In the first of a new series, Will Burns takes a look at the iconic cities in the history of professional wrestling that link perfectly into our story and chronological journey. First up – Detroit.
Professional wrestling shows began running in Detroit in the 1920s but it really started to gain attention when promoter Nick Londos started booking the Detroit Olympia (pictured above) for his grappling events in 1928. Although this was relatively new to the area, it quickly became a popular staple of entertainment for the city.
By the 1930s, after starring in the ring on many Londos shows himself, local star Adam Weissmuller noticed the success wrestling was experiencing and he created his own company labelled ‘Weissmuller Wrestling Enterprises’. He forged links with other promoters, Fred Kohler of Chicago and Al Haft of Ohio, to bring the country’s best talent to the area with great success.
Weissmuller’s accomplishments had surpassed anything the city had seen previously and business was booming. However, Weissmuller suddenly passed away on 8th March 1937. Kohler and Haft, who had become very close with Weissmuller, acted as pallbearers at his funeral.
A former professional boxer with 60 bouts under his belt, Harry Light had started working with Weissmuller and his business partner Louis Markowitz shortly before Weissmuller’s death. Light moved to the area in 1919 after time in the Canadian Navy. He met Weissmuller while working as an usher at the Madison Ballroom when the promoter handed him $30 to collect some change at a local shop for the box office. He returned with the money and the friendship began.
In 1939, Light founded the Harry Light Wrestling Office and began promoting his own shows at Detroit’s Fairview Gardens under the banner of Big Time Wrestling. By 1947, tickets sales were deteriorating in Detroit and Light moved on to nearby Flint, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, Michigan to promote shows. Light had gained a television time slot on Channel 7, and once TV sets were being purchased, this gave him a major advantage over the other promoters in the state.
Come 1948, the National Wrestling Alliance was formed and Light signed up to its policies. The NWA agreed to split into regional territories and decided they would not compete with one another. With his NWA membership, Light was able to book the one true World Heavyweight Champion and improve his business further. Light held an important role in the NWA – organising schedules of the midget wrestlers for the territories.
His right-hand man Bert Ruby broke off from Light in the 1950s and created Motor City Wrestling which also became popular. Ruby was also a wrestler and a trainer, but when he promoted shows, he refrained from booking venues in Detroit to impede on Light’s business.
Meanwhile, with the TV audience snapping up tickets, Light’s NWA Detroit promotion held a stronghold in the territory, which did come under threat in 1959. Two men who could not gain membership into the Alliance were Jim Barnett and John Doyle, promoters from Indiana and New York respectively.
They created an outlaw promotion (The Barnett-Doyle Corporation) and started to run shows at Cobo Hall promoting bouts with Verne Gagne, Fritz von Erich, Bobo Brazil and Dick the Bruiser. They made great headway and drew an attendance of over 16,000 fans on their debut in April 1959 at the Olympic.
Light would combat this using his NWA contacts to book North Eastern stars Bruno Sammartino, Haystacks Calhoun and Argentina Rocca from Toots Mondt and Vincent J. McMahon, and promoted “The Greatest Card Ever Presented In Detroit” on 7th October 1961.
Harry Light (front left) signs a lease to bring his wrestling show to the new Cobo Arena (1961)
The city became a hotbed for wrestling throughout the sixties, however, the pressure impacted Harry and he got out of the business as The Corporation took over control. Nevertheless, Barnett and Doyle had cashed enough money to take their product elsewhere. So the NWA rights to Detroit and the state of Michigan were bought out by World Wide Sports for $50,000 in 1964. The company was owned by businessman Francis Fleser and his brother-in-law Ed Farhat and the deal included the TV contract that had three years remaining and a lease on Cobo Hall and the Cobo Arena.
World Wide Sports was filling houses at the Cobo Arena and broadcasting at least two of the Big Time Wrestling TV programs on Channel 7 every week with The Sheik at the top of the card. The man billed from the Syrian Desert was actually co-owner Farhat, a Michigan-born wrestler who had made a name as The Sheik in Chicago, New York and Texas since the fifties.
The Sheik returned home and became a huge draw. Due to his demented hardcore style and the use of weapons on his foes, he quickly became the most hated in the territory. Besides every great heel, there is a great babyface and the ever-popular Bobo Brazil was his counterpart. The pair feuded for decades in bloody battles over the Detroit version of the NWA United States Heavyweight belt.
Outside the ring, competition ascended from Dick the Bruiser and Wilbur Snyder, who had been wrestling for Barnett and Doyle previously in the area. They looked to take advantage of the previous popularity of the grappling game. So in 1971, they created All-Star Championship Wrestling, which operated with stars from their Indianapolis-based World Wrestling Association company – until they gave up promoting in Detroit in 1975.
As the city of Detroit was changing, things started to take a bad turn in the late 1970s for Farhat and Fleser. As people were out of work, the crime rate in the city rose and the crowds started to dwindle. Consequently, The Sheik, Brazil, and others had no option but to take their expertise to other territories to earn a decent payday.
Although Vincent J. McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation sent talent to the region to try and help its diminishing attendances, Fleser and Farhat closed their doors in late of 1980. It was a sign of things to come, as the WWF landed a TV spot in the area, took over the Detroit bookings and readied itself for national expansion.
The Sheik and Brazil continued to wrestle for other territories and we will profile their historic careers closer in upcoming articles. For Harry Light, he retired in the area, was married with six children until he sadly passed away on October 29th 1971.
Detroit became an important city in the history of professional wrestling and if you were fortunate enough to live through the 1960s until mid-70s in the area, you were incredibly privileged to witness the stories unfold. The fans in the area can be thankful for the likes of Light, Barnett, Doyle, Sheik and Brazil for the memories they created and the paths they paved for the generations to come.
The new year got off with a bang last month with numerous title changes and feuds exploded across territories. More of the same in February 1981. Let’s start by seeing how the champ got on….
The NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Harley Race flew over to the Land of the Rising Sun this past month to defend the belt against former two-time title holder Giant Baba. In addition, he was dealt some tough defences stateside by the NWA matchmakers. Let’s see how he fared in February 1981.
St. Louis Wrestling Club – Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO
Ted DiBiase defeated Harley Race (68th defense) by two falls to one in a Best of Three Falls bout. The third fall was via disqualification; therefore, Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga, TN
Mr. Wrestling II defeated Harley Race (69th defense) via DQ. Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GA
Harley Race (70th defense) and Tony Atlas battled to a double count-out.
All-Japan Pro Wrestling – Citizen Gymnasium, Nagareyama, Chiba, Japan
Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta beat Harley Race and Karl Kox by two falls to one.
All-Japan Pro Wrestling – City Gymnasium, Tsu, Mie, Japan
Harley Race and Dick Murdoch wrestled to a double count out in a non-title match.
All-Japan Pro Wrestling – Wakayama Prefectural Gymnasium, Wakayama, Japan
Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Harley Race and Mario Milano by two falls to one.
All-Japan Pro Wrestling – Municipal Sports Park Gymnasium, Omihachiman, Shiga, Japan
Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta and Tiger Toguchi defeated Harley Race, Karl Kox and Mario Milano by two falls to one.
All-Japan Pro Wrestling – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Giant Baba defeated Harley Race (71st defense) by two falls to one in a Best of Three Falls bout. The third fall was via disqualification; therefore, Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Big Time Wrestling Texas – Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX
Harley Race (72nd defense) and Kerry Von Erich went to a double count out. Race retained the NWA World Championship.
Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
Harley Race (73rd defense) defeated Dick The Bruiser via count out. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Houston Wrestling – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX
Harley Race (74th defense) and Wahoo McDaniel battled to a double count out while the score was 1-1 in a Three Falls match. Race retains the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
Giant Baba fell short of becoming a three-time NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion in his 15th February title shot against Harley Race on the Excite Series tour. In the Best Two out of Three Falls contest, Baba pinned Race after delivering a big boot and then flying clothesline after nine minutes and 39 seconds. The Korakuen Hall crowd erupt after the three count but they were hushed after Race tied the bout just over three minutes later.
The pair brawled outside with Race gaining the advantage with a suplex on the mats, then as Baba climbed back into the ring, Race suplexed the Giant back in and covered him for the pin. Towards the end of the bout, with both men bleeding from the forehead after numerous altercations on the outside of the ring, Race lifted Baba for another suplex for a near fall.
Race then missed his patented headbutt and the action returned to ringside with Baba slamming Race’s head into the ring-post before throwing back inside the ropes. Baba dished out another clothesline but failed to capitalize and could gain the win. Race suffered further punishment via an abdominal stretch and his frustrations threw the referee across the ring. The official was ready to disqualify the champion but Baba stopped the ref from ringing the bell and threw him down to the ground.
With the crowd hyped up, Baba caught Race into a sleeperhold and as Race was slipping into a deep sleep, he desperately low-blowed Baba causing the referee to penalize the champion and award the match to Baba. However, the championship cannot change hands on a disqualification so race walked out of the arena with the belt.
In other matches on the tour, Baba and Race clashed many times in tag team and six-man tag team matches. Three nights prior to Race’s title defense, he battled Dick Murdoch in a non-title bout at the City Gymnasium in Tsu, Mie. It was a wild brawl with lots of outside action and chair shots which eventually the referee lost control of and it ended up as a double count-out after 13 minutes of action.
The Excite Series concludes on the 3rd March and at the end of the month, the 9th annual Champion Carnival begins with Baba and Tsuruta joined by 12 others in the tournament including Bruiser Brody, Abdullah the Butcher, Jack Brisco, Prince Tonga, “Killer” Tim Brooks and youngster from Tennessee, Wayne Ferris. In the coming weeks, we will have full coverage of the excursion in our Big Tours feature.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)
The hottest feud in Texas is between King Kong (Bruiser) Brody and Gary Hart’s newest client The Great Kabuki. The Japanese native made his debut last month in the territory defeating Don Diamond in quick fashion using a range of martial arts skills. Kabuki, who stands at 5ft 11 inches and 240 pounds, will need to use the guidance of Hart and those martial arts skills if he is to win the war against the vicious, wild and massive Brody.
Fritz Von Erich promoted a huge ‘Star Wars 1981’ card at the Reunion Arena in Dallas which also saw him step inside the ropes for the show. Fritz defeated Kabuki in a Texas Death Match, in a bout which came about after Fritz vowed revenge against the Japanese martial artist for attacking his son, David Von Erich. David ended up losing teeth that attack so he got involved in this bout helping out his father as soon as Gary Hart began to become involved. David delivered a dropkick to Kabuki’s face then a huge back body drop to allow his father to cover and get the three count.
In other matches, Kerry Von Erich received an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match with Harley Race. This was a back-and-forth match-up with the young Kerry looking to dethrone Race in front of his hometown crowd and he pushed the World champion to the limit but controversially did not win the belt. At the end of the match, the action spilled to the outside and a brawl broke out at the timekeeper’s table. Harley slammed Kerry onto the table and measured him for a diving headbutt, but Kerry rolled out of the way while the referee’s count continued. Kerry tried to climb back into the ring but the champ held onto his leg and the bout was ruled a double count-out.
Also, David and Kevin Von Erich won a match for the World Tag Team titles which was presented to the winner as a giant trophy, instead of the standard gold belts. The Von Erich boys defeated Hercules Ayala and Ali Mustafa after Kevin hit Mustafa with a sunset flip from the top rope for the win. A huge celebration broke out with many fans and all the Von Erich family storming the ring to enjoy the win. In the main event, King Kong Brody took home $5,000 with a battle royal win.
CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING
The Memorial Hall placed host to another big night of action in Kansas City on February 12th, which saw new Central States Tag Team Champions crowned. Former Stampede Tag Team champions The Kelly Twins (Mike Kelly & Pat Kelly) defeated Bruce Reed and Jerry Roberts to win the Central States tag belts for the first time.
Two weeks later (26/2), Harley Race was in town for a title defense against fellow veteran Dick the Bruiser defeating the Indiana-native via count out to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA
In the sunshine state, Eddie Graham’s territory played host to no less than 16 big shows this past month and started with a bang with a Southern Heavyweight Title change on February 3rd at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. Dick Slater beat Mike Graham to regain the title he lost to Graham on January 27th. However, the next night in Fort Myers, Slater refused to defend the belt, was subsequently stripped of the title, and Sweet Brown Sugar became the new champion defeating The Assassin in one-off encounter for the vacated championship, even though he pinned the wrong Assassin.
The Assassin and Assassin #3’s manager Oliver Humperdink caused a distraction when Brown Sugar was on top of the fight. The Assassin #3 ran in the ring attacked Sugar and removed his tag partner from the ring. However, the strategy backfired as Brown rolled up the second masked man anyways to claim the gold.
The biggest show of the month was the “Battle Stars 1981” event from the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida which also saw a title switch. The team of super team of Dusty Rhodes and Andre the Giant won the Florida Tag straps from the Cowboy Connection (Bobby Jaggers and RT Tyler).
The Dusty Rhodes-Assassin feud has raged on and began the month waging war in a ‘Lights Out’ unsanctioned bout in Miami on February 2nd. The bout strangely was declared a double count-out and two nights later in Orlando, the pair met again on either side of a ‘Lights Out Tag Team’ match with Dusty team with Sweet Brown Sugar and The Assassin with the Masked Superfly.
They continued to clash multiples times with Assassin #3 and Dory Funk Jr joining forces with the Assassin and Andre getting involved in tag matches with the good guys coming out on top the majority of the time. Dusty ended up moving on into a feud with fellow former World Champion Dory Funk Jr, which concluded in a Bunkhouse match at the Eddie Graham Sports Arena on 20th February, with Dusty claiming the victory. This bout sent Funk packing but he will return to the area in March to try and gather revenge on Rhodes.
Next month, many names have signed on the dotted line to challenge the NWA World Champion Harley Race, who will be touring with the promotion for the majority of March. Amongst the names, challenging the champion is Mr. Wrestling II, Barry Windham, Mike Graham, Ted DiBiase, Manny Fernandez, Bugsy McGraw and former champion Jack Brisco.
GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
The Fabulous Freebirds regained the Georgia Tag Team titles on February 2nd at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta defeating Ted DiBiase and Stan Frazier in a one-off bout for the vacated belts. The championships were held up after the referee threw out a title match between the ‘Birds, DiBiase and Frazier on 31/1 television show.
