Where we left off: June 1985 (Part Two.)
A quick note backtracking a few months to help add a little context to the wrestling TV scene: With the ESPN contract up for grabs amongst several promotions, Ann Gunkel, the widow of wrestler Ray Gunkel, who turned herself into an outlaw promoter and took on the NWA in the 1970’s, was brought in by Jerry Jarrett for assistance. Gunkel came into the area in April but the relationship with Jarrett soured fast and the two promoters wound up fighting to the degree that Gunkel was removed from the equation. The ESPN pilot Memphis was planning on taping was pushed back several weeks as part of the aftermath of the business split..
Memphis drew a crowd of 9,000 fans on June 3rd for a nostalgia driven card, topped off with the end of a long grudge feud. Jerry Jarrett and Tojo Yamamoto fell to the Southern tag champions, the PYTs. The Fabulous Ones earned a DQ win over Bruiser Brody and Kareem Muhammad. Jackie Fargo battled manager Tux Newman in a cage match, and in the main event Jerry Lawler defeated Randy Savage in a “loser leaves town” match to send Savage off to the WWF.
The backstory behind Savage getting a WWF deal is somewhat amusing, as the WWF wanted to contact Savage discreetly, so they had Jimmy Hart call around the Memphis office and ask if he could get Savage’s contact number because Hart wanted to buy some Amway products, which the Macho Man sold on the side.
The Southern tag team titles were vacated when the PYT Express used a substitute in a title defense with the Fabulous Ones. This is especially notable due to the fact that Jerry Lawler entered the tournament without a partner. He went on TV and explained his usual friends (Bill Dundee, Austin Idol and Jimmy Valiant) were busy in other territories, so after contemplating things, he decided to call one of his toughest opponents, figuring that any man who could give him so much trouble would make a worthy partner. That man was… Nick Bockwinkel- former AWA World champion and a man Lawler had faced off with countless times in his quest to be a world champion.
The Memphis roster was not terribly strong at this point, so Lawler and Bockwinkel faced a field that included the PYTs, the Fabulous Ones, The Kiwi Sheepherders (Not Luke and Butch), the Batten Twins and a number of random teams. The Lawler/Bockwinkel combo upset (?) the PYTs in the first round, only to be disqualified against Billy Joe Travis and Ron Sexton. Sexton and Travis would fall to the Fabs in the finals.
Lawler spent the rest of the month fighting with Bruiser Brody and Bota the Witch Doctor.
The WWF invasion continued as they came to Louisville, drawing a mere 500 fans to see Mr. Wonderful battle his old ally Bob Orton Jr. Tito Santana taking on IC champ Greg Valentine was the only other match of note on the bill.
The promotion was in cruise control at the top of the card as the main feud remained the Von Erichs against Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez. Kabuki was also going after the heels in some encounters. The One Man Gang and Gary Hart remained a thorn in the babyface’s side as the OMG continued his attempts to finish off the Texas heroes.
Adams and Hernandez captured the American tag titles from the Fantastics to add a twist to their future battles with the Von Erichs and their friends.
The Midnight Express gave their notice, unhappy with not being given a chance to work with the Von Erichs, which would allow them to make some real money in the territory. Jim Cornette spent his final weeks in the promotion doing chauvinistic promos against Sunshine. The two sent their men into battle over Corny’s green tennis jacket, which he was given by his Mama for winning a tennis tournament at their local country club. I believe Corny has stated in the past that the jacket angle was their own creation as the promotion let them do whatever, with the booking focus being on the Von Erichs.
The Superdome show at the beginning of the month drew 11,000 fans with NWA World champion Ric Flair headlining against Terry Taylor. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan battled Kamala in the hardest pushed bout between local talent. The Rock and Roll Express were defeated by Mid-South tag champions Dr. Death and Ted Dibiase. Sgt. Slaughter made a rare cameo in the area, teaming with Terry Daniels to battle the Dirty White Boys in a “boot camp” match. The Fabulous Freebirds returned to the area to fight Brickhouse Brown and Brad Armstrong. Muhammad Ali made an appearance, cornering the Snowman for his TV title defense against Jake Roberts. Ali ended up slugging Roberts and his lackey John Nord at the end of the bout. Roberts was reportedly bashed for not selling enough for Ali, to which Jake explained that he had to draw money here next week, Ali didn’t.
