If you are a fan of wrestling in the mid-80s or want to see what was the hype with wrestling during this period, there's are videos which were posted by dzmatty (link provided at the end of the article) in YouTube that I highly recommend.
The videos posted by dzmatty are 2-8 minute clippings of promos and matches aired by Jim Crockett Promotions on their weekly show "World Wide Wrestling."
These videos were dubbed "1984 - A Year of Transition" and reflects what was occurring in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW) during this year.
These videos is what inspired me to write this article and perhaps start a series which depicts the wrestling landscape during a particular year.
I will begin with 1984 because it was indeed a "transition" year, not only for MACW but for most wrestling organizations. My intentions are to bring back some good memories to old fans and describe to the younger fans what was all the hype.
The NWA was the oldest, founded in 1948, which was an organization that seated independent promoters in North America and even other countries.
These men decided who would be the "World Heavyweight Champion" and at this time the "man" was "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
At this time the main regional organizations that were still operating under the NWA banner were Jim Crockett Promotions in the Mid-Atlantic region, Don Owen's Pacific Northwest Wrestling, Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, Eddie Graham's Championship Wrestling of Florida, and Jim Barnett's Georgia Wrestling Federation.
With WWF looking to go national, these promoters were beginning to become nervous that their regions would not be able withstand Vince McMahon's expansion.
Plans were being drawn in 1984 to fight McMahon. If nothing else, this competition brought out the best angles, creativity, and matches.
Some of the notable NWA stars during the year:
- "Boogie Woogie Man" Jimmy Valiant
It's unbelievable the "pop" Valiant received from the fans during his entrances and matches. His year long feud with Paul Jones was one of the main story lines in MASW.
The feud started when his beard was cut by Paul Jones and the team he managed The Assassins. The feud continued to grow when he unmasked Assassin #2 during his Hair v. Mask match who turned out to be Hercules Hernandez.
For those that don't know him, Hercules fought in the WWF managed by Slick, as well as others. His trademark was his chain that he brought to the ring.
During the year, Valiant would receive support from guys like Junkyard Dog, Dusty Rhodes and Pistol Pez Whatley.
This feud would continue heading into 1985 with other men Jones managed like Barbarian and Whatley who turned heel.
- Von Erichs
The year started sadly for the clan when David Von Erich died from an intestinal rupture caused by a stomach ailment in Japan. This occurred during the height of the brothers long feud with the Freebirds. Rumors had it that David was being groom to be the next World Champion.
Needing to regroup, Kerry Von Erich defeated Ric Flair in May at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions card in Texas. The match was selected Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) Match of the Year.
Von Erich also needed to replace David, which they did with Mike Von Erich. Mike went on to win PWI Rookie of The Year.
The feud with the Freebirds continued to be strong heading into 1985 and included other wrestlers like Chris Adams and Iceman Parsons.
- "Nature Boy" Ric Flair
Flair entered the year as the World Champion by defeating Harley Race in a Steel Cage match at the inaugural Starrcade card in November 1983.
As champion, Flair defended his belt all over the world.
First he would lose and win the belt with Race in New Zealand in March. Then he lost the belt to Kerry Von Erich in Texas but won it back 19 days later in Japan.
During the year he would also feud with Tully Blanchard and Wahoo McDaniel, who turned heel. Needing assistance, Flair received help from old buddy Blackjack Mulligan and future foe Dusty Rhodes.
Classic matches were conducted with NWA US Champion Ricky Steamboat, which included a one0hour draw.
Flair finished the year defeating Dusty Rhodes at Starrcade II and won PWI Wrestler of the Year.
The second-oldest organization was the AWA, led by Verne Gagne, which held most of their cards in Minnesota and nearby states, including Illinois.
The AWA entered 1984 needing to bounce back from losing Hulk Hogan and others who left for the WWF.
Unfortunately for Gagne, he was too stubborn and out of touch with the transformation that Pro Wrestling was in the middle of.
No longer did the fans just want to see mat wrestlers who executed headlocks, arm bars, and toe drags.
The fans wanted their wrestlers to act like "rock stars". Being a solid technician was no longer a requirement (e.g. Hulk Hogan) or only trait a wrestler needed to become a mega-star.
Having Hogan leave to become a star may have been a dagger in the AWA's heart, but other decisions Gagne made with the AWA belt during the year may have been the nails of the coffin.