The NWA National Television Championship changed hands again this month, actually twice in consecutive weeks. Bobby Eaton won the title last month, but dropped the belt to Steve O at the Omni on February 8th then Kevin Sullivan claimed the championship (21/2) on television. Steve Keirn, who ran Eaton and Sullivan close this past month for the title, will get another shot at the gold against Sullivan on the March 1st Omni show.
On the big 8/2 event at Atlanta’s Omni, Georgia Heavyweight champion Tony Atlas received a World Heavyweight title show against Harley Race, but unfortunately for “Mr. USA” the bout ended in a double count out so Race walked out of Georgia with the belt intact. Atlas gets a rematch inside a Steel Cage next month at the Omni (1/3).
The Junkyard Dog, who debuted last month in the territory, has joined the war against the Freebirds and he was involved in a special tag team match at the Omni. He was in the corner of Robert Fuller and DiBiase against Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy in a $15,000 vs. Fuller’s 1979 Lincoln Continental match where JYD was handcuffed to Hayes to stop the third man from interfering. The ‘Birds gained ownership of Fuller’s car in January but they put the keys back on the line at the Omni show. Hayes, Roberts and Gordy were in disarray as the team of DiBiase and Fuller grabbed the victory and took all the spoils. The finish of the match came when Fuller pinned Roberts after Buddy ran into a JYD punch. The frustrated Freebirds attacked their opponents after the bout.
Also, at the Omni, The Mongolian Stomper managed to escape with his NWA National Heavyweight belt by the skin of his teeth as he took a disqualification loss against Andre the Giant. Andre looked to be clinching the title until Stomper’s manager Don Carson interfered and attacked the Frenchman with his cane. Kevin Sullivan defeated Steve Keirn in a wild Boston Streetfight bout and Mr. Wrestling II and Ole Anderson’s feud continues on as Number Two won via DQ.
The promotion has hyped up the biggest Omni show for a long time on March 1st which is headlined by an Atlas vs. Race Cage bout for the World title. In addition, The Stomper defends his National Heavyweight belt against Dusty Rhodes and the Freebirds defend the National Tag Team titles in a first-time ever bout – the Fantasia Gamble match. This special stipulation bout is Best of Two out of Three Falls affair with all three ‘Birds going against DiBiase, Fuller and JYD with the belts on the line.
The one-night four-man single elimination World Title contender tournament took place at the Sam Houston Coliseum on 6th February. The final four saw Ivan Putski fall to ‘Gorgeous’ Gino Hernandez and Wahoo McDaniel defeat Terry Funk. In the Funk-Wahoo bout, the Texan jumped McDaniel before the bell and attacked him with a chair when the action spilled to the outside. However, against all odds after a few minutes of action, Wahoo rolled up Funk for the quick pinfall.
Ever the chancer, Hernandez rushed the ring and attacked Wahoo with Funk initially helping until the referee took control. The finals of the tournament between Gino and Wahoo took place there and then, with Hernandez having the obvious advantage.
McDaniel was a bloody mess and Hernandez continued to dish out the punishment, delivering blows to the forehead and laying in the boots when Wahoo crumped down for safety. Hernandez dominated until he climbed the top rope allowing Wahoo to catch the ‘Gorgeous One’ coming off the top turnbuckle. Wahoo then locked in a small package for a quick win and to earn an NWA Worlds Title shot against Harley Race later in the month.
On the 27th, Paul Boesch’s promotion held a huge show of the Coliseum with four title matches with three championships changing hands. Firstly, Evelyn Stevens became the new Texas Womens’ Champion by defeating Susan Green then Tiger Conway Jr. pinned Tank Patton to win the Southwest Brass Knuckles belt. Gino Hernandez got his hands on some gold, winning the NWA International Junior Heavyweight title from Chavo Guerrero by two falls to one.
In the big one, Wahoo McDaniel failed to uncrown Harley Race but he took the World Champion close. In another three falls contest, Wahoo took the lead before Race leveled the bout up but the third and deciding fall saw both men disqualified so Harley remained the champion. A rematch has been signed for next month (27/3) at the Coliseum and former champion Pat O’Connor has been nominated the guest referee in a special Indian Strap match. It is reported that Harley Race is far from pleased.
MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING
After their battle last month, Angelo Mosca and Ivan Koloff resumed their feud in a No Disqualification match on 1st February at the Maple Leaf Gardens but Mosca retained his Canadian Heavyweight title. By the end of the month, Mosca is still in possession of the belt even though he faced The Great Hossein Arab on two occasions at the Gardens (22/2) and in Kingston (26/2). Jimmy Snuka got involved in the first encounter and Mosca has vowed to get his hands on the man from the Fiji Islands in the future.
MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
New Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions were crowned early in February at the Greensboro Coliseum on the 7th. The Japanese duo of Mr. Fuji and Tenryu defeated George Wells and Dewey Robertson to claim the belts in front of capacity crowd in the Coliseum.
The NWA United States Heavyweight champion Roddy Piper vacated the TV title last month and details are yet to be released in how a new titleholder will be declared. Piper defeated Ric Flair in controversial fashion in January and the pair have been exchanging blows virtually every night in February, either in a singles bout for the U.S. title, or in tag team or six-man bouts.
Gene Anderson has added Ivan Koloff to his Army and split up the team of Jimmy Snuka and Ray Stevens with now Stevens and Koloff tagging up and hey have integrated the old finishing move of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew into their arsenal, the Hammerlock submission. Meanwhile, Snuka now has tunnel vision on Ricky Steamboat’s Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship. The pair has met many times over the Carolinas so far, but Steamboat still possesses the gold.
Bruno Sammartino Jr. is making waves in the territory since debuting in December and is undefeated in singles competition since his sole defeat against Kim Duk on 24th January. Over the past month, the youngster has disposed of Tenryu and Ricky Harris, and possibly more impressively overcoming veterans like Swede Hanson, Charlie Fulton and Jacques Goulet. Sammartino has also been teaming with Don Kernodle on the circuit with the pair receiving shots at Fuji and Tenryu’s Mid-Atlantic tag belts, but have come up short so far.
Ole and Gene Anderson reunited and made a rare appearance in the territory on February 13th to challenge Paul Jones and the Masked Superstar for their NWA World Tag Team titles. The champions managed to retain against the Minnesota Wrecking Crew sending the crowd at the Richmond Coliseum home happy.
NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
The New Year Golden Series tour finished up for Antonio Inoki’s promotion with a big Inoki vs. Bobby Duncum bout at Korakuen Hall (12/2) with of course, Inoki grabbing the victory and send the crowd home happy. The event saw a North American Tag Team title defense as The Samoans challenged the champions Riki Choshu and Seiji Sakaguchi with the Japanese duo winning a convincing two falls without reply in under 15 minutes.
Next month sees the beginning of a special NJPW Big Fight Series tour with the World Wrestling Federation being represented by Hulk Hogan, Don Muraco and Killer Khan and Mexican Lucha starts Fishman, Perro Aguayo and Gran Hamada from the Universal Wrestling Association. The promotion announced that the Lucha Libre wrestlers with compete with members of the Junior Heavyweight division in a WWF Light-Heavyweight Title tournament, which will be in a round-robin league format.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING
Don Owens’ promotion in Portland has been on fire and it accumulated in a pair of huge Buddy Rose vs. Andre the Giant matches at South Salem High School (26/2) and the Portland Sports Arena (28/2). Of course, Andre was victorious on both occasions and he has won a series of battle royals while visiting the territory.
Rose has been vying to regain the PNW Heavyweight Title from Jay Youngblood but had to deal with the dynamic young team of Buzz Sawyer and Matt Borne on Portland Television on the 7th. Rose teamed with fellow Army member The Destroyer but could not defeat Sawyer and Borne and the four wrestled to a draw. Later that night, ‘The Playboy’ put $2,500 into a $5k pot for the winner of a Youngblood vs. Rip Oliver bout in the main event, with the champion putting up the other half of the purse.
The match ended in wild fashion with Buddy Rose getting involved by throwing Oliver a leather belt which he used by wrapping up his fist and laying punches into Youngblood’s head forcing a cut on his forehead. Oliver continued to punish the Native American by choking the belt around his neck, but Youngblood finally got the advantage and whipped Oliver’s back which caused him to flee the ring. The referee Sandy Barr held up the winners purse until a rematch could be held on next week’s TV show – an ‘Indian Strap Match’.
The match did not go without the usual drama in Portland as Rose offered to take Oliver’s place in the match, an offer which pleased Rip as he wanted no part of the Strap Match. At bell time, special referee Dutch Savage opened the ropes for Rose to enter the ring but Buddy refused. Oliver was made to take the match and he was fuming with his ‘The Playboy’. Youngblood emerged the winner after smashing Oliver’s head into the ring post twice causing Rip to bleed profusely then Youngblood dragged Oliver around the four corner turnbuckles for the win. Later that night, Rose was forced to compete in a bout against face Buzz Sawyer that finished a one fall all draw before the time-limit expired.
Youngster Terry Allen made his in-ring debut last month and he nabbed his first win of his career at the Grand Theatre in Salem on February 12th against namesake Mike Allen.
SOUTHEASTERN CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
Southeastern TV promoted the ‘Championship Month’ which broadcasted a title match on each week of television through the month of February 1981. As part of the campaign, Mr. Saito and Bob Armstrong resumed their feud as the Japanese grappler defended his Alabama State Championship against ‘Bullet’ Bob on the February 7th TV Show. The referee was knocked down after Armstrong lifted Saito for a slam and the action ended up outside the ring. Dennis Condrey emerged from the locker room and attacked Armstrong with wooden board. Saito placed Armstrong into a Japanese Sleeperhold but a second referee emerged to stop the bout and held the belt up so this title is now vacated.
Saito, Condrey and Randy Rose are now identifying themselves as ‘The Terrific Trio’ and Brad and Bob Armstrong are faced them in a big six-man tag team bout in Birmingham (16/2) with the Armstrong’s teaming up with Andre the Giant with the Frenchman and the father and combo getting the duke.
Also, part of the ‘Championship Month’, Brad Armstrong put his United States Junior Heavyweight belt on the line against Jerry Stubbs on 14th February episode of their TV show. However, once again Condrey got involved in the televised title match and this time tag team partner Rose joined him by attacking Stubbs with a pair of wooden boards. Brad aimed to stop them attacking his opponent but the bad guys had advantage as Saito came out and helped dish out the punishment. Paul Orndorff and Norvell Austin emerged to chase the heels away.
In the final ‘Championship Month’ bout, Rose and Condrey defended their Southeastern Tag Team belts on 21/2 television show against Paul Orndorff and Norvell Austin. It was a back-and-forth match-up, until the bad guys gained an advantage and punished Austin however, Orndorff eventually clinched the hot tag. Shortly after, Rose and Condrey collided when they tried to double team Orndorff.
Orndorff rapidly jumped onto top of Rose to get the quick three count, and the new Tag Team champions were awarded their new belts. After the bout, the new champions were attacked by Rose and Condrey and they consequently nailed Austin with a stump piledriver onto a wooden chair. Austin was announced as out of commission after the attack and he and Orndorff decided to vacate the belts with immediate effect.
A tournament to decide new tag team champions will take place on March 1st at the Municipal Auditorium in Pensacola, Florida. In addition, another tournament is to be held on March 2nd at the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham. Sixteen men will meet in a single elimination tournament to win a World Heavyweight Title shot against Harley Race on 9th March in the same building.
Ken Lucas and ‘The Outlaw’ Ron Bass are currently contesting for the Southeastern Heavyweight Title. Ron Fuller vacated the title and it unsure how Bass was awarded the championship but by the February 14th T.V. show, Lucas declared that he had recently pinned Bass to become the champion.
ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB
The NWA Missouri Champion Ted DiBiase had a busy month in St. Louis. Firstly, he challenged NWA Worlds Champion Harley Race and defeated Race by two falls to one, but Harley retained the gold as the deciding fall was via disqualification.
DiBiase then defended the Missouri title twice in the month as he retained the belt against former titleholder Ken Patera at the Kiel Auditorium on February 20th winning 2-1 in a three falls encounter and two days later, he resumed his rivalry Big John Studd. DiBiase and Studd brawled around the Chase Hotel and the bout ended in a double count-out.
‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair returned to the territory and went to a double count-out against veteran Dick the Bruiser at the Kiel (20/2).
The Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart have been tearing up arenas in Calgary and its surrounding areas, with most of the results ending up in a disqualification win for the Englishman. This is becoming quite the fierce feud in Stu Hart’s territory with David Schultz also becoming a thorn in the side for Bret Hart.
The team of Mike Sharpe and Duke Myers are the new Stampede International Tag Team Champions defeating the Burke Brothers, Bobby and Leo on 14th February in Calgary. Sharpe and Myers have defended the belts across the territory give the Burkes’ some rematches and the pairing of Jim Neidhart and Kerry Brown.
The month of February was full of ups and downs for Leo Burke, after losing the tag straps, he claimed the Stampede North American Heavyweight title from Schultz on February 21st but sadly he lost it back to his nemesis a week later. Meanwhile, Bruce Hart is still in possession of the British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight belt despite the numerous attempts by The Cuban Assassin to dethrone the 31-year-old Hart brother.
VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING
The bitter feud between Buddy Rose and Jay Youngblood travelled up north to Vancouver this month and ‘The Playboy’ suffered a huge defeat on 9th February. The British Columbia fanbase witnessed Youngblood winning Pacific Coast Heavyweight championship by pinning Rose at the PNE Gardens.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION
Sgt. Slaughter has been displaying his Cobra Clutch finisher on many occasions on the Federation’s television programs challenging members of the locker room to a ‘$5,000 Cobra Clutch Challenge’. Competitors like Johnny Rodz, Jack Carson and Rick McGraw have all attempted to break the hold and claim the cash – but have failed.
Pat Patterson has been vocal on commentary that he was studying the move and when the time was right, he would attempt to get out of the Sergeant’s hold. As a result of Patterson comments, he had an altercation with Sgt. Slaughter on the 21st February edition of Championship Wrestling where Slaughter upped the challenge to $10,000 to the Canadian, but Patterson refused stating “he was not ready yet”. Slaughter has started to antagonise Patterson calling him a “chicken” for not taking up the challenge. This one is surely going to blow up sooner, rather than later.
Slaughter has become one of the most hated wrestlers in the minds of promotions fans. Chants of “Gomer, Gomer”, a reference to a TV character who is an incompetent gentleman that enlist for the Marine Corps, annoys Slaughter and his manager the Grand Wizard. So much so on the 14/2 edition of All-Star Wrestling, Slaughter walked out of a match with McGraw. Slaughter began to wear cotton wool in his ears on future matches so that he could not hear the derogatory chants.
The company’s first show of the year at Madison Square Garden took place on 16th February with Stan Hansen facing Bob Backlund for the WWF title. The “Badman” Hansen had driven the Intercontinental titleholder Pedro Morales close just two nights prior at the Philadelphia Spectrum when the match ended in a double disqualification, but the World champion Bob Backlund delivered a different test to the Texan.
It was wild match for the Garden faithful to observe with constant brawling and both men ended up bleeding from the forehead. The referee lost control and rang for the bell to throw the match out but it took three referees to split them apart and rematch has been signed for March 16th on the return to MSG.
Also, at the Garden (16/2), Morales was booked to defend his Intercontinental title against the hottest bad guy in the Federation, Sgt. Slaughter. It was close affair but the match ended when Slaughter nailed Morales with brass knuckles and attempted to use them again before the referee caught him and called for a DQ.
Former two-time WWF Champion Bruno Sammartino wrestled a pair of bouts against Stan Hansen at the Boston Garden (7/2) and the Pittsburgh Civic Arena (20/2). The first bout ended in double count out after the action spilled to the outside and both men failed to make it back in the ring. The second saw a count out victory for Bruno under controversial circumstances. Hansen tried to bring a chair into the ring but Bruno halted the man from Borger, Texas and thumped him over the head with it. Hansen spilled to the outside and was counted out although Bruno should have possibly been disqualification for using a foreign object.
NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
PAUL JONES & THE MASKED SUPERSTAR
1. Roddy Piper
1. Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta
2. Antonio Inoki
2. The Fabulous Freebirds
3. Ric Flair
3. Dory & Terry Funk
4. Giant Baba
4. Ivan Koloff/Ray Stevens
5. Ted DiBiase
5. Rick Martel/Tony Garea
6. Tony Atlas
6. David & Kevin Von Erich
7. Bob Backlund
7. Riki Choshu/Seiji Sakaguchi
8. Mr. Wrestling II
8. The Moondogs
9. Andre the Giant
9. Robert Fuller/Ted DiBiase
10. Wahoo McDaniel
10. Antonio Inoki/Tatsumi Fujinami
This month’s match comes from the Chase Hotel, St. Louis, MO on February 22nd as Ted DiBiase and John Studd clash in the latest match in their rivalry on an episode of Wrestling From The Chase.
All Japan: The 9th Annual 12-Man Champions Carnival tournament begins.
Florida: NWA World Champion Harley Race will be touring with the company with multiple title defenses.
Georgia: March 1st – Atlas vs. Race for the NWA World title inside the confines of a Steel Cage. Should be a good one.
Houston: The Coliseum plays host to Race vs Wahoo in an ‘Indian Strap Match’ on March 27.
New Japan: A WWF and UWA contingent travel to Japan for the NJPW’s Big Fight Series tour.
Southeastern: Two big tournaments take place where new Tag Team champions will be crowned and a number one contender for the World Title.
WWF: The big Backlund vs Hansen WWF title rematch takes place at MSG on March 16th.
Our journey takes us into the new year of 1981 with Harley Race still in possession of the NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion. However, he has many contenders across the continent vying for an opportunity to take it way from him. Without further ado, let’s see how Race fared in January 1981.
Harley Race enters the new year with the World Heavyweight Title still around his waist and defended the belt 13 times over the past month.
Central States Wrestling – Kansas City, KS
Harley Race (55th defense) and Bruiser Brody fought to a double disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
St. Louis Wrestling Club – Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO
Harley Race (56th defense) defeated Ken Patera by two falls to one in a Best of Three Falls bout to retain his NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt.
Mid-Atlantic – Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, VA
Harley Race (57th defense) defeated Ric Flair. Race retained the NWA World Title.
Mid-Atlantic – Charleston, SC
Harley Race (58th defense) and Ric Flair fought to a double disqualification. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Mid-Atlantic – Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, SC
Johnny Weaver and Ricky Steamboat beat Harley Race and Roddy Piper.
Mid-Atlantic – Civic Center, Asheville, NC
Harley Race (59th defense) defeated Ric Flair via count out. Race retained the NWA World Title.
Harley Race (60th defense) beat Ric Flair to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Bell Auditorium, Augusta, GA
Harley Race (61st defense) defeated Tony Atlas to retain his NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Macon Coliseum, Macon, GA
Harley Race (62nd defense) defeated Tony Atlas. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Municipal Auditorium, Columbus, GA
Harley Race (63rd defense) beat Mr. Wrestling II to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – The Omni, Atlanta, GA
Tony Atlas and Dusty Rhodes beat Harley Race and Ole Anderson.
Big Time Texas – Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, Fort Worth, TX
Harley Race (64th defense) beat Kerry Von Erich to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Central States Wrestling – Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
Harley Race (65th defense) defeated Bruiser Brody in a No Disqualification match. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Ohio Center, Columbus, OH
Harley Race (66th defense) and Tony Atlas went to a no contest in an NWA World Heavyweight Title match.
Big Time San Francisco – Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA
Pat Patterson defeated Harley Race (67th defense) via count out. Race remained the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
It was a happy new year for Prince Tonga in Korakuen Hall on the first date of AJPW’s New Year Giant Series. The 21-year-old from the Kingdom of Tonga was victorious in the traditional New Year’s Battle Royal on the 2nd.
The tour featured two title defenses for the NWA United National champion Abdullah the Butcher. First, he battled long-time rival The Sheik to a double count out on the 3rd at Korakuen. However, he left the tour empty handed as Jumbo Tsuruta pinned the Man from Sudan in 11:20 on the final day of the tour (22nd) at the City Gymnasium in Nirasaki, Yamanashi.
On the 13th, NWA International Tag Team titles were on the line, as Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta successfully retained against the dastardly duo of Mark Lewin and Abdullah The Butcher in a three-fall encounter at the City Gymnasium in Shimabara, Nagasaki. In a bout that went 20:27, the champions won by two falls to one.
Korakuen Hall played host to a huge title match as the AWA World and PWF Heavyweight belts were up for grabs as Verne Gagne faces Giant Baba on 18th. Both men left with their titles as the bout finished with a double count out after around 19 minutes of action, with the bout tied at a fall apiece.
Baba will be vying to become a third-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion next month when Harley Race puts the gold on the line at Korakuen on 15/2.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (SAN FRANCISCO)
San Francisco promoter Roy Shire is getting out of the business and ran his final show at the Cow Palace on 24th January. Pat Patterson returned to the territory to headline the card against World champion Harley Race. Patterson defeated the champ via count out and also claimed victory in a battle royal on the same night, ousting Dick Slater over the top rope to win.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)
In was a busy month in the Von Erich territory that got underway on the 4th January at the Dallas Sportatorium. The card was headline by a huge match, literally, as Bruiser Brody and Andre the Giant brawled to a no contest.
Two Tag Team title changes occurred throughout the month also, firstly Gino Hernandez and Gary Young lost their NWA American Tag Team championship to the team of Kerry Von Erich and Bruiser Brody at the Sportatorium on 11th January. The NWA Texas Tag Team titles were held up late in 1980, the vacated belts were won by Raul Mata and Chief White Cloud, who defeated Raul Castro and Killer Tim Brooks.
Their biggest show of the month was at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth (19/1) with Kerry Von Erich receiving an NWA Worlds Title bout against champion Harley Race. Race ran out the winner but the 20-year-old Kerry took the champion to the limit going close to winning the belt. In other bouts, Gino Hernandez and Kevin Von Erich continued their war in a singles contest with Kevin emerging the victor, and Brody and David Von Erich went to a time-limit draw with The Great Kabuki and Killer Tim Brooks.
CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING
Bruiser Brody arrived into the territory to challenge Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Title twice but left empty handed. After the first bout ended in a double disqualification on the 1st, the rematch a night later was No DQ bout in front of packed house at the Memorial Hall in Kansas City. The hometown boy Harley defeated Brody to retained the title.
The city of Kansas mourned the death of the first NWA World Champion Orville Brown, who sadly passed away on the 24th January aged 72. He had been staying in a nursing home since 1979.
CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA
Barry Windham experienced a month of mixed emotions as he and Mike Graham dropped their Florida Tag Team titles to The Cowboy Connection (Bobby Jaggers and RT Tyler) at the Eddie Graham Sports Arena on 2nd January. But he was crowned the new Florida champion when he defeated Dory Funk Jr. at the West Palm Beach Auditorium on the 12th.
Mike Graham gained some gold at the end of the month (27th) by defeating Dick Slater for the Florida Southern Heavyweight belt at the Fort Hesterly Armory.
A war between Assassin and Dusty Rhodes began when the Assassin (dressed in Mexican Lucha legend El Santo’s mask) brutally attacked Rhodes during an interview with Gordon Solie on the 14th January episode of Championship Wrestling from Florida. See the angle here. The Assassin recently returned to the area in December losing to Rhodes on his first match back.
Rhodes came out on top in a non-sanctioned Lights Out contest on the 29th at Stetson University in Deland and the next night in Orlando a big tag team match was signed. Rhodes and Sweet Brown Sugar defeated The Assassin and Dick Murdoch in a special ‘Whoever is pinned must leave Florida for 30 days’ match. Rhodes pinned his former long-time tag partner Murdoch to send The Texan out of the territory for a month. Rhodes and The Assassin are set to clash again at the Armory next month (24/2) with Eddie Graham handcuffed to Assassin #3 to stop the latter interfering.
GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
In a ritual for wrestling in Georgia, January 1st saw a huge Omni show pull in a sold-out crowd, with a main event bout between bitter rivals Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson. In a no-disqualification contest, Rhodes was victorious but the result gave Anderson much to complain about. After Dusty connected a right hand to the referee accidently. Georgia Heavyweight champion, Tony Atlas, who was at ringside as cornerman for Dusty, was pulled up to the apron by Ole and they began to brawl. Rhodes surged forward into Ole which caused him to collide into Atlas and Dusty covered for the win. After the bout, Ole and Alexei Smirnoff attacked Rhodes before Atlas gathered himself and saved Dusty from a serious beating.
Atlas and Anderson continued their feud on television a few days after the Omni show (3/1) and their match escalated into a brawl which ended up outside for a double count out. The promotion ran the Omni again on the 16th with the pair clashing on either side of a huge tag team match. The team of Dusty and Atlas overcome Ole and NWA World Heavyweight champion Harley Race with young Tony getting the pin on Race.
The Georgia champion Atlas continued a busy month trying to dethrone Race in Columbus, Ohio (23/1) but the bout ended in a no contest. Atlas has also been a thorn in Alexei Smirnoff’s side. On TV, Atlas defeated and unmasked a mysterious wrestler called the Russian Assassin and of course, it was Smirnoff under the hood. Smirnoff was irate and it took many members of the locker room to hold him back after the embarrassment.
In addition, on the 17/1 show at WTBS Studios, Atlas was attacked by NWA National Champion the Mongolian Stomper. Atlas was displaying his strength in a bench press exercise at ringside which ended up with Don Carson’s man choking Atlas with the barbell.
The Fabulous Freebirds managed to escape with their Georgia Tag Team belts on New Years’ Day after Ted DiBiase and Robert Fuller were awarded the win, but via disqualification. The team of Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy were defending the titles and looked defeated when Michael Hayes got involved and caused the DQ.
In the return match at the Omni, Hayes could not have the same impact as it was signed to be a no disqualification bout. However, for the ‘Birds to agree to such a bout, Fuller had to put the keys to his 1979 Lincoln Continental online. Hayes ended up getting involved again and with the odds three against two, the Freebirds emerged as winners nailing Fuller with a triple piledriver for the win to retain the titles and gain the keys for the car.
By the end of the month, it would be a happy ending for DiBiase and the man that Freebirds injured last month, Stan Frazier. DiBiase and Frazier defeated the ‘Birds (Roberts and Hayes) for the Georgia Tag Titles at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta on 26th but the war is far from over. On the 31st TV show, the new champs put the belts on the line in a return match with the Freebirds and Terry Gordy, after Hayes declared was injured, intervened in the bout to allow the Freebirds to win. The referee threw the match out and held up the titles and the vacant belts will be decided on 2nd February back at the Bell Auditorium.
The National Television belt changed hands twice in January with Steve O defeating champion Kevin Sullivan on the 16/1 Omni show. Unfortunately for Steve O, by the end of the month, he would lose it to Bobby Eaton on the 31st January edition of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Eaton caused the studio audience into an outrage as he won the title with his feet on the ropes, and the referee missed the infringement.
In other news, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan brought their feud to Georgia with the Frenchman coming out on top in a close battle at the Omni on the 1st January.
Paul Boesch brought in the new year with five of his weekly shows at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston. The first show (2/1) saw Andre the Giant beat Tank Patton by two falls to nil in a Best of Three Falls bout after Patton suffered enough punishment and took a count out loss. The Frenchman also saw victory winning a two-ringed 22-man Battle Royal.
The Funks (Dory and Terry Funk) appeared on two Coliseum shows. On the 16th, both brothers were in singles competition with Dory going to a 20-minute time-limit draw with English grappler Billy Robinson and Terry defeated by Wahoo McDaniel. The Funks then challenged the Southwest Championship Wrestling Tag Team Champions Ivan Putski and Wahoo McDaniel but came up short and lost by two falls to one.
Gino Hernandez, one of the most hated men in Boesch’s territory, has started tag teaming with Southwest wrestler Tully Blanchard and the pair were successful in a bout against Tiger Conway Jr. and Scott Casey (16/1). Speaking of Gino, on the 9th January show, he was pinned by Wahoo McDaniel and they met again on 30/1 in the main event, unfortunately for “Gorgeous” Gino, Wahoo came out on top again.
Both Gino and Wahoo were announced for the one-night four-man tournament to take place on 6th February. The winner of the competition will receive a Worlds title shot against Harley Race. The other two competitors will be Ivan Putski and Terry Funk.
MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING
The Canadian Heavyweight Champion Angelo Mosca did not have the chance to ease himself into the new year as Ivan Koloff challenge for the title at the Maple Leaf Garden on the 11th January. Koloff won the bout via disqualification after Mosca punched referee Terry Yorkston at 22:48, and therefore Mosca kept the title around his waist.
