Wrestling Back in the Day: September 1985 (Part 2)

The wild backstory behind Jerry Lawler facing off with Ric Flair is revealed, plus more bad news for Verne Gagne!

Where we left off: September 1985 Part One. 

AWA

The Road Warriors pulled a power play and no showed the AWA’s second ESPN TV taping. Verne Gagne dragged the show out for over 4 hours in hopes that the Warriors would arrive. Finally Greg Gagne and Curt Hennig were sent out as their replacements. Reportedly the fans were quite volatile when it was revealed the Warriors would not appear. The Warriors met with Verne the following day, agreeing to return for a higher guarantee, including a raise for Paul Ellering. They were also to have their (first class) travel taken care of on the AWA’s dime. The new agreement must have been short lived, as the Warriors largely vanished from AWA cities after dropping the AWA tag titles to Jimmy Garvin and Steve Regal at the end of the month. They would not make regular appearances again until November.

The dirt sheets speculated that the arrival of Stan Hansen (at the behest of Giant Baba) would set up the return of Bruiser Brody, leading to Brody and Hansen fighting the Road Warriors, but it was not to be.

World champion Rick Martel dealt with the Freebirds and the returning Stan Hansen as his main foes. Boris Zhukov got a rematch in Winnipeg after their inconclusive fight there in August.  Jerry Blackwell aided Martel in tag action against the ‘Birds.

Terry Gordy was slammed on the cement floor by Blackwell at the TV taping. This would provide an injury cover for Gordy vanishing to Japan for over a month.

The Greg Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel feud that had occupied both men for much of the year came to an end with a whimper at SuperClash ’85 as Gagne, Hennig and Scott Hall downed Bockwinkel, Larry Zbyszko and Ray Stevens. Hennig did the most ring work and Hall pinned Stevens to win the match.  Gagne and Bockwinkel would work several more spot shows, but Gagne would largely move to a part time role for the remainder of his career, even if his on screen push remained strong.

Milwaukee was once again a battleground area as 3,472 fans came to see Sgt. Slaughter and Greg Gagne slip past Bockwinkel and Zbyszko by DQ, as well as Michael Hayes falling to Rick Martel and Terry Gordy getting the duke via DQ against Jerry Blackwell. The WWF drew 3,241 fans for a battle royal won by Ivan Putski.  Former AWA favorites Jim Brunzell, Mad Dog Vachon and Adrian Adonis all appeared in action.

St. Paul fans were treated to the Road Warriors controversial title loss, where Michael Hayes ran interference and helped Jim Garvin and Steve Regal capture the titles.  The match was edited on TV to hide Hayes’ interference in an effort to bury the Warriors on their way out.  Rick Martel defended his title against Jumbo Tsuruta, who was in for SuperClash. Giant Baba and Tenryu, also in for the ‘Clash fought Stan Hansen and Larry Zbyszko to a no contest. Sgt. Slaughter downed Boris Zhukov and Chris Markoff in a handicap bout, and Jerry Blackwell teamed with midget Little Mr. T to best Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts.  The card drew 2,000 fans. The WWF show in the Twin Cities saw 3,500 fans come to the Met Center for a battle royal which was won by King Kong Bundy.

Denver fans also saw both WWF and AWA cards.  The AWA offered up Martel fighting Michael Hayes, Crusher Blackwell brawling with Terry Gordy and Slaughter teaming with Greg Gagne to best Bockwinkel and Zbyszko by DQ.  The WWF’s show was headlined by Terry Funk falling by DQ to the JYD, as well as Don Muraco losing via DQ to Ricky Steamboat.

The Salt Lake City card the AWA held was only notable for having JCP’s Magnum TA and Ivan Koloff booked on it to face one another.

Winnipeg drew 3,600 fans for the aforementioned rematch with Martel and Zhukov.  This go around ended with Chris Markoff blinding Martel with salt, leading to Boris getting DQ’d.

Pro Wrestling USA

SuperClash ’85 took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago, drawing 21,000 fans. Promoters Jim Crockett and Verne Gagne argued over the gate, as Gagne claimed it was $200,000, while Crockett had it figured as $280,000. The dispute caused JCP to cease agreeing to cross promote again with the AWA in the near future. Gagne didn’t leave happy either as he would accuse Crockett of using the event to try and talk AWA talent into JCP contracts.

The card itself was stacked. NWA champ Ric Flair defended his title against Magnum TA in a match that went nearly a half an hour. On the flip side of that, AWA champ Rick Martel went under 3-minutes with challenger Stan Hansen as the men fought all over the field and dugout. The Road Warriors bested the Freebirds by a reverse decision when Verne Gagne used the Jumbotron to prove the heels had cheated to score a pinfall.

WCCW champ Kerry Von Erich downed Jimmy Garvin. Scott Hall, Curt Hennig and Greg Gagne took out Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens and Larry Zbyszko. Giant Baba, Tenryu and Jumbo Tsuruta whipped the Long Riders and Harley Race, Crusher Blackwell smashed Kamala. Da Crusher, Dick the Bruiser and Baron Von Raschke fell to Ivan and Nikita Koloff and their commie comrade Krusher Kruschev and Sargent Slaughter battered Boris Zhukov. My review (from 6 years ago…yikes) is here.

