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Vice's 'Cocaine And Cowboy Boots' a nice break from real life

My one big takeaway from “Cocaine and Cowboy Boots” is that Herb Abrams was a crazy motherf**ker in a business full of crazy motherf**kers.

Part of the second season of Vice’s entertaining Dark Side of the Ring series, this installment is about someone I'm fairly certain a majority of modern wrestling fans aren’t familiar with in Abrams or his Universal Wrestling Federation.

The tl;dr if you haven’t seen this yet: Abrams was a New York businessman that made his money selling dresses to big and tall women, a fact that apparently was unknown to most. He was a wrestling fan that wanted to start his own promotion (stop me if you heard that one before), founded it at a convention where there were dozens of available talents signing autographs, and used his money and big dreams to not just launch an indie group but a would-be competitor to the big guys filled with recognizable names and a national TV deal.

The episode focuses on the creation of the UWF and its alignment with Abrams’ bizarre lifestyle and subsequent decline which was more rock star than CEO. As the show title indicates, there was plenty of cocaine and also plenty of money being thrown around...until it wasn’t. This feels like a fever dream of someone writing a movie about a wacky wrestling promoter where the facts seem like more fiction than fact.

A positive for fans of the series is that we hear from some new voices in UWF GM Lenny Duge, Mick Foley, recent WOR guest John Arezzi, Sonny Beach, the non-Harlem Heat Stevie Ray, manager Marty Yesberg, and B. Brian Blair. They are all honest about this strange time with a strange man with some (Foley) looking back with a "What are you going to do, right?" attitude while others (Duge and Ray) are still profoundly affected and emotional in talking about Abrams.

Yesberg and Blair both tell especially memorable stories they can hardly believe themselves as the words come out of their mouths.

We learn that Abrams wanted to work with Vince McMahon early in his UWF tenure, but was rebuffed in his offer to run the U.S. west coast, prompting him to try to go head-to-head with WWF instead. You can guess how that went, but he did help get Andre The Giant more money from McMahon after he appeared on a single UWF broadcast.

And in another tale we’ve heard so many times, when things aren’t going great, the promoter often puts themselves right in the middle of the fray. A crazed Abrams eventually thinks he’s the star of the show as the lead voice and almost heelish figure, but it fails badly as does the promotion. A focus on gimmick matches bombs, two big swing attempts at pay-per-views bomb at the box office, and the money disappears as quickly as the powder into Abrams’ nose.

After four years, the UWF holds its final event, a 1994 PPV in Las Vegas that completely flops, with the true end coming when Abrams is found dead in July 1996. There are differing details if Abrams was found dead in his office, the police station, or a police car after a night of drugs and apparently chasing hookers with a baseball bat -- a mysterious and fitting end that people still can’t put the pieces together to all these years later.

Amazingly, despite all of the bounced checks and failed promises, Abrams still holds a special place in the heart of his best friend Duge and Ray who he got behind as a promotional star. Both get emotional talking about their friend with Ray’s words being particularly heartbreaking.

“Cocaine and Cowboy Boots” is a quick and entertaining watch, helping the Abrams name survive for future generations who might have forgotten him all together.

And yes, he named his dog Cokey. And yes, someone thinks he’s still alive.

Notes & Thoughts:

  • I believe our own Dave Meltzer (not Davey Meltzer) can be seen in a still image when they talk about the promotion launch. I also have no idea why he or Bryan didn’t discuss this episode on WOR.
  • UWF had a decent amount of names for a 1990 launch including Bruno Sammartino, Steve Williams, Bob Orton, Cactus Jack, Lou Albano, Paul Orndorff and a young Louie Spicolli, among other WWF and WCW castoffs.
  • Somebody must have a box of Herbie cookies in their basement, right?
  • This should come as no surprise but you can watch most of the UWF’s run, including those PPVs, on YouTube.
  • I wanted to know more about who Abrams’ internal champion was for getting him one final show (Blackjack Brawl) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas after all the financial failures.