365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Earlier in this project, I wrote about the wonderfully eccentric world of Memphis wrestling. We return there for a match that occurred 30 years ago to the day, on one of the weekly Monday shows at Mid-South Coliseum, where Jerry Lawler took on Jos LeDuc.
Bad news, though … I can’t find this match anywhere online, and I watched it from my private collection. Because of that, I’m going to be more detailed in the match recap than I usually would be.
LeDuc is the hired mercenary monster of Jimmy Hart and this is the latest chapter for Lawler in a lengthy feud with Hart that played out for years and didn’t truly culminate until Hart finally left the territory and joined the World Wrestling Federation. Lawler actually brought Hart into wrestling, and the two real-life friends were working together on the heel side of things until Lawler broke his leg in early 1980 playing a game of pick-up football. After losing the biggest star in the territory, the CWA made a sudden and amazing pivot, with Hart ripping Lawler in interviews. Just like that, Hart became the biggest villain in the promotion, and when Lawler recovered from his injury, he came back into the ring as the returning hero out for revenge.
Lawler missed about seven months since the injury, and the CWA settled into a formula that persisted for years, with Hart bringing in wrestler after wrestler to try and finish “The King” once and for all. Lawler and LeDuc already had some history. LeDuc spent quite a bit of time in the Memphis territory in 1978 and this was his first appearance there since that year. That ’78 run also included one of my favorite segments in wrestling history:
Ladies and gentlemen… the Axe Oath!
Plenty of pomp and circumstance for Lawler’s entrance. The house lights go out and Lawler gets the spotlight treatment as he descends to the ring from the rafters. The crowd loves it.
Lance Russell announces the specific stipulations of this match to a packed house in the Coliseum: if Lawler wins, Hart gets handcuffed in the corner and takes 10 lashes with a leather strap. After each blow, Hart has the chance to quit, but if he does he has to leave the territory. If LeDuc wins, Lawler gets handcuffed and receives the same treatment from Hart.
What follows is more of a brawl than a match. Aside from a couple of headlocks and a snap mare, the punch and kick are the main notes in this composition of violence. Russell on commentary describes LeDuc as “tremendously wide and thick” and emphasizes his physical strength. Meanwhile, in the ring, LeDuc is throwing Lawler around the ring and sending him flying after eating overhand punches. When it comes to punches by a pro wrestler, though, there are few better than Lawler. He deals out the aforementioned snap mare and delivers rapid-fire punches to LeDuc to the delight of the crowd.
Several minutes of the match are clipped from the video, and as the action resumes, LeDuc has Lawler down in the middle of the ring. Lawler no-sells an eye rake and gets to his knees. The Coliseum crowd roars in approval as Lawler begins to fire up on his opponent long before Hulk Hogan made “hulking up” a trope for years. LeDuc shoves Lawler away on a headlock attempt, wiping out the referee, Paul Morton, and then hitting a piledriver — which is illegal in this promotion. A groggy Morton makes a long two count. LeDuc looks awestruck. Hart drops to his knees at ringside, clawing at the heavens.
Lawler comes roaring back once more and when he pulls down his single strap of his ring attire, the fans fly into a tizzy. LeDuc begs off as he eats punches, then gets fired into the ropes for a sweet back drop. (I’m a sucker for a good back drop, you guys …). Hart is trying to get into the ring, and Lawler plants LeDuc with a piledriver — this time in view of the referee, leading to an automatic DQ. So, as Lawler protests, Russell explains that Lawler was merely seeking payback for the piledriver he dealt out, but given the rules in the territory, this finish didn’t paint Lawler in the brightest of lights…
Lawler is upset. The crowd is upset. Hart, meanwhile celebrates with delight. He makes a show of removing his jacket (revealing a pair of elbow pads, curiously) as Lawler is handcuffed to the far corner, facing the ringpost, his back exposed. The fans we can see from ringside sit stoic, with their arms crossed, as Hart lays into Lawler with the leather strap. Hart really gives it to Lawler (that fifth blow echoes through the building). LeDuc, meanwhile, stays down selling the piledriver through most of this but is on his feet as Hart delivers the ninth lash. This leads the Canadian lumberjack to grab the strap and begin whaling away on The King. Several fan favorites hit the ring (I noticed Bill Dundee and maybe Tommy Rich?) but when Lawler gets uncuffed he pounces on LeDuc, seizing the strap and flogging the lumberjack, who flees to the back as the video ends.
–It’s hard for me to watch any “wrestler gets lowered to the ring from the rafters” entrance now because it always makes me think of Owen Hart.
–I almost thought LeDuc oversold the piledriver.
–Hart added a lot to this with his antics before, after, and during the match.
Final Rating: 5.3
The crowd was into this and the action felt heated but this comes off as more of an angle than a match, and the way that storylines play out so quickly given the way the territory is structured, it just falls into the category of yet another chapter in the ongoing feud between Lawler and Hart. It doesn’t help matters that LeDuc is one-and-done, not returning to the territory again until 1984. A decent watch, but not anything worth going out of your way to find and see.
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.