The WWF went head to head that night in Chicago, drawing 14,000 fans to the Rosemont Horizon to see Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (cornered by Mr. T) take out “Big” John Studd and King Kong Bundy. Tito Santana defended his IC gold against the Macho Man in the other feature bout.

Prior to SuperClash, the cross promotion efforts drew 5,000 fans to Fort Wayne, Indiana to see Dusty Rhodes vanquish Ivan Koloff, Magnum TA fight Tully Blanchard to a draw and Sgt. Slaughter tangling with Zhukov. 61-year old Bobo Brazil worked on the undercard.

The group also worked a show in Indianapolis, but no results exist past NWA Champion Ric Flair facing Dusty Rhodes.

PWUSA ran a spot show at a Queens, New York high school, with Jimmy Valiant facing Abby the Butcher as the headliner.

Memphis

Two days after SuperClash, the cross promoting took a slightly different twist as Jerry Jarrett and Jim Crockett combined for a “Great American Bash” show in Memphis.  The card drew 9,496 fans, a healthy jump from most weeks of Jarrett’s Mid-South Coliseum shows.

The main event was Jerry Lawler facing off with NWA World champ Ric Flair.  The match’s backstory is actually more intriguing than the actual in ring action.  In 1984, as “Pro Wrestling USA” came together, Ole Anderson, Jim Crockett, Jerry Jarrett, Verne Gagne, Bill Watts and others were negotiating how to run such an endeavor.  Allegedly, at those meetings Crockett agreed to have Flair drop the NWA gold to Jerry Lawler in September of 1985 to build to a Starrcade rematch where Flair would regain the strap.  A year had passed since that deal was arranged, and Crockett had no interest in following through anymore. However, Lawler had gone on Memphis TV and promised that he would win the World title at some point in 1985, or retire, so Jarrett was stuck in a bad spot with the booking.

On top of that, JCP booker Dusty Rhodes had heat with Jarrett and Lawler stemming from a card in June of 1984 that Jarrett had booked Dusty on, where he then canceled Rhodes’ slot a week before the show, citing budget concerns.  Rhodes took this as a personal insult, calling Jarrett up and tearing into him.

Later in 1984, Lawler appeared at a show in Miami’s Orange Bowl where Dusty was headlining against Ric Flair in a World title match.  Lawler worked early on the show, and when he came back to the locker room, he found an autographed picture of Dusty Rhodes on his belongings, signed “To the King curtain-jerker!” Conveniently, Rhodes booked himself in an angle in the Omni (on the day after SuperClash) where the newly formed Horsemen broke his ankle. This gave him a storyline excuse to skip out on Jarrett’s big show.

The pettiness between Lawler and Rhodes would carry on for several years. Rhodes would book himself against Bill Dundee in a “winner is the new King of Memphis” match in 1987 on a JCP exclusive card. Without Lawler, that card drew less than 3,000 fans.

The build to the show in Memphis heavily pushed that Lawler will probably win the title. They ran music videos showing the King’s many big wins, and Lawler and Lance Russell both implored fans to be there for this sure to be special moment.

Lawler was carried to the ring in a throne for his grand entrance for the title bout. The match itself was very much a paint by numbers Flair match, complete with a screwy “Dusty Finish” where Lawler won the title, only for it to be revealed that he was in fact disqualified for tossing Flair over the ropes prior to his pinfall victory. Lawler would later admit in shoot interviews that he hated the match.  He was not a fan of Flair’s chops, wondering why you’d throw chops when a worked punch was far less painful. Lawler ultimately refused to work with Flair in their planned rematch a few months later, leaving Koko Ware to do the honors. He and Flair would not find themselves in the same ring again until the 1993 Royal Rumble.

In addition to Lawler vs. Flair, the Bash card saw Magnum TA clash with Tully Blanchard.  The Freebirds fell to the Fabulous Ones. The Rock and Roll Express downed the Koloffs, and Memphis favorites Bill Dundee and Jimmy Valiant returned to the area. The card was also suppose to have a Charlie Daniels concert that did not take place for unknown reasons.

Bill Dundee, who was still involved with booking and wrestling for Bill Watts, came to an agreement with Jarrett to come in as Memphis booker, starting in October.

Several weeks before the Bash event, Flair came to Lexington, Kentucky to face off with Lawler in an event which drew 9,000 fans.  That match had the same “Dusty Finish” as the Memphis encounter. The Rock and Roll Express bested the Midnight Express on the undercard in a NWA World tag title match. Fans also saw the AWA World tag champion Road Warriors fight the Koloffs, The Fabulous Ones clash with Rip Morgan and Jonathan Boyd, Manny Fernandez knock heads with Tully Blanchard and Jimmy Valiant whip Paul Jones in a dog collar match.

The WWF ran a show in Lexington two weeks later, drawing only 350 fans to see Roddy Piper try and wrest the IC title from Tito Santana, with Uncle Elmer facing Brutus Beefcake in the only other match of note. That one was an easy win for the southern wrasslin’ groups!

Outside of the special supercards, Lawler was finishing off his battles with Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, while also dealing with the Mongolian Stomper. Meanwhile, the Fabulous Ones were trading the Southern tag belts back and forth with Rip Morgan and Jonathan Boyd.

Thanks for reading! I will be back soon with the news, notes and results for JCP, World Class, Mid-South and others for September of 1985! 

Feel free to follow me at https://twitter.com/Brody1982

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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