WCCW FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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So what's your background and how did you guys become WCCW fans, anyway?
John Dananay happened to discover World Class at a most fortuitous time:
My first memory of watching professional wrestling had to be in 1983...I think, as World Class just started in syndication in the Chicagoland area. Nord the Norwegian, being older than dirt, began following the promotion much earlier:
What I do remember vividly was the first match I saw,the historic Ric Flair vs. Kerry Von Erich steel cage match, with Freebird Michael Hayes refereeing...the very same match that started the legendary Von Erich-Freebird war.
After watching that first match, I was instantly hooked. Professional wrestling, as I would soon realize, had a vast amount of interesting personas, and nowhere was that more true than World Class Championship Wrestling. You had the noble Von Erichs, who were tough as nails and had women fawning all over them, and at the end of the day, usually defeated the villains and rode off into the sunset as heroes. While I was a huge fan of all the Von Erichs, as Willie Nelson once sang, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys". David Von Erich was my favorite -- not only Von Erich, but wrestler in ANY promotion. I shudder to think how professional wrestling would be today, if David was not taken so soon in his prime on that February day in 1984. He was hot on the heels of becoming the NWA World Champion; he also had a tremendous mind for the professional wrestling business, a likely heir to the WCCW promotion operated and owned by his father Fritz; but most importantly to me then, he just kicked ass (sorry Mom)!
After David's death, WCCW managed to have a few more outstanding years, as Kevin and Kerry continued the Von Erich legacy.
I not only admired World Class' heroes, I always LOVED their heels. The Freebirds, who were the forerunners to the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin character some 14 years prior to the fact, were good ol' Southern boys who loved to drink and get rowdy, strutting to the ring often accompanied by awesome rock music (Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" or Michael Hayes' own "Badstreet U.S.A."). They knew how to get under the fans' skin, and most of us, if we were being honest, loved them for it!
WCCW also had such great heels as "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin, who would not only strut in and out of the ring, but would tell anyone who listened that "it's not my fault" for being the most talented and best looking wrestler in the industry...facts that were hard to argue with, as he always seemed to have a title around his waist and a gorgeous blonde bombshell (Sunshine and later Precious) on his arm. Man, was he cool or what?
I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most underrated tag teams of the 1980s, "The Dynamic Duo" -- "Gentleman" Chris Adams and "The Handsome Halfbreed" Gino Hernandez. Adams, the turncoat, had so many intense matches with former friend Kevin Von Erich, and even though many of us today have been "smartened up' to a lot of the workings of professional wrestling, just watch the old Adams-Kevin matches, and tell me those guys were not really pounding on each other!
Hernandez has always been number two, behind David Von Erich, as my favorite professional wrestler of all time. He was cocky, good-looking, as charismatic as they came, and like the Freebirds, who could make the crowd hate them so much, fans seemingly "loved to hate him".
The October 1985 Cotton Bowl hair versus hair match the Duo had with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich is as every bit as much a part of WCCW folklore as the Christmas night cage match between Flair and Kerry three years earlier. Unfortunately, it would also be one of World Class' last hurrahs.
As the years went on, it seemed like we lost former World Class alumni on a semi-regular basis. Whether it was the Von Erich tragedies, the murder of Bruiser Brody, the unexpected loss of Rick Rude, or the senseless murder of Chris Adams, many fans have grown to wonder if professional wrestling's version of Camelot might have suffered the very same curse brought upon another American institution, the Kennedys.
Regardless, for most WCCW fans (myself included), the good times tend to outweigh the bad when it comes to the history of World Class Championship Wrestling -- having the luxury of being able to treasure our memories whenever we feel we want to (via our own personal video collection). So today, we can smile easier when we see a 61-year-old professional wrestling "god" drop his pants on television for one of his employees to kiss his bare butt, that our love for professional wrestling is not totally dead.
The first time I can remember seeing wrestling on Channel 11 in glorious black-and-white was when I was maybe eight or nine. A kid who lived around the corner had invited me over to check it out one Saturday night -- I think Killer Karl Kox was in the first match I saw. Anyway, this kid absolutely IDOLIZED Johnny Valentine -- he was always doing elbowdrops on his younger brother. He got me somewhat interested, but I wasn't totally hooked until one night in 1970 when I heard ring announcer Boyd Pierce, in the middle of a midcard match, get on the house mic and announce, "Will a policeman come to the dressing room, please?" A minute or two later, Bob Orton Sr. and his former manager Lord Charles Montague, who had recently broken up resulting in a face turn for Orton, were brought to the ring early for their main event grudge match because, as KTVT announcer Dan Coates explained it, they had been brawling in the locker room and "there may not BE a main event if we don't get them out here RIGHT NOW!" (If this angle sounds familiar, it's because it was used again for a memorable Terry Gordy-Killer Khan war some fourteen years later. Despite what promoters may think, some wrestling fans do have long memories.) Pretty tame stuff by today's standards, but to this impressionable kid, it truly seemed as though things were careening madly out of control, right there on the tube.
Eventually, I started begging my folks to take me to the Sportatorium (which wasn't in the best of shape even then!), where I saw Fritz Von Erich's epic battles with Toru Tanaka, Stan Stasiak and other legends throughout the early '70s. Toward the end of the decade, I admittedly wasn't following the sport as much -- yes, friends, I was watching the original Saturday Night Live. (Hey, we're talking "the Beatles of comedy" here!) I guess it was a good thing for me, though, that the Coneheads and Roseanne Roseannadanna eventually disappeared from the airwaves and SNL began to suck, because I got to witness the beginning of a new era in wrestling a couple of years later.
Unlike a lot of fans, I stuck with the promotion even when things became almost too depressing for words, and was left with a sad, empty feeling the night in 1990 when I turned on the set to watch Championship Sports, only to find that the show was suddenly no more and its timeslot was being filled with infomercials. No on-air goodbye to longtime fans, no nothing -- that was it.
But with the passage of time, and as the sport strays farther and farther from its roots, it seems there's a bit of a resurgence of interest in this promotion which broke so much new ground, only to have others steal its best ideas and leave it in the dust. In many ways, WCCW is where the modern era of American professional wrestling began, and I'm proud to be able to help give its fans a way to relive an incredibly exciting time.
What can we expect from this site?
The best way to describe the kind of website we've tried to put together is "honest but fair." It's not a total fan worship site, though you will find some fan-oriented features here. We don't believe every story that has appeared in a dirtsheet is necessarily true, but we don't totally buy into the mythology that's surrounded the promotion over the years, either. In short, what we're hoping to be is sort of a missing link (no pun intended) between the two extremes.
This is as good a place as any to address the subject of drug use by some of the promotion's stars (including, but not limited to, the Von Erichs). We're aware that there are some who prefer to simply remember the happy times, which is somewhat understandable considering the emotional pain experienced by many fans who watched tragedy after tragedy unfold. The drug issue, though, is the proverbial eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room: without dealing with it, you simply can't have an honest discussion, or a full understanding, of why things went down in WCCW the way they did. That being said, we feel the topic can be discussed in a mature and sensitive manner, without the gossip-mongering and self-righteous bashing which occurs on many other websites; therefore, those incidents which are known to be true are addressed here accordingly.
However, while we don't aim to ignore or trivialize the many tragedies that occurred in World Class, we also don't dwell on them to excess; World Class Memories unabashedly applauds the promotion's numerous innovations and accomplishments, and celebrates the fact that -- for a few years at least -- these guys gave us one helluva ride.
What is meant by the terms "kayfabe", "booker", etc.?
This site is written under the assumption that the reader has at least a basic familiarity with pro wrestling's insider terminology, which is now commonly used on websites dedicated to the sport. If not, you can find glossaries at a number of these sites (and also at Wikipedia, which has a fairly exhaustive list).
Why isn't (insert name of deceased wrestler here) included on the In Memoriam page?
This is definitely not intended as a slight toward the many legendary wrestlers who worked in Dallas/Fort Worth prior to 1982. While we do delve into the Big Time Wrestling era in some areas of the site, we've elected to keep the primary focus on the WCCW/USWA period (1982-1990) because of its special place in pro wrestling history, and in the hearts of its fans. And, because a virtual Who's Who of pro wrestling appeared in the Dallas territory at one time or another, a full list of every deceased worker from all 25+ years of the promotion's existence would be an enormous one indeed. (For those wondering if their favorite pre-WCCW star is still among the living, Wrestling Title Histories co-author Gary Will maintains what is undoubtedly a definitive listing of deceased pro wrestlers.)
What's the deal with the name "Nord the Norwegian"?
Okay...for those who don't know, the nom de website of one of the guys who runs WCM comes from an infamous blooper committed by Bill Mercer on a 1987 WCCW syndicated telecast. Mercer erroneously referred to Nord the Barbarian by that name, stating that he hailed from "Norwegia". One of the Apter magazines mentioned this a short time later,
facetiously suggesting that Bill might have been overworked and in need of a vacation. Thanks to the internet, Mercer's malapropism has since become the stuff of legend and is frequently
quoted and joked about on message boards.
It's come to our attention that at least one former World Class worker, who remains a close friend of Mercer today and will remain nameless here for now, feels that Bill doesn't deserve to continually be "demeaned" by fans who persist in poking fun at him for this mistake. For that reason, we want to make it clear that using the name has never been intended as anything other than a good-natured rib on our part. The fact is, we at WCM have an enormous amount of respect for Bill Mercer; his career in broadcast journalism has been a long and distinguished one, and his presence in WCCW brought the promotion a great deal of class and credibility.
For what it's worth, Nord the Norwegian, upon learning of this, offered to change his online pseudonym but was assured that this would not be necessary, as the individual who had expressed these sentiments does not own a computer or use the internet, and therefore was not familiar with WCM or aware of our use of the name. Nonetheless, your esteemed webmaster remains fully prepared to switch to his alternate choice of screen name, "The Intelligent Sensational Enhancement Guy", should the need for such a change ever arise. :)
Hey! You guys are wrong about (insert incorrect information from this website here)!
That's entirely possible. While we're strong believers in getting things right, that doesn't necessarily mean we have gotten everything right -- there's always a chance that new info may come to light, or that we may have simply screwed up somewhere. So if there's something we need to correct (please be sure it's factual and not based on hearsay), by all means, feel free to shoot us an email and take us to task for it.
Do you have a banner ad that I can use to link to WCM on my website?
You bet! Just save one of these to your hard drive, upload it to your site (no hotlinking, please!) and link it to our splash page:
What's the story on how Fritz Von Erich turned from hated "Nazi" heel to beloved babyface?
Storyline-wise, the turn was the result of a feud between heel teams and stemmed from a braggadocious Gary Hart interview on KTVT's Main Event Wrestling circa December 1966. Hart, who had recently debuted in the D/FW area as manager of former Fabulous Kangaroos member Al Costello and another Nazi villain, Karl Von Brauner, boasted to announcer Dan Coates that not only could Fritz never hope to be as good as Von Brauner but, in fact, he wasn't even a real German: in reality, he was Jack Adkisson, who had once played football for Southern Methodist University! Naturally, Fritz took offense, and the feud pitting him and "brother" Waldo Von Erich against Hart's duo was on.
Gary's disclosure that Adkisson was a native Texan ensured that D/FW area fans would root for the formerly despised Von Erichs, despite the fact that they were still feuding with babyfaces such as Bearcat Wright and Joe Blanchard when the angle began. Wright, however, was soon aligned with Fritz and Waldo against the Hart stable, and during one encounter between the two teams, was handcuffed to Gary at ringside. This relatively brief storyline ended with a match on March 7, 1967 which stipulated that Hart and his men had to leave Texas if they lost to the Von Erichs, which they indeed did.
Dr. Jeff Cunningham, posting at Old School Wrestling, explains the real-life reasons for the turn:
[Fritz's] wife was upset that he was working a heel in his own hometown and was apparently worried about mentally deranged fans. Also, his boys were catching heat at school and were constantly having to fight over dad's heel work. I am not sure whether Fritz ever did turn in other territories, but he did so in Dallas to keep peace at home and make it easier on his kids. It had, regardless of common myth, NOTHING to do with his anticipation that his boys would be working babyface in Dallas when they grew up.Although Al Costello and Karl Von Brauner would not return to the Lone Star State, Gary Hart did later in 1967, this time managing the masked Spoiler in a memorable claw vs. claw feud with Fritz. The Von Erich-Hart rivalry -- which would eventually involve Fritz's sons as well as many of the greatest heels in the sport -- became one of the defining angles of Big Time and World Class Wrestling, continuing off and on for the next two decades.
What were the dates of the Von Erichs' first matches? Who were their opponents?
Kevin debuted in Dallas on 8/10/76 against Paul Perschmann, who later became better known as Playboy Buddy Rose.
According to the Sportatorium program of 6/14/77, David "won his first pro bout on a special card in Fairfield, Texas last Saturday!", which would have been June 11. The article does not mention who he faced, but David's profile at wrestling-titles.com lists his debut opponent as "George McCory" (actually McQuary). The 6/28/77 program, for the card at which David made his Sportatorium debut (also against Perschmann), states: "In a recent Ft. Worth match, David defeated [Gary] Hart who had boasted that he would 'give the punk a wrestling lesson'". The date for this match would have been either June 13 or 20.
The earliest result we've been able to find for Kerry is a 7/31/78 DQ loss to Gary Hart at the Sportatorium. We've seen posts on message boards suggesting that he might have wrestled as early as May of that year, however.
Mike's "official" debut was against Skandor Akbar at Thanksgiving Star Wars on 11/24/83, although there were reports that he may have faced Buddy Roberts at a spot show one or two nights earlier.
Chris Von Erich participated in occasional angles starting in 1985, when he tackled Gino Hernandez at ringside following the Von Erichs-Dynamic Duo hair vs. hair bout. His first actual match, however, was against Percy Pringle on 6/22/90.
Did David Von Erich really die of a drug overdose?
Since his death in February 1984, members of David's family have maintained that he suffered from "flu-like symptoms" for a number of weeks prior to his ill-fated trip to Japan. They state that David died as a result of that illness, citing a coroner's verdict of acute enteritis -- which was also reported in the mainstream news media at the time -- as the cause of death.
However, a report published later in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer newsletter stated that, after finding David's body, Bruiser Brody (who was wrestling on the same All-Japan tour that David had been scheduled to participate in) discovered pills in the hotel room and flushed them down the toilet before the police arrived. Larry Matysik, former St. Louis wrestling announcer and assistant to promoter Sam Muchnick, tells in his book Wrestling at the Chase of his phone conversation with Brody shortly afterward:
A shaken, tearful Brody called me from Tokyo and said, "I don't want to believe it. He had so much to live for. This had to be an accident."...Brody is also, sadly, gone now, so I can relate what he told me. It doesn't change anything. Terrible accident or horrible tragedy, either way, David Von Erich was dead. Considering the controversy that persists to this day, one is tempted to say that Brody may have inadvertently wound up causing the very thing he did not want to have happen. However, he could not have known the impact that the Internet -- where information known only to the relative few who read Meltzer's newsletter in 1984 became readily available to the general public a decade or so later -- would eventually have on the wrestling industry.
Brody found a bottle of painkillers and a few remaining pills in the bathroom. Having himself been trained by Fritz, and also being a close friend of David's, he made a snap decision. Later, he told me there was no reason for the media and the business to cause further agony for the family or to David's memory. He flushed the pills down the toilet and tossed away the bottle.
At least part of this controversy -- specifically, the quickness of some fans to come to David's defense whenever the possibility of an overdose is mentioned -- may stem from the fact that many people tend to associate the phrase "drug overdose" with recreational drug use, which no responsible individual has ever suggested played any role in David's death. However, stating that painkillers may have been involved does not disrespect his memory; taking prescription medication to numb the aches and pains from night after night of physical punishment is, quite simply, an everyday fact of life for anyone who has been a pro wrestler for any length of time.
Although there is no hard evidence to indicate the true cause of David Von Erich's death, some fragments of information have surfaced over the years; according to Meltzer in the July 24, 2006 Wrestling Observer, David ate a large steak and drank a considerable amount of beer at Tokyo's famous Ribera Steakhouse (a popular hangout for pro wrestlers) before returning to his hotel room. Wrestler Gerry Morrow, who was also on the tour and was with Brody and referee Joe Higuchi when they forced their way into David's room, has stated that most of the pill bottles found there were "close to full", according to Matt Farmer in a post at Old School Wrestling. And former WCCW referee David Manning, while insisting in Heroes of World Class that Von Erich died of heart failure caused by internal bleeding from an intestinal rupture (as stated in the autopsy) , nonetheless states that he is certain that David had taken some painkillers that night.
In the end, Dr. Jeff Cunningham, in the same discussion of David's tragic death at Old School Wrestling, may have come closest to the truth:
It takes only a VERY few pills to kill you if you mix it with hard liquor. It only takes a little bit of hard liquor to kill you if you have a few too many pills. We do not even know what kind of pills were involved here. Not one person has ever mentioned the name of the drug. Regardless, with gastroenteritis, it takes very little booze or pill activity to cause a person to go down pretty quickly. It was a deadly mixture of something that nobody will ever know about.
Was David Von Erich promised an NWA title reign?
No one can say for sure that such a promise was ever made by the National Wrestling Alliance, but many within the industry feel it was inevitable that David, had he lived, would have one day worn the "ten pounds of gold".
Ric Flair, in his autobiography To Be the Man, commented: "...David would have been an NWA champion and could have carried it." And evidence does suggest that David was being groomed for such a reign; former WCCW announcer Steve Harms has recalled (on the Kayfabe Memories message board) viewing the famous May 27, 1979 episode of the St. Louis program Wrestling at the Chase, in which David defeated then-champ Harley Race with the Iron Claw:
During the match David puts the claw on Harley's face and the blood flows. I dont remember if it was outside the ring so there was a double countout or it was a non-title match [NOTE: it was actually a non-title handicap match, with Race taking on both David and Fritz], but David beat him without winning the belt----on TV in the NWA home territory of St. Louis. I saw the tape in Gary Hart's office at the Sportatorium and remember Gary saying "This is how it starts for Dave."
Posting under the name "spartan" in an older thread on the KM boards, Steve also remembered:
...sitting in Fritz's office in the old Sportatorium when he showed me a video tape of a match between David and Harley Race from the St Louis TV show. It was a match in which they let David put the iron claw on Harley's face and the champion juiced. RIGHT THERE ON TV FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. I remember Fritz saying very quietly, (Fritz hardly ever said anything quietly) ..."this is the first step to put the strap on Dave.....can you imagine the champion doing the job on TV for my kid. I will never forget Harley doing this." If that's not an exact quote, it is very close. How long David would have held the belt.....I have no idea. But I do know this......Fritz's grand plan for David was to have a run with the belt and and then come back and run the Dallas office for Fritz. Fritz knew that David was the only son that could handle the business side of the promotion. Anyone who knew David would agree.
Some fans who believe David may have been in line for a title run in 1984 point to the stipulation in the Mike Von Erich-Ric Flair non-title match on January 30 of that year: that David would receive a title shot later in the year if Mike could stay ten full minutes with Flair (which he, of course, did). Further speculation has it that Kerry's title win at Texas Stadium was originally intended for David, based on Kerry's itinerary during his brief reign: with only three exceptions, all of his title defenses outside the state of Texas took place in Florida -- where David had made a name for himself as a heel a few years earlier.
There is one fact, little-known to many fans to this day, which could actually have put a damper on any long-term World title reign for David: he was a member of the NWA Board of Directors at the time of his death. Although there was apparently little problem with active wrestlers serving on the board -- Ole Anderson, Victor Jovica, Mike Graham, Dory Funk Jr. and Shohei "Giant" Baba were all still wrestling at the time as well -- anything more than a brief title run for David during this period would arguably have been another matter altogether, and could have run into strong opposition from at least some members of the Alliance (in particular, Jim Crockett Jr., who was then looking to expand nationally with Flair as his champion and was beginning to tighten his grip on the title), as this would have given Fritz and WCCW far too much power for their liking.
At any rate, although Fritz is known to have lobbied heavily for it behind the scenes, there is no proof that the NWA had any definite plan to put the belt on David. So, now that you've read this, we recommend that you refrain from asking this incredibly persistent question on pro wrestling message boards. The moderators will thank you for it. :)
Ric Flair, in his book To Be the Man, describes a match with Kerry Von Erich in which Kerry was so heavily drugged that Flair had to carry him for a full hour. How much truth is there to this story?
The chapter of Ric's book which deals with World Class has been highly controversial among, and hotly debated by, fans of Kerry and WCCW. Sadly, the story of this bout, which took place on January 7, 1985 in Fort Worth, is all too true. According to Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer in a thread at Wrestling Classics, Kerry had been emotionally distraught because his dog had died earlier that day; he could not be located at match time until someone finally found him passed out in his car. When Kerry was brought to the ring for his match with Flair after a considerable delay, the one-hour draw that followed was such a disaster that, in one of the few taped inserts not related to the death of a wrestler, Marc Lowrance appeared from the KTVT studios to assure Championship Sports viewers that Kerry's condition the previous Monday evening had been due to a "106-degree fever" and that he had "left the hospital" to fulfill his obligation to wrestle for the title. (Only the opening minutes of the match aired on the show before TV time ran out, but what little footage did air made it quite obvious that Kerry was not in any shape to go through with the bout.)
Ordinarily, a short match ending with the champion deliberately getting himself disqualified might have saved the day in such a predicament, but it wasn't an option here: because Ric had hung onto the belt via DQ in their Christmas Star Wars '84 encounter at Reunion Arena two weeks earlier, the Fort Worth bout carried the stipulation that the title could change hands on a disqualification. Since a quick win for the Nature Boy was also out of the question for obvious reasons, and any kind of rushed, indecisive finish would have been costly to everyone involved in terms of credibility, Flair had no other choice but to attempt to work with the severely impaired Kerry for the entire hour.
This was, unfortunately, not the only widely seen drug-related incident involving Kerry during WCCW's heyday. Another was a
January 1983 studio interview on WCCW's syndicated TV show in which he commented on the then-recent Christmas Star Wars footage of Terry Gordy slamming the cage door on his head. Astoundingly, this segment was allowed to air (in syndication, on ESPN's Legends of WCCW several years later,
and even on WWE 24/7 recently) even though Kerry was clearly under the influence, glassy-eyed and slurring his words.
Some lesser-known incidents, in which Kerry tried to wrestle despite being in no condition to do so, have also been discussed from time to time on various message boards by fans who witnessed them. Again, as stated above, our intent here is not to sensationalize or condemn, but merely to confirm that these events did happen.
Was Kerry Von Erich really scheduled to compete in the discus as a member of the U.S. Summer Olympic team in 1980? Did he decide to become a pro wrestler after President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would boycott the Games that year?
We'll answer the second question first: no. A quick look in our results section will reveal that Kerry was wrestling on at least a part-time basis as early as the summer of 1978, and appeared on a few more cards toward the end of that year. He was wrestling full-time by June 1979 at the latest.
The answer to the first question -- although the story was often told on WCCW's TV shows, and some longtime fans believe it to be true to this day -- is also "no." Kerry did not compete on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team; the three U.S. athletes who qualified in the discus that year were Maurice "Mac" Wilkins, Ben Plucknett and John Powell.
Please bear in mind that embellishment of wrestlers' alleged athletic achievements away from the ring was in fact quite common during the kayfabe era, so no disrespect or criticism is intended toward anyone here. That said, such claims can be disproved all too easily nowadays with the click of a mouse button.
What happened in the match where Kerry Von Erich lost his prosthetic foot? Is there video of it?
In the infamous 11/12/88 match at the Showboat Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas, Colonel DeBeers, while attempting to drag Kerry out of the ring, unwittingly pulled off his boot to reveal an empty sock. Kerry rolled out, put his leg under the ring apron, reattached the device and went on to win the bout.
The AWA card at which the incident occurred was a house show, meaning that there were no TV cameras present. So, unless someone managed to sneak one of those big, clunky 1980s VHS camcorders into the building and has been sitting on the footage for nearly two decades (which, uh, doesn't seem very likely), the answer to the second question is no.
Terry Funk, in his book More Than Just Hardcore, mentions that he tried to get Kerry Von Erich a part in Rocky IV, for which Kerry unsuccessfully auditioned. True?
Yes. In fact, both Kerry and Kevin auditioned for the role of Rocky Balboa's (Sylvester Stallone) opponent Ivan Drago, which was ultimately played in the film by Dolph Lundgren.
For info on movies in which Kevin and Kerry (and other WCCW alumni) did appear, see the WCM Page of Lists.
Is it true that Kerry Von Erich once wrestled in ECW?
Yes. Shortly before his death, Kerry worked one match against Salvatore Bellomo for the promotion (then owned by Tod Gordon and known as Eastern Championship Wrestling) at the Radisson Hotel in Philadelphia; depending on which version of the show's results you're reading, either Kerry won, or the bout went to a double DQ. The 1/23/93 card was the last show, or one of the last shows, that the group ran before making ECW Arena (formerly Viking Hall, now the New Alhambra Arena) its permanent home base.
Despite published claims to the contrary, this was not the last match Kerry worked before his suicide; that would have been a GWF tag bout at the Sportatorium on 2/12/93, which Kerry and Chris Adams lost via DQ to Johnny Mantell and Black Bart.
Was the idea of a brother vs. brother angle involving the Von Erichs ever considered? Did any of the brothers ever wrestle each other in a match?
According to referee James Beard and others, an angle pitting Kevin and Kerry against one another was indeed proposed during the USWA era. The idea got as far as being hinted at on-air by Marc Lowrance during an interview with Kerry (who basically laughed it off), but was ultimately scrapped, reportedly because Kevin felt uncomfortable with the angle; it's quite possible that Fritz may have objected strongly to it as well.
Kevin and Kerry, however, are known to have wrestled each other on at least two occasions, one of them being a workout match in Fort Worth as part of the buildup for Kerry's classic 8/15/82 World title match with Ric Flair at Reunion Arena (Flair's workout opponent that evening was Brian Adias). The other, mentioned by Kevin in his RF Video shoot interview, took place on the advice of Fritz after their scheduled opponents, the Freebirds, no-showed a sold-out card in Abilene, TX.
Besides Waldo and Lance, have there been any other "Von Erichs" who weren't members of the Adkisson family?
Quite a few, actually...though not all of them have been wrestlers, and most have used the name without permission. To our knowledge, the only non-Adkisson family member who
has done so with Kevin's blessing is Jaret Reddick, lead singer for the Denton-based band
Bowling for Soup, who has sometimes been credited on the band's
CDs as Jaret Von Erich.
Texas indy wrestler Rick Lerebeus (formerly Marc Valiant in the GWF), who briefly ran the Christian-oriented Acts Wrestling Alliance indy group, has used the name
Mark Von Erich and falsely claimed to be an Adkisson relative for a number of years, despite having reportedly been sent at least one cease-and-desist letter by Kevin.
More recently, a mixed martial arts fighter and trainer hailing from
Mesquite, Ralph Murillo Calvillo -- who is also a
convicted sex offender, although he
claims to have been falsely convicted -- has been billed as
Layn Von Erich, "member of [the] famous pro wrestling family". Calvillo apparently did
contact the family seeking permission, but was referred to the
legal department of WWE (who now apparently owns the trademark on the
Von Erich name) by Kevin's son-in-law, Joey Nikolas. In another obviously unauthorized use of the name, the San Francisco-based Incredibly Strange Wrestling promotion once booked a typically crass parody character named Karen Von Erich, a suicidal "illegitimate sister" who did not want to be a wrestler.
(This, however, would have arguably been legally permissible, as
satire is considered to be protected free speech under U.S. law.)
Speaking of crassness, we may as well mention the now-defunct (although their website is still up at this writing) Lowell, Massachusetts punk band known as -- *sigh* -- The Dead Von Erichs. Another band that's recently come to our attention is The Von Erich Suicide Mission, whose members include Devin, Jerry and Larry Von Erich. Had enough yet?
Finally, in the mid-'60s, legendary promoter Jack Pfefer, who was notorious for (among other things) using wrestlers with knock-off names such as Ted Blassie, Bruno San Martino, etc. and passing them off as the genuine article, employed a pair of workers by the names of Schlitz and Naldo Von Eric. History does not record who played the roles.
What was The Von Erichs: A Family Album?
The 1987 book by Kirk Dooley (subtitled Tragedies and Triumphs of America's First Family of Wrestling), now highly collectible, was a brief (approximately 125 pages) telling of the family's story up to that point, concluding with Kerry's motorcycle crash and Mike's suicide. It was illustrated, as the title suggests, with a number of the family's personal photographs, and was heavily advertised on WCCW telecasts in 1987-88; a portion of the commercial can be seen in Heroes of World Class.