After entering a cross-promotional agreement with Shohei Baba's All Japan Pro Wrestling, Gagne decided to give the belt to Jumbo Tsuruta as a sign of good will. Unfortunately, this only angered the fans more since it was months after screwing Hulk Hogan.
Verne then decided to make Rick Martel his top babyface in order to have him win the belt during a tour of Japan in May. His reception upon returning to the States with the title was lukewarm at best.
Martel would go on to hold the title the remaining year fighting guys like Jim Garvin, Michael Hayes and Sheik's Army.
Some of the notable AWA stars during the year:
- Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk)
Road Warriors entered the organization during the summer and instantly was given a shot at the tag titles, which they won from Crusher and Baron Von Raschke.
Though brought into the AWA to be top heels, the fans cheered the boys from Chicago. There wasn't anything the Warriors could do to become heels.
Their feuds with babyfaces like the Fabulous Ones and Crusher Blackwell did not change the fans opinion.
They dominated the rest of the year and won the PWI Tag Team of the Year Award.
- "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell
After Hogan left, Gagne decided that Blackwell should be his top baby-face. This was one of Gagne's better decisions.
After winning a Battle Royal, Sheik Adnan's Army attacked Blackwell, which created the turn.
For the next three years, Blackwell feuded against the Sheik's men, most notably King Kong (Bruiser) Brody.
Vince J. McMahon broke away from the NWA in 1963 but still respected the territory rules. When Vince K. McMahon bought the WWF from his father, the respect to these rules went out the door.
McMahon had plans to expand nationwide and was not going to be scared of a bunch of dinosaurs who were dominating the sport.
The first order of business was to find a "face" of the organization. Unlike Verne, Vince realize that Bob Backlund style of wrestling was considered "old school" and not what the fans wanted to see anymore.
McMahon wanted Hogan to be the "man" and was able to entice him to return.
Hogan's decision was easy to be made, since Gagne was not going to put the AWA belt around his waist and was short changing Hulk on merchandise sales.
So on Jan. 23, Hogan broke the camel clutch by ramming Iron Sheik in the turnbuckle and dropped the infamous leg drop to win his first WWF World Title.
The next step was to expand the product on cable. During the summer, McMahon was able to buy the Briscoe Brothers and Jim Barnett shares of Georgia Wrestling. This acquisition led to McMahon gaining the rights to the TBS 6:05 time slot on Saturday.
This time slot was for years prime time for wrestling shows. This move did not sit well with the fans who decided to boycott and not watch WWF on TBS. The rights to the time slot was sold to Jim Crockett for $1 million.
Even though the acquisition did not accomplish what McMahon was trying to do, it did accomplish one thing. The WWF and McMahon were major players in wrestling and the rest of the owner's fears heading into the year were reality.
The promoters would have to work together and become more efficient if they were going to compete against the WWF.
That's exactly what happened. Pro Wrestling USA (Jim Crockett Promotions, AWA, Mid-South Wrestling, Pacific Northwest Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, and the Continental Wrestling Association) was formed to combat the growing WWF expansion.
Pro Wrestling USA headed into 1985 full steam ahead, with top talent on its roster and capital to spend. It also included many egos.
These events led to the change in wrestling that we will continue to relive heading into 1985 and the changing of the wrestling landscape.
Some of the notable WWF stars during the year:
- Andre The Giant
During the early 80s, Andre feuded with Big John Studd. This feud reached new heights in December when Studd and Ken Patera knocked out Andre during a televised tag team match and cut Andre's hair.
I remember being amazed to what happened discussing this with my childhood buddy as we visited his grandmother. Just couldn't believe what I witnessed that Saturday on my television.
- Roddy Piper
Piper's Pit was a terrific way to promote matches, begin feuds, and entertain the fans. Piper was fine wrestler who was respected by knowledgeable fans due to his past experience in the NWA.
He was also a heel who the fans liked.
Who can forget his funny interviews with Tony Atlas, jobber Frank Williams, and the coconut incident with Jimmy Snuka?
We will continue next time with 1985 and talk about the expansion of super cards, Jim Crockett Promotions, and the transition year for Bill Watts Mid-South Wrestling as it plans to go national.
This article was written with the help of the following references: