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Today In Televised Sports Entertainment History: Championship Wrestling from Memphis

Championship Wrestling

2/22/1986 - WTVW Evansville

This show was originally broadcast live on WMC in Memphis the week prior. Championship Wrestling was then syndicated out on a bicycle to the local markets where the Jarrett-Lawler troupe would be headed next. In Evansville, on WTVW this showed aired on February 22, 1986.

Lance Russell and Dave Brown introduce the program, and Russell announces that Austin Idol will be on the program. Buddy Landel comes out, and runs down Idol, saying that he’s the only heartthrob, and claiming the best version of the figure four leglock. Except for the main event, all matches on the show were one fall, with a fifteen minute time limit.

The Undertakers vs. The Fantastics

The Fantastics come into the studio to the sounds of Z.Z. Top’s Tush, and shake everyone’s hand at ringside. Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton are the reigning AWA Southern tag team champions, and they’d be facing The Undertakers - two generic masked wrestlers, one of which threw a black rose into the audience upon completion of the introductions. The best compliment Brown could give them as the match started was, “Both these guys are coming in big. Over 250 pounds.” For absolutely no reason whatsoever, that reminded me of the fan in the movie Major League who says that the ball that was hit was actually “too high” to be a home run.

Rogers and Fulton were only a few years into teaming, and they were already ascending into rare air. It’s amazing to think how little the two would bother with each other when they weren’t working, but I guess it’s the ultimate in opposites attracting. In the ring, they were the perfect compliment for each other - unlike the Undertakers. Speaking of, the end came when Fulton kind of suplex-DDT’d one of them, and tagged in Rogers. Fulton appeared to say something to the guy, which was probably like, “watch the missile dropkick,” because Rogers ascended to the top rope. For a moment the guy just laid there, before sitting up. (But not like the other, more famous, Undertaker. This was more of a “Oh crap, I should be up,” sit-up.) He turned around to eat Rogers’ dropkick, and The Fantastics win at 3:23.

The Fantastics

Look at her with two big armfuls of Fulton. “Imma eat you up, Bobby Fulton!”

Back from break, Lance and Dave explain the Thunderdome series of shows that will be taking place around the territory. There will be elimination bouts in come as you are gear with the last two guys wrestling for the top prize. They then throw it to a reel of pre-taped interviews from the wrestlers, standing in front of the ring, and giving their thoughts on the matches.

First is COWBOY RICK CASEY who notes that he’s from Texas and he’s “had a lot of success with my cowbell.” Seconds later, Casey adds that when it comes to Thunderdome matches, he’s happy to “drop my hat in this book.” I assume he meant to say he was “throwing his hat in the ring,” but then again, I’m not from Texas. He quickly makes up for that gaff by repeating, “Imma bring my cowbell. I’ve had a quite a bit a (pause) success with that.” He then turned as fast as he possibly could and handed the microphone off. The Cowboy was half of the double life Casey would live, as he was better known in the Gulf coast as Wildcat Wendell Cooley.

Here's Casey - who was being tried out as the International Champion - trying to get out of there, as fast as possible.

Cowboy Case

Second is DIRTY RHODES, aka Roger Smith doing an intentional poor man’s Dusty Rhodes gimmick in one hell of a hat.

Dirty Rhodes

Next up was THUNDERBOLT HAMILTON.

Thunderbolt Hamilton

Who doesn’t remember T-Bolt Hams, right? Well, I didn’t, and had to look him up. There wasn’t exactly a ton on the guy, other than he wrestled for Championship Wrestling from Florida (including teaming with famed Charlotte job guy Rocky King), and he may have promoted wrestling in Jacksonville, as well. Regardless, I didn’t believe him when he claimed “I’ve been around, and won quite a bit in my career, wrestling.” Now, if he said “I’ve been around, and won quite a bit in my career of modeling Dark and Lovely’s Au Naturale Curl Defining Creme Glaze,” I wouldn’t doubt him, because that hair really does look soft.

But, I did agree with him when he said, “I guarantee that 10,000 dollars is a lot of money.” He didn’t say anything about turning the T-Domes into T-Bolts, but he did say he’d be there with bells on, and all of them are gonna be ringing. REAL TALK.

This murderer’s row now goes to someone who sounds like an attempted murderer, if you were to believe the story of Tojo Yamamoto, Jerry Jarrett, and Jackie Fargo confronting Jack Donovan at a TV studio in Nashville. Always the heel, Tojo says he’s going to be the same old Tojo, bringing his bag of salt, and using his shoe as a weapon, before quickly departing. Before he left, he didn’t mention anything about possibly using Fargo’s snub nose revolver, and Jarrett’s help.