If you're looking to acquire a copy, be forewarned that you may have to cough up a hefty chunk of change to do so, although prices can vary widely depending on seller and condition. Some Amazon Marketplace Sellers were offering damaged copies for as low as $15.00 as of October 2006, while those in very good or better condition were priced at $50.00 or higher. Copies with "only very minor wear" were going for closer to $200.
You say you'd like to read the book but aren't interested in purchasing it? From WorldCat, here's a listing of U.S. public libraries that have copies on their shelves (not surprisingly, many of them are located in Texas). Be advised, however, that some of the more battered copies being sold at Amazon are "ex-library", so WorldCat's listing may be out of date!
Can you tell me when some wrestlers other than the Von Erichs debuted in Dallas-Fort Worth?
Sure. Although the available results for Big Time/World Class Wrestling are far from complete, here are a few debut dates we've been able to nail down, or at least get very close:
Chris Adams: 4/15/83, Dallas (beat Roberto Renesto and The Mongol in separate matches)
Skandor Akbar: 11/15/66, Dallas (beat Darrell Cochran)
Steve Austin: 9/30/89, Dallas (pro wrestling debut as Steve Williams; beat Frogman LeBlanc)
Bruiser Brody: 4/29/74, Fort Worth (pro wrestling debut as Frank Goodish; lost to Bob Roop)
Eric Embry: 3/9/87, Fort Worth (beat Skip Young)
The Great Kabuki: 1/11/81, Dallas (beat Don Diamond)
Gary Hart: 11/1/66, Dallas (beat Ox Baker)
Michael Hayes: 10/11/82, Fort Worth (beat Frank Dusek)
Gino Hernandez: 8/18/75, Fort Worth (lost to El Gran Markus)
Jose Lothario: 1/27/69, Fort Worth (beat Swede Karlson)
Bronko Lubich: We've not yet been able to track down the date of Bronko's D/FW debut, but we can say with certainty that he was working in the area at least as early as 1961, based on this vintage program (courtesy of Dave Miller).
Ken Mantell: 12/1/70, Dallas (as Ken Lusk; beat Lord Charles Montague)
Iceman King Parsons: 3/30/80, Fort Worth (teamed with Rick Oliver, lost to Mr. Hito & Mr. Sakurada)
Buddy Roberts: 3/20/78, Fort Worth (as Dale Valentine; beat Pat O'Connor)
The Spoiler (Don Jardine): 8/7/67, Fort Worth (beat Chris Hardy)
Did the Freebirds ever wrestle the Von Erichs elsewhere prior to their feud in World Class?
Kevin did wrestle Terry Gordy in the old Georgia territory during September of 1981. This took place after the famous breakup of the Freebirds, in which Gordy and Buddy Roberts turned on Michael Hayes. Roberts soon left the area, while Gordy began teaming with Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (the pair went on to capture the National Tag Team titles from Ted DiBiase and Steve O shortly afterward). Hayes, now a babyface, formed a short-lived partnership with Kevin, and the two teams faced each other in a match won by Gordy and Snuka at the Omni in Atlanta on September 12. Kevin left the territory to return to WCCW at the end of September, with the kayfabe explanation on Georgia TV that he had suffered an injury at the hands of Gordy and Snuka.
Hayes and Gordy would eventually reconcile in March of 1982, not long after Gordy saved Hayes from a brutal beating at the hands of Jos LeDuc and the Sheepherders in Dothan, AL. A few weeks later, Kevin Sullivan, Hayes' scheduled partner for a televised match on WTBS against Buzz Sawyer and Super Destroyer (Scott Irwin), no-showed; when Sawyer and Irwin demanded Hayes find a substitute, Hayes thrilled the fans in the studio by bringing out Gordy, and the reunited 'Birds proceeded to clear the ring. They would, of course, move on to World Class later in the year.
What was the story behind the murder of Bruiser Brody?
Thanks to Emerson Murray's excellent biography of Brody, we now know that World Wrestling Council co-owner/booker Jose Gonzales' horrific act was, from all appearances, the result of a twelve-year grudge that, for unknown reasons, ultimately came to a head in a Bayamon, Puerto Rico locker room. Gonzales' anger toward Brody, according to Tony Atlas, stemmed from a match that took place when both men worked for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE). In this bout at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum (Graham Cawthon's
History of WWE site lists the date as July 24, 1976), Atlas says Brody gave then-midcard worker Gonzales a furious and relentless beating, allowing him no offense whatsoever, and "almost tore his lip off." Atlas and S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones, upon finding a battered, bloody and enraged Gonzales yelling out his open car window and driving in circles around the Coliseum parking lot later that night, urged him to get medical attention.
In the book, Atlas chillingly recalls Gonzales' words as he was being driven to the hospital: "One day, I'm going to kill that son of a bitch."
Exactly what led Gonzales to finally carry out that vow in Bayamon remains a mystery; although there had been some disputes between the two regarding finishes, Brody had worked with him in Puerto Rico on numerous occasions in the 1980s without any serious incident. But, although the killing was in no way justified by what took place a dozen years before, or by any disagreement he may have had with Brody in later years, Atlas' recollection does go a long way toward explaining Jose Gonzales' frame of mind on the tragic evening of July 16, 1988.
Why did Sunshine disappear from WCCW for several months in 1984?
As with many other rumors regarding former WCCW stars, there are multiple stories from individuals who purport to have the inside scoop on Valerie "Sunshine" French's absence from May to October of that year. One of them, published by Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer, is that she suffered a nervous breakdown. Another story, posted by several people on various message boards (including at least one who claims to have heard it directly from Jimmy Garvin), is that she entered drug and/or alcohol rehab.
Frankly, we don't know if either of these stories is true, and will not engage in speculation. We will only say that if Ms. French did go through a personal ordeal of any kind during that period, then she clearly came out of it none the worse for wear and is living quite happily today with her husband and daughter (and that word does come directly from Jimmy Garvin)...and that's all that really matters, isn't it?
GIMMICKS, ANGLES AND STORYLINES
I started watching WCCW too late to see the buildup to the Freebirds' heel turn. Can you recap it for me?
Although they probably weren't planning to go in that direction at the time (as Michael Hayes would not debut in World Class for another two months), the buildup really began with the Kerry Von Erich-Ric Flair match on 8/15/82 at Reunion Arena, in which Kerry apparently won in two straight falls but was denied the belt due to a reversed decision by "special NWA referee" Alfred Neely, and the final fall ended in a double DQ. Because Kerry would require legit knee surgery a few weeks later, an angle was booked in which his knee was injured in an attack by the Great Kabuki.
With Kerry sidelined, the next shots at Flair's belt would go to David (10/11/82, with David flying into a rage and getting himself disqualified after Flair attacked and put the figure four leglock on Kerry, who had come to ringside on crutches to cheer David on) and Kevin (in November, ending in another double DQ). Flair then made it known that since all three Von Erich brothers had been given title shots and had come up short, he would be giving none of them any further chances at the belt. But shortly after this pronouncement, Fritz Von Erich confronted Gary Hart on TV with a copy of a cashier's check from Flair for $12,500, made out to Hart for "services rendered" -- payment for the attack on Kerry by Hart's man Kabuki. When Hart denied the charge, Fritz revealed that the evidence had been presented to him by King Kong Bundy, who had recently split with Hart (and would soon join the stable of the incoming General Skandor Akbar). Fritz stated that the NWA, upon reviewing this evidence, decreed that Flair would be forced to defend the belt against Kerry in a rematch...and that this time the Von Erichs could name their own stipulations. The no DQ, no time limit rematch would be held in a steel cage at the Christmas Star Wars card at Reunion Arena, with a special referee to be selected by the fans in a mail-in poll.
Meanwhile, Freebird Michael Hayes -- who was pushed strongly as a close friend of David Von Erich -- had entered WCCW in October as a wildly-cheered babyface. Hayes brought in "brother" Terry Gordy shortly afterward, and the 'Birds began feuding with Bundy and Wild Bill Irwin. It was announced on TV a few weeks before the big holiday card that Hayes would be one of the candidates for referee in the upcoming Kerry-Flair World title clash, with the claim that he had done an exemplary job as a special ref in several championship bouts before coming to Texas. Naturally, he went on to "win" the fan poll and was appointed to officiate the highly anticipated Christmas night main event.
Scheduled just prior to that match was the Freebirds' shot at the newly-created World Six-Man title, against opponents Mike Sharpe, Ben Sharpe (Kelly Kiniski) and Tom Steele (Gene Lewis, aka The Mongol), who were supposedly the other finalists in a nationwide tournament. The crowd heard the announcement that Buddy Roberts, who was scheduled to join his fellow Freebirds for this bout, had found himself stranded in Chicago due to a blizzard. David Von Erich volunteered to take Buddy's place, wound up scoring the winning pinfall, and surrendered his share of the titles to Roberts.
As David celebrated alongside Hayes and Gordy in the ring with the fans cheering madly, the bond between the Von Erichs and Freebirds appeared unbreakable, and all in attendance that night were nearly breathless with the anticipation that in just a few short minutes, with Hayes enforcing the rules and keeping the always crafty Nature Boy in line, they were guaranteed to see the beloved Modern Day Warrior walk out of the cage with the coveted NWA belt that had long eluded him.
And the rest -- sayeth the old cliche -- is history. :)
Prior to the pole battle royal at Christmas Star Wars '82, David Von Erich came to the ring and addressed the crowd, but his words were inaudible when the match was televised. What did he say and why was it cut?
The live crowd at Reunion Arena that night saw the Kerry Von Erich-Ric Flair cage match, with the legendary Freebirds heel turn, followed by the pole battle royal (which closed the show). Before the latter event began, however, a furious David Von Erich hit the ring and grabbed the house mic from Marc Lowrance, who had just informed the fans that Hayes and Gordy, who were both scheduled to participate, had left the building.
Since David's rant was only heard by those in attendance, his exact words have been lost in the mists of time, but the gist of it was that he was swearing revenge against the 'Birds, saying he wasn't surprised that they had fled "after what they just did to my family for Christmas!" His speech (which included no objectionable language) was covered up with canned crowd noise on the syndicated TV episode and, on Legends of WCCW a few years later, by that show's theme music.
The reason for the edit was that the battle royal was shown in syndication the week before the Kerry-Flair encounter -- which meant that David's promo, had it been allowed to air, would have become a spoiler for the following week's show. David (like all the wrestlers that night) made his way to the ring via the entrance directly opposite from the "hard" camera, and had interrupted Lowrance in mid-announcement, so a complete removal of his sudden appearance would have been exceedingly difficult if not totally impossible. Hence, a segment that came off as somewhat awkward, yet was probably handled about as well as it could have been under the circumstances.
Was Fritz Von Erich really faking a heart attack when he collapsed at Christmas Star Wars '87?
Although many current wrestling fans never actually saw it at the time,
the story told on numerous occasions in insider newsletters and on websites, and accepted by "smart" fans, is that this
infamous angle -- the aftermath of an in-ring beatdown by Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Iceman Parsons and the Angel of Death -- was a tasteless exploitation of the Adkisson family tragedies to boost ticket sales.
In May 2007, however, video of the incident appeared briefly on YouTube, and something interesting happened: some wrestling message board posters came out in favor of the angle, saying they had liked it all along, while others seeing it for the very first time reacted almost unanimously: was THIS what those sheetwriters had been on their high horse about for all these years? For this reason, perhaps the time is right to revisit what was allegedly one of WCCW's low points, and bust a few myths.
We'll agree that the lines of taste were crossed at least once in relation to
Fritz's "collapse": the night after it happened, announcer Marc Lowrance appeared in
what appeared to be a live and somewhat emotional insert on Championship Sports
(a procedure that, up to that point, had been reserved mostly for
genuine, non-scripted tragedies, i.e. the deaths of David Von Erich and
Gino Hernandez), saying that he had "canceled a scheduled appearance in San Antonio" to inform viewers of the "tragic" incident that had taken place at Reunion Arena. After footage of the angle was run, Lowrance,
seemingly at a loss for words, stated that not much more was known about
Fritz's condition at that moment. The promotion went so far as to
claim that Fritz had been transported to an actual hospital in Dallas
(Baylor Medical Center), and even used an exterior shot of that facility
during a brief interview segment with the apparently
grief-stricken Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. Thus, the suggestion that fans at Reunion had witnessed something that went beyond a mere wrestling angle was unmistakable.
However, most of the
other claims made about this angle simply don't hold up under scrutiny. Let's take a look at them...
- "Fritz faked a heart attack."
-- False. The only time the phrase "heart attack" was used was when Kevin Von Erich and Marc Lowrance assured WCCW viewers that Fritz HAD NOT suffered one. In fact, the exact nature of Fritz's "condition" was never actually revealed.
- "Fritz tried to capitalize on his family's tragedies to boost attendance."
-- To begin with, by December of 1987, Fritz had no decision-making power within WCCW. The angle was booked by Ken Mantell, who, along with Kevin and Kerry Adkisson, had just bought out the promotion; Fritz was appearing solely as talent. Secondly, a look at the tapes of the angle itself, and of subsequent World Class telecasts, proves that no mention of any real-life Adkisson family tragedy was made. While certainly intended to give WCCW attendance a jumpstart, Fritz's "collapse", rather than being exploitive of his sons' deaths, was simply the result of an old-fashioned heel beatdown.
- "Fritz's condition was said to be improving or worsening depending on attendance levels."
-- After taking the above info into consideration, this claim
becomes completely irrelevant -- or would, if there had been any
significant fluctuation in attendance in the first place. It's true that Fritz was said to have "taken a turn for the worse" on one show but, as is revealed in the videotapes of shows from that
period, attendance at the Sportatorium remained strong throughout the first quarter of 1988 (thanks in part to a drastic lowering of prices for several shows, with all seats going for five dollars and all food and drinks reduced to fifty cents), after which Fritz's "condition" was no longer being talked about. Ticket sales in Dallas
did begin to decline a bit in the spring, by which time the latest resurrection of the Von Erichs-Freebirds feud (which, admittedly, had been done to death by then)
was pretty much fizzling out.
The crowds in Fort Worth were small during this period, but had been that way for quite some time -- for whatever reason, attendance at Will Rogers never really recovered from the slump that began in mid-1986. In fact, WCCW was already beginning to slowly phase out its presence in Fort Worth by late January; for the first time in literally decades, there were some Monday nights on which no wrestling card was held in the city. By mid-'88, KTVT was taping
most of its Championship Sports telecasts at the Sportatorium.
