As time goes by, I appreciate the old territorial wrestling more and more.
The goals for a wrestling promotion were much simpler in those days. There were no corporate guys to answer to, no “booking committes”, no worry about stockholders or buyrates or even TV ratings.
The objective, the only true objective, was to hype up the next big life event and put butts in the seats.
That’s what made an angle Memphis ran in 1981 so revolutionary. The details, after the jump.
Back in 1981, Jerry Lawler returned from a broken leg and quickly became embroiled in a rivalry against the Funks. This led to a pair of matches in the Mid-South Coliseum against Terry and Dory Funk Jr., respectively.
Not long after that, Terry Funk challenged Lawler to meet him in an empty Mid-South Coliseum. No fans, no staff, no referee, just the two of them, a cameraman and Lance Russell.
You need to understand the time period to grasp how crazy this sounded. The whole POINT of having TV for a regional wrestling promotion was to draw fans to the big live event, and here Memphis was putting on a marquee match in a huge venue where no one would show up.
Here’s the thing, though. It worked. And it worked like a charm.
Lawler and Funk engaged in a wild brawl that began in the ring, went all around the coliseum, then returned to the ring. The whole time, Funk is screaming and screeching in this crazed high-pitched voice. No semblance of the former NWA world champ; this is the birth of Crazy Terry Funk.
At the end of it, Funk broke apart the ring steps, taking a jagged splinter and trying to gouge Lawler’s eye. Lawler kicks Funk’s arm up so the splinter “goes” into Funk’s eye. Funk promptly drops to the mat, screeching “My eye!” over and over again.
A few weeks later, Funk appears in the Memphis television studio. With a patch on his eye and a tooth missing, Funk lays waste to the participants in an undercard tag match and challenges Lawler.
The two went on to a series of matches around the Memphis territory that played in front of packed houses.
This is by far the best thing I’ve seen yet on the DVDVR Memphis set, which counting interviews, is 15 discs of goodness. Empty arenas are somewhat old-hat by now, and TNA probably soiled the gimmick irrevocably by having a recent empty arena match end with a run-in. Still, at the time Memphis did it, it was a very outside the box concept.
Ring Of Honor espouses itself as the current revolutionary, outside-the-box force in wrestling. I find this at least a little ironic, since I don’t think former trailblazers in various movements, industries and mediums spent their time proclaiming “look how trend-setting I am!” But I digress.
What jumped out to me about the ROH debut was how… basic the show seemed. Four matches, with brief promos by the competitors during the introductions, and the two main event participants cutting promos in breaks in the action. I would say 90 percent of the show was devoted to in-ring action. By current standards of wrestling TV, that definitely bucks the trend.
And yet the whole makeup of the first show was backwards. Delirious was the first ROH wrestler to appear on camera. No mention of the champ, Nigel McGuinness, until a teaser for next week’s episode, and nary a mention of Bryan Danielson, the best worker on the roster.
I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here, and how much the TV deal helps the promotion considering that a small portion of the population gets HDNet.
Enough ranting. Here’s the updated match list.
THE HARD FACTS
Total Days Watching Wrestling In 2009: 38
Longest Streak Of Days Watching: 6
Current Streak: 3
Best Match Of 2009: #58, Elimination Chamber-Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox vs. Edge vs. John Cena, No Way Out ’09
Best Match Overall: #58, Elimination Chamber-Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox vs. Edge vs. John Cena, No Way Out ’09
1. Triple H vs. John Morrison, Tables Match, Smackdown! 1/9 episode (1/12)
2. Undertaker vs. Shelton Benjamin, Smackdown! 1/9 episode (1/12)
3. Triple H vs. Miz & Chavo, Smackdown! 1/9 episode (1/12)
4. WWE Tag Titles-Carlito & Primo vs. Kendrick & Ezekiel, Smackdown! 1/9 episode (1/13)
5. Triple H vs. Big Show, Last Man Standing, Smackdown! 1/9 episode (1/13)
6. Billy White Cloud vs. Curt Hennig, Portland 5/8/82 (1/13)
7. Mike Miller vs. Rocky Johnson, Portland 5/8/82 (1/13)
