By far the biggest event of the early part of the month was the WWF gearing up for MTV airing the Wendi Richter vs. Fabulous Moolah match live from MSG dubbed “The Brawl to End it All”. TV building to the match featured promos and training videos with the ladies, as well as Cyndi Lauper and Capt. Lou. The event succeeded in capturing mainstream hype, but bombed at the box office. Ticket sales were so slow that the WWF had to add a Hulk Hogan title defense to the card in order to try and salvage the audience size for the sake of how it would come across on TV.
“Only” 15,000 fans ended up coming to the event, which saw Wendi topple Moolah for the gold. The show scored a 9.0 rating on MTV. Other action saw Hogan best Greg Valentine, a 20-man battle royal which was won by Antonio Inoki, plus Bob Backlund, Tito Santana, Paul Orndorff, and other top stars in action. I’ll have a full review of that show in my next article.
Hogan spent the rest of the month conquering George Steele, Orndorff and Big John Studd in title defenses.
Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Sheik continued their jingoistic dispute across many arenas, with no end in sight.
Roddy Piper and Rocky Johnson’s issues led to more matches between the two. Piper was also drawing well against Jimmy Snuka.
Intercontinental champ Tito Santana faced off with Bob Orton Jr., the Iron Sheik, Orndorff and Valentine throughout the month. Santana maintained one of the busiest schedules of anyone during this period.
Ken Patera returned from Japan, but instead of heading back to the AWA, he became a member of the WWF roster. Kamala was also signed up, but his run here is destined to not last too long.
World tag champions Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch were squared off with the Samoans, who are now fan favorites. Slaughter and Pvt. Terry Daniels are also receiving some shots, along with Rocky Johnson and SD Jones.
Andre the Giant and Big John Studd got into it on TV over who is the real giant, and who can slam the other.
The WWF took over Maple Leaf Wrestling in Toronto from it’s JCP affiliation. Their first card on July 22nd drew 10,000 fans to see Santana defend against Mr. Wonderful, Snuka battle Orton Jr., and Sarge butt heads with Greg Valentine, among other action.
They drew 10,000 fans to Oakland for Hogan facing off with Studd, another Sarge vs. Sheik clash, and Snuka brawling with Paul Orndorff.
Just under 19,000 spectators poured into the New Jersey Meadowlands to watch Hogan and Andre team up to face Murdoch, Adonis and Big John Studd. Piper and Snuka took part in a wild brawl in the co-feature. Mil Mascaras, Orndorff and the midgets took part in the under card.
An event in Philly drew 15,500 to see Hogan fend off Orndorff and Piper engaged in battle with Jimmy Snuka.
14,000 came to the Boston Gardens to see Hogan ravage Mr. Wonderful, plus Snuka and Piper skirmished in the co-headliner.
12,000 walked into the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and witnessed Hogan fall to Orndorff via DQ. Santana grappled with Orton Jr. in the top under card bout.
Providence drew 12,000 for an Andre vs. Sheik bout, plus Slaughter and Terry Daniels challenged Murdoch and Adonis. Piper and others took part in prelim action.
Baltimore saw 9,000 people come to see a cage bout with Sheik and Slaughter colliding, plus Andre faced off with Murdoch, and Santana clashed with Orton Jr. Backlund, Valentine, Studd and others were all part of the early bouts.
Landover fans came 15,000 strong to witness Hogan batter Orndorff. Slaughter earned a DQ win over Valentine, and Piper engaged Snuka in yet another brawl.
10,500 fans came to Hartford to see Hogan conquer Mr. Wonderful as well as Piper slip past Jimmy Snuka.
St. Louis/Central States
NWA World Champ Ric Flair came to Kansas City twice over the month, taking Kerry Von Erich to a sixty-minute draw in his first match, and losing to Harley Race via DQ in the second outing.
Dusty Rhodes and Kamala made special appearances to try and boost attendance.
The monthly St. Louis show from Verne Gagne/Bob Geigel saw 4,000 fans come to see Kerry and Barry Windham pair up to battle Flair and Crusher Blackwell. Harley Race clashed with Wahoo McDaniel in a bout that ended in a no-contest. The Missing Link, Marty Jannetty and Rufus R. Jones were the other names of note on the under card other than The Fabulous Moolah. This event was only ten days before her much-hyped MTV match with Richter. I find it absolutely crazy that Vince McMahon would have allowed that.
The WWF came in a week later and drew 8,000 fans to a TV taping with Andre facing off with Studd and Snuka colliding with Piper in a strap match as the big draws. Mad Dog Vachon, Kamala, Adonis, Murdoch, Mascaras, Ventura and others all appeared.
Perhaps the most infamous moment on wrestling TV in the 1980’s went down on July 14th. Vince McMahon’s purchase of GCW was finally confirmed by the courts and with Ole Anderson out of the way 6:05 Saturday Nights on TBS were now occupied by the WWF. Viewers watching had almost no way of expecting that their blood and guts wrestling show was about to be taken over by Vince’s Sports Entertainment. Gone were Flair, Dusty, the Road Warriors, Gordon Solie and other beloved stars, in their place was Vince McMahon’s clip show featuring matches from around the country.
The initial broadcast saw such highlights as an Animal Steele promo, the catch as catch can stylings of Jesse Ventura and a headline match with 60-year-old Bobo Brazil wrestling Big John Studd in a bout that may as well took place in a vat of molasses.
Fans were upset and the TBS offices fielded over 500 negative calls in the following week. The event came to be known as “Black Saturday”. Nonetheless, McMahon now had the only other national wrestling TV show under his control, and with it came the members of the GCW roster who Vince saw fit to employ. Ole and a slimmed down GCW would return in a few weeks.
Prior to the company dissolving, the WWF and GCW had one last battle for Cincinnati. The WWF ran with a main event of Jimmy Snuka, Afa and Sika facing off with Roddy Piper, Dick Murdoch and Adonis. The card also featured Greg Valentine sneaking past Ivan Putzki, Studd stomping Jay Strongbow, plus Rocky Johnson, the Moondogs and Ventura in action. GCW featured a Texas Death match between Ronnie Garvin and Ted Dibiase, along with The Spoiler grappling with Brad Armstrong and “Iron” Mike Sharpe banging heads with Nikolai Volkoff.
Ron Garvin and Jerry Oates bested the Road Warriors for the National tag titles. The Warriors were “suspended” soon after as a cover for them jumping to the AWA.
Gene Anderson made a brief return to the ring, teaming with Ole Anderson at several events, including the final Omni show this version of GCW would present. The Andersons teamed up to defeat the Assassins. Other action that night saw Dusty Rhodes and Jimmy Valiant team up to conquer the Road Warriors, Ron Garvin and Jake the Snake continued their months long TV title feud, the Spoiler snagged the National title from Brad Armstrong, and the Masked Superstar brawled to a double count-out with Nikolai Volkoff. Krusher Khrushchev and Crusher Blackwell took part in prelim action.
The WWF’s Twin Cities invasion continued as Minneapolis fans were offered up a card with Hogan vs. George Steele headlining along with a battle between Andre and Studd. Mad Dog Vachon, Piper, Ventura, Bob Backlund and Mil Mascaras all took part in the early bouts.
The AWA drew 8,500 fans to St. Paul to see AWA champ Rick Martel conquer Nick Bockwinkel. Jim Brunzell survived a clash with Bruiser Brody, walking away with a DQ win. Crusher brawled his way to a DQ win with Abby the Butcher, the Fabulous Ones overcame Mr. Saito and Larry Zbyszko, the Road Warriors smashed Curt Hennig and Steve O, and Tony Atlas and Billy Robinson took part in prelim bouts.
