A Wrestling Year – 26.02.1986-04.03.1986 (Part 1)

We head straight into a new month of wrestling action with some huge developments in both Mid-South and Memphis. A new number one contender to the North American Heavyweight Title is crowned in Mid-South, whilst there is an explosive situation leading to a big face turn over in Memphis. Let’s head to the action.

Mid-South Wrestling TV 01.03.1986

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Before the video insert at the start of this week’s show, we get footage of the unveiling of a new Masked Superstar, who interfered in last week’s big match to give Ted Dibiase and Steve Williams the DQ victory over Dick Murdoch and The original Masked Superstar. We are also promised a big match for the right to fight Dick Slater for the North American Heavyweight Title as Terry Taylor and Jake Roberts go one on one. This is almost a year to the day from a match they had had previously, which ended with a Taylor flying forearm, but a Roberts DDT onto a steel chair post-match left Taylor down and bloodied in the ring.

For a second week running, we get to see The Sheepherders in action as they go up against the Bruise Brothers. Butch Miller and Porkchop Cash just brawl until Miller can make the tag, and when Boyd is tagged in for the Bruise Brothers, he makes one shoulderblock and then runs into the turnbuckle. Less than a minute later, the Sheepherders have hit the battering ram and the double team gut buster for a comprehensive victory over a team that Mid-South seemed more interested in earlier in the year.

The following match was a potentially heated confrontation according to Jim Ross, as Al Perez went up against Buzz Sawyer. Apparently, the two men had clashed on a show a few weeks previously, and Perez comes out of the block quickly, a jumping elbow and several side headlocks allowing him to ground Sawyer in the early going. Sawyer’s unorthodox offense is always fun to watch, and he uses Perez’s hair to slam his opponent hard face first into the mat. A surprise Perez German suplex gets a very near fall, and the announcers are surprised that Sawyer was able to kick out. Just as Perez is again building up a head of steam, a flying body press attempt is turned into an impressive powerslam for a Sawyer three count. Really gets over how quickly Sawyer can put you away with his high impact offense.

Sawyer slams Perez

The Masked Superstars get a run out as a team in the next match against the team of Steve Doll and David Peterson, with Captain Redneck in the corner as the second. Peterson has some initial success against Superstar 2 with a crossbody, and drops Superstar 1 with several punches after a tag. Peterson actually puts up a pretty good fight, only for that to be wasted when Doll is tagged in. The Superstars take complete control, and Doll is taken out with a clothesline from Masked Superstar after Doll had seemed to avoid an initial clothesline by Superstar 2. I just feel sorry for Peterson.

Tracy Smothers is now seemingly ready to do job duty in Mid-South, as he goes up against one of Eddie Gilbert’s charges, Taras Bulba. Bulba just looks like a cross between The Missing Link and Killer Khan, but he struggles initially to counter Smother’s speed, the debutant dropping the bigger man with a dropkick. Bulba is Heel 101 in terms of his offense, using punches and stomps to control his opponent. A missed Smothers dropkick allows Bulba to land a jumping headbutt for the victory. Even this early in his career, I feel like Smothers is being wasted somewhat; Bulba looks nothing special.

The Rock and Roll Express throw a bone to Ricky Gibson in a six man tag match as they go up against Mike Scott, Rob Ricksteiner and Shawn O’Reilly. Unsurprisingly, considering the fact that Ricky Gibson helped train the other two, the faces work well as a team, targeting the leg of Reilly with double team moves. When Scott gets into the ring, the match falls apart – we get a pinfall off of a Ricky Gibson dropkick, but this doesn’t seem to be the end of the match, so a Rock and Roll double dropkick sees Ricky Gibson attempt to pin Scott with a bridging leglock, only for the referee to tell everyone that he had already counted the pinfall. Just a complete farce, really.

Koko B. Ware is already being utilised better in Mid-South than I ever saw in Memphis, as the better production and use of music really makes his character that much more entertaining. Gustavo Mendoza is his opponent, and it isn’t long before Ware leaps over a Gustavo charge in the corner and kicks his teeth out with a dropkick off of the second rope. A really impressive looking finish for the time.

Koko B Ware dropkick

The main event is for the number one contendership to Dick Slater’s Mid-South North American Championship as Terry Taylor goes against Jake Roberts.There is a lot made about the respect between the two, and the opening sections establish parity, both men trading some basic wrestling moves. An early avoided DDT attempt shows Taylor is wary to Jake’s biggest weapon, whilst Taylor is able to knock Roberts out of the ring with his own signature move, the fivearm. Following some decent back and forth, Roberts hits the DDT out of nowhere, only to roll Taylor close to the ropes for the inevitable two count and rope break. Roberts thinks he has won, however, and the time spent celebrating before finding out he hasn’t won allows Taylor to regain his composure. A small package later, and Taylor is the new number one contender.

Memphis TV 01.03.1986

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The opening contest for this week is due to be Buddy Landell against Jim Jamison, but Landell heads down to ringside wearing a suit and a pair of sunglasses. Not only is he dressed to impress, he comes bearing photographs of a match between himself and Ric Flair, Flair screaming in agony in the Landell figure four. Due to his time spent in the ring with such luminaries as the NWA Champion, Landell refuses to get into the ring with Jamison and fight. Landell is a great character, a solid worker, and I can only imagine there were issues behind the scenes that led to him never really being the big star he could have been.

We get footage of Jerry Jarrett talking about losing the vision in his left eye, leaving him unable to return to in-ring competition. However, he does drop the information that Jeff Jarrett will be in training to become a wrestler after the basketball season finishes. Start of an era…

Another MOD Squad/JD Costello promo comes next – at least this time they namecheck The Fantastics as the team they are going after upon their debut. Costello and the MOD Squad think it will be a case of boys against men. The mugging of Spike and Basher next to Costello is laughable as always, but it gets the job done.

Speaking of the Fantastics, they are out and amongst the fans before their match against Bennie Traylor and Jerry Garmin. With Traylor and Garmin, they are notable enough a tag team to be wearing the same gear, but are never realistically going to challenge the tag team champions. It is quick tags as always, with work on Traylor’s arm and Garmin’s leg the order of the day. All it takes is a little shimmy from either Fantastic and the studio crowd go nuts. Oddly, their offense isn’t too dissimilar to The Rock and Roll Express, but their squashes aren’t as engaging. An abdominal stretch sees all four men get into the ring, and Rogers gets the pinfall with a sunset flip.

We get more publicity for the Thunderdome series of matches. There still isn’t as clear a set of rules as I would like, but you can’t fault them for their attempts to push it. We see short promos from Tony Faulk, Bill Dundee, Buddy Landell, Dutch Mantell, Tom Branch (..who?) and Abdul Gaddafi, with the quality dipping rapidly towards the end. Dundee is the first person to claim what weapon he might bring – a coal miner’s glove. We also get footage of Joe LeDuc managing to keep his hands together whilst ten men pulled on chains, trying to prise them apart. A very impressive feat of strength.

The Rick Casey vs Dutch Mantell feud has been rumbling since the beginning of the year, and we are shown some footage from a match between the two at the Coliseum. Mantell controls Casey with a couple of vicious clotheslines and a suplex, before using his singlet to choke Casey away from the ref’s vision. Eventually, both men collide in the middle of the ring, leading to a sequence that sees Casey fire up, only to get pinned with Mantell’s foot on the ropes. For whatever reason, the ref decides to listen to the fans and restarts the match. The ref deserves the subsequent ref bump off of a crossbody by Casey, but it is all for nothing in the end, as Buddy Landell manages to clothesline his own friend and Casey regaining his title for the three count. The next clip shows dissension between Mantell and Landell, only for Bill Dundee to hit the ring and stop things escalating further. Trouble in paradise, perhaps?

Driving this point home, we get Dundee and Landell in the studio, with Landell continuing to badmouth Mantell. Unsurprisingly, Mantell makes his way out mid-interview, only for Lance Russell to show the video once more. Landell, at several points after the match, threatens to hit Mantell when his back is turned, and in studio, Mantell drops his stuff and is ready to go! Dundee tries his best to stop it, but Mantell wails on both men! The numbers do catch up on him though, as Dundee busts him open with a boot to the face. The beat down that follows is pretty ferocious and Eddie Marlin eventually has to step in to run the heels off.

It seems as if the proposed main event of Billy Travis vs Dutch Mantell for a shot at Rick Casey’s title is no longer on the menu, but Buddy Landell, suddenly dressed and ready for action, hits the ring to give us an impromptu main event. It is short lived however, as whilst Travis is hung up in the tree of woe position, a bandaged Mantell jumps Landell from behind! This just brings out Dundee once more, though Travis and Mantell (with chair in hand) are able to chase off Landell and Dundee. Wild scenes for sure.

There you have it – the first two shows in March, both filled with notable matches, finishes and angles. The start of March proves to be a busy period in the wrestling world, and two more columns will follow shortly: one covering WWF’s offerings in terms of Championship Wrestling and Saturday Night’s Main Event, the other covering NWA Pro and World Championship Wrestling. As always, comment as you see fit and let me know what your thoughts are about the world of wrestling in 1986.

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