365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
The territorial era of wrestling had something for everyone. In Mid-South Wrestling, Bill Watts centered his promotion around guys who were either legitimately tough or had impressive athletic backgrounds or both. World Class Wrestling had an atmosphere that was part wrestling, part rock show, with wild brawls between the Von Erichs and the Fabulous Freebirds. Pacific Northwest Wrestling in Portland was known for its longer-format matches that could end up being a showcase of technical wrestling or a total bloodbath.
And then there was Memphis. There were several eras of Memphis wrestling but the best known was known officially as the Continental Wrestling Association, when Jerry Jarrett (Jeff’s dad) split away from Nick Gulas.
If you’ve never seen 1980s Memphis wrestling… it’s wild, y’all. The promotion held weekly shows at the Mid-South Coliseum every Monday, and hyped them on TV that aired live on Saturday mornings. Having a major arena event once a week allowed all kinds of creative leeway. One week, if Jerry Lawler were to claim he could beat Bill Dundee and Dutch Mantel with one hand tied behind his back, well, that Monday you might see that very match happen. Win or lose, the story could continue the following week. The TV show often got crazy, with uncontrollable brawls fairly common. At the center of the maelstrom, trying to maintain comtrol, was Lance Russell. Several years ago, Segunda Caida likened Russell to a strait-laced host “trying to run a smooth TV show if it wasn’t for these crazy Muppets.”
Today, we visit Memphis for the first time (but definitely not the last) in this series, to watch The Fabulous Ones, Stan Lane and Steve Keirn, take on The Moondogs in an Anything Goes Match from the Mid-South Coliseum.
You can find this match on YouTube with minimal difficulty.
Even though they weren’t exactly clean-cut, the Fabulous Ones had a pretty-boy gimmick they played to the hilt since being paired together in 1982. They also benefited from getting an immediate endorsement, on camera, from Memphis wrestling legend Jackie Fargo. They became huge fan favorites almost right asway. Long before Bray Wyatt wandered into his funhouse or any of the other video packages that have become a fairly standard method of introducing new talent in wrestling for any number of promotions, CWA put together a few music videos to hype this team.
Videos like this, for example …
and this …
This type of gimmick would have had the opposite effect today — making Lane and Keirn either a punchline as a comedy act or huge heels. In Memphis in the 1980s, though, it only added to their appeal. In several stints in the promotion, they held tag titles on 17 (!!!) separate occasions. Then again, rapid-fire title changes also were rather common in Memphis, especially with the aforementioned weekly shows at the coliseum.
The lady-killing heroes find themselves going against The Moondogs. There were several iterations of the Moondogs through the years, but they always had the same basic premise: rugged-looking dudes with shaggy, bleached-blond hair, cut-off jeans, and a major propensity to brawl. The ongoing battle between them led to this match, where anything goes and the referee wouldn’t even step through the ropes, instead remaining ringside.
Ever seen a wrestling match touted as a huge grudge match, but where the participants start out with basic, traditional wrestling like a collar-and-elbow and a headlock? This… is not that match. Rex and Spot jump the Fabs as soon as they reach the ring and a brawl ensues in and around the squared circle. The end result is a variety of wrestling that would make the philosopher Hobbes proud: it’s nasty, brutish, and short. Russell announces an official time of eight minutes once the decision is rendered, and a couple of minutes of footage are trimmed from what is accessible.
What’s here, though, is a hoot from bell to bell. Spot makes quick and frequent work using a crutch to bludgeon the fan favorites, especially Keirn. The viciousness is there and, combined with liberal use of the weapons (multiple crutches!!!!), the heat is palpable and the Memphis crowd loves every minute of it.
The chaos amplifies when the action spills to the floor in earnest. Keirn tries to flip him through a table at ringside, but Rex doesn’t complete his rotation on the backdrop so he kinda sorta smashes into it headfirst. These are thick, wooden tables, though, and it doesn’t break. Instead Rex picks up this heavy table and heaves it into the ring, smashing Lane into the propped up table. Keirn shows up with a long leather strap out of nowhere and starts wreaking havoc. One of the Fabs eats a piledriver from Rex. It’s chaos and carnage, through and through, until the Fabs grab the signature bones of the Moondogs, which usually get wielded as weapons. A couple of shots with the bones …
Where was I?
Oh yes. Use of the bones sends the Moondogs fleeing for the exit, and a 10-count by the referee cements victory for the Fabs.
–The Moondogs are managed by Jimmy Hart, who spent several years as the resident arch-villain of the Memphis territory before making his way to the WWF. Wrestlers would come and go, but Hart remained the nexus of neer-do-wells in the promotion, usually throwing enemies at his main nemesis, Jerry Lawler. Hart’s work as a manager in Mid-South is not to be missed, and is much more effective and entertaining than what he got to do in WWF or WCW.
–The referee in this match (the bald-headed gentleman at ringside) is Paul Morton. You might know his son, Ricky Morton, one half of the Rock’n’Roll Express. Morton’s grandson, Kerry Morton, is now wrestling as well.
–People don’t talk enough about Lane’s outstanding body of work as a tag wrestler. In addition to teaming with Keirn, he spent time with Bobby Eaton (who we saw in singles action earlier this month) in the Midnight Express. Lane also was the original partner of Tom Prichard in the Heavenly Bodies before the arrival of Jimmy Del Ray.
Final Rating: 6.1
I’m a sucker for the wild, brawling style of wrestling in front of a red-hot crowd and this is a good example of that type of match. They did themselves a favor by keeping it short, and the intensity and high heat of the battle made an abbreviated contest make sense. This match also represents a fine snapshot of the wild and woolly atmosphere of Memphis wrestling in the 1980s.
Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.