On the same event, the Toronto crowd witnessed a brutal Texas Death Match between Bobby Duncum and Blackjack Mulligan. It was a wild affair with the blood flowing after both grapplers used the spurs on their boots to cut each other open. Duncum unveiled a horse show towards the end of the bout but Mulligan snatched it away and knocked out the “Bad Boy” for the win.
MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
The biggest news coming out of the Carolinas was that Roddy Piper defeated Ric Flair for the United States Heavyweight title on 27th January at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina but in controversial circumstances. The bout itself was a back-and-forth affair with Piper using dirty tactics but Flair looked to be retaining the belt once he had Piper locked into his patented Figure-Four leglock.
Piper grabbed the ropes and Flair kept up the attack but while the referee was trying to gain order, Piper reached into his trunks and used a metal object to smash Flair in the head before throwing it into the crowd. Piper covered the champion for the three count while the Nature Boy was out cold. After protests from the Raleigh crowd, the referee searched Piper for the object but obviously this was not found.
The next day on Mid-Atlantic TV, an angry Flair was beating himself up stating he had underestimated Piper. Later in the show, Piper wearing his kilt with a shirt, jacket and bow-tie, emerged gloating and stated that “King Richard was dead” and mocking the fans by Woooo-ing down Bob Caudle’s microphone. Piper called Flair out and gave Flair a present inside an oblong box. Once Flair opened the box it had the Piper’s NWA TV title inside.
Flair was outraged by Piper for devaluing the TV title and refused the present stating he would not wear a title that he never won. Flair pulled out the metal object used by Piper at the Dorton Arena that a fan had recovered in the crowd for him. Flair continued to insult Piper’s attire and said he was wearing a “rented tuxedo”, Flair proceeded to remove his own jacket and tear it apart before leaving the studio.
As a result of that segment on TV, it was declared that the NWA Television belt was vacated and a future tournament would decide the new titleholder.
The Flair-Greg Valentine feud expanded into including Piper and Ricky Steamboat, with Piper and Valentine proclaiming themselves as the new “Dream Team”. The two duos clashed on a big Greensboro Coliseum show on 24/1 with the good guys coming out on top.
Bruno Sammartino Jr. recently made his debut and Mr. Fuji has also arrived in the Carolinas and formed a tag team with countryman Tenryu. The Japanese pairing have been challenging the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions George Wells and Dewey Robertson.
NEW-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
Antonio Inoki’s promotion kicked off their New Year Golden Series tour on 9th January with a strong WWF contingent joining the excursion. The Wild Samoans and Ken Patera represented the Northeast promotion with former Mid-Atlantic talent The Enforcer, impressive youngster Tom Prichard of Houston Wrestling and the vicious Bad News Allen (Stampede) also appearing.
The opening night saw The Samoans fall by two falls to one to the pairing of Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami and Ken Patera pinned Seiji Sakaguchi. On 16th at the City Gymnasium in Yokkaichi, Prichard challenged Fujinami for the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title but fell short and was defeated in under six minutes.
The Samoans got a shot at Riki Choshu and Seiji Sakaguchi’s NWA North American Tag Team belts at the Kochi Prefectural Gymnasium but the bout ended in a draw. They will receive a rematch on 12th February at Korakuen Hall on the final day of the 29-day series.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST WRESTLING
The most hated man in Portland, “Playboy” Buddy Rose, aimed to regain the PNW Heavyweight belt on 3rd January at the Portland Sports Arena as he battled Jay Youngblood for the upheld title in a three-falls bout amidst a ton of controversy as usual.
Youngblood punished the Playboy early on working on the arm submitting Rose the first fall. In the second fall, Youngblood continued to work on Rose’s arms slamming it into the ring post on three occasions and while referee Sandy Barr asked Rose if he wished to submit, Buddy punched Barr to have the bout thrown out. Rose continued to attack the official and Jay was unable to remove Rose, until his father Chief Jay Youngblood Sr. emerged to chop Buddy sending him to the back.
However, the belt became a bit of a hot potato as a rematch was held the following night in Pendleton, Oregon, with Youngblood emerging with the title, only to lose to Rose a night later in Longview, Washington. Rose becoming the four-time champion thanks to the help of stablemate Rip Oliver. However, Lightfoot claimed the belt again in Seattle on 8th January in a Title vs. Hair bout.
The Youngbloods and Joe Lightfoot faced Rose, Oliver and The Destroyer on the return to the Sports Arena on the 10th, with Jay getting the deciding pinfall with a reverse cradle on the Playboy but during the match, Buddy managed to grab the belt and take it to the back and declared he would throw the title over the Freemont Bridge and into the Willamette River.
Promoter Don Owens ordered Rose to pay $2,500 for a new title belt and suspended the wrestler until the 24th January. Youngblood demanded that he wanted Buddy to present him the new belt once it had been created before yet another rematch for the championship. Meanwhile, the war between Rose’s Army and the Native Americans continued as Lightfoot and Jay defended their PNW Tag Team belts against Oliver and The Destroyer on the 17th. At the match tied at one-fall piece, all four men were brawling in the ring and while referee Barr had lost control, Oliver rolled up Lightfoot for a quick pin.
On next weeks TV (24/1), Owens and Youngblood were in the ring awaiting Buddy Rose to appear to present the new PNW Heavyweight title to the young Indian. Owens threatened Rose with a further two-week suspension if he failed to present the champion with the new $2,500 strap so, to avoid the suspension, the Playboy obliged… but then smashed Jay with a punch and laid the boots into him. Youngblood Sr. and Lightfoot emerged from the back and chopped Rose until he fled. This led to Rose getting involved in a Rip Oliver and The Destroyer vs. Lightfoot and Youngblood Sr. tag team title match. Rose attacked both men during the men to end the bout with a disqualification so his Army retained their gold.
In addition, Jonathan Boyd has declared war on the Army. Boyd challenged any member of the Army to match a match on TV (24/1) and the Destroyer and Oliver left the Australian grappler a bloody mess. In other news, the former Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champions Buzz Sawyer and Matt Borne have arrived in the territory.
SOUTHEASTERN CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
Randy Rose and Dennis Condrey won the Southeastern Tag Team belts from Brad and Bob Armstrong (13/1 in Mobile, Alabama) due to interference from Mr. Saito. The team of Paul Orndorff and Norvell Austin are vying to uncrown the new champions but so far to no avail.
Saito vs. Bob Armstrong is the most high-profile feud in the promotion with pair feuding over the Alabama State Heavyweight title. Saito defeated Bullet Bob for the strap at the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham.
Brad Armstrong has been crowned the youngest wrestler to ever win the United States Junior Heavyweight belt, after Jerry Stubbs was stripped of the belt and Armstrong won a big one-night tournament at Mobile’s Expo Hall on 20th January in a huge sell-out show. Other competitors in the tournament were Robert Gibson, Frank Lavertt, Roy Lee Welch and Japanese veteran Oki Shikina.
Stubbs did have gold around his waist shortly after as he beat NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Les Thornton for his title at the 20/1 Expo Hall show, although the Englishman did reclaim it just four days later in Dothan.
Additionally, on the 20/1 show, in a brutal double Bullrope match, Jimmy Golden turned heel on his cousin “The Tennessee Stud” Ron Fuller. Golden and Fuller were battling Ron and Don Bass the Bullrope match and Don Bass suffered a broken leg after Fuller had the Texan locked in a Inside Step Over Toe Hold for a considerable amount of time. Golden broke the hold and smashed his cousin in the head with the cowbell. Golden appeared on the television show proclaiming himself to the new “Tennessee Stud”. A week earlier, Johnny Valiant also suffered a broken leg due to Fuller’s hold, who is a former partner of Johnny’s, and Valiant is set to miss some time.
ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB
Sam Muchnick’s St. Louis Wrestling started with a bang with a sell-out show at the Kiel Auditorium which was headlined with a Harley Race-Ken Patera World title bout. The champion ran out a two-falls to one winner but Patera showed the packed crowd he was worth every penny of the ticket. In other matches, the Missouri champion Ted DiBiase overcame the big challenge of Ox Baker and King Kong Brody and Pat O’Connor beat Mike Kelly and Big John Studd.
Before the month was out, the promotion returned to the Kiel with the team of Brody and Andre the Giant pairing up for the first time ever. The sheer size of the duo was a sight to behold in a tag match against Dick Murdoch and Ric Flair. Obviously, the big men ran out winners. In what has become quite the ritual everywhere he goes, Andre also won a battle royal.
It was announced that DiBiase will get a shot at the NWA World Championship on 6th February at the next Kiel show in a three falls encounter.
After returning home to wrestle in England last October, The Dynamite Kid is back in Calgary and has been tag-teaming with David Schultz to battle the Harts (Bruce and Bret Hart). Bret Hart is still in possession of the Stampede North American title despite the efforts of the 6-foot 6-inch-tall Schultz.
VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING
Continuing their feud from Portland, Buddy Rose and his army took their feud with Jay Youngblood up to Canada. On the 12th January Rose and Rip Oliver defeated Youngblood and Joe Ventura for the Pacific Coast Tag Team titles.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION
The newly crowned Intercontinental Champion Pedro Morales has experienced no shortage of contenders for the belt. The Puerto Rican has defended against Sgt. Slaughter, The Hangman, Stan Hansen and Killer Khan over the last 31 days and still remains the titleholder.
Sgt. Slaughter has also been trying to win the WWF Heavyweight belt from Bob Backlund. The pair have clashed on big shows in the Nassau Coliseum (2nd), Capital Center (3rd and 31st) and the Philadelphia Spectrum (10th), but Backlund has possession of the title.
There was no Madison Square Garden show this month, but the Fed will return to the arena on February 16th with Stan Hansen challenging Backlund for the WWF Title and Slaughter facing Morales for the I.C. strap.
Hansen and former two-time champion Bruno Sammartino have battling across the Northeast this past month. The wild brawling Texan picked up two count-out victories against the former two-time World Champion at the Boston Garden (10/1) and the Pittsburgh Civic Center (16/1), while the pair went to a double count out on 31/1 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Sammartino was lucky to escape the Pittsburgh bout without an injury after a brutal display from Hansen. The Texan removed his elbow pad while Sammartino was on the outside and as the Italian climbed back up to the apron, Hansen smashed Bruno with his patented Lariat clothesline. Bruno went tumbling down to the arena floor knocked unconscious and was counted out.
One of the WWF Tag Team Champions, Rick Martel suffered an elbow injury in a successful title defense (16/1 – Pittsburgh) against The Moondogs and partner Tony Garea worked the majority of the bout. Martel and Garea won the bout when guest referee Special Delivery Jones disqualified the ‘Dogs, after King hit Garea over the head with a bone. Martel returned to action on 27th at the Civic Center, Portland, Maine in a defeat against The Hangman.
NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
PAUL JONES & THE MASKED SUPERSTAR
1. Antonio Inoki
1. Giant Baba/Jumbo Tsuruta
2. Roddy Piper
2. The Fabulous Freebirds
3. Ric Flair
3. Dory & Terry Funk
4. Bob Backlund
4. Ray Stevens/Jimmy Snuka
5. Tony Atlas
5. Tony Garea/Rick Martel
6. Gino Hernandez
6. The Wild Samoans
7. Andre the Giant
7. Antonio Inoki/Tatsumi Fujinami
8. Giant Baba
8. Riki Choshu/Seiji Sakaguchi
9. Bruiser Brody
9. David & Kevin Von Erich
10. Ted DiBiase
10. Robert Fuller & Ted DiBiase
See Ric Flair talk through his NWA United States Heavyweight Title loss against Roddy Piper here on an episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. No footage of the full match at the Dorton Arena, 27th January 1981 is currently available but this video shows you the finish and listen to Flair’s opinion on the match.
All Japan: Korakuen plays host to a Race-Baba match where the Giant will be aiming to become NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion for a third time.
Big Time Wrestling (Texas): The huge Star Wars show takes place at Reunion Arena in Dallas on 22nd Feb. The full report coming.
Florida: Dusty has sworn that he will get revenge against The Assassin. They meet in a big bout at the Fort Hesterley Armory on 24th Feb.
Georgia: New Georgia Tag Team Champions will be crowned at the Bell Auditorium on 2nd Feb as Dibiase and Fuller meet the Freebirds once again to decide the vacant belts.
Mid-Atlantic: Flair vows to regain the US strap from Piper and with Steamboat and Valentine now involved in the feud, there should be some hot action coming out of the Carolinas.
New Japan: The New Year Golden Series concludes with a big Inoki vs. Bobby Duncum bout.
Southeastern: The promotion host ‘Championship Month’ on their TV show with a title defended on each week of television.
St. Louis: Can Ted DiBiase wrestle away the NWA World Title from champion Harley Race?
WWF: Stan Hansen returns to New York to face Bob Backlund at MSG on 16th Feb. Can the big Texan finally take the belt away from Backlund?
Holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for 1,131 days, former Canadian football star Gene Kiniski was one of the most successful champions in the record books. In a time when champions were known as squeaky clean good guy wrestlers, with his aggressive nature and natural charisma, “Big Thunder” broke that precedent.
Kiniski was born on 23rd November 1928 in Lamont, Alberta, Canada before moving onto the nearby town of Chipman at an early age. Times were hard financially for his family after the Stock Market Crash in 1929 and they moved to Edmonton by the time that Gene was 11. By the time he was a teenager, At six feet tall with a robust build, Kiniski was a promising athlete practising amateur wrestling and football at St. Joseph’s High School.
By the time he was 20, Gene was recruited by the Edmonton Eskimos, sporting the number 50 and played defensive lineman in the Western Interprovincial Football Union, which was the predecessor of the Canadian Football League. Quoted as making a paltry $200 a year with the Eskimos, Kiniski moved onto college at the University of Arizona and played lineman for the Wildcats and became a strong NFL prospect. His aggression was highlighted after being chucked out of three games for unnecessary roughness.
While staying in Tucson, Gene and close friend Steve Paproski needed jobs and became working for wrestling promoter and Edmonton native Rod Fenton as ushers and selling programs at his events. Kiniski became an asset at the events due to his size protecting the wrestlers from over-excited fans and began to start to work out at the local gyms with fellow wrestlers and Fenton and got involved in the basics of wrestling training.
It is rumoured that Kiniski and Paproski started wrestling in different towns under pseudo names so that the University would not find out, but eventually, their cover was blown and the Wildcat coach Robert Winslow demanded they immediately stop. Later that year, although it was against the wishes of his family back in Edmonton, Kiniski decided to trade in the football pads for wrestling boots and was set to make his debut on Fenton show.