We respect the writers of insider newsletters and websites and what they have accomplished, and they are of course entitled to their opinions regarding WCCW. However, fabricating "facts" to support those opinions does nothing for their credibility.
World Class and Jim Crockett Promotions both booked matches that took place in a three-tiered cage. Which promotion used the gimmick first?
World Class. The "Triple Dome of Terror", as it was called in WCCW, was first used for two matches (one pitting Terry Gordy
against Michael Hayes, the other being a "Triple Dome Texas Roundup" battle royal) at the May 8, 1988 Texas Stadium Parade of Champions card. JCP, on the other hand, is known to have used it only once, at the Great American Bash held on July 10 of that same year. In their "Tower of Doom" bout, the Road Warriors, Jimmy and Ronnie Garvin and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams defeated Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Ivan Koloff, Al Perez and the Russian Assassin (Dave "Angel of Death" Sheldon under a mask).
The gimmick was revived eight years later by WCW for one of the most ludicrous matches ever, in a company well known for its ludicrous booking. At the 3/24/96 WCW Uncensored PPV, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage "overcame tremendous odds" to emerge victorious from the Tower of Doom over Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Kevin Sullivan, Lex Luger, Meng, the Barbarian, Z-Gangsta (Tom "Tiny" Lister, aka Zeus in WWF) and the Ultimate Solution (WCCW alumnus Jeep Swenson, who sadly would pass away the following year).
How does Skandor Akbar throw fireballs?
The General, according to former referee James Beard, does this with some sort of chemical mixture. However, most wrestlers who have used the fireball gimmick have done it by igniting flash paper (sheets of nitrocellulose which burn brightly within a fraction of a second, commonly used by magicians) with a cigarette lighter. The late Ed Farhat, who wrestled as The Sheik, was probably the most famous practitioner of this trick other than Akbar.
Flash paper is sold damp with distilled water in a resealable bag and, for obvious reasons, must be stored that way until 24 hours before you're ready to use it, whereupon it must be air-dried, one sheet at a time. As with any pyrotechnic material, trying it at home is not recommended; although it burns quickly, it's still quite hazardous unless you know exactly what you're doing.
For much, much more than most people would ever want to know about nitrocellulose, click here.
Why did WCCW withdraw from the National Wrestling Alliance? I've always thought that was the worst possible move they could have made.
If you take into account the changes that were taking place in the pro wrestling industry in the mid-'80s, it becomes clear that WCCW simply didn't have many pleasant options at that point in time. The problem was that the destruction of the old territorial system was well underway as Vince McMahon and the WWF, in their push to go national beginning in mid-1983, had already been weakening many of the NWA-affiliated promotions by luring away a number of their biggest stars. In an attempt to compete on a national level with McMahon, NWA president Jim Crockett Jr. (who had previously been running regional shows under the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling banner) bought out several of those groups, including the Georgia, Florida and Central States territories as well as Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation, and unified them, using "The NWA" as a brand name. At the same time, Crockett was allowing fewer and fewer title defenses in the handful of remaining NWA territories not under his direct control, including World Class.
So, while it's true that the decision to withdraw did cost WCCW quite a bit of credibility, its other options would have been:
- To continue to claim membership in the NWA even though its World Champion would no longer be coming in to defend the belt (which would have cost the promotion just as much if not more credibility in the long run, as fans accustomed to seeing world title matches several times a year would have begun to realize sooner or later that something was up);
- To try forming an alliance with a non-NWA promotion (which it did in 1988, without success -- see WCCW Milestone #46, AWA Superclash III);
- Or -- as a last resort -- to sell World Class to another promoter (which also eventually happened, of course).
The tragic events involving the Von Erichs and other WCCW stars, needless to say, were also a contributing factor in the company's demise. However, by the end of 1985, the organization realistically would not have been in a position to compete with McMahon and Crockett even if no further tragedies had occurred. The reason? Fritz Von Erich, apparently believing that his sons' popularity would be enough to carry WCCW and counter any threat from the WWF juggernaut, had opted not to attempt a national expansion of his own, reportedly stating that Dallas was "all my boys will ever need." Thus, the sad reality was that World Class, for all practical purposes, was doomed even before the decision to secede from the NWA was made.
Ironically, Crockett's group was so spectacularly mismanaged during its attempt to go national (Ric Flair's book To Be the Man, and The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez, both go into this in considerable detail) that the company ran itself out of money less than three years after World Class broke away from the NWA. Jim Crockett Promotions was sold in late 1988 to Turner Broadcasting, where it morphed into the even more spectacularly mismanaged WCW. Today Crockett is a real estate agent in Dallas.
Who did the booking for WCCW?
We've done our best to make sense of the wildly conflicting
information available on this subject from books, newsletters, shoot
interviews and the Internet, and pieced together the following (very)
rough timeline. Note that there are major changes from the previous
-- and that this version, too, is subject to change.
Gary Hart had the book when Big Time Wrestling became World Class
in spring 1982. In either late '82 or early '83, Ken Mantell
took over and retained the position throughout WCCW's peak
years ('83-'85). (Although Gary has stated that he
booked the Freebirds' heel turn angle at Christmas Star Wars 1982,
most other sources maintain that Mantell had taken over by then.)
Mantell was reportedly assisted by Michael Hayes during
much of the original Von Erichs-Freebirds storyline, and by Hart after
the 'Birds departed in late summer of '84. He left World Class in
late May or early June of '86.
There is some confusion over who was in charge of booking during the
period immediately following Mantell's departure. It's known
that former Mid-Atlantic and WWF booker George Scott took over
the position sometime in 1986; though some sources say he replaced Mantell in the spring
of that year, Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer
first reported in August that Scott had been brought in.
In Heroes of World Class, David Manning
states that he took over as booker just before Kerry Von Erich's
tragic motorcycle accident in June, and that he was
joined shortly afterward by Bruiser Brody. (No other account
we've seen has Brody in that position in mid-'86.)
At any rate, George Scott did not last long in WCCW. According to
Gary Hart, as told in the biography Brody: The Triumph and
Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel by Larry Matysik and Bruiser's widow
Barbara Goodish, Scott apparently felt that Gary was a threat to his
position and attempted to force him out of the promotion by booking
Abdullah the Butcher to lose to Brody in a cage at the 1986 Christmas
Star Wars show at Reunion Arena -- but without telling anyone involved that it
would be a loser-leaves-Texas bout. The maneuver backfired when
Brody, a longtime close friend of Hart's, caught on to it and doublecrossed
Scott by secretly agreeing to do a rare clean job to Abby; Scott was
gone shortly thereafter and was replaced by Brody, who resolved the
problem by bringing himself back under a mask as Red River Jack.
(By the way, it's interesting to note that in Emerson Murray's biography of Brody,
Gary's recollection of the Christmas night cage match is entirely
different. In this version of the story, the bout takes place at
Will Rogers Coliseum -- although no Christmas Star Wars card was ever
held there -- after Hart had taken over the book from Brody and Scott
was already long gone. Hart is quoted as saying that Brody and
Abdullah, who of course were both
notorious for refusing to lose, came to him with the idea
for the bout and were still unable to decide on a finish at match
time. Gary says he threatened never to use either man in Texas again if one of them didn't do the job, after which Brody
apparently decided while the match was in progress to put Abby over.)
Depending on the source,
Brody either resigned as booker (supposedly in
protest over the poor handling of the announcement of Mike Von Erich's
death, according to Dave Meltzer,
although Bruiser did continue to wrestle for WCCW), or was relieved of
the position; in any case, Gary Hart once again took over at some
point (again, the exact time is uncertain) during that period.
When Ken Mantell became co-owner of WCCW in November 1987, he returned
to the booking position, with input from Hart (until Gary left the promotion
for good in March
'88) and later, once again, from Michael Hayes. Finally, Eric
Embry took over after the 1988 buyout by Jerry Jarrett, and
was still in charge at the time of the formal name change to USWA in
Was WCCW the first promotion to
use music for its wrestlers' entrances?
Strictly speaking, no. The use of entrance music in pro wrestling
goes all the way back to the original Gorgeous George, who would toss
his famed "Georgie pins" into the crowd to the tune of Sir Edward
Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1". (WCM readers will also
recall this melody from Randy "Macho Man" Savage's '80s and '90s ring
entrances, as well as an occasion where many undoubtedly "walked that
aisle" themselves: their graduation ceremony.) Other pioneers of
this included the Freebirds (who used Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic rock
anthem of the same name in Southern promotions as far back as the late
'70s) and Leroy Brown (Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown", of all
The use of popular songs for nearly every top wrestler's ring
entrance, however, was indeed a World Class innovation. This
approach was quickly copied by other 1980s promotions and was eventually
taken to its logical extreme by WWE, where even midcard workers can now
be seen entering to pounding, adrenaline-pumping music and dazzling
TitanTron videos. (Of course, actual hit songs have fallen by the
wayside in favor of in-house compositions, due to licensing fees that
have spiraled to ridiculous heights in recent years.) So if your
kids get all excited every time one of Vince's guys makes his way to the
ring, do 'em a favor and tell 'em about the promotion where this whole
Is there really a "World Class curse"?
Yes, we know the question was raised in Heroes of World Class.
And, as everyone knows, many of WCCW's performers, including a number of
its biggest stars, are no
longer with us. All of that being said, the answer is a firm NO
-- there is no such thing as a "World Class curse". It is, in fact, very
easy to prove:
(1) Although there are now over 40 deceased World Class alumni, note
that only three of the workers on the list were actually working
for WCCW at the time they passed away: David and Mike Von Erich, and
Gino Hernandez. (Incidentally, it's worth noting that WWE surpassed that number
long ago, with
-- as of August 2007 -- the deaths of "Quick Draw" Rick McGraw,
referee Joey Marella, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart,
Guerrero and Chris Benoit.) All the rest had either moved on to other
promotions or died after WCCW folded. Which brings us to point number
(2) If one is going to count deceased former members of a
promotion's roster as victims of a curse, then one might as well argue
that there's also a curse associated with WWE, ECW, WCW, or any of the
old territorial promotions. (Many of the same names would also
appear on lists of the dead for those groups, of course.)
We trust that you can see not only how silly the whole idea of a "curse"
is, but also how such talk trivializes a very real, very troubling and,
now, all too common problem in the pro wrestling industry.
Is it true that...(insert shocking story told in shoot interview by one former WCCW wrestler about another former WCCW wrestler here)?
Sorry, but we ain't going there, at least as far as any specific story is concerned. However, we generally process that kind of information in pretty much the same way a good, responsible journalist would: if we hear a juicy bit of backstage gossip from only one party and no one else -- or from multiple parties with substantial differences in the details -- that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true, but we're inclined to treat it as suspect. If two different people tell the tale with the same details independently of one another, though, we tend to raise an eyebrow and go, "Hmmmmmm..." And if we hear it told the same way by more than two people...well, where there's that much smoke, there's probably fire. In short, our advice is to exercise common sense and remember that the person relating the story is as human as anyone else.
Has Kevin Von Erich sold the WCCW videotape library to Vince McMahon and WWE?
Yes. WWE issued the following press release on June 5, 2006:
Over the past few years, World Wrestling Entertainment® has been aggregating the best of professional wrestling television by strategically acquiring the video libraries from a host of national and regional promoters. With a collection now totaling over 75,000 hours of content, the WWE video library is the largest of its kind.
In addition to its own extensive WWE Library, WWE purchased libraries dating back to the 1950's from WCW®, ECW®, AWA®, WCCW, CWF, CSW, OVW, and SMW, representing virtually all of the significant wrestling programming in the world.
...The WWE video library includes events and matches with the biggest stars in wrestling history: Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Andre The Giant, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Von Erichs, Triple H, The Undertaker, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and many, many others.
It should be noted that the video library purchased by McMahon does not include any WCCW shows taped after the 1988 buyout by Jerry Jarrett. That footage is owned by Mario and Angelo Savoldi, former promoters of the Boston-based International Championship Wrestling promotion, which became known as International World Class Championship Wrestling in 1991 after Kevin Von Erich licensed the name, logo and original theme music to the group (and also appeared very briefly on their TV shows). The Savoldis, in addition to the post-buyout World Class and I(WC)CW tapes, also own the footage from USWA Dallas, Wild West Wrestling and the Global Wrestling Federation, from which a few budget-priced DVDs (including the Classic Superstars of Wrestling series, with early footage of Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Booker T) have been compiled.
Will WCCW wrestlers' entrance music be deleted from footage released by WWE on DVD?
The syndicated World Class shows are currently airing on WWE 24-7 minus the entrances, so one can safely assume the same will be true with regard to DVDs. We realize this is not going to be a popular move on their part, and we aren't wild about the idea either, but it's the unfortunate reality, as it's far less expensive for WWE to create their own music in-house, or simply delete the wrestlers' entrances, than to pay today's soaring music licensing fees.
Fox Video's recent release of the popular late-70s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati's first season provides a good illustration of the problem that companies releasing music-heavy DVDs are faced with. Because the DJ characters were seen playing the hits of the day in literally every episode, virtually all of the music used in the series had to be replaced for home video. As one blog commenter noted in a discussion of the set:
The average rights to license a song for DVD release by a major rock band (Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac) is upwards of $10,000 per song. [emphasis added] With the amount of songs that WKRP has, that is impossible. At $30 a set, they would never make it back (as only about $7 from each set is seen by the studios).
The one entrance tune that may avoid the fate of "Tom Sawyer", "Stranglehold" and all the rest is Michael Hayes' "Badstreet USA", as Hayes is currently a head writer for WWE and presumably still owns the rights to the song -- but we shall see. Our advice? Just enjoy the matches -- that's what you watched WCCW for in the first place, wasn't it?
Will WWE's upcoming WCCW documentary portray the promotion in a negative light?
We are pleased to be able to report that hardcore WCCW fans apparently
have no cause for concern. According to former Big Time Wrestling
commentator/referee and longtime Von Erich family friend Steve Harms, in
post at Kayfabe Memories:
[Kevin] told me that WWE has sent him a copy of the new WCCW/Von Erich DVD. Kevin and
his family watched it very concerned about how it would be presented. He told
me everyone from Kevin to his mom Doris was very pleased with what the WWE has
done with it.
We, like you, were eager to check out the finished
product and were very disappointed to learn of the apparent postponement
of its release. Assuming that the set actually finds its way into
stores later this year, or at all (we have the distinct feeling that the
cloud of controversy hovering over WWE as a result of the Benoit family
tragedy isn't simply going to go away in a few months), we'll try to get
a review posted once we've viewed Triumph and Tragedy in its
entirety.How much Dallas-Fort Worth wrestling footage (from WCCW or earlier periods) still exists?
Basically, the more recent the footage, the more likely it is to have been preserved. To answer the question in detail, though, requires a bit of historical background, which was provided by wrestling historian Kit Bauman in a thread at Wrestling Classics. Bauman relates a story, told by Lou Thesz, of an exceedingly rare instance of wrestlers banding together to protect their interests:
...It was in late 1952, in Texas, and it had to do with getting paid for appearing in matches that were televised on "Texas Rasslin," Dallas promoter Ed McLemore's TV show, which ran in the Dallas market the state and was also syndicated nationally. The thinking among the wrestlers was that TV was hurting gate receipts, and, by extension, their payoffs; if their matches were going to be televised, they wanted extra money. McLemore and Morris Sigel, who ran the Houston office and provided the talent for the Texas circuit, refused.
In November, some of the wrestlers who were booked on a card in San Antonio refused to enter the ring unless the TV cameras were turned off. The promoter, Frank Brown, relented after a call to Sigel and the show went on. A couple of weeks later, 11 wrestlers -- Wild Red Berry, Billy Varga, Ellis Bashara, Cyclone Anaya, Otto Kuss, Danny McShain, Ray Gunkel, Gory Guerrero, Duke Keomuka, Ricki Starr, and Jack O'Reilly -- wrote to Sigel and McLemore to say they would not appear in matches that were televised or filmed unless they were compensated beyond their regular payoffs. The matter went to the state labor commission (which "regulated" wrestling and boxing in the state) for a public hearing, during which Sigel and McLemore relented. They agreed to pay wrestlers who appeared in matches that were televised or filmed the sum of $5 extra apiece for their participation.
In mid-December, eight wrestlers -- Varga, Gunkel, Starr, Berry, Anaya, McShain, Guerrero, and Dory Funk -- filed suit in Dallas, saying McLemore was violating a clause in their agreement that prohibited the matches from being shown in Texas. Before the case could come to trial, however, McLemore broke away from the Houston office in late December and refused to use talent that Sigel sent him. Sigel retaliated by announcing that his office would run opposition to McLemore, and that's exactly what he did. (The Texas wrestling war was a brutal, scorched-earth -- no levity intended -- one in which McLemore's building, the Sportatorium, was burned to the ground on May 1, 1953, by arsonists. The Houston office was never directly implicated; one of the men eventually arrested and charged in the arson testified at his trial that his instructions (he never said who had given him his orders) had been to be sure that the fire destroyed the "Texas Rasslin" films, which were kept in the Sportatorium's upstairs office, and that's where the fire started.)
According to Tim Hornbaker's book National Wrestling Alliance, McLemore's films were not actually stored at the Sportatorium at the time of the fire. However, they appear to have been moved there sometime afterward (possibly after McLemore's death), and most if not all of this footage may have been lost in later years due to neglect. From a post on our message board (now offline) by former Big Time Wrestling referee/announcer Steve Harms:
Lots has been written regarding the sale of the WCCW tape library to Vince McMahon. There was a time when all the Dallas wrestling was done on film. In the old Sportatorium on the main floor behind the offices used by Gary Hart, Bronko Lubich etc, there was an area caged in with chicken wire. Inside were racks and racks of cans containing film footage from the beginning of Dallas wrestling through the advent of video tape. One day Dave VE [David Von Erich] and I decided to break into the film cage. I say "break in" because no one knew where the key to the door's padlock was. As you know, old film stock had a short shelf life it it wasnt preserved at certain humidity and certain temperatures. Well, the Sportatorium was either stifling hot or freezing cold. Needless to say, when we started opening the cans, the films were starting to deteriorate...as I remember the sprocket holes on the films we looked at had deteriorated. At the time...no one thought about history...we were mostly just curious.
...Can you imagine the priceless Dallas wrestling history on those films? Really too bad. I have no idea whatever happened to them......Kevin may have taken them, but I can't believe there was much salvageable.
It's not known how much, if any, of the footage Steve refers to may have been included in the sale to WWE. It's conceivable that there may be some hi-tech method of restoring and stabilizing deteriorated films, if any of these reels found their way into the company's vaults, but how expensive any such method may be -- and how much money WWE would be willing to spend to preserve the footage -- are another matter altogether.
There have been
persistent rumors that some of the 1980s WCCW material may have been stored under less than optimal conditions for a number of years as well, though Kevin Adkisson's son-in-law Joey Nikolas has stated that this is not the case.
On at least one of its World Class shows, however, WWE 24-7 has
reportedly aired deteriorated footage due to its historical importance;
as of July 2007, shows dating from October to December 1982 have run,
although several have been skipped. Whether this is due to the
source material being in unviewable condition is unclear (in all
honesty, it may be simply because this wasn't one of the promotion's
more exciting periods).
It's also unknown how much footage from KTVT has survived, though bits and pieces of footage from Saturday Night Wrestling/Championship Sports have turned up through the years.
Some short clips from around 1979-80 were used in Brian Harrison's Heroes of World Class; some mid-60s
footage (of a 1966 Fritz Von Erich-Joe Blanchard match in Fort Worth, and grainy footage of Fritz vs Gene Kiniski at the Sportatorium, narrated by the late Paul Boesch) was seen in ESPN's late '80s series Legends of WCCW.
The six-man tag match pitting the Von Erichs against Wild Bill Irwin,
Frank Dusek and Ten Gu, included as a bonus match on WWE's The Most
Powerful Families in Wrestling DVD, was also originally taped for
We eagerly await the first WCCW retrospective on DVD from WWE, The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling, and hope to see Texas' rich pro wrestling history represented extensively on future releases.
What matches are included on Best of the Von Erichs?
The DVD, which was released by VCI Entertainment on August 31, 2004, contains seven matches, all from WCCW's peak period of 1983-84:
- Kevin & David & Iceman King Parsons vs Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts. Sportatorium, probably late May/early June '83.
- Kevin vs Chris Adams. Cotton Bowl, 10/27/84 (includes the post-match attack by Adams and most of the aftermath, with Manning frantically calling for an ambulance as Kevin lies bleeding in the ring), and the rematch at Reunion Arena, 11/22/84.
- Kerry vs Gordy. Sportatorium, 8/17/84. Lumberjack match, with Gordy subbing for Michael Hayes.
- Kerry vs Gino Hernandez. Sportatorium, probably 7/20/84.
- Kevin, David & Kerry vs Hayes, Gordy & Roberts. Sportatorium, 8/12/83. The Freebirds win the Six-Man Tag titles.
- Kerry vs Hayes. Sportatorium, late May/early June '83.
For unknown reasons, all but the last two matches are included without the original commentary by Bill Mercer. The DVD is hosted by Kevin and former WCCW referee David Manning (who also provide bonus commentary tracks for the matches), in segments taped at Kevin's ranch, and includes several music videos from the syndicated show accompanied by new music (though, oddly enough, the actual match footage includes the original entrance songs). Other bonus features include outtakes, reminiscences by Kevin and Manning and a segment featuring Kevin's son Ross.
Have there been any commercial video releases of WCCW matches other than Best of the Von Erichs?
Yes. Several VHS tapes, each containing two full-length World Class syndicated telecasts, were issued by Complete Entertainment in 1991. Unfortunately, the quality of these releases (particularly the audio) was uneven and much of the footage was from the forgettable 1986-87 period. Here's a rundown of the matches which were included and the dates on which they were taped:
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 1
Probably 12/81 (commentary by Gene Goodson & Al Madril): Tom Shaft vs Larry Higgins / Bugsy McGraw vs Big Daddy Bundy / Kevin & Kerry Von Erich vs Arman Hussein & Kabuki / Ivan Putski vs Carlos Zapata / Andre the Giant vs Bill Irwin
4/4/86: Mark Youngblood vs One Man Gang / Rick Rude vs Brickhouse Brown / Kerry Von Erich & Bruiser Brody vs Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 2
5/4/86, Texas Stadium: Kerry & Lance Von Erich & Steve Simpson vs Freebirds / Bruiser Brody vs Rick Rude / Kabuki vs Mark Youngblood, Jerry Allen, Steve Simpson & Chris Adams / Brian Adias vs Steve Regal / Chris Adams & Brickhouse Brown vs John Tatum & Grappler
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 3
4/18/86: Steve Simpson vs Jerry Allen / Rick Rude vs Brian Adias / Kerry Von Erich vs Steve Regal / Bruiser Brody & Missing Link vs Terry Gordy & Kabuki
12/5/86: Tony Atlas vs Master Gee / Bruiser Brody vs Grappler / Dingo Warrior vs Killer Brooks / Abdullah the Butcher vs Mark Youngblood / Kevin, Mike & Lance Von Erich vs Al Madril, Black Bart & Brian Adias
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 4
8/8/86: Mighty Zulu vs Raul Castro / Bruiser Brody vs Abdullah the Butcher (8/4/86 Fort Worth) / Dingo Warrior vs Chris Adams / Kerry Von Erich vs Super Destroyer #1 (3/30/84) / Matt Borne & Buzz Sawyer vs Brian Adias & Mark Youngblood
3/21/86: Brickhouse Brown vs Steve Regal / Kerry, Kevin & Lance Von Erich vs Freebirds (3/17/86 Fort Worth) / Rick Rude vs Steve Simpson / Fantastics vs John Tatum & Grappler
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 5
5/11/84: Kabuki vs Kamala (5/6/84 Texas Stadium) / Jules Strongbow vs Kelly Kiniski / Freebirds & Killer Khan vs Super Destroyers, Kabuki & Missing Link / Kerry Von Erich vs Ric Flair
11/1/85: Rick McCord vs Billy Ash / Rick Rude vs Mike Reed / Kevin Von Erich vs Chris Adams / Kerry Von Erich vs One Man Gang
WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING, VOLUME 6
7/11/86: Brad & Bart Batten vs Dingo Warrior & Matt Borne / Rick Rude vs Mark Youngblood / Kevin Von Erich vs Buzz Sawyer / Bruiser Brody & Steve Simpson vs Killer Brooks & Grappler #2
3/6/87: Dingo Warrior & Red River Jack vs Grappler & Bob Bradley / Jeep Swenson vs Dusty Wolfe & Jeff Raitz / Tony Atlas vs Black Bart / Mike & Lance Von Erich vs Killer Brooks & Brian Adias / Nord the Barbarian vs Steve Simpson
What was The Von Erichs: Front Row Ringside?
This was a VHS release from Continental Productions, which was sold via mail order only in 1987 and ran approximately 70 minutes. It included footage of Fritz's 1982 Texas Stadium win over King Kong Bundy and key matches in his sons' careers, including David's 1979 non-title win over Harley Race in St. Louis, Kerry's NWA title win over Ric Flair, Mike's 1983 debut match against Skandor Akbar and more.
The tape concludes with a preview of a planned follow-up video which would have included home movie clips of the brothers during their childhood/teenage years. For a number of reasons, including a change in production companies (see below), Mike Von Erich's suicide shortly after the release of Front Row Ringside and Fritz's subsequent decision to sell his interest in WCCW, this second video was never issued.
I'm familiar with WCCW's syndicated telecasts, but not with its local show from Fort Worth. What can you tell me about its history?
Quite possibly more than you really want to know. :) But here goes anyway: the Fort Worth wrestling telecast, which first originated from the North Side Coliseum, began during either the late '50s or early '60s on Channel 11, KTVT (whose call letters prior to 1960 were KFJZ). From old Channel 11 schedules posted by
Mike Shannon at the
Dallas Historical Society's message boards, we can see that there was no wrestling on the station in 1957, but by 1964 an hour-long telecast was airing at 4:00 PM on Saturday afternoons. By 1968 (at the latest), Main Event Wrestling -- as it was then known -- had expanded to 90 minutes and was ensconced in its familiar 10:00 PM timeslot. (For those old enough to remember Main Event Wrestling in the '60s and early '70s, its opening theme music was Frederick Ellsworth Bigelow's classic "Our Director March".)
A look at the schedule for that year shows KTVT's fondly-remembered Saturday evening lineup, dominated by syndicated country music programming:
5:00 Gospel Singing Jubilee
6:00 Wilburn Brothers
6:30 Cowtown Jamboree [local country music series which aired live from
Panther Hall in Fort Worth]
7:30 Porter Wagoner
8:00 Buck Owens Show
8:30 Bill Anderson Show
9:00 Country Music Carousel
9:30 Ernest Tubb Show
11:30 Roller Derby
In later years, reruns of vintage Western series such as The High Chaparral, The Virginian, Lancer, Laredo and Gunsmoke aired in the 60 or 90 minutes prior to Main Event Wrestling (which became known simply as Saturday Night Wrestling in 1974, at about the same time the show finally switched from black-and-white to color; at that time, KTVT was a fairly low-budget independent station). The
show had several opening/closing themes during this period, including
"Close Up Tight" by jazz-rock fusion pioneer Bill Chase (from his album
Pure Music) as well as a pop arrangement of the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Until the early '80s, the show always consisted of the regular Monday night cards in Fort Worth, with the prelim and midcard matches usually followed by the opening minutes of the main event before time ran out. In November 1983, when WCCW's popularity was skyrocketing, the station expanded Saturday Night Wrestling to two hours and retitled it Championship Sports.
Its best-remembered opening theme music was Chicago's "Street Player"
(from Chicago 13).
It was during this period that the best-of-three falls match formerly known as the semifinal event became the "TV main event". The show also added a weekly "taped feature", which was usually a main event from one or two weeks earlier (not a TV main event, but an actual main event) -- which meant that Fort Worth cards, more often than not, were now basically airing in their entirety.
In 1988, when regular weekly cards were discontinued in Fort Worth, KTVT began taping at WCCW's Friday night cards in Dallas. Upon Jerry Jarrett's takeover late that year, the promotion began free Saturday morning TV tapings at the Sportatorium. The format for this version of Championship Sports was essentially similar to that of studio wrestling shows in Memphis and other territories, consisting primarily of squash matches and advancing storylines mainly through interviews and run-ins. The show retained this format until its cancellation in 1990.
Who were the announcers for the KTVT show?
Dan Coates, who also handled announcing chores for such North Texas events as the Kowbell Indoor Rodeo in Mansfield and the annual Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Fort Worth, was the ringside announcer for KTVT's late '60s-early '70s wrestling telecasts. Subbing for Dan on occasion were ring announcer Boyd Pierce and Indianapolis wrestling announcer Sam Menacker. Coates died from complications of Parkinson's disease on March 15, 1998.
Bill Mercer replaced Coates in 1975, and remained with the show until spring 1982. Those who subbed for Bill when he was covering various other sports events included Boyd Pierce, sportscaster Ron Spain, announcer/referee Steve Harms (who was also at the mic for a short-lived Sportatorium telecast that aired only in West Texas and New Mexico around 1980) and, on one occasion, Brian Blair.
When Mercer left KTVT to call the action on WCCW's syndicated series, Marc Lowrance, who had replaced Boyd Pierce as ring announcer in 1980, became the host of Saturday Night Wrestling/Championship Sports. He was joined at various times by color commentators Doyle King, Harvey Martin, Frank Dusek and Terrence "The Beauty" Garvin. Filling in for Marc during his occasional absences were Mercer, King, Dusek, and for one show in 1984, none other than good old J.R. -- Jim Ross, who was an announcer for Mid-South Wrestling at the time.
Jon Horton, a.k.a. Craig Johnson, took over the last few months of both the KTVT telecast and the syndicated USWA Challenge series after Lowrance left WCCW to become a minister in 1990. He was joined by Percy Pringle on color commentary.
How were the deaths of David and Mike Von Erich, Gino Hernandez and Bruiser Brody handled on Championship Sports?
Generally, on those occasions when a major WCCW star passed away between the show's taping on Monday night and its airing on Saturday night, commentator Marc Lowrance would appear in taped inserts from the KTVT studios to announce his passing and pay tribute.
(You can view the segments dealing with the deaths of Hernandez and Brody at
WCM's YouTube channel.)
The exception was the episode which aired the weekend after Mike Von Erich's suicide -- a tragedy so profoundly shocking and heartbreaking that KTVT opened the show with nothing more than a stark graphic:
All references to Mike were hastily (and somewhat choppily) edited from that night's show.
On the 2/18/84 Championship Sports (taped on 2/13), referee David Manning, accompanied in the ring by the babyface wrestlers on that evening's card, opened with a brief memorial for David Von Erich including the traditional ten-bell salute, and announced that David's brothers would not be appearing on the card as scheduled. The music video for Glen Goza's tribute song "Heaven Needed a Champion" made its debut on the following week's show.
Why was Championship Sports canceled?
In September 1990, Jerry Jarrett, after a financial dispute with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich (who had been minority owners during the USWA period) sold his 60% share of the promotion back to the brothers -- although Jarrett did retain control of the syndication network, which continued to produce weekly USWA programs taped in other cities. Kevin made an attempt to keep the promotion going at the Sportatorium, reverting back to the World Class name and bringing back Marc Lowrance and Bill Mercer as ring announcers, but was apparently unable to afford a weekly TV production at that point.
There were also reports that frequent on-air profanity and angles involving violence against women -- including one in which John Tatum delivered a brutally stiff superkick to the head of Superstar Bill Dundee's valet, Tessa -- led KTVT to pull the plug on the show, after repeated warnings to tone down its increasingly "objectionable" content. However, this supposedly happened at virtually the same time as Jarrett's departure, which (as explained above) would have killed the show anyway due to lack of financing.
Shortly after Championship Sports went off the air, KTVT began airing programming from the WWF, which would not allow stations on which its shows aired to run advertising for competing promotions, including Kevin's. Consequently, he was only able to keep the revived WCCW going for a very short time before throwing in the towel in late November of that year. (As a Sportatorium concession stand worker stated in a newspaper interview at the time, "I think after they lost the television, a lot of people assumed it was closed...I guess the old has to give way to the new.")
Why was the theme song for WCCW's syndicated show changed in 1987?
The change occurred as a result of Fritz Von Erich's decision to go with a new production company. After five years with KXTX and Continental Productions (a partnership that resulted in massive national and international syndication success for the promotion), Fritz turned the show over to Lee Martin Productions, a company with ties to then-Dallas Cowboys principal owner, the late Harvey R. "Bum" Bright. Martin (a former Dallas-area sportscaster who, to our knowledge, had no previous association with wrestling) and his group decided to jazz things up -- literally -- by replacing WCCW's well-known tympani-and-brass theme with a piece of saxophone-driven library music. Reportedly entitled "Love on the Run", the new theme wouldn't have sounded out of place on a smooth jazz radio station, but was a ridiculously bad fit for a pro wrestling show.
This tune was replaced after a few weeks by an equally generic but more
When Fritz left the sport altogether and sold World Class to Kevin, Kerry and former booker Ken Mantell later in the year, Continental Productions, which had been used by Mantell for his Wild West Wrestling promotion's show after the split from World Class, was brought back as production company for WCCW's syndicated show. Continental kept the video from Lee Martin Productions' title sequence (consisting of nighttime shots of various locations in Dallas) but restored the popular original theme music.
Didn't WCCW do some of its TV from a studio? I remember seeing the ring surrounded by just a couple of rows of seats on some shows.
What you were seeing on Championship Sports was the Will Rogers Auditorium, which was used when the Coliseum was hosting other events (usually concerts, or the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo). The ring, main camera and ringside chairs were set up on the Auditorium's stage, with the orchestra pit off to the left side of your screen.
There was once a studio wrestling show on KRLD (now KDFW), however, which some old-timers in the D/FW area may recall. Entitled, appropriately enough, Studio Wrestling, it was hosted in the late 1950s by none other than Bill Mercer. When Mercer became the original radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, the show was taken over by one Eddie Hallack. Hallack, who is described by those who remember him as "quite a character", also hosted a KRLD series called So This Is Opera (!), and later operated a chain of restaurants in the Dallas area. He died of heart failure on April 9, 2005 at the age of 92.
Other than the special features, how does the two-disc retail release of Heroes of World Class differ from the original mail order-only version?
The only major change to the documentary itself appears to be the removal of the Flaming Lips' song "It's Summertime (Throbbing Orange Pallbearers)", which was heard during the Sportatorium demolition sequence in the original version. Presumably due to rights issues, the tune (from the band's 2002 CD Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) is replaced in the Big Vision reissue by another song with a similar lyrical message, apparently written especially for the film -- although the disc's menu still lists the closing chapter as "It's Summertime/Credits". Following this sequence is an updated graphic mentioning the Adkisson family's plans to move to Hawaii in early 2007.
The first disc of the set also contains twenty minutes of deleted scenes including an alternate opening title sequence, David Von Erich's last match on WCCW syndicated TV (against Terry Gordy, taped a week before David's death) and a segment in which Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant, standing in the Sportatorium's parking lot shortly before demolition began in February 2003, talk about the venue's history. These scenes have not been reinserted into the documentary, but are presented as a separate feature.
The Heroes of World Class documentary says Gino Hernandez died on January 30, 1986, while WCM says it was February 4. So who's right?
We have no idea where the January 30 date came from, although we've seen it on multiple websites over the years and, to be perfectly honest, were guilty of quoting it ourselves once or twice on message boards before this site was launched. But, according to the Dallas Times Herald article "The Final Fall of Gino Hernandez", Gino's body was discovered on the Tuesday of the following week after his final Fort Worth match on January 27 (the hair vs hair bout with Chris Adams) -- in other words, eight days later. The article states that Gino was last seen alive and "bar-hopping" on Thursday night and early Friday morning (January 30-31), although one poster at Kayfabe Memories paints an entirely different picture, maintaining -- as does David Manning in HOWC -- that Gino was far more panicked and paranoid during his last days than the Times Herald story suggests. Gino then failed to appear for a match in North Richland Hills on Saturday, February 1; the results for the 1/31 card in Dallas don't include him, either, but it's not known whether or not he was scheduled to wrestle that night.
Though Gino's actual date of death appears most likely to have been January 31 or February 1, it was never determined conclusively. Therefore, we list it here as the day on which, according to the Times Herald article, his body was found: Tuesday, February 4, 1986.
In Heroes of World Class, to whom is Gary Hart referring when he says "they killed" WCCW in two years?
The documentary doesn't make this entirely clear, which has led to this question being asked on several message boards; but our assumption is that he's talking about the Jerry Jarrett/USWA period, which lasted roughly two years. (Gary's exact words: "...What it took myself, Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant to build in eight years, they killed in two or three. I mean, they took it from the most prestigious wrestling organization of its time to something that was second-rate and second-class.")
Under Jarrett and booker Eric Embry, the promotion began to rely more heavily on tasteless and offensive angles (classic example: Embry vomiting in the ring after being beaten with a baseball bat by Skandor Akbar's crew), violence against women, screwjob finishes in gimmick matches once considered feud settlers, etc. While USWA Dallas was fairly successful for a time, its Memphis-influenced style alienated many who were used to WCCW's more traditional, no-nonsense approach, and is still controversial among longtime World Class fans today -- even though the rest of the pro wrestling world essentially caught up with it a few years later.
In a clip in Heroes of World Class, Gary Hart says, "Bill Mercer was supposed to be here today, but he's up at North Texas State matriculatin'." Huh?!?
The term matriculation
is defined as "going through the formal process of being admitted into
a college or university". Gary's use of the word in this
clip was an inside joke, referring to a comment made many years ago in
an interview that never made it on the air...and thanks to Mercer's
memoir Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sports Broadcasting Insider,
we now have the full story of what the longtime WCCW commentator calls
his all-time favorite interview. Apparently, Mercer had incurred
Hart's wrath by expressing concern for his safety due to an upcoming
match in which the "Playboy" was scheduled to wrestle Fritz Von Erich.
Gary objected to Mercer "thinking he was so smart" because he was a
professor at North Texas State University (now the University of North
Texas). Hart declared that he, too, had been to school,
prompting Mercer to ask, "When did you matriculate?" Gary,
unfamiliar with the word, paused for a moment, then rendered the
entire crew helpless with laughter by ad libbing, "Oh, two or three
times a week."
What can you tell me about the history of the Sportatorium before Fritz Von Erich became promoter?
Thanks to the diligence of researchers who have posted information at the message boards of the Dallas Historical Society, Old School Wrestling and Wrestling Classics, we've been able to piece together a sketchy outline of the old barn's early history.
Before getting started, however, we should mention a page at the Dallas County Pioneer Association's website which claims that the Sportatorium's first promoter, Herbert E. "Bert" Willoughby (1890-1963), "raised enough capital in 1920 to buy land at the intersection of Cadiz and Industrial Boulevard and build the first Sportatorium in 1922." Unfortunately, we must point out that this claim is not accurate. Willoughby and partner Jack Fox did own an arena in the early '20s, but it was not called the Sportatorium, nor was it located at Cadiz and Industrial; the 1927 edition of Worley's Dallas City Directory lists the Fox-Willoughby Athletic Arena on East Jefferson near Hutchins Avenue (putting it just across the Trinity River from the Sportatorium site, to the southwest).
The same directory lists Willoughby as a coffee roaster (his day job) at the U.S. Coffee and Tea Company, as well as one Edward E. McLemore, a clerk at the Oriental Oil Company. By 1933, according to that year's edition of Worley's, McLemore had started his own business, the Green Lantern Barbecue Stand, at 2822 North Henderson Avenue (now the location of the Cuba Libre Cafe).
In 1935, W.T. Cox, president of Cox Steel and Wire (later the Cox Fence Company), began construction of the Sportatorium, which would be the new home of Bert Willoughby's wrestling cards. The Dallas Morning News ran the following story on September 13 of that year:
NECKTWISTERS TO GET AIR-COOLED BUILDING; NO SHOW MONDAY
There will be no wrestling matches Monday night. Promoter Bert Willoughby, who has turned his Fair Park arena over to Centennial officials to be razed shortly, said Thursday. The next program will be staged in Fair Park Auditorium, Sept. 23. Negotiations were completed Thursday for acquisition of the auditorium, where the tinears will cavort until Promoter Willoughby completes his own building.
Willoughby has leased a block at Cadiz street and Industrial boulevard, where work started Thursday on a new arena, to be one of the finest in the Southwest. It will be ready for occupancy in five weeks and will be enclosed, with a heating system [for] winter shows and air conditioning for the hot summer months.
On December 1, the Morning News reported on the new facility's opening:
WILLOUGHBY OPENS NEW ARENA DEC. 9
The new sports bowl, under construction at Cadiz and Industrial, will have its official opening Monday night, Dec. 9, when Promoter Bert Willoughby will offer the biggest wrestling program ever staged in Texas, if present plans go through as outlined. This 10,000-seating capacity structure, built as the home of wrestling, will also entertain many other events, such as boxing, basketball, indoor circuses, style shows, conventions and gatherings of all kinds."I am hot on the trail of twenty of the Nation's best wrestlers," Willoughby announced Saturday, "and we hope to offer on opening night, ten matches. Some will have to be cut to a twenty-minute time limit, but the main go will be for two out of three falls. I can't say just now who will be on the card, but hope to have the name of every man by Monday or Tuesday, and among them will likely be Juan Humberto, Southern heavyweight champion, who will defend his title against some outstanding opponent."
Whether fans of today's wrestling product -- or, for that matter, fans of World Class! -- will recognize any of the names who ultimately appeared on that first card is a different story, of course; but, for the historical record, here (thanks to Dan Anderson and Jim Zordani) are the results:
12/9/35 Dallas (att. 8,500)
Sol Slagel beat Bob Stuart
Jack Nelson drew Pat O'Brien
Dick Stahl beat Tiny Roebuck
Jack League drew Nick Elitch
Dan O'Connor drew Eddie Newman
Jack Ryan beat Bob Wagner DQ
Billy Edwards beat Pete Schuh
Note that the larger original building was configured as a full octagonal amphitheatre (which explains the 10,000 seating capacity), as opposed to its "half amphitheatre" reconstruction after the 1953 fire that partially destroyed it (click here for the background on this incident).
By 1938, Ed McLemore was working as a salesman at Cox Steel and Wire; evidently, he worked in that capacity during the day and as concessionaire for Bert Willoughby at the evening wrestling events (his previous experience with the Green Lantern Barbecue Stand having obviously proven valuable). What is certain, though, is that in 1940 McLemore was able to buy the promotion from Willoughby; Ed's company, Texas Rasslin', Inc., would promote cards in Dallas until breaking away from Houston promoter Morris Sigel (who, up to that point, had been supplying talent to McLemore) and the Dallas Wrestling Club in 1966 -- a conflict that resulted in Sigel taking over the Sportatorium for a very brief period, while McLemore temporarily relocated his shows to the Bronco Bowl Auditorium.
Due to declining health, Sigel's attempt to run shows in opposition to McLemore was extremely short-lived (Sigel would, in fact, be dead by year's end), and in the fall of '66, McLemore and Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich) formed a partnership, moving back into the Sportatorium and establishing Southwest Sports, Inc. This company, which was taken over entirely by Fritz upon McLemore's death in January 1969, promoted under the name Big Time Wrestling and, beginning in spring 1982, as World Class Championship Wrestling.
Though WCCW has, of course, long been defunct, Southwest Sports -- having been taken over by Kevin Adkisson after Fritz's death -- still exists today as K.R. Adkisson Enterprises, Inc.
Is wrestling still being held in the Sportatorium? Is it still standing?
Sadly, the answer to both questions is no. As Dallas wrestling crowds dwindled in the post-WCCW era, it became prohibitively expensive for indy promotions to rent the building, pay insurance costs, etc. As a result, local feds in the D/FW area began to use smaller venues. (The last cards held at the Sportatorium were promoted in early 1998 by Arturo Agis, who ran lucha libre shows off and on in the Dallas area for several years.)
For the next few years, the decaying venue was vacant, save for the homeless persons in the area who periodically broke into the arena seeking shelter. Finally, on December 8, 2001, some of these people apparently lit a fire inside the building to keep warm and wound up starting an out-of-control blaze. The upstairs offices where Fritz Von Erich, Gary Hart, Percy Pringle and others had once worked sustained heavy damage (which can be seen during Kevin Von Erich's tour of the soon-to-be-dismantled Sportatorium in Brian Harrison's documentary, Heroes of World Class).
The owners of the building reportedly did look into the possibility of restoring the Sportatorium and bringing it up to code. But, after receiving estimates that were well into the six-figure range, they made the sad but perhaps inevitable decision to demolish the arena in early 2003.
For info on other venues where World Class cards were held, check out our Virtual WCCW Tour section.
What was the Sportatorium's seating capacity? And how large was it? It certainly doesn't look very big in the pictures I've seen.
No, it wasn't terribly large. The legal limit posted by the Dallas Fire Marshal was 4000, although it was possible to squeeze more people into the Sportatorium with a little...er...persuasion. (Which, according to Roddy Piper in his book In the Pit with Piper, did indeed happen, at least during his mid-'70s stint in Dallas.)
The satellite photo of the Sportatorium at left, taken circa 2000, is from Google Maps; the image at right, showing the former location as it looks today, is from Microsoft Virtual Earth (click images to open full-size versions in new browser windows; the crosshairs in each photo indicate the approximate location of the ring).
We were able to determine the size of the Sportatorium, even though the building is long gone, by using Google Earth (which requires a 3D graphics card, a ton of RAM and a broadband connection -- don't even think about trying it if you only have a dialup account). After entering the former address of the venue (1000 South Industrial Blvd., Dallas, TX), clicking Search and zooming in on the view at left, we used the program's measuring feature to get the approximate length and width:
Length, side facing Industrial Blvd. (bottom left): ~205 feet
Length, side facing Trinity River (top right): ~250 feet
Width, measured across center of building: ~145 feet
Splitting the difference between the two sides (227.5 feet), and multiplying it by the width, gives you a ballpark figure of just under 33,000 square feet. (For the sake of comparison, about six buildings the size of the Sportatorium would fit under the roof of nearby Reunion Arena.) And there you have it. Hey, you've got questions? By golly, WCM has answers! :)
What was the Big D Jamboree?
The Jamboree was a weekly country music showcase held Saturday nights at the Sportatorium beginning in October 1948. It was essentially the Dallas equivalent of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride, running some four hours each week and broadcast live in the D/FW area on KRLD Radio (with a half-hour segment airing nationally on the CBS Radio Network). Literally all the major country stars of the era played the Jamboree until the mid-1950s, when performers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley ushered in the show's rockabilly era; Sportatorium promoter Ed McLemore soon began managing some of the rock-and-rollers who appeared regularly on the show (most notably Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, of "Be-Bop-a-Lula" fame) and promoting package tours.
In the mid-1960s, the Jamboree faded away due to changing tastes in popular music; attempts were made to revive the show in 1970 and again in 1984 (as the "Big D Jamborama"), but neither effort got off the ground.
A much more detailed history of the Jamboree can be found at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website. The Dallas-based Dragon Street Records label has released a line of "Legends of the Big D Jamboree" CDs featuring rare studio recordings and live performances from the show by many of its stars. (For vintage film footage taken at the Jamboree, click here.)
Were other concerts held at the Sportatorium?
Definitely. Unfortunately, despite what has been posted on numerous bootleg tape trading sites, an early Bruce Springsteen gig was not one of them. According to Brucebase, although "The Boss" was scheduled to perform there on November 10, 1974, the show was canceled and never rescheduled; no reason is given, but the same site reveals that some Springsteen dates at a much smaller Dallas club earlier that year had been poorly attended. (This, of course, would not be the case for much longer, as Bruce was then in the process of recording the album that would propel him to rock superstardom: Born to Run.)
But many other well-known performers did play the Sportatorium, among them Texas music legend Willie Nelson, who is reputed to have considered it one of his favorite venues. The online archives of TIME Magazine include this article on a 1957 concert in which rocker Fats Domino and his band contended with the building's "rainbarrel acoustics". In one of the newspaper articles reproduced here, GWF promoter Grey Pierson recalled how The Beastie Boys' high-decibel onslaught in 1992 caused the corrugated sheet metal walls to vibrate intensely. And many gospel music package shows were held at the Sportatorium over the years, with such stars as the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Dixie Hummingbirds and many others.
One curious claim we've seen online which we probably shouldn't bother debunking, but will anyway, since we are YOUR source for accurate, dependable info on this sort of thing: that a Dallas concert hall known as the Electric Ballroom supposedly "used to be called the Sportatorium" where "local, semi-professional wrestling" was held (what the heck is "semi-professional wrestling"?!). Sorry, but no. Nord the Norwegian, who fondly recalls listening to live broadcasts from the Electric Ballroom over KZEW-FM ("The Zoo"), featuring AC/DC, Spirit, Rush, Ted Nugent and other 1970s rock luminaries, hastens to point out that that particular venue (formerly the Aragon Ballroom) was, in fact, located across Industrial Boulevard from the Sportatorium, which was still standing long after the Ballroom was torn down. Seemingly an egregious mistake, but then it isn't too difficult to understand how the passing of three decades, and the general rock-and-roll atmosphere of that era, could have resulted in some folks' memories going to pot...so to speak. ;)
Is it true that a fan once tried to shoot a wrestler at the Sportatorium?
Yes. The incident in question took place, not at a World Class card, but at a WCW house show on September 5, 1992 following a tag team main event pitting Sting and Nikita Koloff against Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Super Invader (Hercules Hernandez). During the post-match brawl, an elderly fan (who reportedly had been attending matches at the arena for 30 years without incident) pulled out a gun, apparently aiming for Roberts. Another fan seated nearby reacted quickly and pulled the man's arm down, and the bullet went into the floor. The gunman was subdued by WCW security personnel and several Dallas Police officers, who arrived shortly after a 9-1-1 call was made from the arena.
This was by no means the only hair-raising incident that unfolded at the Sportatorium over the years. Percy Pringle's tribute to the old, barnlike venue includes a story, told by its longtime maintenance man Bill Hines, of how Hines found a man slumped over in one of the box seats after a show and, upon closer inspection, discovered a knife stuck in the man's back. Then there's the story your esteemed webmaster heard back in the early '70s from a family friend, who told of being showered with blood when a knife fight broke out in the aisle next to her, and one of the men involved fell into her lap...further proof that, although the Sportatorium was one of pro wrestling's greatest venues, attending a show there wasn't for the faint of heart.
Ironically enough, the one shooting incident that is known to have taken place at a WCCW card happened at Reunion Arena rather than the Sportatorium. During an intermission at the 6/17/83 Wrestling Star Wars show, an off-duty Dallas policeman, who was working as a security guard, shot and killed a knife-wielding man who was involved in a scuffle in the upper balcony.
What was Wild West Wrestling? Was it a part of WCCW?
Wild West was an outlaw promotion run by Ken Mantell during the summer and fall of 1987. Mantell, after booking World Class during its 1982-85 heyday, defected to Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation (formerly Mid-South Wrestling) shortly after the 1986 Parade of Champions show, along with a sizable chunk of WCCW's roster. When Watts sold the UWF to Jim Crockett Promotions a year later, Mantell launched Wild West, promoting matches at the popular Fort Worth nightclub Billy Bob's Texas. A number of former WCCW and UWF wrestlers joined Wild West, including Iceman Parsons, the Missing Link, Buddy Roberts, Wild Bill Irwin, John Tatum, Jack Victory and Fabulous Lance (the former Lance Von Erich, who had recently walked out of World Class).
The new promotion's TV show, like the weekly syndicated WCCW hour, was produced by Channel 39 (KXTX) in Dallas and was hosted by longtime World Class announcer Bill Mercer. However, it never really got off the ground as Fritz Von Erich, emotionally battered by the tragedies involving his sons, elected to leave the wrestling business only a few months after Wild West was established, selling WCCW to Mantell (who became a 40% owner), Kevin and Kerry (who each owned 30%). At that point, Wild West was absorbed into WCCW, and an interpromotional war angle was run on both groups' TV shows to explain the sudden return of numerous familiar faces to World Class following the 1987 Thanksgiving Star Wars card.
Although Mantell's promotion only produced about 25 to 30 TV episodes
during its existence at Billy Bob's, a syndicated Wild West Wrestling
show, consisting of WCCW bouts taped at the Sportatorium, continued to
air outside the Metroplex area for a time. Reruns of these shows
have aired in recent years on ESPN Classic Canada.
What titles were defended in Wild West?
The one and only championship the promotion established before closing its doors was the Wild West Tag Team titles. Here is the history (note that all title changes occurred in WCCW after the initial tournament):
|John Tatum & Jack Victory||87/11/30||Fort Worth, TX|
Defeated the Missing Link & Jeff Raitz in tournament final.
|Steve & Shaun Simpson||88/02/29||Fort Worth, TX|
|John Tatum & Jack Victory (2)||88/05/08||Irving, TX|
Defeated Steve Simpson & Terry Gordy.
|Steve & Shaun Simpson (2)||88/07/25||Temple, TX|
|John Tatum & Jimmy Jack Funk||88/09/05||Fort Worth, TX|
|Samoan Swat Team (Samu & Fatu)||88/09/12||Fort Worth, TX|
|Unified with WCWA World Tag Team titles.|
Who was (insert masked wrestler's name here)?
This list covers the masked men who appeared in World Class between 1982 and 1990.
Checkmate: Tony Charles or Les Thornton (this has been a topic of some debate on pro wrestling message boards)
El Diablo Grande: Buddy Moreno (aka Omar Atlas)
Friday (Kamala's masked handler): Frank Dalton
Grapplers I & II: Len Denton / Rick Hazzard
The Hood: Jeff Gaylord (previously worked for Wild West Wrestling under the same mask as The New Spoiler)
Jimmy Jack Funk: Jesse Barr
The Magic Dragon: Kazuharu Sonoda
Mil Mascaras: Aaron Rodriguez
Mr. Ebony: Tom Jones
Mr. X (Reunion Arena, 12/25/84): Unknown
The Punisher: Mark Calaway (AKA The Undertaker)
Red River Jack: Bruiser Brody / Rick Davidson (when "Jack" appeared alongside Brody)
Socko (Tarrant County Convention Center, 9/1/86): Unknown
Super Destroyers I & II: Scott & Bill Irwin
The Spoiler: Don Jardine
Super Zodiacs I & II: Cactus Jack / Gary Young
The Superfly: Ray Candy (not James "Kamala" Harris, who was wrestling in Memphis at the time)
Texas Red: Mark Calaway
Who was (insert non-masked wrestler working under a gimmick name here)?
The sinister Japanese heel seen teaming with
Frank Dusek and Bill Irwin against the Von Erichs in WWE's The Most
Powerful Families in Wrestling DVD was played, for most of his time
in Dallas-Fort Worth, by Kazuo Sakurada, who was best known as
Kendo Nagasaki in the Florida territory. He had worked as
Mr. Sakurada (partner of Mr. Hito) a year earlier in Texas, and would
come in again for a short time in 1988 as manager of the Super Black
Ninja (Keiji Mutoh, aka The Great Muta).
Sakurada was not the first wrestler to portray the character, however.
In his TV debut on KTVT in mid-1981, the role of Ten Gu (who was heavily
hyped prior to his arrival in the area by manager Gary Hart as being
even more dangerous than the Great Kabuki) was played by a worker who
was in no way convincing, either as a person of Japanese heritage or as
a martial arts master, and in fact, appeared to be somewhat elderly.
It's not known exactly how or why this happened, but the match (a
squash) came off so poorly that, immediately after the commercial break,
Bruiser Brody interrupted a promo by Bill Mercer for an upcoming card to
declare that the man fans had just seen in the ring was an impostor.
The identity of this "fake" Ten Gu, who appeared only in this
one bout, remains a mystery.
No, this wasn't Ricky Steamboat, nor was it Tito Santana. This Richard Blood, who performed in D/FW rings from late 1981 through mid-'82, was Tommy Wright, an undercard worker in the Florida and Mid-South territories. Frank Dusek, posting at Wrestling Classics, fills us in:
Gary Hart just loved the name "Richard Blood." In fact, he liked it so much he wanted to have a "Richard Blood" on the cards in Texas.
For several weeks, all he told Bill Irwin & I was that we were going to get a new tag partner & we were going to call him "Richard Blood." We knew it wasn't Tito Santana or Rick Steamboat, but Gary assured us he would be a "player" who would live up to the name "Richard Blood."
Believe me, after all the build up we gave the fans on camera (& all the build up Gary Hart gave us in the dressing room), no one was more surprized that Bill Irwin & me to see Tommy Wright.
The 2nd week in the territory we "turned" on Tommy, discharging him from our army. That led to the infamous headline in a Dallas program that read, "Dusek Discharges Blood!"
You gotta love Texas "Rasslin!
...Koko the Clown?
The jolly, dancing pie-thrower who appeared briefly as Bugsy McGraw's "manager", after he turned babyface in 1982? None other than WCCW TV producer Mickey Grant, who thought donning the clown suit would be fun when the angle was mentioned to him by Bugsy (whose idea it reportedly was).
...Mike Sharpe, Ben Sharpe and Tom Steele (who lost to David Von Erich, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy at Christmas Star Wars '82)?
Mike Sharpe was in fact the real "Iron Mike", on loan from Mid-South. On the other hand, the guys he teamed with may have later had WCCW fans wondering where they'd seen them before: "Ben Sharpe" was actually Kelly Kiniski, while "Tom Steele" was veteran grappler Gene Lewis, who would return to World Class a few months later as The Mongol.
...The Thing and The Real Thing?
The long-standing mystery of the wild monster heel with the rainbow 'Fro, who wrestled in WCCW briefly during the fall of 1987, appears to have finally been solved. Online World of Wrestling, at which this pic was first posted, identifies him as Brian Carriero (that's Phil Apollo, AKA Playboy Vince Apollo, on the right); he apparently worked as enhancement talent in WCW circa 1990 under the name Brian Carr, but not much else seems to be known about him.
In the storyline, manager Killer Brooks offered to sell The Thing's contract to the highest bidder, with New Age Management (Apollo and Gary Hart) vying with Percy Pringle for his "services". Percy won when New Age withdrew their bid at the last minute, on the grounds that Brooks was offering what announcer Marc Lowrance called "a bogus Thing" (never mind the fact that he had been utterly annihilating every opponent he faced). It turned out that Apollo and Hart, while traveling around the world in their constant search for new talent, had been able to locate the genuine article in New Zealand. So, out went the "bogus" Thing (after doing a quick job to the returning Kerry Von Erich at Thanksgiving Star Wars), and in came Rip Morgan as -- what else? -- The Real Thing.
Memphis fans, no doubt, had little trouble recognizing Phil Hickerson as the none-too-convincing "Japanese" monster heel. Note the similarity to the name P.Y. Chung, which Hickerson's manager Tojo Yamamoto used in the Carolinas during the early '60s.
The man who shocked a Sportatorium crowd by beating Kerry Von Erich with a clawhold and sending him to the dressing room on a stretcher (as booked by Eric Embry) was Juan Reynosa, who had previously wrestled and worked as a referee in Joe Blanchard's Southwest Championship Wrestling and other territories.
Who are the wrestlers depicted in the WCCW logo?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's record for the logo contains the statement, "The portrait shown on the drawing is merely fanciful and is not the likeness of any particular living individual." However, according to Kevin Von Erich (via his son-in-law Joey Nikolas at the Heroes of World Class message board), the logo does depict two living individuals -- namely, Kevin (on top, applying the Iron Claw), and puroresu legend Tatsumi Fujinami.
Who was Ed Watt, the man listed as
matchmaker on the Sportatorium wrestling programs? Was he a real person?
The "matchmaker" title was more kayfabe than fact, but Edwin Boyd Watt,
Jr. -- a former boxer from Chicago who was related to Sportatorium
impresario Ed McLemore by marriage -- was most definitely a real person.
Born on April 26, 1919, Watt was first brought to Dallas by McLemore in
booking agent for the Big D Jamboree. By all accounts a tough,
no-nonsense businessman, Watt's job involved keeping a tight rein on the
show's young and often wild talent, including rockabilly legend and
Jamboree regular Gene Vincent (on one occasion, when Vincent was
threatening his wife with a gun during a drunken argument, McLemore
dispatched Watt to the site to defuse the situation), as well as booking
package tours featuring the stars of the weekly music showcase.
And according to Stanley Oberst and Lori Torrance in
their book Elvis in Texas: The Undiscovered King 1954-1958, Watt
stood his ground against one of the most hardnosed, hard bargain-driving
carneys of all time: Colonel Tom Parker. In September 1955, Parker
reportedly attempted to renegotiate the contract for the next Jamboree
appearance of the young, soon-to-be megastar Presley, demanding a steep
increase in pay. Watt's response? "Go to hell and take Elvis
David Dennard of Dragon Street Records, however, told the Dallas
Observer of a
different side of Watt: "...I think that he was the 'bad guy' for
McLemore, though he was actually very sweet as a person when you got to
After the Jamboree's demise in 1966, Watt continued to work in
essentially the same capacity for Southwest Sports, booking dates for
wrestlers. After McLemore was incapacitated by a heart attack in
early 1968, leaving Fritz Von Erich in charge of the company, Watt also
served as figurehead "matchmaker", remaining with the promotion
throughout the WCCW era. To the best of our knowledge, he never
appeared in public, but was often announced as having "signed a return
match" after the initial meeting of two grapplers ended indecisively.
Ed Watt retired in 1989 and passed away on January 28, 2002.
Who was Betty Ann Stout, the masked columnist who covered WCCW for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram?
The woman under the mask was then-"Startlegram" sportswriter Jennifer Briggs (and no, before anyone asks, she's not related to former Dallas Times Herald drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs; his real name is John Bloom). Ms. Briggs, the first female journalist to cover the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, is now a freelance writer and the author of a number of books including Strive to Excel: The Will and Wisdom of Vince Lombardi; Quotable Billy Graham (the evangelist, not the wrestler); Nolan Ryan: The Authorized Pictorial Biography; The Book of Landry; Texas Speak: Advanced Course; and the Brady Bunch Movie tie-in book A Very Brady Guide to Life.
CURRENT WHEREABOUTS AND FINAL RESTING PLACES
Whatever happened to (insert former WCCW worker's name here)?
The information in this list (last updated
9/29/07) comes from numerous sources, and from several "friends of friends". Any incorrect information is in no way intended maliciously, and corrections or updates are more than welcome.
- General Skandor Akbar runs a wrestling school at Doug's Gym in the downtown Dallas area, which showcases a number of his students at various shows around Texas and Louisiana.
- Andrea the Lady Giant (Nickla Roberts) currently resides in
North Carolina with her two daughters, and still appears at independent wrestling shows.
- Angel of Death (Dave Sheldon) manages a very successful strip club in Texas.
- Ted Arcidi is living in Manchester, New Hampshire where he owns and operates a gym. He often appears on ESPN doing color and interviews during various "World's Strongest Man" competitions. Ted also resells used fitness equipment and runs a women's gym.
- Tony Atlas remains active in competitive powerlifting and works as a personal trainer at a gym in Maine. He promotes local area wrestling shows and is an active volunteer in attempting to keep children away from drugs.
- Brian Blair lives in the northern Florida area. In 2004, Blair was elected County Commissioner, District 6 of Hillsborough County, Florida.
- Killer Tim Brooks lives in Waxahachie, Texas where he runs a wrestling school. He promotes a number of independent shows and still wrestles on occasion.
- Brickhouse Brown continues to wrestle in the independent promotions around Tennessee and Mississippi.
- King Kong Bundy still works independent wrestling shows on weekends.
- Scott Casey lives in Las Vegas, where he works security for the Luxor. Casey had worked as a trainer for a wrestling school in the city that recently closed.
- Steve Cox resides and runs his own business in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He wrestled for the Japan based shoot wrestling promotion UWFi in the early 1990's.
- The Dingo (Ultimate) Warrior is now a regular on the college lecture circuit, focusing on college Republicans, and is a motivational speaker.
- Eric Embry is a licensed electrician and recently ran for jailer in a town in Kentucky.
- Stella Mae French lives in the Amarillo, TX area and is retired from the industry.
- Jimmy Jack Funk (Jesse Barr) currently
works in the construction business in Portland, Oregon.
- "Fantastic" Bobby Fulton is now an ordained minister and runs the Ohio-based Big Time Wrestling indie promotion. His former partner, Tommy Rogers, underwent hip replacement surgery in January 2007 and has retired from the ring.
- Jimmy Garvin and his wife Patti (Precious) live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jimmy is a licensed pilot, and both he and Patti are involved in a ministry for the poor and homeless. In October 2006, Jimmy was hired as a member of WWE Creative, but resigned after only a few days.
- The Great Kabuki owns a restaurant in Tokyo. He is now semi-retired and works behind the scenes for the New Japan promotion.
- Playboy Gary Hart, now retired from the sport, still lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He was interviewed extensively for Brian Harrison's Heroes of World Class
and for WWE's upcoming WCCW documentary The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling. Gary
has also completed work on his soon-to-be-published autobiography.
- Michael Hayes currently works for WWE as head writer for Smackdown, and co-hosts WWE 24-7's WCCW rebroadcasts along with Kevin Von Erich.
- Bill Irwin is now a loan officer in Duluth, Minnesota.
- Kamala currently runs his own trucking business and still wrestles occasionally.
He has also launched a singing career; a CD of his songs is
available from his official website.
- Marc Lowrance is a pastor at a Methodist church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
- Al Madril is a security guard at a hospital in the Los Angeles area.
- David Manning works in real estate in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He remains a close friend of the Adkisson family, and was co-host along with Kevin Von Erich for the 2004 Best of the Von Erichs DVD.
- Bill Mercer is still active in sports broadcasting.
His memoir of his career, Play-by-Play: Tales from a Sports
Broadcasting Insider, was published in September 2007.
- Nord the Barbarian,
until recently, worked for a Minnesota car dealership which,
according to reports, is now out of business.
- One Man Gang is a prison guard for the State of Louisiana.
- Iceman King Parsons still works independent shows in Texas. He was involved in a serious auto accident a few years ago which severely injured his back, but thankfully seems to have recovered from its effects.
- Al Perez made a brief comeback a
few years ago for a Pennsylvania independent promotion. Perez still lives in Tampa, FL where he
works as a delivery driver for United Parcel Service.
- Percy Pringle III lives in Alabama, where he operated Gulf South Wrestling until it closed in May 2007. He is currently signed to a Legends contract with WWE.
- P.Y. Chu-Hi (Phil Hickerson) does a morning country radio show in Jackson, TN, and is also a salesman at a car dealership in Henderson, TN.
- The Real Thing (Rip Morgan) currently runs the Kiwi Pro Wrestling promotion, along with "Bushwhacker" Butch Miller, in Wellington, New Zealand.
- Butch Reed occasionally wrestles for Harley Race's Missouri promotion, and is still involved in the rodeo business.
- Buddy Roberts survived a scare with throat cancer in the late 1990's but, thankfully, is now cancer-free. He currently lives near Chicago.
- Steve and Shaun Simpson own a chain of mattress stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
- Sunshine now lives with her husband and daughter in the Tampa area.
- John Tatum lives in Pensacola, Florida where he owns and operates a fairground with his family. The property is used both for the annual fair and for other exhibitions and events.
- Terry Taylor works with TNA as an agent. He currently lives in Atlanta.
- Kevin Von Erich, along with most of his immediate family, moved to Hawaii in January 2007. He currrently appears as co-host (with Michael Hayes) on WWE 24-7's rebroadcasts of the syndicated WCCW show. He became a first time grandfather in 2004 when daughter Kristen gave birth to a girl;
she and husband Joey Nikolas, as of September 2007, are now
expecting twins. Kevin still keeps in close touch with his late brother Kerry's family.
- Lance Von Erich is still living with his wife in South Africa.
- Gary Young appeared a few years back on the Montel Williams Show, reuniting with a daughter he had not seen in years. He currently manages a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas.
- Chris Youngblood lives in Amarillo, Texas,
where he runs Romero's Academy of Wrestling and promotes shows.
Where are the Von Erichs (or other deceased wrestlers who worked in Dallas-Fort Worth) buried?
You may click the links below for information on the gravesites of departed Big Time and World Class Wrestling stars at findagrave.com. Andre the Giant,
Nancy Benoit, Bobo Brazil, Bruiser Brody, Pepper Gomez, Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine, Tim Woods and Jay Youngblood were cremated; Sylvester "Junkyard Dog" Ritter, according to Dave Meltzer, is buried in a Wadesboro, NC cemetery (the town of "Wallful", listed at Find-a-Grave, does not seem to exist). The remaining performers not shown below are either buried in unknown locations or have no listing on the site.
Chris Adams: Oak Grove Memorial Gardens, Irving, TX
Ray Candy (Superfly): Washington Memorial Gardens, Decatur, GA
Dan Coates (KTVT announcer): Mount Olivet Cemetery, Fort Worth, TX
Tiger Conway Sr.: Houston Memorial Gardens, Pearland, TX
Rick Davidson (Red River Jack II): Greenwood Memorial Park, Fort Worth, TX
Mike Davis: Holly Hills Memorial Park, Granbury, TX
Rick "Buster Blackheart" Fowler:
Brock Cemetery, Brock, TX
The Great Goliath: Palm Memorial Park Northwest, Las Vegas, NV
Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park Cemetery, Rossville, GA
Ray Gunkel: Arlington Memorial Park, Sandy Springs, GA
Lord Alfred Hayes: Christ Methodist Cemetery, Plano, TX
Gino Hernandez: Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Houston, TX
Hercules Hernandez: Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, FL
Ernie Ladd: Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, LA
Bronko Lubich: Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, TX (no
findagrave.com link yet)
Chief Peter Maivia: Diamond Head Memorial Park, Honolulu, HI
Harvey Martin: Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, TX
Sputnik Monroe: National Cemetery, Pineville, LA
Jeff Raitz: Haven of Memories Cemetery, Canton, TX
Dewey "The Missing Link" Robertson:
Woodland Cemetery, Burlington, OH
Rick Rude: Green Lawn Cemetery, Roswell, GA
Buzz Sawyer: Palm Beach Memorial Park, Boynton Beach, FL
Bobby Shane: Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens, Pagedale, MO
The Sheik: Mount Calvary Cemetery, Williamston, MI
Big John Studd: Fairfax Memorial Park, Fairfax, VA
Fritz, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris Von Erich: Grove Hill Memorial Park, Dallas, TX
...And finally, although he only made a handful of appearances in Dallas-Fort Worth during the era covered by this website, there is one more giant of the sport whose final resting place -- or should we say, final resting places -- are worth noting here. According to Kit Bauman (who assisted the late Lou Thesz with the writing of his autobiography, Hooker), in a post at the Dallas Historical Society message board:
A point of interest for some of you is the fact that some of legendary wrestler Lou Thesz's ashes were spread among the empty wine bottles and trash that litter the site of the Sportatorium today. I know it's true, because I'm the one who did it. He was a close friend, and his widow thought it was a fine idea to spread Lou's ashes at the site of many of his favorite wrestling venues. So, with the help of several people, we've left some of Lou not only in Dallas but in Miami, Houston, St. Louis and Hawaii.
All original content © John Dananay and NTN Web Productions. This is an UNOFFICIAL tribute site.