On June 5th one of the more infamous moments from this era went down as Dr. Death caught his head on a sharp part of the ring barricade, tearing open a wound that required 108 stitches to close. Doc didn’t let that stop him from showing up for his second match of the day a few hours afterward.
Butch Reed and John Nord worked with one another one night. Back in the locker room Reed let everyone know how unhappy he was losing to such a stiff. Reed told Nord he was the worst wrestler he had ever worked with. Things got physical from there and Nord thumped Reed, leaving him with two black eyes.
Rumors swirled that Bill Watts was going to comeback from his retirement for a more permanent role in the ring to help fend off the WWF’s invasion.
Watts’ relationship with JCP at this point was unique. Crockett was credited with getting Mid-South taken off of TBS in May. Crockett was upset that Watts showed videos for three straight weeks of Buddy Landel losing matches. Landel had walked out of Mid-South and jumped back to Crockett. Watts protected his own backside by burying Landel. Despite this issue, Crockett loaned Magnum T.A. to Mid-South to use for their ESPN pilot taping. Magnum, the current NWA U.S. champion, lost to “The Masked Champion” (Randy Colley) in a shocker of a result.
The Rock and Roll Express worked their final tour for Mid-South, as they were destined for fame and fortune in JCP starting in July. The Express took on the Freebirds, Doc and Dibiase, as well as Nord and Jake the Snake. The Midnight Express came in from World Class to give the Mid-South faithful a final battle between the Express’ before both would wind up under Crockett’s employ.
The WWF was dealing with the Texas commission as Watts had Bruce Prichard reporting the WWF for every infraction he could come up with in order to pester the WWF’s expansion efforts in Houston. The WWF drew 1,200 for their card, which does not have any online results I could locate, minus the fact that Greg Valentine was scheduled to appear. Watts’ Houston event saw NWA champ Ric Flair battle Magnum T.A. as the main event.
The WWF stormed into Oklahoma City, drawing 2,400 fans to see Hulk Hogan defend his title against Big John Studd, plus Valentine clashed with the JYD.
NWA World champ Ric Flair came to the area to accept the challenge of Wahoo McDaniel.
Kamala no showed some planned shots with the area. This was explained away on TV with the announcers saying that Billy Jack Haynes had beaten Kamala up badly in a recent bout and he was too injured to appear. They aired footage of a match from Houston as proof. The match was carefully edited, as Kamala actually had won the bout cleanly.
Blackjack Mulligan suffered a broken leg. There was some concern that given Mulligan’s size and age that this injury would lead to his retirement. Mulligan would ultimately return in September.
Jack Hart (Barry Horowitz) continued to lose every match… wait for it….wait for it….
Jacksonville saw both CWF and the WWF action in Jacksonville. The WWF presented the U.S. Express facing off with Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik in the main event with Wendi Richter fighting the Fabulous Moolah in the only other match of note. The CWF offered up Wahoo McDaniel brawling with Hercules on the top of their bill.
Miami was also a battleground city for the groups, with CWF bringing the McDaniel and Hercules grudge match in as their main event, along with Billy Jack Haynes and Scott McGhee facing Jesse Barr and Rick Rude in another pushed bout. The WWF drew over 4,300 fans to see the JYD down Brutus Beefcake by DQ and the U.S. Express challenge the Iron Sheik and Volkoff.
Continental officially became the new name of the promotion as they attempted to sound less regional as they worked towards earning ESPN’s national TV deal. As part of the push to expand nationally, Ron Fuller bought back cities in Knoxville and other eastern Tennessee towns that Southeastern had stopped running several years earlier due to losing money at those shows. Fuller also sought out the CBS network to try and strike a deal to show Continental on their airwaves.
NWA World champion Ric Flair appeared at several shows. He defended his title against Lord Humongous in Birmingham, and teamed with Robert Fuller in a losing effort to Humongous and Bob Armstrong in a tag team encounter.
After getting over in the WWF and AWA over the past six months, the Tonga Kid’s attitude caused him to return to the smaller confines of this area to find employment.