So, on February 13th 1952, donning the cover of the programs he used to sell, Kiniski made his in-ring debut at the Sports Center in Tucson defeating Curly Hughes in around 12 minutes. Gene went on to gain in-ring experience in Tucson, El Paso and Albuquerque working a few times per week. Kiniski began working out with Dory Funk Sr. and Dory Jr.in a friendship that would work out well for both parties in the future.
By 1954, Kiniski was plying his trade in Los Angeles working NWA Hollywood TV shows frequently against a young Bobo Brazil before moving onto Hawaii to form a tag team with Lord Blears to face Japanese duo Kokichi Endo andRikidozan. Moving onto Dallas, Kiniski and his aggressive nature became a great draw, he was ruthless with sharp wit and possessed a mean streak. With the vicious back-breaker as his signature move, fans were buying tickets to see Gene get beat up but much to the crowd’s dismay, Kiniski usually came out on top.
At the age of 29, Gene returned to Canada and received his first NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title shot against Lou Theszand managed to hold the champ to a draw in front of thousands packed inside the Maple Leaf Gardens. Kiniski started to get massively over proclaiming himself as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” and grappling with former world champions Bill Longson, Pat O’ Connor and “Whipper” Billy Watson. His trash-talking rogue persona started to turn promoter’s heads and he was booked across the States and Canada. Come 1960, Minneapolis promoters Wally Karbo and Verne Gagne broke away from the NWA and created the American Wrestling Association and they contacted Kiniski to headline their events.
Gene alternated between AWA and NWA promoted events and on 11th July 1961, Kiniski dethroned Gagne to win his first world championship, the AWA World Title. Although the reign did not last long and less than a month later, inside the confines of a Steel Cage, Gagne regained the title. Gene’s career went from strength to strength winning singles titles in various territories and received a WWWF title shot against top draw Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden in November 1964 with over 18,000 in attendance. Kiniski believed he had pinned Bruno and left ringside with the title belt, but he was counted out. Gene kept the belt until a rematch a month later in which Bruno regained possession of his championship.
St. Louis promoter Sam Muchnick booked Kiniski to wrestle Fritz von Erich, Johnny Valentine and Dick the Bruiser. After clinching a win over former champ Pat O’Connor, Gene was awarded another shot at Lou Thesz’s NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. The bout, booked by Muchnick was set to take place at the Kiel Auditorium on 7th January 1966 in front of a packed house and the NWA board voted to give “Big Thunder” a run with the strap.
In a best of three falls match, history was made. Thesz went ahead with the first fall but was disqualified for throwing Gene over the top rope tying up the bout at 1-1. After less than two minutes inside the third fall, Kiniski pinned Thesz and referee Joe Scheonberger slammed his hand on the canvas three times and Gene had become the world champion. Kiniski was the first man in history to hold the AWA and NWA World titles.
In a true contrast to Lou Thesz, Kiniski was a natural bad guy and his heel behaviour made him a very successful touring champion. He drew big crowds in all the NWA territories including the JWA in Japan where he faced Antonio Inoki and Shohei (Giant) Baba, even challenging the latter for his NWA International Heavyweight belt. However, like many champions, the schedule became exhausting to Gene and at the NWA convention in November 1968, he told the Alliance members that he wished to drop the title. Being a close friend to the Funk family, Gene ended his three-year reign to Dory Funk Jr. via spinning toe-hold on 11th February 1969 in Tampa, Florida.
After resting up, Gene travelled back to Japan to win the International Heavyweight championship from Baba in Osaka for a short 16-day reign before failing to the big man in Los Angeles in a rematch. Throughout the 1970s, Gene was still a profitable draw for the NWA promoters and received many title shots against Dory, Harley Race, Jack Brisco and Terry Funk but failed to clinch that second reign. He started to book his own shows with Vancouver All-Star Wrestling promoter Sandor Kovacs, buying out his trainer Rod Fenton’s share, and he brought many World title matches to the British Columbia area.
He vastly eased up his schedule by 1976 and climbed into the ring intermittently in the early 1980s until quietly heading into retirement come 1985. Always being the athlete for all his life, Kiniski stayed fit later in life training daily. However, in early 2010, congestive heart failure hospitalised Gene and his weight massively decreased. He had been secretly battling cancer for years and it had grown to his brain. He passed away with family at his bedside on April 14th 2010. He was 81 years old.
Kiniski was a true champion, a true athlete and to fill his bank account, a true heel. Fans paid to see Gene get beat and he didn’t. For over three years he was World Heavyweight Champion and in his own words, Gene made sure that even if the fan went home sulking, they got their money’s worth.
Second generation athlete Dory Funk Jr. holds the honour of the second-longest reign as NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion, retaining onto the championship for a total of 1,563 days. Only Lou Thesz wore the title longer and with over 7,000 wrestling matches under his belt, Dory is the personification of a wrestling legend.
Dory was born Dorrance Earnest Funk on 3rd February 1941 in Amarillo, Texas. His father Dory Funk Sr. was a wrestler and promoter of the Western States Sports promotion and his own words, Dory Jr. proclaimed that: “My father was my teacher, he was my coach, he was my guidance counsellor, he was pretty much everything to me.”.
Training under his father, Dory Jr. began wrestling at age 22 after a successful college football career as a tackle at West Texas University. His father was very critical of Dory and his younger brother Terry Funk’s work, delivering very little praise to his sons. Terry stated, “if our father never said anything to us, we’d know we had a good match.”. Although this negative behaviour may have broken some, Dory and Terry felt they excelled from this treatment, although they had minimal training before stepping in between the ropes, his critique helped them improve.
His in-ring debut was a win over Don Fargo at the Amarillo Sports Arena and continued on to face Wild Bull Curry, Mike DiBiase and Harley Race in his early years. Only four years into the business Dory became promoting with his father, Dory Sr. in 1967. They both owned a 50% share of the Amarillo territory after promoter Doc Sarpolis passed away and his widow sold Doc’s asset onto Dory Jr.
In-ring, even in his rookie years, Dory showed a hard-hitting style that got people in the business talking and he would eventually move onto the Florida, Vancouver and Missouri territories and the National Wrestling Alliance board, which his father was an influential member of, chose to give one of the Funk brothers a run with the Worlds Heavyweight Championship. Dory Sr. returned home from the NWA meeting and he stated to his boys that “we can get one of you ready”, brother Terry unselfishly nominated his brother to get the title belt.
On 11th February 1969, Dory Funk Jr. defeated champion Gene Kiniski with a spinning toehold at the Armory in Tampa, Florida to begin his four-year reign. That evening, his father uncharacteristically praised him and said: “you have accomplished a hell of a lot and I’m proud of you.”.
Dory was a consummate champion and went onto to gain a huge following in Japan with his no-nonsense legitimate-looking style. He made his debut in the Land of the Rising Sun later in ‘69, working for the Japan Pro-Wrestling Association tagging with DannyHodge taking NWA International Tag Team Champions Antonio Inoki & Giant Baba to a one-hour draw. With his ability of strong-style forearm smashes, a variety of suplexes and leglocks, the Japanese fans lapped it up. This became the first of many, many of tours of Japan.
Over the four-year reign, Funk feuded with Jack Brisco in a series of one-hour draws all over the world. From the U.S. to Japan to Mexico to the Caribbean, crowds across many territories sold out for the match. The feud intensified and the brothers got involved as Jack’s brother Jerry Brisco would team up to take on Dory and Terry, again selling out many arenas across the NWA territories.
Dory was scheduled to face Jack in another NWA title defence but he suffered an unfortunate accident with a pickup truck on his father’s ranch. There was speculation through Brisco that Dory was scheduled to drop the title to Jack and the injury was fabricated. Jack states he came to this conclusion due to the history of manipulation tactics used on fellow NWA board members by Dory Sr. in the past.
Nevertheless, he was forced to drop the title in Kansas City on 24th May 1973, not to Brisco but to 30-year-old hometown hero Harley Race. Race and the Funk family were rumoured to be close friends at this point and presumed by many speculators as a reason why the title was dropped to him rather than Brisco.
Tragedy struck the Funk family just nine days later on 3rd June 1973. Terry and his father Dory Sr. were at his father ranch with fellow wrestler Les Thornton. Les and Dory Sr. started grappling in good spirits and Les claimed that Dory “couldn’t choke him out”. Les was made to eat his words moments later and tapped but Dory began to feel unwell shortly after. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack and passed away while travelling to the hospital.
In their father’s absence, Terry joined Dory in booking the Amarillo territory to great success but their popularity in Japan brought greater triumph. They started regularly competing for Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling which saw its inception a year earlier and Dory became a veteran of the promotion. He feuded with Baba, The Destroyer, Jumbo Tsuruta, Abdullah The Butcher, The Sheik and NWA champion Harley Race. Terry joined him soon after working tag matches against teams of the crazy tandem of Abdullah and Sheik and Japanese pairing of Baba and Tsuruta.
In December 1975, Jack Brisco was NWA World Champion and a match was set in Miami Beach, Florida to face Dory for the championship. Brisco had held two reigns with the title over two years and became exhausted with the schedule the champion was expected to honour. He was ready to drop the title, but the NWA board had chosen Terry Funk as his successor. That night, they ran an angle where it was Terry would face Brisco and defeat him to become the champion. The promoter and Brisco used the excuse that Jack had prepared for Dory, not Terry.
The Funk Brothers became big box office stars in AJPW and captured many World’s Strongest Tag Determination League trophies in 1977, 1979, and 1982. On 11th December 1980, the Funks won ‘Match of the Year’ Award from Tokyo Sports for their match against Baba and Tsuruta.
Yet in AJPW, Dory’s greatest accomplishment was winning the NWA International Heavyweight Championship a total of three times. He captured his first by victory in a tournament for the vacant title defeating his brother in April 1981. After dropping the title to Butch Reed that June he went on to recapture it from Reed later that summer. On 9th October he was defeated by Bruiser Brody in Tokyo but regained it a month later, before eventually losing it back to Brody in April 1982.
Dory went onto to work for Vince McMahon’s WWF in 1986, Puerto Rico and Japan until the mid-90’s when he followed brother Terry to Philadelphia to work for Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. They competed against the Public Enemy until the feud culminated in a brutal and bloody Barbed Wire Match in the summer of 1994.
Dory nurtures his own talent through his Funkin’ Conservatory in Ocala, Florida which he opened in 1981. Dory now 78 years old, is still active in the ring with his last match (at the time of writing) took place in November 2018 in Japan.
In the shady business of professional wrestling uniquely St. Louis wrestling promoter Sam Muchnick became known as “the honest wrestling promoter”. His influence within the National Wrestling Alliance was incomparable and many believe he was solely responsible for the success of the organisation.
Muchnik was born in Novohrad-Volynskyi in Ukraine on 22nd August 1905 and moved to St. Louis, Missouri at the young age of six. Not soon after he was hooked by the sport of wrestling and even skipped his high school graduation to watch Wladek Zbyszko wrestle at the Odeon Theatre.
Sam left his first employment at the postal service in 1926 to join the sports staff of the St. Louis Times, earning $20 a week to write about Baseball team St. Louis Cardinals. In 1932, the newspaper merged with the St. Louis Star and Muchnick was subsequently offered a journalistic role there but declined.
As a journalist, Muchnick learnt great people skills and how to deal with media and politicians and working in sports had grown many connections.
After forming friendships with Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Lou Thesz and Ray Steele, Muchnick met Tom Packs, a wrestling promoter for the National Wrestling Association (the original NWA). Packs controlled the Association’s World title with Billy Sandow defending the strap in the Midwest area.
Packs offered Sam a job and his understanding of the wrestling business grew. Around nine years later, with experience under his belt, Packs entrusted Muchnick to essentially run the promotion. Sam decided to promote his own shows and by 27th March 1942, he promoted his own card. However, his plans for wrestling had to be put on hold as World War II broke out. After a stint in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, Sam returned to St. Louis to try his hand at promoting professional wrestling shows, opening an office in opposition to Packs.
His shows really started to thrive. His ‘Sam Muchnick Sports Attractions’ shows would pull good money from the Kiel Auditorium by booking Steele and Lewis. Seeing Muchnick as competition, Packs severed tie with Sam and used his connections across the country to blackball Muchnick’s promotion and the stopped the top talents from working his shows. Muchnick was resorted to using veterans of the game, older stars while Packs booked all the young, popular stars. Packs slaughtered Muchnick at the box office, virtually monopolising the St. Louis market.
But fortunately for Muchnick, Packs lost his wealth in the stock market and was forced to close his office. Muchnick shared his experiences and troubles in his own territory with several promoters and they agreed to form an alliance to combat this. This was known as the National Wrestling Alliance.
A meeting was held on 18th July 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. Pinkie George (Iowa) invited Muchnick, Orville Brown (Kansas City), Maxwell Clayton (Omaha), Fred Kohler (Chicago) and Wally Karbo (representing Joe Stecher of Minneapolis) and they made an agreement to share talent within their promotions but now with anyone in competition to the Alliance. They also declared they would be one true World Champion.
Business picked up for the NWA territories and on 4th February 1949, Muchnick celebrated his first sell-out of the Kiel Auditorium which was headlined by “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. This was a few months after Sam offered to unite companies with Lou Thesz, who had taken over Packs’ bookings. Although Thesz declined at that time after he witnessed how successful Muchnick’s and the NWA’s shows were becoming, Thesz then offered to Muchnick to merge promotions.
Muchnick replaced Pinkie George as NWA president in 1950 and held the role for 22 years. He elevated the organisation to its greatest heights and helped it grow in numbers. It was an extremely tough role in managing the Alliance’s greedy representatives who were looking to improve their own wealth. His pleasant professional attitude and diplomatic style with authority policed all the troublemakers trying to hinder the NWA’s future. Sam kept the stability of the professional wrestling business for over two decades and became one of the only promoters that were respected by the all in the business.
Muchnick was an amicable, smart businessman and he had the power to make himself rich and book good friend and World Champion Lou Thesz on as many shows as he liked, but unselfishly he assured that Lou was booked fairly across the territories. Muchnick has to take a lot of credit for the credibility and prestige that the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship still holds today.
In 1959, Muchnick formed the St. Louis Wrestling Club while producing a new television program titled “Wrestling at the Chase” on Missouri station KPLR-TV, which ran for 23 years until September 1983 and produced over 1,000 episodes of the show. The show, filmed at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, holds the accolade of being one of the most popular local productions in St. Louis television history. The show developed professional wrestling into a nationally popular form of entertainment as it beamed the many stars of the NWA on the TV sets across the country.
