The Best of Memphis Wrestling 1986: Volume 1

Bill Dundee runs roughshod over Memphis as the top villain in the territory.

The WWE Network dropped two full Great American Bash shows on the weekend I am typing this, and here I am reviewing some random Memphis instead. I can’t justify this decision after how poor my last Best of Memphis experience was.

From Amazon Prime 

We open with Jerry Lawler SINGING! This is already better than the “Memphis Raw Footage” show. Jack Brisco wasn’t name dropped in enough rock and roll songs, so Lawler did him right here.

David Haskins vs. Buddy Landell 

Landel casually beats down Haskins, including a nice leg sweep into an armbar. More arm work as Landel crossfaces him and talks trash. After working the arm for three minutes Buddy wins with…a figure-four leglock.  Just a squash.  I wish Landel would have done even some rudimentary leg damage to build to that finish.

Lance Russell interviews Landel.  Landel wants Koko Ware’s Mid-America title. Landel claims he gave up his top contendership status in the NWA because Memphis is the centerpiece of wrestling.  He congratulates Bill Dundee for ridding Memphis of Jerry Lawler in a recent “Loser Leaves Town” match.

Lawler moved on to work in Hawaii while he was gone. Online speculation indicates that Lawler left in order to make people forget he had promised to retire if he did not win the World title. Supposedly Jim Crockett had agreed to have Flair drop it to Lawler, then balked months later. Others say this theory is bunk.

Jim Jamison and Dave Johnson  vs. The Blade Runners

The Runners are so new that they don’t even have gimmick names, they are just Jim Hellwig and Steve Borden. Sting looks ok in his brief attack, but Hellwig throws terrible looking kicks and less than fluid clotheslines.  They win in just over a minute with dual press slams.  Sting’s press looked scary, and he dropped the jobber on his shoulder as the poor fella hit the mat.  Hellwig’s GINORMOUS. Vince McMahon may never need Viagra in his old age as he may still be rocking his stiffy from seeing Hellwig for the first time.  Warrior would slim down some before hitting the big time in two years.

Promo: Dutch Mantel and Bill Dundee have a moment of silence in honor of Lawler being booted from Memphis. Dutch is rocking a leather jacket, dress shirt and tie with his cowboy hat and looks like a badass.

Studio Promo: Bill Dundee, Dutch Mantel, the Blade Runners, Buddy Wayne, Buddy Landel and perhaps others come out to celebrate Lawler being gone. They bring a cake, which never ends well in wrestling. They break out the champagne and call out some of the local faces. I enjoyed seeing the roid monsters Sting and Warrior eating this sugar laced goodness and hating themselves for it (I assume).

Jerry Garmin vs. Bill Dundee 

Dundee is a heck of a worker, but the jobber is even bigger than he is. Dundee would certainly struggle to make 190, much less 205 Live. Dundee wins via a powerslam in under a minute. Suddenly a GIANT FAT MAN in a suit attacks him! “Big” Red Reese is apparently this monster’s name. A cursory search reveals he was barely a journeyman, with most of his known matches being in Japan.  He also had previously worked Memphis, Texas and Georgia in the early 80’s. He died at only 51 due to being so damn fat.  I see he also worked under the name “Voodoo Mulumbo”, which I have actually seen a bit while doing my early 80’s historical deep dives.

I stopped to watch some promos from Reese on youtube and he has that JYD/Dusty jive talking charisma. “Lord have mercy!” I found my new favorite wrestler of 2019. Did Bill Watts ever get his hands on this guy?

Anyway, he beats up Dundee, including an awkward back drop due to the major differences in the men’s heights. Mantel runs in and he gets whooped too. He splashes both heels. Well, I’m all fired up over this guy but it looks like he was only around for 2 days, jobbing to Dundee on that Monday’s Memphis show and then vanishing again.

We must skip ahead a week or something as we cut to a Dundee music video package. The roster was pretty thin at this point.  Looking at some of the results over the next few weeks, Memphis booker Dundee followed up the “Loser Leaves town” match with Lawler with two more “Loser Leaves” gimmick matches over the next few weeks. Way to beat it into the ground.  Lawler came back in March and that finally popped the houses back up.

Tracy Smothers vs. Bill Dundee

Smothers is serving as little more than a cannon fodder low card guy at this point in his career. He isn’t too far off from forming the Southern Boys with Steve Armstrong and making some noise in the southern areas. Dundee gives Smothers enough here to show he’s a fiery face and not a total jabroni. Dundee locks on something close to a UFC style arm triangle choke, which I enjoy every much. After Smothers’ frisky underdog fighting proves to annoy Dundee, the Superstar finally pops him with a chain and steals the win after a bit more than 8 minutes. Definitely a watchable little scrap.

