WCCW: Breakfast of Champions
October 30, 2005 by Jake Hamar
The other day, me and my friend Brian decided to head over to Denny's to enjoy a delicious breakfast. Keep in mind, we are both die-hard fans of wrestling, so naturally we broke into a conversation about the good old days of the business, and how we miss some of the stars and promotions of yesteryear. Then suddenly, Brian murmured words that hit my soul like good fried chicken.
"Remember World Class"" he said.
Right at that very moment, all of the memories I had etched in my brain about that small defunct promotion in Texas came rushing back to me. World Class Championship Wrestling. Home of the Von Erichs. The territory that made me aware of such stars as Bruiser Brody, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, Eric Embry, Percy Pringle III, and "Iceman" King Parsons. The first time I saw them on ESPN, I was hooked.
World Class was special. It was something different than all of the other wrestling promotions at the time in the fact than instead of having a single feud be the emphasis of the main event, they used stables to build their promotion around, and it worked effectively. As green as the Von Erich boys were at the time, their feud with The Freebirds made me want to tune in daily and see just what was going to go on. One thing that Fritz Von Erich and booker Ken Mantell knew how to do was captivate an audience into watching their television program. From 1983 to 1985, WCCW was red hot. The only promotion that was more innovative at that time was probably WWF.
One guy who caught my eye at that period in time was Bruiser Brody. Brody, whose real name was Frank Goodish, had been successful all over the globe, where he had good runs in Japan, St. Louis, and Houston for Paul Boesch. I really liked Brody's brawling style because it seemed like every time he got in the ring, all he had to do was clear house and the match would be over. He had this feud with Abdullah The Butcher which was so entertaining because these were two big savages who had nothing else on their minds but to anialated each other. This feud would have been perfect for ECW because it was so violent and bloody.
Fritz Von Erich wanted one of his sons to wear the NWA World Championship. The most logical choice was David Von Erich, because he was a competent worker and he was very popular in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But David passed away in Japan in 1984, so the decision was made to put the belt on fellow Von Erich brother Kerry. This event had to be held in a large venue, so World Class put on a mega show at Texas Stadium on May 6, 1984, called "The Parade of Champions."
Before I ever saw a WrestleMania, this was the biggest wrestling match I had ever seen on television. ESPN showed a condensed version of the card, with matches such as Junkyard Dog vs. Missing Link, Chris Adams vs. Jimmy Garvin, The Freebirds vs. The Von Erichs in a Six Man for the Tag Team Championship, and of course, the NWA Title match with Kerry vs. Ric Flair.
Kerry had a lot of things going for him - popularity, an athletic body and good looks. One thing Kerry had against him was that he wasn't a good worker. Being the tremendous performer that he is, Ric Flair made that match, doing the job for Kerry with a backslide. It was a great moment for the promotion as Kerry was destined to become of one of the biggest stars of that era. World Class was at it's peak.
New stars were being introduced at that point, like "Flamboyant" Eric Embry, Brian Adias, King Kong Bundy, The Dingo Warrior (who would later become the Ultimate Warrior), and Rick Rude. Rude was so hot as a performer that he became the top dog in the company and the WCCW Champion. It was also around this time that there were two new Von Erichs, brother Chris and "cousin" Lance.
One good thing about World Class is that they had good solid announcers that called the matches competently and did a good job of putting over the talent, which is a rarity because sometimes commentators will pick and choose who they want to put over in a match. Commentators Bill Mercer and Marc Lawrence did a good solid job, even though World Class didn't have a heel commentator like the WWF did in Jesse Ventura. But considering how good Mercer and Lawrence were, it didn't matter.
After a while, World Class got a little stale. They started the whole Von Erichs-Freebirds feud over again, but this time instead of having Michael Hayes in the group, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts incorporated King Parsons into the mix and started calling themselves "The Blackbirds". They attacked Fritz, causing him to have a "heart attack". This was a lame angle, and it was soon dropped.
In 1988, World Class and AWA put on a Pay-Per-View from Chicago called
"SuperClash III." This event was a total schlockfest, headlined by a title for title match with AWA Champion Jerry "The King" Lawler against World Class Champion Kerry Von Erich. The match was horrible and even worse, the finish was atrocious. Kerry had Lawler in the Clawhold, but due to his intense bleeding, the referee ruled that Von Erich could not continue, thus giving Lawler both belts and unifying them. It didn't matter how the Pay-Per-View would do; by that time, both AWA and WCCW were on their last legs.
The only thing keeping World Class in business in 1989 was Kerry Von Erich. Even though his skills (which were always limited) had diminished by this point, he was still popular among Dallas fans. Another interesting feud at this time was the one between "Gentleman" Chris Adams and his protégé, a guy who would go on to become one of the biggest names this business has ever seen: Steve Austin.
The storyline was very similar to the Bruno Sammartino-Larry Zbyszko feud the WWF executed back in 1980. Adams was the teacher. Austin was the pupil. Eventually they had to feud. As a matter of fact, Adams' wife Jeannie actually started going with Austin in real life, and they eventually got married. It was a great feud, but unfortunately to quote the Rolling Stones, time wasn't on their side, as the promotion had already run out of steam, and it was a little too late. Eventually, World Class became USWA, relocated to Memphis, Tennessee under the watch of the Jarretts. Ironically, Jerry Lawler would buy the promotion and run it until it's demise in 1997.
As our breakfast concluded, we realized how much we missed World Class. It was so good. Even better than the tantalizing Lumberjack Slam. Now with WWE running the 24/7 channel, and rumors of Kevin Von Erich selling his World Class video library to Vince, it would be great to get a daily program of World Class Championship Wrestling. Let's just keep our fingers crossed.
by Jake Hamar ..
Mike Adams wrote:
Ah yes good old World Classs, World Class was without a doubt the promotion that got me interested in wrestling. I even had the luxury of getting to one World Class card live at the Sportatorium, and it was something I will never forget. Yes it was hot, yes it was loud and it had a funny smell, but man it was great none the less. Its really a shame that David died so unexpectedly in Japan, because he was a much better worker than Kerry. However not all of Kerry's work was made by the other wrestlers, especially before he had the motorcyle accident that took his foot. He could put on a good performance from time to time, but David was the best. I always thought that World Class should have featured Kevin instead of Kerry because he was the next best to David, but Kerry had the look and the charisma and apparently was more favored of Fritz than Kevin was. I know that Kevin has personally spoken about Kerry being pushed to the moon, and I get the feeling from hearing Kevin speak on it that he was a little jealous, but being the good son and good sport he was, went along without making much waves. Never the less World Class will always have a special place in my memories, because it really was great entertainment.
We have World Class to thank everytime we turn on a television and watch professional wrestling. If Hulk Hogan was the man that took wrestling out of the smokey Bingo Halls and into the mainstream, then World Class is the organization that paved the way for it to happen. They were truly ahead of their time, and one of the saddest chapters in wrestling history was the day they closed their doors forever. Guys like David, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, Bam Bam Terry Gordy, Iceman King Parsons, The Gentleman Chris Adams, Michael PS Hayes, Bruiser Brody, hopefully will never be forgotten for what they accomplished. Now that Kevin Von Erich has sold the WCCW tapes archive to Vince McMahon we can only hope that WWE wont just sit on this golden footage and will at some point do something like a tribute video to one of the greatest promotions in the history of the business. There are so many great moments and matches in World Class, that the WWE could release several "Greatest of WCCW compilation's" and all would be very worth having.
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