By 1960, tired of dealing with wrestler demands and settling disputes between members of the group, Muchnick stepped down as NWA President. Although his hiatus did not last long and he was unanimously re-installed as president in 1963 until 1975, thus contributing a total of 25 years. During his second term as president, the NWA remained as wrestling’s supremacy and Muchnick expanded the Alliance globally by securing deals with territories in Japan, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Sam continued to promote until New Years’ Day in 1982, which Mayor Vincent Schoemehl named “Sam Muchnick Day”. Shortly afterwards, the St. Louis Wrestling Club was purchased by a consortium of Bob Geigel, Pat O’Connor and Harley Race. A year later, the World Wrestling Federation struck an agreement with Muchnick’s long-time associate and ring announcer Larry Matysik which gave the WWF access to the former TV timeslot of “Wrestling At The Chase”.
Muchnick lived to the grand age of 93 years old as he passed away on 30th December 1998, in his home of St. Louis, the city out of which his wrestling empire grew. To the day he died, he was honest as the day was long, a trait that is very rare within the history of the professional wrestling industry. Sam was truly the godfather of professional wrestling.
Behind the glitz and the glamour of professional wrestling is a legend of a true pioneer for women in the sport – Mildred Burke. Burke was considered as one of the toughest competitors in professional wrestling and she fought her way into the history books. Undefeated, she held the World Women’s Championship for over fifteen years.
Burke was born Mildred Bliss on 5th August 1915 in Coffeyville, Kansas and was the youngest of six siblings. Her love for professional wrestling did not materialise until her late teens when she saw her first bout at the Midway Arena in Kansas City and in 1932, she decided she would try it herself.
She began working in an office during the day and but longed to get involved into the sport and met Missouri Middleweight Champion Billy Wolfe. She begged Wolfe to train her but Wolfe refused. She pestered him until Wolfe gave in and invited her to the gym. He instructed a male wrestler to rough her up to detract her away from the sport. However, Mildred rolls over the wrestler and pinned him. Wolfe thought it was a fluke and asked her to do it again, and she did. Impressed, Wolfe saw potential and agreed to teach her and through their training, they bonded and they started dating and eventually married
Already boasting a muscular physique and great strength at aged 19, Wolfe began promoting her on the carnival circuit. The announcer would proclaim that a $25 reward was on offer to any man of similar size to try to pin Mildred within a ten-minute time limit – no man could. Wolfe would take much of her fortune, openly cheat on Mildred and violently beat her.
Changing her name to Mildred Burke she started wrestling on shows and within a few months, she won the Midwest Wrestling Association Women’s Championship tournament clinching her first belt. By January 1937, she then moved around the United States defending her title and defeated the number one women’s champion, Clara Mortenson, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She wrestled and defeated all comers, wrestlers such as Mae Young, Mae Weston, Gladys Gillem and Elvira Snodgrass keeping her championship belt. For a time, she also mentored The Fabulous Moolah. The business was great for Wolfe and Burke was featured in Life magazine where it was deemed that she earned over $50,000 at the height of her fame in the late ’40s.
Since its inception in 1948, she butted heads with the National Wrestling Alliance. The NWA board declared that the Men’s World Heavyweight Championship could not be defended on shows with women’s matches featured so this stopped many promoters booking female bouts. In 1949, her husband Billy Wolfe became the NWA’s agent for promoting women wrestlers, Burke was known as the NWA Women’s Champion and he was profiting heavily.
The marriage of Burke and Wolfe began to crumble and Wolfe, a known womaniser, was sleeping with his trainees. After Mildred had an affair with his son and the couple grew a great hatred for each other and in 1952, they were divorced. Wolfe froze out Burke and she was struggling financially so she reached out to New York promoter Jack Pfefer for help and began defending the NWA belt against her own promoted wrestlers. The NWA was not happy and appointed a committee to attempt to work out a solution between Wolfe and Burke.
The conclusion came in January 1953 when Burke and her benefactors bought out Wolfe with $30,000. The deal meant he could no longer promote women on wrestling shows for five years, however, he did not keep to the deal and started gazumping Burke booking her wrestlers in Columbus for more money. Burke’s company ‘Attractions, Inc.’ could not cope and was declared bankrupt only a few months later.
Her assets went into the hands of James Hoff, a Columbus promoter and he employed Wolfe as his administrator. Wolfe claimed he held the contracts of Burke and 27 of her wrestlers but Burke disputed this due to $30,000 deal. Her contract stated he could not promote for five years and he was breaching that commitment. She aligned herself with Tulsa promoter Leroy McGuirk, a prominent member of the Alliance.
The NWA held in meeting in The Blackstone hotel in Chicago to discuss the mess but as only male members were allowed to attend the meeting, Burke, fighting for her livelihood, was shunned and had to stay in the Blackstone’s lobby. Wolfe had a seat at the table and once the meeting concluded the NWA announced that they no longer recognised women in the sport.
Following a tournament held in Baltimore, Wolfe professed June Byers (his daughter-in-law) as the NWA Women’s champion and his girlfriend Nell Stewart as the United States champion. He reached out to all of Burke’s contractors to book them but a lot stayed loyal to Mildred and some even retired from the sport. In November 1953, Burke wrote to the NWA and stated she would wrestle any woman in the business including Byers and Stewart to settle the claims of this phoney champion.
On the 20th of August 1954, Burke wrestled Byers in Atlanta in a three-fall contest with obvious genuine heat. Wolfe booked to have Byers win the championship and she won the first pin but Burke refused to be pinned for the second fall. They fought for over an hour until officials called the match without a winner. With Wolfe lining their pockets, the press reported Byers won so she became the legitimate NWA Women’s champion however, Mildred maintained her right to her title.
In fear of her safety, she travelled with an escort at all times but refusing to be beaten, she promoted women’s wrestling on an international basis creating the World Wide Women’s Wrestling Association promotion and the WWWA title. In a hugely successful business decision, she took women’s wrestling to Japan in November 1954 with instant success.
The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the NWA in 1955 due to accusations of monopolising the sport and Burke vented against the Alliance. Her testimony targeted NWA members and included stories of corruption, adultery, tax fraud and accusations directed at ex-husband Wolfe of domestic abuse and a horrific allegation that over-training their adopted daughter Janet which resulted in her 1951 death.
The NWA emerged from the investigation with little punishment and Burke retired from in-ring competition in 1956 and vacated her title. She continued to promote the WWWA in Japan, Canada, Mexico, Cuba and parts of the U.S. and in 1970, the hugely popular All Japan Women’s Wrestling bought the legal rights to the WWWA championship, a title that was contested until 2005.
After retiring, Burke lived in California and operated a women’s wrestling facility nurturing many women’s wrestlers including Rhonda Sing, who went to wrestle for AJW, Stampede, the WWF and WCW.
Burke suffered a stroke in February 1989 and passed away for days later at Northridge Hospital, Los Angeles aged 73 years old. Mildred left a legacy for many potential Women’s champions, courageously fighting for females in a male-dominated sport, she paved the way for future generations of women in professional wrestling.
The year of 1980 comes to close with Harley Race still in possession of the NWA World Heavyweight title and many of the promotions build to big cards over the Christmas period. Let’s hop straight into it and see how the year ended for Race.
NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race finished the year up with 54 defenses of his latest reign since winning the gold back from Giant Baba in September.
St. Louis Wrestling Club – Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MS
Dick the Bruiser & Ken Patera defeated Harley Race in a non-title 2-on-1 handicap match.
Houston Wrestling – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX
Harley Race (47th defense) defeated Gino Hernandez via disqualification to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Lakeland Center, Lakeland, FL
Harley Race (48th defense) fought Dick Murdoch in a No DQ Match. Winner unknown
Championship Wrestling from Florida – Eddie Graham Sports Stadium, Orlando, FL
Harley Race (49th defense) beat Barry Windham to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Championship Wrestling from Florida – St. Petersburg, FL
Harley Race (50th defense) went to a draw with Dick Murdoch. Race retained the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – William Bell Auditorium, Augusta, GA
Harley Race (51st defense) defeated Tony Atlas via DQ to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga, TN
Harley Race (52nd defense) defeated Mr. Wrestling II to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – WTBS Studios, Atlanta, GA
Harley Race defeated Jimmy Jones in a non-title bout.
Georgia Championship Wrestling – Ohio Center, Columbus, OH
Harley Race (53rd defense) and Tony Atlas went to a 60-minute time-limit draw. Race remains the NWA World Heavyweight champion.
Central States Wrestling – Topeka, KS
Harley Race (54th defense) beat Bob Brown to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
ALL-JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
AJPW wrapped up the year with their Real World Tag League 1980 tour. Read a comprehensive review of the whole tour here starring Terry & Dory Funk, Abdullah the Butcher, The Sheik, Ricky Steamboat and many other Gaijins joining Jumbo Tsuruta and Giant Baba in the tournament.
Jumbo has signed on the dotted line to challenge Abdullah for the NWA United National Championship on the final day of the New Year Giant Series tour next month.
BIG TIME WRESTLING (TEXAS)
After a controversial match against Kevin von Erich, Gino Hernandez was stripped of the NWA American Heavyweight Title. The vacant title was due to be decided at The Sportatorium, Dallas, Texas on 28th December 1980 with Kevin and Gino signed to fight for the belt, however, Kevin was not fit to wrestle so his brother Kerry von Erich stepped in. Gino was not a happy bunny before the bout and even more so after, as Kerry grabbed the pinfall over Hernandez to hold the title for the first time.
CENTRAL STATES WRESTLING
Just the one big event in the area at the end of the month (30th) with two title matches. Harley Race successfully defended the NWA World Title against “Bulldog” Bob Brown and the Topeka crowd saw a Central States Tag Team title switch. Champions Bob Sweetan and Mike George were unseated by Jerry Roberts and Bruce Reed.
CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM FLORIDA
At the start of the month, new Florida Tag Team Champions were crowned in The Cowboy Connection, Bobby Jaggers and RT Tyler. They defeated Barry Windham and Scott McGhee at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa on the 2nd of December. Despite challenges throughout the month from combinations of Windham and McGhee, Windham and Mike Graham, Windham and Manny Fernandez, Graham and Bugsy McGraw.
The promotion has announced a big show on the 2nd January 1981 from the Eddie Gilbert Sports Stadium with Graham and Windham receiving another Florida Tag Team Titles shot against the new champions Jaggers and Tyler.
EMPRESA MEXICANA DE LUCHA LIBRE
Arena Mexico played host to one of EMLL’s biggest shows of the year, “Juicio Final” on 5th December. The main event saw a Lucha de Apuestas match with each team’s hair on the line that saw El Cobarde and El Jalisco shaved bald. In the three falls bout, Alfonso Dantes & Sangre Chicana overcome their opponents by two falls to one.
GEORGIA CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
A new National Heavyweight Champion was crowned when the Mongolian Stomper, along with manager Don Carson, defeated Jack Brisco for the title at the first (12th) of two big Omni shows this past month, but it was hardly a clean win. The referee took a bump and Carson jumped on the apron to distract Brisco.
The Stomper smashed the former NWA World Champion with a big boot into the back of his neck and then delivered a vicious stomp to the head as the referee stirred back to consciousness to count the pinfall. Brisco challenged
The National Tag Team Champions, the Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts, and Terry Gordy) are still running amok in the territory and are still in possession of their titles.
On the 20/12 TV, Ted DiBiase was set to wrestle Hayes but Gordy jumped Ted, and Hayes exited the ring. A match broke out for a few minutes with great action until the Freebirds outnumbered DiBiase. Robert Fuller and Stan Frazier attempted to make the save but when Fuller ended up injured on the outside, the Freebirds triple-teamed Frazier and hit him with a horrific three-man piledriver.
Frazier was busted open and his collarbone seriously hurt but with the aid of a neck brace returned to cut a promo and was determined to get revenge on the ‘Birds at the Omni on Christmas night and saw that Hayes would be “dead, dead, DEAD!”
In a big six-man elimination tag team match at the Omni on the 25th, the good guys got the duke but the night did not end well for Frazier. The main event of the evening was a $30,000 Two-Ring battle royal with DiBiase and Fuller co-won and shared the prize. Big Stan was attacked by the Freebirds and his neck suffered an injury again was later admitted to hospital. On the weekend’s TV show, Fuller and DiBiase proclaimed that they would share the money three ways with Frazier to help pay his medical bills.
Also on the Omni card (25th), Kevin Sullivan and his new bad attitude since turning on friend Steve Keirn failed to dethrone former tag partner Tony Atlas and his Georgia Heavyweight Title. Meanwhile, in a Judo Jacket Match, Mr. Saito fell to Mr. Wrestling II via pinfall after the Japanese athlete was hit with a knee to the face.
Jos DeLuc has arrived in the territory and his impressive strength was displayed by broadcasting video footage on Georgia TV of the lumberjack pulling a bus in Minneapolis with a steel chain.
Harley Race returned to Georgia after Christmas on the 26th to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against three opponents but left the area with the belt around his waist. Atlas received two shots (26th – Augusta, GA, and 29th – Columbus, OH) losing via DQ in the first match and came up short in Columbus, taking the champion to a 60-minute time-limit draw. Also, in Columbus that night, in a bloody Texas Bullrope match, Dusty Rhodes pinned Ole Anderson.
Race returned to wrestle Jimmy Jones on Georgia TV on the 27th December and Tony Atlas was Gordon Solie’s guest commentator. Race easily picked up the victory and decided to dish more damage to Jones but Atlas intervened and cleared the ring. Atlas would wrestle Race to a 60 minute draw in Columbus, Ohio on the 28th.
A busy month for Paul Boesch’s territory as he ran three Sam Houston Coliseum shows. On the 5th, Gino Hernandez defended his NWA North American Title against Dusty Rhodes but the match ended a draw due to a double count out on the third and deciding fall.
A new Brass Knuckles champion was crowned on the 12th as Bugsy McGraw defeated champion Bruiser Brody and on the 19th Gino successfully defended his belt against “Maniac” Mark Lewin.
Houston Wrestling youngster Tom Pritchard is set to go on tour to New Japan Pro Wrestling next month.
