Wrasslin’ Back in the Day: August 1985 (Part 3)

A dark shadow looms over the Von Erichs as tragedy strikes the family once again.

Where we left off: August 85 (Part 2)

Memphis

Austin Idol answered Jerry Lawler’s call for aid in his battles with the Freebirds, leading to the teams clashing on back to back weeks at the Mid-South Coliseum. The first bout ended in a double-DQ, which lead to the rematch being under “Badstreet” rules. That match ended with the Freebirds being disqualified.  At that point, Idol headed off to deal with other issues, leaving Lawler without a partner.  Lawler teased he may bring in a Von Erich to help deal with the Birds, but that was not to be. Bill Dundee refused to help Lawler. Jimmy Valiant wanted to partner with his friend, but was busy in JCP. The King was in a bind.

With a spot available, Phil Hickerson implored Lawler to pick him for the position. Hickerson had just won the International title and felt he was not being respected despite his role as champion. Lawler told Hickerson, who was a heel, that he could not be trusted.

Hickerson was determined to prove himself to the King, and got his chance when Rip Morgan and Jonathan Boyd attacked Lawler. Hickerson ran in and made the save. Lawler was more open to Hickerson’s offer after that, but still made him put up $5,000 and his title as collateral to not turn on the King.

On the night of the battle, Lawler’s trust was not broken, as he and Hickerson took the fight to the Freebirds in and out of the ring before a double-DQ was called. The feud would continue into September…

Prior to turning babyface to help the King, Hickerson had a pair of matches with Harley Race, who came to the area to try and wrest the International title from him.

Jerry Jarrett’s comeback remained a key point of interest to the fans as he teamed with Lawler and Tojo Yamamoto, among others, in order to fight the top heels in the area (and offer up some much needed star power).

Journeyman Juan Reynosa was brought in under the gimmick name “Taurus Bulba” and was given a push right to the top as a monster heel for Lawler to slay.  There is confusion online, including on Wikipedia over Johnny K-9/Bruiser Bedlam actually playing this character, but Bedlam was barely breaking in at this point.

The Fabulous Ones’ feud with Rip Morgan and Jonathan Boyd raged on all as they brawled week after week, spilling blood in arenas all across the area.

“Big” John Harris was added to the mix briefly as the promoters tried to add intrigue to some battle royals.

Florida

Buddy Rose came in from Portland, dropping right into the main event scene as he and Rick Rude tangled with Wahoo McDaniel and Billy Jack Haynes. Ric Flair also came in the area to battle Haynes and McDaniel with the Grappler serving as his partner. Mike Graham and Kendall Windham aided the baby faces when reinforcements were necessary.

The WWF onslaught continued as they drew over 5,000 fans to Miami’s Knight Center to see Mr. Wonderful and Andre the Giant down Bobby Heenan and John Studd. On another evening, over 10,000 fans entered the Tampa Sundome to witness the Hulkster smash Greg Valentine.

Mid-South

The Masked Champion surprised a lot of fans, and especially Eddie Gilbert, when he announced he was leaving Gilbert’s side and aligning with Sir Oliver Humperdink. This led to a match between Gilbert and the Champion on TV.

The last several months of angles came to a head as Mid-South ventured to the Superdome for another mega card. They drew almost 16,000 fans. The main event saw NWA champion Ric Flair down Butch Reed. Flair called Reed a “monkey” on TV in the weeks leading up to this event.

In other action from the Superdome, Bill Watts and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were upset in a “Loser Leaves Town” match against Kamala and Kareem Muhammed. This would lead to Watts coming back as the “Masked Rider”.

Also at the Superdome: Dick Murdoch ended the Masked Champion’s reign on top of Mid-South, forcing him to go back to just being known as the Nightmare. Mid-South tag champions Ted Dibiase and Dr.Death survived the challenge of Jake the Snake and John Nord in a match that had “Bruiser” Bob Sweetan serving as the guest ref.  Prior to this win, Sir Oliver Humperdink had almost eliminated Murdoch as a contender when he sprung the monstrous Lord Humongous on Murdoch in an impromptu challenge on TV. Humongous bloodied Murdoch, and choked him out to win his debut in under four minutes.