Tojo

Next up was the Mutt and Jeff duo of “The Angel” Frank Morrell and youngster Billy Joe Travis. I believe this duo would be the one that would replace The Fantastics when they bolted to Mid-South without dropping the AWA Southern titles to the M.O.D. Squad (the repackaged brother duo of Jim and Mac Jeffers), a few months later. Morrell mentions that $10,000 is a “big thing” and, even though they can bring anything they want to the ring, the main thing that they’re bringing is themselves. He added he’d also “be an idiot” to tell anyone what he’d be bringing.

Frank & Billy

The show goes to break, and goes to a tape of Lance talking about Wednesday night at the Coliseum in Evansville, Indiana, where fans would be seeing “seven big matches.” Three title matches, the Mid-America title: Dirty Rhodes vs. Buddy Landel, International title: Rick Casey vs. Dutch Mantel, and the Southern title: Austin Idol vs. Bill Dundee. Russell added that there would also be “a final grudge six man Hotshot stick on the pole match,” featuring Landel, Mantel, and Dundee against Casey, Rhodes, and the Midnight Rider.

Back in the studio, Austin Idol shows up to the desk, and speaks with Lance Russell. He apologizes for being late, and lets everyone know that he would be opening up a new business venture in the area. Idol plays to the fans, and announces that he would be wrestling later on. Before he goes, Tony Falk (who’s been on a long losing streak) comes out and says that he doesn’t want to wait for Idol to get ready, and that he wants to wrestle now. Idol agrees, and says that in Chicago they call William Perry “The Refrigerator,” but the people in Memphis will be calling him “The Microwave” for the way he’ll be heating it up, and melting his opponent down to nothing. In hindsight, just saying heating it up would have probably been sufficient.

Austin Idol vs. Tony Falk

Buddy Landel comes out to do commentary, running down Idol, who was wrestling in his jeans, and won with the Las Vegas Leglock in 1:25.

Another local spot for Wednesday’s Evansville aired. This one mentioned that on Monday, March 10 there would be a show at the Grayson County High School in Leitchfield, Kentucky, which was being brought to us by the football boosters. Thursday, March 13 would be in Ramsey, Indiana at North Harrison High, and sponsored by the band boosters. Lance then brings it back to Evansville, mentions the four earlier matches, and also adds Tojo Yamamoto vs. Tony Falk, Thunderbolt Hamilton vs. Tom Branch, and Pat Rose and Abdul Gaddafi vs. The Fantastics.

The Raider vs. Ken Prince

They threw it back to the ring, where the generic masked Raider waited for his opponent - who ended up being the debuting KEN PRINCE. I seconded Lance’s thoughts when he didn’t know what else to say, except for, “Wow! What a look.” Introduced as being from Greenwich Village, New York. This was Ken Prince…

The Raider

He’s like a S&M loving Blade Runner. And when I say Blade Runner, I mean the men who would later turn into Sting and the Ultimate Warrior, because he had that exact same type of face painting style.

“We’ve heard good things about him. And, um, an outstanding athlete. And, I guess that’s about as (pause) good, uhhhhh (pause), good, uh, a recommendation that you can possibly have. (Pause) Is that a tail around there?!” - Lance Russell, possibly realizing mid-sentence that Prince’s posterior looks like several cat o’ nine tails whips tied together, and sticking out of his rectum.

Cat of Nine Tails

There’s a lot that can be said about the Memphis style of booking, but how could you not just throw sh*t against the wall the way that they did? They had a fanbase that was so forgiving, and able to completely forget about guys who went in and out of the area with horrendous gimmicks  - even if they wrestled Jerry Lawler in the main event of a Mid-South Coliseum show.

That didn’t happen for Prince. Records indicate he appeared on one Mid-South Coliseum show, beating Tony Falk, on February 17, 1986. That would have been five days before this show aired in Evansville on WTVW channel 7, but two days after this show had originally aired live in Memphis on Saturday, February 15. “He reminds me of Spike Huber. Stocky and well built.” - Lance Russell, still grasping for compliments, or shouting out what was left of the Indianapolis territory, three hours north of Evansville. Me? I was kind of, sort of, thinking Paul Ellering, just not as defined. Prince won with a blind flying bodypress off the second turnbuckle in 1:57, which was more than enough time, because he would have been even more lost if it went much longer than that.

The camera cut to Lance and Dave, as the next competitors got into the ring.

Lionel Green vs. Buddy Landel

Russell, in putting him over, mentions how Landel loves to brag that he beat NWA World champion Ric Flair in a non-title match. Oh, what we didn’t know then. The “Nature Boy” dominates, and wins with the figure four leglock in 1:26. Landel doesn’t let the submission go afterwards, and referee Jerry Calhoun can’t get him to break, which brought Austin Idol out. While Landel still had the figure four on, he spit at Idol, which caused Idol to take his belt off and start whipping Landel with it. Bill Dundee then came out to give Landel the advantage. Landel put his figure four on Idol, but Idol was able to reverse it. Dundee again attacked Idol, this time with a chair, and the two heels left him laying.

After giving a little bit of a post-mortem on what we just saw, between Landel and Idol, Lance then threw to an interview Spike and Basher, The M.O.D. Squad, and their manager J.D. Costello. Considering the backdrop, and the timeline, I’m assuming this was sent in from the Central States territory, where no expenses were ever spared.

Mod Squad

This team had aesthetics issues right from the jump, whether in camo or police gear.

Costello does an old school mama’s boy promo, talking down: “Grandpa, if you’re chewing tobacco, spit it out, and come close to the TV set. Grandma, if you’re washing your dishes, put everything down, and pull your easy chair up, and sit down close to the TV.” He believes, when they land in his mom’s learjet, that the mayor will give him the keys to the city. He also says that The Fantastics should skip town before they get there, as his boys act like cartoons, making faces, and look at themselves in the monitors. Costello adds that his “mother said it was going to be hard, but he had no idea how easy it was gonna be until I learned about The Fantastics.”

Costello closes by saying that his mother had gotten him a gift to give The Fantastics:

Mod Squad 2

BE AFRAID FANTASTICS. That right there may explain why Rogers and Fulton would vacate, rather than do the honors.

Pat Rose vs. Rick Casey

The match was not for Casey’s International title, which had more name variations in less time than any other pro wrestling championship known to man. He had won the title a few weeks earlier, from Dutch Mantel. Lance talks about how Rose had entered the territory as part of a tag team, but “his tag partner split, and so did his girlfriend.” Dave adds, “Coincidently they left at the same time,” referring to his former running mates, Tom Prichard and Sherri Martel, who had left the territory a few weeks earlier - with Rose (badly) reading a “Dear John” letter on the air.

Despite his castrating storyline, Rose, the Southern enhancer extraordinaire was the star of this match. The match went about 5:40, and ended when Rose set the lumbering Casey up to hit a bulldog, but Casey instead used a headlock takeover. He covered Rose, who put his feet up on the ropes, and the referee counted the pin. Booooo.

Another local spot for Evansville played, this time with The Fantastics cutting a promo.

Fantastics

“Abdul Gaddafi, you’re an international name, brother.” - Bobby Fulton, accentuating the positives.

Rick Casey and Dirty Rhodes then cut a promo on their respective title matches, and the six-man main event which will star a cattle prod on a 10-foot pole. Austin Idol joins Lance next, and yells about Bill Dundee. Idol, who loved the lifestyle of the Florida panhandle, may or may not have been one of “Pensacola” Dolph Ziggler’s greatest clothing inspirations, along with every single mid-80’s rock band, ever.

I wonder if the same people that tally up how many times the F-word is used in movies like Do The Right Thing and The Wolf Of Wall Street also keep count of how many times the word “daddy” is used in dueling promos between Idol and Dundee.

Austin Idol

Frank Morrell and Billy Travis vs. “Superstar” Bill Dundee and “Dirty” Dutch Mantel

Back in the ring, the “expiration of time match” was a tag. Before the bout, Lance was talking about how Travis wanted him to make sure that he said “a happy hello” to his mother in Kentucky. As he did, Billy looked over and wanted to double-check.

Innocent white meat babyfaces in Kentucky and Tennessee were so great sometimes. But then, sooner or later, cold hard mountain mentality would take back over and these dudes’ foreheads and arms would become carving stations, after taking one of those ass whippings that made fans at home - who know its worked - wonder why they’d continue in the business. But, that’s for a different time and place. For right now, Billy is SO HAPPY.

To be fair, I’d be marking out too if Lance was calling one of my matches, and shouted out my mom. You’d have to feel much better about that than Robert Fuller shouting out your mom during a promo, right? He and Morrell - who was referred to several times as the “ex-Spoiler,” wrestled Bill Dundee and Dutch Mantel.

The story was the two heels taking advantage of the younger, more inexperienced, guy. When Morrell got the hot tag, and ran wild, Dundee cut him off by throwing powder in his eyes for the DQ. The Midnight Rider then ran out for the save with the cattle prod that they would be using around the territory, in those matches that were mentioned earlier during the Evansville spots. Initially, Brown announces that it was only the first fall. But, when he and Lance come back from break, they announce they’re out of time, and wrap the show up by saying they look forward to seeing us next week.