365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
I try to stay away from absolutes when talking about any art form–and wrestling counts. However, while I wouldn’t want to anoint any wrestler or act as the most popular of all time, I feel confident saying that no one got bigger reactions as a fan favorite from their audience than Junkyard Dog in his heyday received in the Mid-South territory.
There certainly have been acts who captivated their fan followings in the territorial era: Jerry Lawler in Memphis and the Von Erichs in Texas come to mind. Hulk Hogan became a huge fan favorite that helped the WWF become a nationwide and eventually global phenomenon. I’m telling you, if you haven’t heard it or seen it, the reactions to JYD in Mid-South were comparable.
I asked one of my longtime friends, Bruce Cook (check out his Slurptoast podcast!), who grew up in Louisiana in the 80s when Mid-South was at its heights, to describe the phenomenon of JYD as someone who got to witness it in person:
“JYD was my first favorite wrestler,” Bruce wrote. “I grew up in Louisiana in the 80s, Mid-South was my home territory and Junkyard Dog was my hero.
“There was nothing like hearing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ hit and watching Junkyard Dog come to the ring with his collar and chain. It was nothing short of electric. He held the entire territory in the palm of his hand years before Hulkamania was a thing.
“The Mid-South territory was, at the time, largely blue-collar working people of all races,” he added. “JYD was a hero for the people – all of the people. He unified. He was inspirational as well as aspirational. No matter how big the obstacle, given time, JYD could overcome it. The crowds were electric. From those first Queen bass notes until the Big Thump landed, everyone was on their feet. Everyone was chanting J-Y-D. Everyone was cheering. Everyone was a JYD fan.”
In short, if your exposure to the Junkyard Dog is limited to his time as a second banana to Hogan in the WWF, or his run in WCW when he was at the tail end of his career, you’ve been missing out.
Let’s correct that, shall we, with this installment of the 365 Wrestling project, as JYD teams with Dusty Rhodes to take on Ted DiBiase and Matt Borne in Houston from February 11, 1983.
You can watch this match on YouTube.
Houston, as mentioned, was considered its own promotion but was friendly with Mid-South and this is a top Mid-South storyline brought to the Sam Houston Coliseum. The centerpiece is the feud between JYD and DiBiase, which began in the summer of 1982 when DiBiase turned heel on the Dog to win the North American Title — Mid-South’s top championship at the time.
DiBiase then formed the Rat Pack, a stable consisting of himself, Borne, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The latter, wearing a gorilla suit (yes, really), interfered in a tag match with a loser leaves town stipulation to cost JYD and send him out of the territory. The next week, in what was no doubt a huge coincidence, a masked man named Stagger Lee matching JYD’s size and wrestling style debuted in Mid-South. Junkyard Dog made his “return” after the terms of the loser leaves stipulation expired and the feud with DiBiase and company continued.
At the time of this match, DiBiase has lost his North American Title but remains one-half of the Mid-South tag champs with Borne. The champions actually defended against this same duo of JYD and the Dream five days earlier, on Mid-South TV. The titles are not on the line for this rematch.
If you’re looking for a match with back-and-forth struggle, compelling false finishes, or seeing the heels in control… this match is definitely not for you. JYD and Dusty dominate this match and pummel their villainous rivals from pillar to post from the brawl that sparks as the two fan favorites enter the ring all the way through the Dog hitting his Thump powerslam to finish things.
Every time Borne and DiBiase gain some semblance of momentum, they quickly get cut off. For most of the match, though, the Mid-South tag champs are getting thwacked and thrashed, or rolling outside the ring in order to regroup. The crowd loves every bit of it. There’s no commentary for this video, so you can hear the hoots, hollers, laughter, and sheer delight from the fans.
Dusty is the special guest star of sorts helping JYD in his quest, and he’s in his element, mugging and preening to the crowd. As popular as he is, JYD is even more beloved. The audience at Sam Houston Coliseum goes nuts when JYD finally gets tagged in to face DiBiase one on one, and he’s also the one to score the pin in the match — propelling that rivalry forward while Dusty goes on to another territory.
They spend almost all of the match getting destroyed but DiBiase and Borne put on a fantastic performance here. DiBiase in particular has some great sells of the punches, headbutts, and elbows he takes, whether that means landing on his back and then flipping over onto his belly after he hits the mat, or some exaggerated staggers and woozy facial expressions. The fans are here to see JYD and Dusty reign supreme, and they do, but DiBiase and Borne make them look like killers.
–Footage of this match, previously unseen, emerged as one of the Hidden Gems on the WWE Network. One can only hope that this and the other examples of unearthed footage will end up in Peacock as part of their content migration, which is supposed to be complete by sometime in August.
–After the initial brawl before the bell, DiBiase goes nose to nose with JYD. Turn your sound up before what happens next. Just trust me.
–The production values on these matches from Houston have been excellent. In one of the rare moments where the Rat Pack have control, the camera zooms in on Dusty right before Borne delivers a leaping stomp to the head that looks downright brutal.
Final Rating: 6.3
If you’re following along with the project, you might notice I gave this match and yesterday’s selection the exact same rating, but they could not be more different aside from the general rules and context of a wrestling match. I don’t think a modern promotion would put on a match of this type, especially involving headliners, for fear of criticisms of the heels getting buried. Maybe bookers should look to the past, because this is a satisfying match that hits all the right emotional buttons and plays off something as simple as seeing the villain, or villains in this case, receive some long-awaited payback. It’s a lot of fun, and recommended for sure.
Back to the United Kingdom for the first match in the project that happened before I was born.