Dick Murdoch went on Mid-South TV and addressed his former partner in the WWF, Adrian Adonis. He spoke about how Adonis would not show up for scheduled matches, much like some on the WWF roster were still doing.  Murdoch declared that Hulk Hogan was a “no good bar musician”. He wrapped up by mentioning how Ric Flair had inflated himself to over 300 pounds thanks to steroids, but now he was clean, 70 pounds lighter and the best wrestler in the world.

Ted Dibiase headed to Japan before the end of the month, which left Dr. Death having to use Bob Sweetan to replace Dibiase in a title defense against Al Perez and Wendell Cooley. The underdog babyfaces stunned the beefy heels for the gold. It would seem the hope was to create another Rock and Roll Express-type dynamic with these smaller, handsome talents overcoming the odds, but the act would not prove to catch on.

El Corsario, who would gain fame in the continental U.S. a decade later as Savio Vega, debuted in Mid-South. He would serve as a mid-card heel for the next few months before heading to Puerto Rico to star as “TNT”.

WCCW

The groundwork for a tragedy began to form on August 22nd, when Mike Von Erich entered a Dallas hospital for shoulder surgery.  The procedure went well, and Mike was released four days later.  It was not until the day following his exit from the hospital that his body would suffer from toxic shock syndrome. Mike endured a 105-degree fever and the family was very much in fear that they would lose him as the night progressed.  Von Erich fought through his peril, and the ordeal was played up melodramatically on WCCW TV, with the family thanking the Lord for saving Mike. Fritz promised Mike would be back and would rise to be a champion again.  Mike’s destiny would prove to be a bitter pill to digest. More on that in the months and years to come.

Mike’s shoulder injury had been greatly inflamed during a WCCW tour of Israel that took place in early August.  The full A-list roster made the trip as the Von Erichs, Dynamic Duo and others battled in the middle east.  WCCW even created a Middle East title, which of course a Von Erich won as Kevin downed Gino Hernandez in a tournament finale.

Bruiser Brody returned to WCCW, fighting his fellow monsters in Mark Lewin and the One Man Gang.

The WWF was not sharing enough of their premium talent with New Japan, so Antonio Inoki reached a $200,000 deal with Fritz Von Erich for access to his talent.

Fritz dipped his toe into promoting in America outside of his Texas homebase as the WCCW crew ran a house show in Lynn, Massachusetts. Kerry and Kevin Von Erich fought the Dynamic Duo in the headliner.

JCP

Jim Crockett was very much taking the opposite approach to promoting compared to Fritz Von Erich as he decided to forego running house shows in many of JCP’s traditional small towns in the Mid-Atlantic, and instead focus on running big markets across the country.

As part of his plan, NWA champion Ric Flair would be heavily limited in what outside dates he could take. If Flair was booked by a promoter, they had  to agree to bring in other JCP talent and split the revenue. The not-so-secret plan here was to use the local talent to help draw a house, then eventually run the city without using the locals, since JCP’s own stars would then be established.

In addition to working in Florida, the Mid-South, the AWA and Hawaii, Flair defended his NWA World title at JCP shows against Buddy Landel, Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A. and Dusty Rhodes.

Thunderbolt Patterson decided to quit JCP as he wasn’t happy working down the card.  He had been given a roster spot months earlier as part of the aftermath of settling a racial lawsuit with JCP. Patterson took the money he was awarded in that suit and started up his own shoe store.  He would eventually dabble in being a labor leader (non-wrestling related) as well as a minister.

Booker Dusty Rhodes kept himself busy by facing off with almost all the top heels in the company in tag team and singles matches.  The list included Abby the Butcher, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, Krusher Kruschev, Ole and Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard.

Magnum T.A. partnered with Rhodes in bouts with National tag champions Ole and Arn Anderson, but kept Tully Blanchard as his primary focus as the men feuded over the U.S. title.

Newly crowned NWA World tag champions, the Rock and Roll Express, were tasked with defending their gold against the Koloffs, the Andersons and fellow newcomers the Midnight Express.

Thanks for reading! I will be back soon with all the news, notes, results and gossip from September of 1985!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter to keep up with my wrasslin’ research and reviews. https://twitter.com/Brody1982

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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