MAPLE LEAF WRESTLING
Two Garden shows occurred this past month, with both events seeing The Great Hossein Arab and Angelo Mosca facing off for the Canadian Championship. The 7th December show saw Mosca winning via count-out after he dished out punishment to Hossein and the Iranian fled to the back.
Three days after Christmas saw bloodshed inside the confines of a steel cage to stop Hossein from running away. Mosca clinched back the belt in 16 minutes 45 seconds to pop the crowd. Hossein has signed a contract for a return bout next month.
MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
Fans in Richmond, Virginia witnessed a Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles switch on 12th December as The Sheepherders lost the straps to the duo of George Wells and Dewey Robertson. Butch Miller and Luke Williams are set to move on from the area to work in Puerto Rico in the new year.
Ric Flair and Roddy Piper have been feuding this past month. Flair holds the United States Heavyweight Title after beating Greg Valentine last month and Piper is holder of the TV Title. The promotion has been promoting title vs. title matches but either man has managed to unseat each other as of yet however, more bouts have been booked into the new year.
On the 27th at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, NWA World Tag Team Champions The Masked Superstar and Paul Jones successfully defended the belts against the team they beat for the championship, Ray Stevens and Jimmy Snuka in a fence match.
Ed Wiskowski returned to Portland on December 6th and has aligned himself with ‘Playboy’ Buddy Rose and his army (Rick Oliver and The Destroyer). Rose, who stills holds the PNW Heavyweight belt, challenged the winner of a battle royal to face him in a future title shot on next week’s show. Rose continued in his promo vowing to not allow Jay Youngblood to win the match and claim the title shot as he did not deserve it. Late in the battle royal, Rose swung a punch at Youngblood but missed and clocked Wiskowski. As Rose tended to his friend, Youngblood landed a tomahawk chop between the Playboy’s eyes which sent the champion flying over the top rope.
However, an irate Rose grabbed Youngblood from the outside and with the help of Wiskowski, eliminated the Indian wrestler. The remaining three in the ring were Rose Army members, Wiskowski and The Destroyer and their nemesis Buzz Sawyer. Against the odds, Sawyer ended up the winner and in the post-match interview handed his title shot to Jay Youngblood!
The next week (27th) Youngblood received the title shot and pinned Rose in the first fall after a reverse roll-up and bridge. With all his might, Rose failed to level the score up and stalled for time constantly before TV time expired. Referee Sandy Barr was fully aware of Rose’s time wasting and held the belt up until a rematch takes place on January 3rd.
Fidel Castro was forced to leave the area after losing a ‘mask vs. loser leaves town’ match against the Destroyer on the 27th.
SOUTHEASTERN CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
A new tag team of Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose has been making waves in the territory and had an eventful couple of months. In November, they shot out the blocks when they defeated Jos DeLuc and Bob Armstrong for the promotions’ Tag Team Titles.
However, this past month they dropped them to the team of Norvell Austin and Paul Orndorff before regaining them only to lose them again, this time to Bob and Brad Armstrong. A crazy month for the duo who have a rematch signed in January to try and become three-time champions in as many months.
ST. LOUIS WRESTLING CLUB
Sam Muchnick’s promotion is promoting a big card at the Kiel Auditorium on January 2nd headlined by a Harley Race vs. Ken Patera NWA World Title bout.
The new NWA Missouri champion Ted DiBiase won a 16-man battle royal on the 5th December at the Kiel Auditorium soon after successfully defending his new belt against Buzz Tyler minutes later. DiBiase is set to defend his championship on the 2nd of January against Ox Baker.
New Stampede International Tag Team Champions were crowned as Bobby and Leo Burke defeated Bobby Bass and Duke Myers on 2nd December in Creston, British Columbia.
One of Stu Hart’s children, Bret Hart is still in possession of the Stampede North American Heavyweight Title notwithstanding the challenges he has deflected from Leo Burke this past month.
VANCOUVER ALL STAR WRESTLING
Former NWA World Heavyweight champion Gene Kiniski climbed back into the ropes on Boxing Day in Vancouver. He tagged with son Kelly Kiniski to beat Moose Morowski and The Destroyer in the final match of the evening.
WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION
Ken Patera ended 1980 on bad terms as he lost his WWF Intercontinental Championship to Pedro Morales on 8th December at a big MSG show in New York. On the same show The Samoans failed to regain the Tag Team titles as Rick Martel and Tony Garea retain the belts by two falls to one in a best of three falls match.
The Boston Garden show on the 13th December played host to many top matches for the New England crowd. Bob Backlund managed to keep his WWF title by beating Sgt. Slaughter via count out. Morales defended his new Intercontinental belt against The Samoan #1 and finally, Patera and Pat Patterson clashed in a match of the former I.C. champions. The match was tossed by the referee when both men were counted out.
The month finished up with another Madison Square Garden event with Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, Seiji Sakaguchi and Yoshiaki Yatsu in attendance. Inoki defeated Bobby Duncum in 12:47 to retains the NWF Heavyweight Title. Fujinami managed to keep his WWF Junior Heavyweight belt beating Don Diamond in over 10 minutes. Sakaguchi and The Samoan #2 battled to a double disqualification while Yatsu pinned Jose Estrada in the opening match of the night.
In other bouts, WWF Champion Backlund successfully defended against Killer Khan in 12:23. The Moondogs were disqualified in their Tag team Title match against champions Martel and Garea while Morales remained I.C. Champion defeating The Hangman in just over seven minutes.
New Japan signed off in 1980 with their huge 22-date tour to crown the inaugural MSG Tag League tournament champions. This tour took place across the country of Japan and not in New York… so you might be asking why did these tours reference MSG (Madison Square Garden)?
The thinking behind naming the tour and the tournament under the MSG moniker is that New Japan Pro Wrestling was bringing the MSG atmosphere and its talent to the Japanese shores.
As you’ll discover by reading on, a plethora of World Wrestling Federation talent was used in this tour as the partnership between the two promotions go from strength to strength.
Night One – 21st November 1980 – Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium, Yokohama
The tour began with two big matches in the tournament under the lights of the TV cameras in Yokohama.
Andre the Giant and The Hangman overcame Seiji Sakaguchi and Strong Kobayashi in 7:09 as the team of Stan Hansen and Hulk Hogan defeated Tiger Jeet Singh and Umanosuke Ueda by DQ under over six minutes.
Other matches on the opening night saw veteran Rene Goulet taste defeat against 29-year-old Riki Choshu and in the main event, six-man action stole the show and sent the 6,000 in attendance home with a smile on their face.
The good guy team of Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura pinned the Gaijin team of Johnny Powers, Ox Baker and Bad News Allen in just over ten minutes.
Night Two – 22nd November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Numazu, Shizuoka
The second show of the tour saw Andre and the Hangman continue their winning ways and pull away at the top of the league, with a quick win over Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura in under five minutes.
Bad News Allen and Dutch MMA specialist Willem Ruska got their campaign underway with a victory against Riki Choshu and Kantaro Hoshino.
Night Three – 24th November 1980 – Aomori Prefectural Gymnasium, Aomori
Just the solitary tournament match in Aomori as Hulk Hogan & Stan Hansen defeated Seiji Sakaguchi & Strong Kobayashi in 9:50 to join Andre and Hangman at the top of the table.
In the main event, Inoki, Choshu and Fujinami fought Andre, Hangman and Rene Goulet in a Best of Three Falls bout. Fujinami pinned Goulet for the first fall but then both teams were counted out in the second fall and the match was halted.
Night Four – 25th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Hachinohe, Aomori
Hangman and Andre surged back to the top of the pile with a win over Choshu and Hoshino on night four in front of 4,000 in the tournament. Kimura and Fujinami also got themselves on the board with their first victory over Johnny Powers and Ox Baker.
Headlining in the City Gymnasium, Inoki, Sakaguchi and Kobayashi battled Hogan, Hansen and Allen in a six-man tag bout. Inoki gained the win for his team getting the pin over Bad News in 14:34.
Night Five – 26th November 1980 – Civic Gymnasium, Hirosaki, Aomori
Hogan and Hansen won their third bout in a row in the tournament with a victory over Allen and Ruska in just over eight minutes and the team of Hoshino and Choshu beat Powers and Baker in 9:16 in the other Tag league bout.
In a huge main event tag match, Fujinami and Inoki faced Andre and Goulet in another Best of Three Falls match with the Japanese duo coming out on top.
Night Six – 27th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Koriyama, Fukushima
In front of 3,700 fans, Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda grabbed their first win in the tournament in 10:25 against Johnny Powers & Ox Baker. While, Hogan and Hansen gained a fourth consecutive win against Choshu and Hoshino to pull a good lead at the top of the MSG Tag League.
Andre, Hangman and Goulet gained a good win over Inoki, Fujinami and Kimura in the main event with Andre going over Fujinami in just over 12 minutes.
Night Seven – 28th November 1980 – Miyagi Prefectural Sports Center, Sendai, Miyagi
The TV cameras were in town as two more tournament matches took place in Sendai on night seven of the tour and it included the biggest match yet of the tour.
Andre the Giant and The Hangman clashed with Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen but neither team prevailed with any points as the match ended in a double count out.
In another tournament bout, Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda defeated Kengo Kimura & Tatsumi Fujinami in 11:48. In addition, in singles competition, Antonio Inoki squashed Ox Baker in under three minutes.
Night Eight – 29th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Iwata, Shizuoka
In Iwata, Seiji Sakaguchi and Strong Kobayashi grabbed a tournament win over Johnny Powers and Ox Baker in 13:51, and Andre and Hangman beat Allen and Ruska in under five minutes to add more points to their tally.
Night Nine – 30th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Okazaki, Aichi
Andre and The Hangman continued their dominance in singles action as they beat Seiji Sakaguchi and Haruka Eigen respectively.
In tournament action, Choshu and Hoshino picked up points against Tiger Jeet Singh and Umanosuke Ueda via a DQ decision. Allen and Ruska’s campaign got worse with a defeat to Fujinami and Kimura.
The WWF team of Hogan, Hansen and Goulet were victorious by two falls to one against Inoki, Kobayashi and Osamu Kido in a six-man main event.
Night Ten – 1st December 1980 – Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Aichi
A double count-out ended arguably the most anticipated bout of the whole tour as Inoki and Bob Backlund clashed with Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen. This was Inoki and Backlund’s first match in the competition as Bob had just arrived in the country the night before after spending the end of November defending his WWF title in the States.
In the other Tag League match, Allen and Ruska once again came up short. This time to the team of Sakaguchi and Kobayashi.
Night Eleven – 2nd December 1980 – Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo
Inoki and Backlund got off the mark in front of the Ota Ward Gym crowd with a quick win over Powers and Baker in 3:57. Their rivals, Hogan and Hansen, got back to winning ways defeating Fujinami and Kimura in under ten minutes.
Night Twelve – 3rd December 1980 – General Gymnasium, Matsusaka, Mie
Three tournaments matches took place in Matsusaka with Allen and Ruska picking up a rare win over Powers and Baker in a wild brawl.
Tiger Jeet Singh and Umanosuke Ueda defeated Sakaguchi and Kobayashi and the General Gymnasium were presented a sar-studded main event.
Inoki and Backlund clashed with Andre the Giant and The Hangman to a double count out that went nearly 15 minutes.
Night Thirteen – 4th December 1980 – Civic Center, Gifu
In Gifu, Allen and Ruska returned to losing ways against Inoki and Backlund as Sakaguchi and Kobayshi grabbed a win over Fujinami and Kimura.
Two singles bouts stood out as Andre the Giant picked up a win in 3:07 against Riki Choshu and Tiger Jeet Singh and Hulk Hogan brawled to a double count out.
Night Fourteen – 5th December 1980 – City Gymnasium, Tokushima
Even though they are both disliked by the Japanese crowd recently, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant reignited their feud from stateside on Night 14 in a bout that finished after the referee counted both men out of the ring.
In tournament bouts, Kimura and Fujinami defeated Choshu and Hoshino while Inoki and Backlund picked up another maximum points with a win over Ueda and Tiger Jeet Singh.
Night Fifteen – 6th December 1980 – Okayama Budokan, Okayama
Playing catch up on the other teams in the tournament, Inoki and Backlund clinched another victory against Fujinami and Kimura in a scientific match-up.
Hogan and Hansen paired up in a non-league bout against Choshu and Sakaguchi with the American duo won in 8:08.
Night Sixteen – 7th December 1980 – Minami Kyushu Junior College Gymnasium, Miyazaki
Inoki and Backlund gained more ground on the other teams with a win over Choshu and Hoshino in the only tournament match in Miyazaki.
In singles action, Andre the Giant pinned Haruka Eigen in quick fashion, just over two minutes. Hulk Hogan saw off the challenge of Kengo Kimura in 4:18 while The Hangman defeated Osamu Kido.
Night Seventeen – 8th December 1980 – Kagoshima Prefectural Gymnasium, Kagoshima
Unfortunately the television cameras were not present in Kagoshima for a singles bout between Fujinami and Hogan and a Hansen and Choshu clash. The Japanese competitors both tasted defeat in the pair of one-on-one bouts.
In tournament action, Ueda and Singh pulled off the shock of the Tag League so far capturing a victory over The Hangman and Andre the Giant.
Meanwhile, Inoki and Backlund grabbed the top spot in the standings with a win over Sakaguchi and Kobayashi. The win meant that Inoki and Backlund would face off against Hogan and Hansen in the tournament finals in Osaka on 10th December.
Night Eighteen – 9th December 1980 – Kyuden Memorial Gymnasium, Fukuoka
In their first-ever one-on-one encounter, Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan faced off in Fukuoka. In an entertaining match, Rhodes ran out the winner after Hogan pushed the referee out of the way twice to earn himself a disqualification.
It was a night of jaw-dropping one-on-one encounters with Stan Hansen and Bob Backlund facing off in a non-title affair. Backlund was awarded the win via a disqualification.
In the main event of the evening, Andre the Giant rekindled an old feud with Antonio Inoki. The match went 16:04 but the crowd failed to see an outright winner as both men were counted out after the action spilled to the outside.
In the only tournament match of the night, Seiji Sakaguchi and Strong Kobayashi won their bout over Kantaro Hoshino and Riki Choshu. As the finals were set and the finalists unable to be caught by the results of this bout, the points did not impact the league standings.
Night Nineteen – 10th December 1980 – Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka
Antonio Inoki and Bob Backlund clinched the MSG Tag League 1980 trophy defeating Stan Hansen and Hulk Hogan in the finals.
