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WRESTLING COLUMNS

World Class Championship Wrestling
80's Wrestling Compliments of the Lonestar State
March 31, 2005 by Ron Valliere


In the early 80's, for a young wrestling fan growing up in a small Massachusetts city the only wrestling company on free TV was the WWF. I enjoyed the WWF (and still do), but I also knew that there were other organizations out there and I was interested to see other superstars compete.

My wish to see more wrestling on TV was granted when Texas invaded New England in the form of World Class Championship Wrestling on WFXT channel 25. World Class taped its shows at the "world famous Sportatorium in downtown Dallas, Texas" and boasted an incredible talent roster that included Iceman King Parsons, Gentleman Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin with valets Sunshine then Precious, the Great Kabuki, Ugandan Giant Kamala with his handler Friday, the Missing Link, Wild Bill Irwin, John Mantell, Bruiser Brody, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, Killer Brooks, Maniac Mark Lewin, the Mongol, Al Madril, Brian Adias, managers General Skandar Akbar (the boss of Devastation Inc.) and Gary Hart, ring announcer Mark Lawrence, commentator Bill Mercer, referees Bronco Lubich and David Manning, and headlined by one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history - the Von Erich Family vs. The Fabulous Freebirds.

The Freebirds were a three man team from Atlanta, GA (Badstreet U.S.A. according to them) and you knew they were in the building when their anthem started blaring - Lynard Skynard's Freebird. The Birds were led by the flamboyant Michael Hayes. Hayes (6'1 and 245lbs with long, flowing bleached blond hair) was a pretty good wrestler with tons of charisma. His cocky ways as well as his strutting around the ring would insight the loyal Von Erich fans. The second Freebird was Terry "Bam Bam"Gordy. Gordy was the youngest Bird but at 6'4 and 275lbs he was the biggest. Bam Bam was without a doubt the power guy and enforcer of the group. The third Freebird was veteran Buddy Roberts. Roberts was the smallest (5'10 and 240lbs) Bird but was a good brawler and scrapper.

The Von Erich's were the sons of long time rule breaker, Fritz Von Erich. However, the Denton County, Texas boys were the heroes and crowning jewels of the company. David (who would pass away shortly after World Class came to channel 25) was about 6'5 and combined good mat skills with great brawling tactics. Kevin (who wrestled barefoot) was one of the great high flyers of that time with the likes of Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat. At 6'2 235lbs, he was in great shape, very athletic, and used a tremendous flying body press from the top rope as well as a variety of leg scissors and vices. Kerry (6'2 260lbs) had a Greek god physique, tremendous charisma, and good wrestling skills. The fans would go nuts when "Tom Sawyer" by Rush would begin to play because it meant the Modern Day Warrior was on his way to the ring ready to knock out some poor slob with his spinning discus punch. Mike would come in later to team with his brothers after the death of David. He was an ok wrestler who didn't possess much in-ring presence or charisma. The one thing the brothers all had in common was the Von Erich Iron Claw passed down to them from Fritz. More often then not their opponents would fall to the claw (Great Claw moments - David taking down Kamala and any time Ric Flair was busted open with it). *Note - I did not mention Lance (who was supposedly a Von Erich cousin - the son of Waldo) because he really was not a Von Erich (I believe he previously wrestled under the name Ricky Vaughn in the Pacific North West). Also I didn't mention Chris because he did not wrestle when World Class was on channel 25.

The Von Erich - Freebird feud started when Kerry challenged Ric Flair for the NWA title in a steel cage with Michael Hayes as special referee. Hayes ended up slamming the cage door on Kerry's head which cost him the match (I've seen this match angle copied over the years but none can compare for cause and effect in a storyline and the actual deed was done brilliantly by Kerry and Michael). This event started wrestling's answer to the Hatfields and the McCoys. They squared off in single, tag, six man tag, and even eight man tag matches. Specialty matches such as the penalty cage, leather strap, steel cage, brass knocks or taped fists, and lumber jack matches were used to try and settle the feud. Other stars joined in the fight as well - on the Freebird side: Great Kabuki, Killer Kahn, and Jimmy Garvin and on the Von Erich side: Iceman Parsons, Bruiser Brody, and Chris Adams. The feud was always exciting and never got old or stale. Every time the Freebirds were in the building the fans shouted "Go home Freebirds! "And they meant it. The Freebirds were so hated (which makes them three of the greatest heels of all time in my book) that the fans really wanted them out of Texas by any means possible.

World Class was great for other reasons and moments other than the big Von Erich - Freebird feud. World Class had the cool ring entrances before the WWF took them to another level. My favorite World Class ring entrances in no order : Iceman Parsons- ("We are Family" by the Pointer Sisters),Missing Link- ("Metal Health" by Quiet Riot), Rick Rude- (Smooth Operator" by Sade) Chris Adams & Gino Hernandez- ("We are the Champions" by Queen ) , Kevin Von Erich- ("Strangle Hold" by Ted Nugent) , Kamala- ( no music but the tribal mask and spear said it all) , the Great Kabuki- (in ring pre match numb chuck exhibition and green mist ritual). I also liked the way Mark Lawrence wouldn't introduce the wrestlers until all parties were in the ring. Some of the stars had some pretty unique finishing moves that I never saw before such as: the super kick from Chris Adams, the Oriental Spike from Killer Kahn and Terry Gordy, the Butt Butt from Iceman Parsons, and the rolling leg scissors sleeper from the Magic Dragon. There were other great feuds such as Devastation Inc. vs. Gary Hart's Army, Iceman Parsons vs. Buddy Roberts (Buddy ended up losing his hair to his own Freebird hair cream during this feud), Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah the Butcher, David Von Erich vs. Jimmy Garvin, Kevin Von Erich vs. Chris Adams, Killer Kahn vs. Terry Gordy, Kerry Von Erich vs. Rick Rude, Sunshine vs. Precious, and Sunshine vs. Missy. Another great reason to tune in was World Class's open door policy which allowed fans to see such international stars as Andre the Giant, Abdullah the Butcher, and Mil Mascaras compete every now and then. Last but not least, World Class's membership in the NWA set up some classic world title matches. One such match up would go down as one of the most emotional events in pro wrestling history. On May 6, 1984 at Texas Stadium, the Modern Day Warrior Kerry Von Erich faced Nature Boy Ric Flair for the NWA World title. Kerry dedicated the match to his late brother, David who had died in February of that same year. Kerry, who was trying to fulfil a dream as well as honor his late brother, had the 43,000 in attendance solidly behind him. Emotional factors aside, the fans were going to be treated to a great wrestling match. Flair was awesome and had the ability to have a great match with almost anyone. Kerry was an accomplished superstar and had big match experience and success as well. The match ended with one of the most dramatic moments in wrestling history - Kerry executing a backslide on Flair and holding his shoulders down for the count of three. Kerry would drop the belt back to Flair later that month on May 24 in Yokosuka City, Japan. However, nothing either competitor did following May 6, 1984 could take away from that tremendous moment. In February of 1986, World Class broke away from the NWA and announced that Rick Rude's American title was the new World Class Wrestling Association World title. This meant no more talent exchange with other NWA territories and no more NWA title defenses by the great Ric Flair. Rude was a good fit as the company heel champion because he played the character everyone loved to hate well, was in great shape (6'4 245lbs and chiselled), and had manager Percivle Pringle III (later Paul Bearer in the WWF) to draw additional heat. However, I feel any time a new title is created a tournament should be held to create credibility for the title as well as the person wearing the title. World Class should have held a tournament in which Rude could have defeated the company faces (the Von Erichs, Iceman Parsons etc.) by underhanded tactics to draw heat and give credibility to his character as well as not destroying the credibility of the future contenders. Also, World Class should have deactivated the Texas title rather than the American title. I had no problem with American tag titles becoming the World Class World tag titles (except once again a tournament should have been held) because a company doesn't need two sets of tag belts (I.e. The early 90's WCW U.S. tag team division was pitiful, the WWE's tag team situation right now is pretty poor as well, and I won't even get into WCW's horrible attempt at a cruiserweight tag team division). If World Class was trying to compete with the NWA, AWA, and WWF on a national level, they needed to eliminate the regional sounding Texas title and establish the American title as its secondary title (i.e. the WCW U.S. title and the WWF/WWE Intercontinental title). Mistakes such as those mentioned and the growing influence of Vince McMahon were certainly contributing factors to the down fall of World Class Championship Wrestling. Not too long after separating from the NWA, World Class was dropped by channel 25 who eventually picked WWF Superstars of Wrestling. In closing, I watched World Class Championship Wrestling religiously until it broke with the NWA. I watched occasionally until it went off the air here in Massachusetts. However, World Class had about a two year run in which it was one of the major players in pro wrestling. I would even make the argument that they were number one from about 1983 to 1985. During that time, World Class Championship Wrestling was exciting, innovative, and a must see every week!

by Ron Valliere ..


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