365 Wrestling, Day 54: Randy Savage & Lanny Poffo vs. Lou Winston & Jerry Bryant (Memphis, 2/23/85)

365 Wrestling, Day 54: Randy Savage & Lanny Poffo vs. Lou Winston & Jerry Bryant (Memphis, 2/23/85)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

We’ve taken a look at the wonderfully wacky world of Memphis wrestling before in the project — watching a grudge tag match, and a chapter in the long-running feud between Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart — but now it’s time to explore the weekly TV element that drove this promotion for years. Even well into the 1990s, when nearly every other territory had closed its doors, Memphis wrestling remained alive, if not well. For nearly two decades, starting in 1977, Championship Wrestling aired live in a 90-minute block every Saturday morning from the WMC-TV studios in Memphis.

In this entry, we take a look at a match from one of those episodes — February 23, 1985, to be precise: Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo against Lou Winston and Jerry Bryant.

You can watch this match, and the peripheral shenanigans, on Youtube:

The Context

For more than four years, the Lawler-Hart feud was a focal point of the Memphis territory, but now things are in a state of flux. Hart left for the WWF a few weeks earlier, leaving Lawler in search of a new foil. Enter Eddie Gilbert. “Hot Stuff” is certainly no stranger to the Memphis audience by now. In fact, earlier in February, he lost a match to Lawler at the Mid-South Coliseum, which triggered a stipulation that banned Hart from the territory for a year (“a year” ended up being forever, and Hart wasn’t even in attendance, as he immediately started working with the WWF after giving notice to the Memphis office).

And so, on the February 16 episode of TV,. Gilbert comes out wearing military garb, with a Jimmy Hart doppelganger, and forms his Army:

Meanwhile, Savage and Poffo made their way to Memphis in 1984, after their father Angelo’s promotion, International Championship Wrestling, closed down. ICW was considered an “outlaw” promotion at the time, meaning it ran in direct competition with other shows in Kentucky — which was also part of the CWA’s geographical “territory” — and because the ICW was not aligned with the National Wrestling Alliance. Today, referring to a wrestling promotion as outlaw is more of a statement on quality, but the Poffo-led ICW featured his two sons, along with Ron Garvin, Pez Whatley, Ox Baker, Bob Orton, Jr., and several other significant names from the territorial era.

The Match

This isn’t the shortest match in the project (that mark is still held by Stan Hansen‘s All Japan debut), but it’s close. Savage and Poffo spent most of their time in Memphis as heels, but are on the fan favorite side of things here. Bryant, whose head apparently went unshaved after what happened in the video linked above from last week, is teaming with Winston, who is not an official member of the Army. Gilbert is in ringside in the same military outfit.

I think Savage is one of the best wrestlers, certainly of this era. He flies with apparent reckless abandon on his double axehandle here: once to the floor, and again from the neutral corner while his opponents are double-teaming Poffo.

Speaking of Poffo, he was ridiculously athletic for the time period. He shows off some of that athleticism in an early exchange, and later in the match busts out a moonsault — simply called a backflip by commentator Dave Brown. If anyone else did the moonsault before Poffo, I’m not aware of it. He seems like the type of wrestler who came along too late; can you imagine if Poffo had been active during the super-indy era of 2000s, when Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla were getting rolling?

But I digress. This match is curious but also a glorified squash. Savage and Poffo clearly have their foes outmatched. Whenever Bryant and Winston are trying to take control, we get punchy-kicky pro wrestling. Not long after Poffo hits the moonsault on Bryant, Savage slams Winston and follows with his patented flying elbow, and it’s over.

After Gilbert makes Bryant do pushups as punishment for the loss, Eddie has his Army bring out a huge box that clearly has a person inside, and is teased as a “present” for Lance and the studio audience. What’s in the box? The revelation isn’t part of the footage, which ends with a Lawler interview musing on how “Hot Stuff” is mirroring some of the past antics of “The King.”

Savage turned heel again a few weeks later, and would be out of Memphis within a matter of months, headed to the WWF and eventual megastardom.

As for Bryant and Winston, they would move on to form Memphis Vice within the year. Memphis Vice, you guys! Get it? Like Miami Vice except different because they lived in Memphis!

Random Thoughts

–One interesting note on the February 16 footage. Tommy Hart, the faux Hart who accompanies Gilbert, makes the analogy to shooting a racehorse when it breaks a leg, a callback to the same verbiage Jimmy Hart used when he turned on Lawler after “The King” broke his leg playing pick-up football in 1980. Hart immediately became the top heel in the territory:

–I’ve talked before about Lance Russell and how good he is on commentary, but he’s a true natural as the “host” of a wrestling show and you see why in all of these videos (well, except the Memphis Vice one). He moves from one segment to another with near-bulletproof aplomb, even as all hell breaks loose around him. It was very rare to see him get flustered, or have any physicality with any of the talent, although it did happen. Watch in the interview segments how he leads and guides whoever is talking, as needed. The Jimmy Hart impersonator is clearly nervous and flustered, but a steady Lance Russell provides direction and allows the doppelganger to hit his catch phrase and laugh, which is a dead ringer for the Mouth of the South.

Final Rating: 5.0

This is a decent snapshot of the flow of a Memphis TV show, but far afield from the best action or angles to come out of this territory. It’s also a chance to see Savage and Poffo (who never were acknowledged as brothers in the WWF) teaming together, but not a sterling example of their work as a team. I’d recommend checking out some of their stuff against the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, which also happened in Memphis, instead.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

We go above and Beyond.

Got something to say about this match, or the project, or anything wrestling-related? Reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling Day 18: Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (CWA Memphis, 1/18/81)

365 Wrestling Day 18: Jerry Lawler vs. Jos LeDuc (CWA Memphis, 1/18/81)

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.

The Context

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!

Jos LeDuc makes his axe oath

The Match

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.

Random Thoughts

–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.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

A ballyhooed tag match from 1991.

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.

365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

365 Wrestling, Day 9: Fabulous Ones vs. Moondogs, Anything Goes (Memphis, 1/9/84)

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.

The Context

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.

The Match

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 …

Excuse me…

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.

Random Thoughts

–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.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

We head to Atlanta for a dog collar match to settle the score.

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.