Inoki and Backlund battled adversity throughout the bout with the sheer power of Hansen and Hogan troubling the good guys, along with the constant double-teaming added to the fact that the American referee took a lenient approach when enforcing the rules.
Inoki and Backlund began to take their opponents down to the ground eliminating the strength but Hogan and Hansen again took advantage of the referee’s leniency. Backlund took some punishment initially before making the hot tag and then Inoki took the brunt.
However, it was Inoki and Backlund that would prevail as winners on 17:35. As rivals Hansen and Backlund brawled on the outside, Hogan was working over Inoki and went to slam the NWF Champion. Inoki slipped out of the move into a back slide for the quick three count.
An irate Hansen returned to the ring and nailed Inoki and the Texan and Hogan beat on Inoki some more until Backlund emerged for the save. Backlund would return home after the celebrations but was due to return to the Land of the Rising Sun in the new year.
Other matches on the night included Tatsumi Fujinami pinning Rene Goulet in 11:04 and Dusty Rhodes faced off with Tiger Jeet Singh which ended in a no-contest after the referee lost control of the brawl.
Night Twenty – 11th December 1980 – City Gymnasium, Anjo, Aichi
In the first of three matches for the pairing, Dusty Rhodes teamed up with Antonio Inoki to treat the Anjo fans and grabbed a win over Tiger Jeet Singh and Umanosuke Ueda by two falls to one in a three fall contest.
Seiji Sakaguchi fell to Hulk Hogan via countout in Hogan’s last appearance of the tour and in a quick match that lasted only 3:22, Stan Hansen and Andre the Giant ended with a double count out decision.
Night Twenty-One – 12th December 1980 – Municipal Sports and Cultural Hall, Owase, Mie
Inoki and Rhodes defeated Bad News Allen and Stan Hansen in the main event in Owase on the penultimate night of the tour. The good guys grabbing a 2-1 win in a three-fall bout in 11 and half minutes.
Night Twenty-Two – 13th December 1980 – Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo
The final match of the final night of the tour saw Inoki and Rhodes tagging together for the last time against Tiger Jeet Singh and Stan Hansen. The match did not turn out as many suspected as all four men brawled into the crowd and were counted out.
The unity between NJPW and the WWF was shown in force on this tour with the American promotion’s representatives coming out on top multiple times over their Japanese counterparts.
NJPW proclaimed that the New Year Golden Series tour in January would feature more WWF competitors with Bobby Duncum, Ken Patera, and The Samoans announced. Also joining them would be youngster Tom Pritchard, returning Stampede wrestler Bad News Allen and newcomer The Enforcer announced as the Gaijins on excursion.
After pairing with Stan Hansen and clashing with Inoki and Backlund on Japanese soil, Hulk Hogan is becoming a popular heel in the promotion and further bookings against Inoki and company must be on the cards for future cards.
This was really interesting seeing Andre as a heel at this point in his career in Japan. Always a spectacle on any card, the emotion he showed with his loud laughter when victorious and howls when he went crashing down to the canvas is something you do not hear stateside due to the noise of the crowds.
The young and very green Hogan is doing well for the spots he has been placed into and looks to be getting over more and more each time he visits the promotion.
Some really good action in this tournament, which is a great format for mixing styles and placing the stars in tag matches against each other and teasing singles bouts for the future.
I have designed a poster for this event, check it out by visiting our artwork page.
All Japan Pro Wrestling presented the fourth annual Real World Tag League which ran between November and December of 1980 and reigning champions Dory & Terry Funk look to become three-time winners against six other tandems. Terry will be hunting for revenge on the team of Abdullah the Butcher and Tor Kamata after the Texan failed to retrieve the NWA United National Title on the 1st November from the Man from Sudan and Funk vies to capture another shot.
Amongst the other challengers for the Funks’ trophy are Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, themselves former champions in the 1978 tournament. There is no other Japanese duo in the tournament with the remaining teams all Gaijins tandems. Rounding out the tournament are the teams of Dick Slater and Ricky Steamboat, Jim Brunzell and Nick Bockwinkel, The Sheik and The Great Memphisto and English duo Les Thornton and Billy Robinson.
Night One – 28th November 1980 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
The tour got underway in front of a sold-out crowd of around 3,000 Puroresu fans. As we mentioned in the ProjectTerritories.com November 1980 round-up, the opening night featured a wild angle involving four teams in the tag tournament.
Abdullah and Kamata faced Steamboat and Slater and the former prevailed as the winners via disqualification as the American duo retaliated to Abby and Kamata’s rule-breaking. As four men brawled around the arena after the decision, The Funks emerged into the arena for their main event bout against Sheik and Memphisto.
As the main event was about to get underway, the previous match still continued in the bleachers and the brawl began to head back towards the ring. All eight men ended up brawling in a wild scene.
Eventually control was resumed and The Funks won the bout via count out after around 11 minutes of crazy action. However post match, the Funks took their opponents into the bleachers to give the Korakuen crowd some more up close action.
Night Two – 29th November 1980 – Municipal General Sports Ground Suzuyo Memorial Gymnasium, Shimizu, Shizuoka
The next night Dick Slater and Dory Funk Jr. treated the 6,300 in attendance to a 30-minute time-limit draw. Ricky Steamboat pinned the young Prince Tonga in under 15 minutes while The Sheik and Terry Funk brawled wildly which led to the Texan winning via disqualification close to six minutes.
In tournament matches, Baba and Tsuruta defeated Thornton and Robinson as Brunzell and Bockwinkle tasted defeat to the team of Abdullah and Kamata, who topped the league with two wins from two.
Night Three – 30th November 1980 – City Gymnasium, Hakodate, Hokkaido
Only the one tournament match occurred on the third night of the tour as Brunzell and Bockwinkel got themselves on the board with a disqualification win over The Sheik and Great Mephisto. This was a show dominated with tag team matches but non-tournament bouts. Abdullah and Kamata defeated Great Kojika and Baba, The Funks overcame Prince Tonga and Jumbo Tsuruta as Robinson and Thornton managed to grab a win over Rocky Hata and Mr. Sakurada.
Night Four – 1st December 1980 – Nakajima Sports Center, Sapporo, Hokkaido
This event had the television cameras present which saw the match of the night accolade go to Ricky Steamboat and Jumbo Tsuruta as they battled to a half-hour stalemate. In only their third one-on-one meeting, Nick Bockwinkel and Giant Baba went to a double count-out.
The former AWA World champion clamped a figure-four leglock on Baba which forced the big man to roll under the bottom rope. Both men tumbled to the floor but Bockwinkel slapped on the leglock again on the outside. Baba was unable to break it and both men were counted out.
In a bloody war, long time enemies The Sheik and Abdullah clashed in a match that went 7:40 with The Butcher winning via DQ after The Great Mephisto interfered on the Sheik’s behalf. They double-teamed Abdullah and wedged his head in the top rope until Tor Kamata emerged for the save. After the decision, all four men brawled in the crowd which continued for several minutes.
The main event saw the only tournament match of the night as The Funks grabbed some more points with the win over Billy Robinson and Les Thornton.
Night Five – 2nd December 1980 – Municipal General Gymnasium, Asahikawa, Hokkaido
Slater and Steamboat was back in tournament action in a great long battle against Bockwinkel and Brunzell that went to a 45-minute draw. In another tournament match, Baba and Tsuruta defeated The Sheik and Mephisto would were still without their first points of the competition.
In a non-title match, Terry Funk faced NWA UN Champion Abdullah the Butcher but the pair failed to control themselves, both Dory Funk and Tor Kamata interfered and the match ended in a double DQ.
Night Six – 4th December 1980 – Ehime Prefectural Citizen Hall, Matsuyama, Ehime
The roster rested on the 3rd December and returned in front 4,000 in Matsuyama on the 4th with a series of one-on-one bouts that saw Steamboat and Brunzell wrestle to a 30:00 time-limit draw. Dick Slater and Abdullah brawled to a double count-out while Tor Kamata was disqualified in his bout against Jumbo Tsuruta.
Nick Bockwinkel defeated Rocky Hata in quick fashion and in tag team action The Funks defeated Baba and Tonga in 18:35 in a non-tournament bout. In the only League match of the night, the English pairing of Robinson and Thornton defeated The Sheik and Mephisto, who ended the night with no points in the tournament so far.
Night Seven – 5th December 1980 – Prefectural Civic Hall, Kochi
The Nippon TV cameras were in attendance for the double main event that featured two tournament matches as Robinson and Thornton and Brunzell and Bockwinkel ended up battling to a 45:00 time-limit draw. No points were awarded in the final bout of the evening as Abdullah and Kamata faced the Funks. The referee counted Dory and The Butcher out of the ring for the double count-out decision as the pair brawled into the stands.
Night Eight – 6th December 1980 – Prefectural Niage-Machi Gymnasium, Oita
On the eighth night of the tour, another 45 minute time-limit draw took place as Baba and Tsuruta drew with Slater and Steamboat to share the points and Kamata and Abdullah gained another win over Thornton and Robinson via count out.
In other bouts, Dory Funk Jr defeated The Sheik via DQ in a short match timed just under five minutes. Dory’s brother Terry pinned Jim Brunzell in 12:40 and Nick Bockwinkel squashed The Great Mephisto in under three minutes.
Night Nine – 7th December 1980 – Civic Gymnasium, Nobeoka, Miyazaki
The Funks defensive of the Tag League trophy continued as they defeated Steamboat and Slater in 37 minutes in front of 3,100 fans in Miyazaki. Unfortunately, this match was not televised.
In non-tournament tag action, Prince Tonga and Jumbo Tsuruta were defeated by Nick Bockwinkel and Jim Brunzell. There was plenty of singles action as Tor Kamata won a DQ victory over The Sheik, Billy Robinson and Abdullah went to a double count-out and Great Mephisto was defeated yet again in a short match, this time Giant Baba defeated Mephisto in just over two minutes.
Night Ten – 8th December 1980 – International Gymnasium, Nagazaki
The Funks feud with Kamata and Abdullah continued as the pairings faced off in singles competition. Abby and Dory brawled to a double count-out as Terry won a DQ decision against Kamata. This war is far from over.
In the only tournament action of the night, Baba and Tsuruta took the points with a win over Bockwinkel and Brunzell in 20:35 to the delight of the 3,750 in attendance. In another tag match, not included in the tournament, Slater and Steamboat went to a double count-out against Robinson and Thornton.
Night Eleven – 9th December 1980 – Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka
The TV cameras returned in front of a sell-out 7,800 spectators in Osaka and they were treated with some great action. In a singles match, the crowd were hot for a 30:00 time-limit draw between Dick Slater and Billy Robinson.
In addition, The Sheik and Ricky Steamboat provided some up close warfare as Steamboat prevailed as the winner with a 3:43 timed disqualification win but the match spilled into the bleachers before the bell and after the announcement of the decision. Both men left the arena a bloody mess.
Two tournament bouts took place with The Funks taking the lead at the top of the table with a win over Brunzell and Bockwinkel while Abby and Kamata managed a huge win over Baba and Tsuruta via DQ in the main event.
Night Twelve – 10th December 1980 – Tochigi Prefectural Gymnasium, Utsunomiya, Tochigi
The penultimate show attracted a sell-out of 3,500 in Tochigi with The Sheik and Great Mephisto finally getting points of the board in the tournament against Slater and Steamboat. However, the biggest attraction of the evening was a time-limit draw between Dory Funk Jr. and Nick Bockwinkel which went a total of 30 minutes.
Night Thirteen – 11th December 1980 – Kuramae Kokugikan, Tokyo
The final night of the tour was also the biggest, as AJPW sold 11,500 tickets in the Kuramae Kokugikan. The capacity crowd witnessed Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta winning the finals of the 1980 Real World Tag League with a controversial win over The Funk Brothers.
The Japanese duo began the match on seven points and a win would make them leapfrog the Funks (8) and Abby and Kamata (8) to a total of nine points. The match spilled to the outside with Terry and Tsuruta on the 42-minute mark and the crowd was anxious that a time-limit draw may be the outcome. With Dory and Baba dishing out punishment inside the ropes, Terry and Jumbo began to climb the ropes to get back in the ring before the twenty count.
Dory sent Baba hurtling into Terry which knocked the Texan off the apron and back down to the floor and this allowed Tsuruta to enter the ring to beat the count and win the bout and tournament for his team on 43 minutes and 30 seconds.
The referee raised the hands of Tsuruta as the streamers started to flow into the ring and the only Japanese team in the competition were declared two-time champions.
Other matches saw Abdullah and Kamata and The Sheik and Mephisto go to a double count-out which scuppered the former’s chances of winning the tournament unless the main event ended without a winner. Also, Billy Robinson and Nick Bockwinkel wrestled to a 30:00 time-limit draw and Steamboat beat Les Thornton via count-out in around 10:25.
The tournament would see the promotion close for the rest of the year until the New Year Giant Series beginning on the 2nd of January 1981.
View highlights of the tournament and full coverage of the final match on the video below.
As many matches of the tour were not televised, here are the results and match ratings for the bouts that we have video footage available.
Dick Slater & Ricky Steamboat vs. Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher – 28/11/80 (***)
Terry & Dory Funk vs. The Sheik & Great Mephisto – 28/11/80 (*3/4)
Giant Baba vs. Nick Bockwinkel – 01/12/80 (**)
Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Sheik – 01/12/80 (*)
Billy Robinson & Les Thornton vs. Nick Bockwinkel & Jim Brunzell – 05/12/80 (***)
Terry & Dory Funk vs. Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher – 05/12/80 (*1/2)
Ricky Steamboat vs. The Sheik – 09/12/80 (*)
Tor Kamata & Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Sheik & Great Mephisto – 11/12/80 (*)
Nick Bockwinkel vs. Billy Robinson – 11/12/80 (**)
Terry & Dory Funk vs. Giant Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta – 11/12/80 (****)
This tour features an abundance of talent that we will see progress during our journey. Jumbo Tsuruta and Ricky Steamboat have not even touched the surface in regards to what their future holds as on the other end of the spectrum, The Sheik is whittling down his career.
Seeing The Funks in tag team action is pleasing on the eye and they deliver great matches consistently and the final is a must-see for a fan of any age and of any experience. Even the wild action that Tor Kamata and Abdullah the Butcher produce is entertaining although not for the purists.
Overall, this event rounds out a great year for All Japan Pro Wrestling as they head into 1981.
As always, thanks for reading…
Source: Cagematch.net, All Japan Pro Wrestling, WrestlingData.com