Ric Flair signed a 3-year deal with JCP. This effectively gave Jim Crockett full control of the NWA title. Crockett promised other promoters that Flair would still work outside of JCP twice a week, but Crockett would have to be paid a set sum in order to book his champion. This deal would be altered slightly at the NWA annual meeting in August, but I’ll touch on that when I get there.
U.S. champion Magnum T.A. interrupted a Flair promo on TBS and offered a thousand dollars that Flair could not beat him within 10-minutes. Flair accepted, and the match went the full ten minutes, with Flair winding up trapped in a figure-four as time expired. Ole and Arn Anderson jumped T.A. after the bout, with Buzz Sawyer and Dick Slater saving the day. A few weeks later, Ole and Arn Anderson laid a beat down on Brett Sawyer while trying to draw out Buzz Sawyer. Dick Slater and Buzz ran out to make the save.
Slater and Crockett had undergone some recent contract disputes. JCP was hesitant to push him since it was feared he might head to the WWF.
Buddy Landel was being prepped to face Flair at the Great American Bash Charlotte stadium show, but plans were altered when it was determined Landel was not getting over enough to try and headline with him in such a huge venue.
As I mentioned in the WWF section, JCP booked a show at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. They had attempted to bring Kerry Von Erich in as Flair’s opponent but the timing didn’t work out. They also sought Sgt. Slaughter for the role, which Sarge turned down for reasons unknown. Harley Race was also considered, but it was ultimately decided Race was too old.
Flair was still hanging on to his “tweener” role, as Ivan and Nikita Koloff were both seeking Flair’s NWA gold. During one promo David Crockett got mouthy with the Russians over how tough Flair was and how the Commies liked to attack people from behind. Nikita Koloff then blasted Crockett with a Russian sickle in what was designed as a heel move, but many fans in the modern day have expressed their glee in seeing Crockett go down. He was considered to be an annoying announcer to some. Flair would attack Nikita in a brawl later in the month, all building to Flair defending his title against Nikita at the “Great American Bash”. David Crockett would serve as the special guest ref for the bout.
Dusty Rhodes’ issues continued with Baby Doll and Tully Blanchard. Doll scratched Rhodes’ eye during one angle, allowing Blanchard to jump him. Later in the month Baby Doll wounded Rhodes with a fireball in the middle of a tag team bout. Jimmy Valiant promised to help Rhodes since Dusty was there for him during his issues with Paul Jones’ army. Wahoo McDaniel also returned to JCP TV for the first time in over a month. He spoke of his heel turn in 1984, then admitted Rhodes called him up and asked for his help, which McDaniel agreed to oblige. Wahoo would stick to mostly working in Florida, making very sporadic appearances for JCP.
Black Bart downed Ron Garvin to win the National title. This would lead to Garvin chasing Bart in rematches over the next several months.
The AWA World tag team champions Road Warriors came in for some squash matches to set up their Great American Bash appearance. Kamala also smashed some jobbers to establish him as a monster as he was due to face Magnum T.A. at the Bash.
Jim Cornette, Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton debuted for JCP at the end of the month.
Bookerman Dusty Rhodes’ became a daddy once again as Cody was born on June 30th.
JCP continued to run some of GCW’s old spot show towns, using a crew of guys who were mostly not on the main JCP roster.
Atlanta fans saw action from both JCP and the WWF. On June 2nd, JCP offered up NWA champion Ric Flair against his hottest rival, Magnum T.A. The Koloffs brawled with Dick Slater and Rhodes. Thunderbolt Patterson earned a DQ win over Ole Anderson and Ron Garvin, the Boogie Woogie Man and Buzz Sawyer battered Abby the Butcher, (Konga) The Barbarian and “Superstar” Billy Graham. The WWF came in on the 16th with Mr. Wonderful battling Bob Orton Jr, as well as Tony Atlas facing off with “Big” John Studd. Ken Patera missed the show due to being in prison, and Jimmy Snuka may have also missed the show, depending on the exact date of his firing. JCP was back in the Omni on the 23rd with a Flair/T.A. rematch headlining. The Andersons took down Slater and Buzz Sawyer in the top match of the evening.
I’ll be back soon with full card reviews, news and notes from July of 1985. Thanks for reading!!