And so, to the vault! It’s Mid-South Wrestling, coming to you from the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion on the 3rd March 1986. After a very 80’s opening title, replete with side-swipes and synth chords straight out of Stranger Things, we join father and son duo “Cowboy” Bill and Joel Watts on commentary. Advertised as tonight’s main event: Koko B. Ware vs “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert.
Not to be a damper on things right from the off, but this is actually the end of the road for Mid-South, as owner Bill Watts takes the opportunity, after plugging a Jim Crockett Promotion show, to announce that it will be re-named the “Universal Wrestling Federation” in two weeks. Mid-South was doing pretty well for a territory at the time, and Watts wanted a name-change to help take the brand national, and in so doing compete against the WWF. As you can guess, Watts’ ambition was to be ill-fated.
We open with a look back at a match a few weeks back, Dick Slater vs Jake “the Snake” Roberts for Mid-South’s North American and Television Championships in a No-DQ/Dark Journey In A Suspended Cage match. A super young Jim Ross on commentary, alone, in a packed Sam Houston Coliseum, Texas. It’s just the final minute of the contest, as Dark Journey, Slater’s valet, throws him a chain, but Jake nails a clothesline before it can be used. Roberts with the chain, goes for a punch but gets very awkwardly back body dropped over the top rope. Slater to the top as Jake comes back in, hits an elbow for the pin and both titles.
As Joel Watts very hesitantly explains, Mid-South won’t allow one man to hold both of these titles. In a hastily arranged “press conference” – an interview on a bridge somewhere – Slater gives a standard heel promo about how he’s being mistreated by such a ruling. Hard to take it too seriously though, seeing as how windy it is wherever he is and how he stumbles over every second line. Anyway, forced to relinquish the TV Title, Slater “retires” it by chucking the actual medal (yeah…) off the bridge he’s on, but not before knocking his sunglasses off his head while taking it off (this was not live). Slater gloats that the title “doesn’t float”. Back in the Pavilion, a not-very-annoyed sounding Bill Watts promises a response. Is there where WWE got the idea for Austin to chuck Angle’s Olympic medals off a bridge?
Back from a break, and Bill Watts introduces more highlights from a previous match. We’re a quarter of the way through this show folks. This time it’s once again Jake “The Snake” Roberts, this time taking on Terry Taylor in a #1 Contenders Match for the North American Title. This is, apparently, a rare (for the territories anyway) face-vs-face match. Roberts hits the DDT on Taylor, but rolls Taylor past the rope before the pin. Taylor dodges a running knee, and reverses another DDT into a roll-up for the pin. Watts calls this a controversial ending, but I don’t really see how. Anyway, it leads us to our first actual match of the show.
Terry Taylor vs Mike Scott
Mike Scott, getting the “already in the ring” treatment, is a burly looking guy from Alaska, and that’s all I could say about him. Terry Taylor has the women in the audience screaming with his arrival. No idea who is on commentary. Women screaming anytime Taylor does anything, which includes such basic offence as a snapmare, backbreaker and an armbar. Scott’s is even more basic, just clubbing blows to the head. Out of nowhere Taylor hits a jumping forearm they call a “Flatiron” for the 1, 2, 3 in under two minutes.
Winner: Terry Taylor and fans of meaningless territory squashes.
Verdict: How was this kind of thing the standard match for the era?
Back from break, and they are already in the ring for the next match, the apparent main event.
“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert vs Koko B. Ware
Gilbert on the mike addressing his opponent. Calls him “Koko Ware”. Taylor says he could beat Koko in under two minutes, and “as head of Hot Stuff International”, Taylor offers him a position with his stable. Koko responds in the negative. He knocks Taylor down and out, and the bell rings.
Commentator also calling him “Koko Ware” which is baffling to me. Ware on top, showing off his drop-kicks, with Gilbert skittering away any-time he can. Crowd’s popping big for the drop-kicks. We go to a rest-hold pretty quick though. Gilbert takes over an offence, and has massive heat from this crowd whenever he poses. An Atomic Drop, haven’t seen one of those in ages.
On commentary they note that Gilbert has a “sugar-mama” which makes him a bad person: “I guess I grow up in an era where if a man was living off of a woman, they only had one name for him, and it was four letters and started with “P””, and that’s a bit of a thinker as well as being remarkably sexist. “As sickening as Jim Cornette living off his mother” is the follow-up, which saves it a bit. Gilbert floors Ware with a thumping clothesline followed by a cradle for a near-fall.
Going to rest-holds after only a short bit of action. Gilbert busting out some flips and dives, missing a crossbody off the second rope. Ware hits his second rope drop-kick for the 1, 2, 3 in under four minutes.
Winner: Koko B. Ware
Verdict: Better than the first match anyway, but just brief bits of action interspersed by rest-holds.