In yet another blow to the AWA, Chicago was invaded by the WWF for the first time, drawing only 4,000 fans to see Hogan battle Big John Studd, with Piper fighting Rocky Johnson to a double-DQ as the other highlighted bout. Mascaras, Snuka, Ventura, Adonis and Murdoch all took part in early action.
The AWA drew 14,000 fans to the nearby Rosemont Horizon soon after. The AWA show saw Martel earn a count-out win over Bockwinkel, Brunzell secured another DQ win over Brody, Abby the Butcher lost to Crusher via DQ, plus Saito, Atlas, Robinson and others engaged in prelim action.
AWA Champ Rick Martel faced off in several other cities with Bockwinkel, as well as accepting challenges from Mr. Saito. Leo Burke got a crack at Martel in Canada, and Jumbo Tsuruta beat Martel via count-out in Japan.
The Road Warriors were shot right to the top as they clashed with Crusher and Baron over the AWA World tag titles several times.
Tony Atlas made it clear that he came to the AWA to help Jim Brunzell in his feud with Bruiser Brody.
Since Jesse Ventura jumped ship, the Fabulous Ones needed a new feud. This was done by running an angle where Mr. Saito and Bockwinkel destroyed the Fabulous Ones on TV:
The AWA didn’t provide any talent for the big Montreal show this month. However, Jacques Rougeau Sr. returned to the ring to team with his sons Armond, Jacques and Raymond for the first time ever as a family foursome.
The WWF charged into Florida again, bringing Hogan in to square off with Big John Studd. Mil Mascaras, Tito Santana, Orndorff, Ventura and Backlund all took part in action on the under card.
NWA champ Ric Flair stayed busy in Florida defending his belt against Dusty Rhodes several times, as well as Blackjack Mulligan.
The One Man Gang turned baby face and joined up with Dusty and Mulligan in their battles with Kevin Sullivan, Billy Graham and Ron Bass.
Graham was also struggling to deal with the powerful Billy Jack (Haynes). Rhodes and Barry Windham also hounded Graham over his Florida title.
Barry Windham continued his pursuit of Ron Bass, and added Dick Slater to his hit list.
Flair made a stop in Puerto Rico to defend his title against the Invader.
Bill Watts ran the Superdome for a second straight month, this time drawing nearly 21,000 fans to see a JYD/Butch Reed “Ghetto street fight”. The co-headliner was NWA champ Ric Flair facing off with Kerry Von Erich. The card also saw North American Champ Magnum TA successfully defended his title against Ted Dibiase, who was finally back in the area. Terry Taylor upended Krusher Khrushchev for the TV title, Chris Adams teamed with Stella Mae French to defeat Jimmy Garvin and Precious, Wendi Richter lost a match for the Woman’s tag titles only 24 hours after winning the WWF’s women title on MTV, Hercules (as Mr. Wrestling II) bested Mr. Wrestling I (Johnny Walker), The Midnight Express stunned the Rock and Roll Express in a “no DQ” match and Buddy Landel opened the show pinning Sonny King.
The JYD/Butch Reed feud drew 16,000 to Oklahoma City, then another 7,000 to Oklahoma City two weeks later for a tag team rematch with Sonny King joining JYD and Ernie Ladd partnering with Reed.
Houston promoter Paul Boesch drew 9,000 fans with Magnum vs. Dibiase headlining, along with the Express vs. Express rematch.
Kerry Von Erich toured with Watts’ group briefly, facing Khrushchev one on one, and facing the Midnight Express with Jim Duggan as a partner. Duggan faced the Express in several six-man bouts with the Rock and Roll Express and the Fantastics as his partners. The Express teamed with Ernie Ladd and Jim Cornette. Magnum TA and Dr. Death also got some shots at the Express with Duggan and others as partners.
The WWF bombed in Memphis again, drawing only 800 fans for a Andre vs. Studd headliner with Snuka vs. Animal Steele as support. Jarrett’s group ran Memphis the next night with Jerry Lawler vs. Rick Rude on top. The under card saw The Fabulous Ones clash with the Road Warriors, The Rock and Roll Express fight Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo as well as Tommy Rich colliding with King Kong Bundy.