It’s kind of nutty to think that 9 years later in Memphis Dundee would still be working on top. If I recall correctly, Razor Ramon lost his IC title rematch to Jeff Jarrett at Wrestlemania 11, then turned around and worked a USWA show right after, downing Dundee for the top title. The Apter mags made a big deal about how Ramon rebounded so quickly from his big loss.

Tony Falk cuts a promo. Lance Russell trolls him and puts up a graphic showing his record stands at zero wins and 37 losses. Curt Hawkins and Jack Hart both became megastars after that same angle, right?

The Fantastics vs. Tony Falk and Keith Eric (Herring?)

Falk is stuck with a jobber as a partner, but then again, who would want to team with a geek who can’t win a match. Dave Brown and Russell try and put over Falk’s ability, but question his mental errors. The Fantastics take a quick break to let the gals in the studio swoon over them.

The Fantastics dominate with drop kicks aplenty. Falk runs into the turnbuckle on a charge, in order to play up his “mental errors” leading to losses character arch. Dual dropkicks lead to double cradles as the Fantastics win with ease.

We get a fun skit as Lance Russell and Dave Brown announce Bill Dundee has tried to force an injunction against the local VHS distributors from selling a Jerry Lawler tape now that Lawler is “gone”. We see a roaming reporter on the Memphis courthouse steps giving an update that the judge ruled in favor of the distributors and now the fans can buy Lawler’s memorable matches again! Dennis Coralluzzo, indy promoter extraordinaire, makes a cameo as Dundee’s lawyer.

Russell and Brown introduce us to the MOD Squad.  Spike and Basher are with a gangster J.D. Costello, who does a Jim Cornette rip off gimmick of being a spoiled rich kid whose mother is funding his wrestling manager dreams after all his other career options failed. He claims Spike and Basher were disgraced New Orleans police officers, who he found while walking the streets in the Big Easy.  At the risk of being crass, their low budget, cut off cop outfits make them look like they would be very popular in some districts of San Francisco.

The Fantastics vs. The Undertakers

In my heart of hearts, I just know Fulton pleasured this large woman in a studio broom closet after the show went off the air.

The Undertakers are apparently just two big oafs. The Fantastics dropkick and hip toss their way to an easy victory.

The Fantastics cut a promo. Bill Dundee comes out and accuses them of stealing his gimmick of local sex symbol. This leads to a brawl. The MOD Squad show up with baby powder and blind Rogers. Dundee pours oil or something on Fulton. The faces fight them off and Fulton cuts a heated promo about punching faces and kicking ass. HELL YEAH, WRASSLIN!

Promo: The Spoiler comes out in a mask. He pulls it off and says “No more Spoiler, I’m just Frank Morrell.” He looks like an old man. He cuts a promo on those no good heels. “I sez to ol’ Bill, weeze just gotta make a go at it.” Morrell admits he isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but his young friend Billy Travis might. Travis is out in a suit and tie, looking a lot like Eddie Gilbert. Bill Dundee and Tony Falk come out and a brawl breaks out for a moment.

Eddie Marlin shows a clip of Dundee and Landel cutting a promo. Lance Russell mentions that Lawler and Dutch Mantel beat the heel’s butts, so Dundee slaps him. Russell treats this perfectly, back pedalling, then bucking up briefly as if he was going to stand up for himself like a MAN. Marlin announces the evil bastards have been fined, and if the announcers are touched again, a 5-year suspension will be levied.

THE BILL AND BUDDY SHOW: Landel and Dundee have moved in their own desk and logo at the studio. They are forced to introduce a promo package for a Lawler video and “fall asleep” while it plays.

Jerry Lawler and Dutch Mantel vs. Pat and Bill Rose

The heels call the action, and it’s pretty awesome as they crap on everything Lawler does. Lawler starts to troll the heels. Lawler and Dundee then just walk off giving the jobbers the count-out win. Lawler and Mantel come back with chairs, scare off the heels and wreck their set. The heels return and the jobbers help them beat on our heroes. A ton of jobbers hit the ring to try and break the brawl up. The crowd chants “We want blood”…I think. The faces finally stand tall all alone in the ring and the fans JUMP from their seats in jubilee. Awesome.

Seeing this, it’s not surprising that JCP picked Landel and Dundee up not too long after this. That lead to Dusty Rhodes pushing Dundee hard in local Memphis angles. But more on that when I get there in my history series.

Final thoughts: This was tremendous fun for what it was. Seeing mostly a Lawler-less Memphis had its charms.  With the very limited roster, this show probably would get stale fast, but dipping my toes in like this made for a quality hour of wrasslin’.

Thanks for reading!

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Written by Andrew Lutzke

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