Hot Stuff International beats down Ware in the aftermath, but the victor fights them off with the help of a chair, to a big pop from the crowd. Ware was off to WWF shortly enough, while Gilbert would bounce around a few places, and would be the pre-Heyman booker for Eastern Championship Wrestling.
After another break, it’s on to the Mid-South Tag Team Title picture. Your champs are “Dr Death” Steve Williams and pre-Million Dollar Man gimmick Ted DiBiase. They are, astonishingly, working face right now, and their foes are the amazingly named “Sheepherders”, an anti-American team from New Zealand of all places. They are, of course, the future Bushwhackers. We see an in-ring promo from the Sheepherders, who appear to just be the hillbilly archetype you’ve see variations of everywhere. They needed to turn full-on to comedy to get anywhere. Jim Ross holds up the microphone, 34 years ago, and damn he looks so different. Standard foreigner promo, with the Kiwi team lacking appropriate accents.
Despite the fact that the previous match was billed as the main event, there’s another match starting now.
Ted DiBiase & Dr Death Steve Williams vs Gustavo Mendoza & Sean O’Reilly (non-title)
Mendoza is a Fidel Castro lookalike, I kid you not. I loves me some Million Dollar Man (AHAHAHAHA), so sad to see the guy lacking any character here, he’d get that rub the following year when he moved to WWF. DiBiase throwing O’Reilly around for a bit with a few hip-tosses. Williams in, hard to tell him and DiBiase apart at this point in their careers. Crowd chanting “OU” for Oklahoma University. People hate Fidel Castro, who would have thought?
The Sheepherders show up dressed up in Union Jack shirts, described as “New Zealand flags”. Not quite. In-ring, the champs just keep throwing the jobbers around, and Dr Death ends it with a big body slam that momentarily bends the ring noticeably in the middle, in around two minutes.
Winners: Ted DiBiase & “Dr Death” Steve Williams
Verdict: Just waiting for “MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY”
Sheepherders try to jump the champs in the aftermath but get fought off. They invite the representatives of America’s greatest enemy into the ring for a match, but the villainous New Zealanders take a powder instead.
Back from break, and another match is about to begin.
Ron Ellis vs Korchenko
Eddie Gilbert is back out to introduce fellow Hot Stuff International member Korchenko, who is your standard Soviet behemoth, complete with Soviet flag, this one with fur boots. “Look at the size of those thighs!” proclaims the commentator. Korchenko beats Ron Ellis up for a bit, hits a delay reverse backbreaker for the pin in just over a minute.
Verdict: A heel squash is a nice change of pace.
After the break, it’s another match about to begin.
The Blade Runners (Rock and Sting) vs Steve Doll and Perry Jackson
The Blade Runners, and yes that is the Ultimate Warrior and Sting, are more members of Hot Stuff International, who appear to be Mid-South’s version of Evolution with the way they turn up in every segment. After a brief bit of enhancement talent gusto the Blade Runners take over for an extended beat-down, that seems to bore Bill Watts enough that he starts talking about Dick Slater again. After a few minutes the Blade Runners get the pin off of something like the End of Days. They actually remind me of the Ascension a bit.
Winners: The Blade Runners
Verdict: Man, Mid-South had little faith in going outside the TV Squash formula, huh? Who have liked to have seen a bit more of Warrior and Sting before they were really Warrior and Sting.
A break, and another tag match about to begin.
Dick “Captain Redneck” Murdoch & The Masked Superstar vs Ricky Gibson & Tracey Smothers
We’re down to “television time remaining” for this tag match that had zero build. Gibson is a cousin of the much more famous Robert Gibson in the Rock N Roll Express. Murdoch keeps going for a suplex pin over and over again. Some mat wrestling extends things a bit before the beatdown segment of proceedings takes over. It’s quicker than usual, with the Masked Superstar pinning Smothers off of a clothesline in under two.
Winners: Dick “Captain Redneck” Murdoch & The Masked Superstar
The Watts family promotes a few upcoming shows as the credits roll. Hacksaw Duggan is on next week. I’ll pass.
Best Match: I guess Gilbert/Ware by default, as it was pretty much the only actual match.
Worst Match: Take your pick of the squashes.
Best Wrestler: Koko B. Ware can jump higher than anyone else (and would probably be a bigger deal if the industry wasn’t super racist).
Worst Wrestler: Take your pick of the squashes
Overall Verdict: For a younger fan, it still boggles the mind that the formula for TV back then was squash after squash after squash, with maybe one actual match, but all of them short. This was the norm for so, so long, up until the mid-90’s really. From a few decades in the future, it makes for awful television, but I have to admit that the crowd is happy, so what do I know? Anyway, avoid.
To view more entries in this series, click here to go to the index.