Rude and Lawler worked a bunch of gimmick matches throughout the month.
Former USFL Memphis Showboat Offensive lineman/part time pro wrestler Ron Mikolakczyk came in to team with Lawler against Rude and Jim Neidhart.
King Kong Bundy continued his monster push as he beat Lawler in a one on one encounter.
Tommy Rich beat Rick Rude for the Southern title, only to lose it to Bundy.
The Tommy Rich/Eddie Gilbert teaming as “The New Fabulous Ones” was a box office bust, so they ran an angle where Gilbert turned on Rich.
World Class presented their annual Independence day “Star Wars” mega card. The Freebirds trio bested Kevin, Kerry and Mike Von Erich in what must have been their 1000th match by this point (I’m only slightly kidding). Gino Hernandez came out on top in a battle royal, and Chris Adams and Stella Mae French bested Jimmy Garvin and Precious in a “Loser Leaves Town/cage match” in the only other matches of note. The event still drew almost 13,000 fans.
In modern “shoot” interviews, ref David Manning likes to talk about how the promotion was so hot that even he was able to main event a Fort Worth card against Buddy Roberts and still draw over 4,000 people. Well, he seems to neglect to remember that the Von Erichs faced off with Terry Gordy and Killer Khan on the same event, with JYD making an appearance as well.
Chris Adams teamed with the Von Erichs against the Freebirds and Khan several times in order to help set up an angle for August. More on that next time.
The Von Erichs battled the Missing Link and Gino Hernandez in singles matches as well.
NWA champ Flair came in to defend his title against Kevin, Kerry and Mike Von Erich in singles action, as well as Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez.
Former Texas wrestling great Brute Bernard died at 63 under questionable circumstances. Some stories suggest he was shot while cleaning his gun, others indicate he may have been playing Russian Roulette, others still feel it was straight up suicide.
The WWF invaded Norfolk in early July with Andre headlining against the Iron Sheik. Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, Orton Jr, Jesse Ventura and Rocky Johnson were all part of the under card.
JCP ran Norfolk twice, The first card featured a Flair vs. Wahoo McDaniel main event. The under card saw Dusty Rhodes, Adrian Street and Jimmy Valiant square off with the Assassin, Kamala and Paul Jones. Tully Blanchard went over Johnny Weaver in other match of note. The second Norfolk card saw Don Kernodle and Ivan Koloff conquer the Renegade and Mark Youngblood, Angelo Mosca Jr. bested The Masked Outlaw, Buzz Sawyer upset Jimmy Valiant, plus Tully, Nikita and others were in action.
NWA champ Ric Flair fended off challenges from McDaniel, Blanchard, The Masked Outlaw and Ricky Steamboat throughout the month, with McDaniel being his main opponent.
Wahoo was stripped of the United States title due to his win coming from Blanchard’s run in. McDaniel accused Jim Crockett of being racist in response. McDaniel battled Steamboat and JYD when he wasn’t getting shots at Flair.
The NWA World Six-man titles were created out of thin air and Ivan and Nikita Koloff, along with Don Kernodle were said to have beaten the Freebirds in a fictional tournament final for the gold.
Gene Anderson’s brief return to the ring included teaming with Ole in several towns to take on NWA tag champs Ivan Koloff and Kernodle.
Paul Jones’ Army faced the challenge of Dusty Rhodes, Rufus R. Jones, Valiant and Street throughout the month.
Buzz Sawyer also took his shots at Valiant and Rhodes.
We close this month with an odd note: The Dargon Twins were a pair of beefed up African-Americans who broke in during the late 70’s. They were such poor workers that they couldn’t get a push even with their look. Well, they resurfaced briefly here in JCP as jobbers and for some reason they were called “The Midnight Express” or “The Midnight Express Twins”…talk about market confusion!
Next time… I review “The Brawl to End it ALL”