him. A six-man skirmish broke out as Choshu and Maeda are pulled apart. A brief “match” then unfolds as things settle down a bit. Choshu quickly scored the win though and then again attempted to get at Maeda before things simmer down.
In the aftermath Choshu missed several weeks of action with a broken orbital bone and Maeda was fired. Maeda would bounce back and restart the UWF not long after this.
NEXT TIME: Dr. Death wrecks a jobber, Earthquake is challenged by another former sumo wrestler, Takada’s shady career in fake MMA begins, and more!