8. 2 Out of 3 Falls-Dizzy Hogan, Rip Oliver & Matt Borne vs. Hacksaw Brett Sawyer & Andre the Giant, Portland 5/8/82 (1/13)
9. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. The Miz, Raw 1/12 (1/13)
10. Intercontinental Title-William Regal vs. CM Punk, Raw 1/12 (1/13)
11. Randy Orton vs. Kane, Raw 1/12 (1/13)
12. Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena, Raw 1/12 (1/15)
13. Necro Butcher vs. Abdullah the Butcher, IWA-EC 11/5/04 (1/15)
14. Don Fuji vs. Susumu Yokosuka, Dragon Gate Osaka Special 11/23/06 (1/16; completed 1/18)
15. Sting vs. Hernandez, Impact 1/15 (1/17)
16. Junk Yard Dog & Mr. Wrestling II vs. Ted DiBiase & Matt Borne, Mid-South 2/16/83 (1/19)
17. Steel Cage Match, Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II vs. Butch Reed & Jim Neidhart, Mid-South, 12/25/83 (1/19)
18. Magnum TA & Mr. Wrestling II vs. Midnight Express, Mid-South, 2/10/84 (1/19)
19. Bruiser Brody vs. Abdullah the Butcher, Japan 4/10/81 (1/19)
20. Amazing Red, SAT & Divine Storm vs. Special K, ROH Scramble Madness, 11/16/02 (1/19)
21. Finlay & Matt Hardy vs. Mark Henry & Jack Swagger, Smackdown 1/16 (1/19)
22. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Chris Jericho, Souled Out 98 (1/19)
23. Over The Top Challenge, Raw 1/19 (1/20)
24. Intercontinental Title-CM Punk vs. William Regal, Raw 1/19 (1/20)
25. Undertaker vs. Shelton Benjamin, Smackdown 1/23 (1/24)
26. Shelley vs. Sabin vs. Dutt vs. Bashir, Impact 1/22 (1/24)
27. Claudio Castagnoli vs. El Generico, ROH Race To The Top Finals, 7/28/07 (1/25)
28. ECW Title-Jack Swagger vs. Matt Hardy, 2009 Royal Rumble (1/25)
29. WWE Women’s Title-Beth Phoenix vs. Melina, 2009 Royal Rumble (1/25)
30. WWE Title-John Cena vs. JBL, 2009 Royal Rumble (1/25)
31. World Title-Jeff Hardy vs. Edge, 2009 Royal Rumble (1/25)
32. Royal Rumble Match, 2009 Royal Rumble (1/25)
33. Axel Bros vs. Young Bucks, NWA Wrestling Showcase 1/30 (1/29)
34. Skull Krushers vs. Chris Kadillak and Roger Ruiz, NWA Wrestling Showcase 1/30 (1/30)
35. Jerome “LTP” Robinson vs. Mr. Wrestling IV, NWA Wrestling Showcase 1/30 (1/30)
36. Rob Adonis & Jeremy Vain vs. Culture Shock, NWA Anarchy 12/29/08 episode (1/30)
37. CM Punk & Mickie James vs. William Regal & Layla, Raw 2/2 (2/2)
38. Cryme Tyme vs. Priceless, Raw 2/2 (2/2)
39. Rey Mysterio Jr. & Kofi Kingston vs. Mike Knox & Kane, Raw 2/2 (2/3)
40. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho, Raw 2/2 (2/3)
41. Adam Pearce vs. TJ Perkins, NWA Wrestling Showcase 1/30 (2/6)
42. Battle Royal for Elimination Chamber spot, Smackdown 2/6 (2/9)
43. Shelton Benjamin vs. MVP, Smackdown 2/6 (2/9)
44. Morrison, Miz & Kendrick vs. Truth & Colons, Smackdown 2/6 (2/9)
45. Umaga vs. Funaki, Smackdown 2/6 (2/9)
46. Dixie Dynomite vs. Dirty White Boy (w/ Ron Wright), Smoky Mountain Wrestling Volunteer Slam 1992 (2/9)
47. Buddy Landell vs. Brian Lee, SMW Volunteer Slam 1992 (2/9)
48. Melina & Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix & Jillian, Raw 2/9 (2/10)
49. Cryme Tyme vs. Priceless, Raw 2/9 (2/10)
50. John Cena, Rey Mysterio & Kofi Kingston vs. Chris Jericho, Mike Knox & Kane, Raw 2/9 (2/10)
51. CM Punk vs. William Regal, Raw 2/9 (2/10)
52. Bryan Danielson vs. Necro Butcher, PWG Giant Sized Annual #4 7/29/07 (2/15)
53. Elimination Chamber-Edge vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Vladimir Kozlov vs. Big Show vs. Triple H vs. Undertaker, No Way Out ’09 (2/15)
54. Randy Orton vs. Shane McMahon, No Way Out ’09 (2/15)
55. Jack Swagger vs. Finlay, No Way Out ’09 (2/15)
56. Shawn Michaels vs. JBL, No Way Out ’09 (2/15)
57. Elimination Chamber-Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox vs. Edge vs. John Cena, No Way Out ’09 (2/15)
58. CM Punk & Cryme Tyme vs. William Regal & Priceless, Raw 2/16 (2/17)
59. Kane vs. Jamie Noble, Raw 2/16 (2/17)
60. Rey Mysterio vs. Mike Knox, Raw 2/16 (2/17)
61. Melina vs. Beth Phoenix, Raw 2/16 (2/18)
62. Amazing Red vs. Jay Briscoe, ROH Era Of Honor Begins, 2/23/02 (2/19)
63. Rey Mysterio Jr., Latin Lover & Heavy Metal vs. Fuerza Guerrera, Madonna’s Boyfriend & Psicosis, When Worlds Collide (2/23)
64. CM Punk vs. John Morrison vs. Miz, Raw 2/23 (2/23)
65. Santino, Dolph Ziggler & Beth Phoenix vs. Cryme Tyme & Melina, Raw 2/23 (2/23)
66. Shawn Michaels vs. JBL, Raw 2/23 (2/23)
67. Mike Knox vs. Jamie Noble, Raw 2/23 (2/23)
68. Bob Roop vs. Mike George, Mid-South 12/16/81 (2/24)
69. Mr. Olympia vs. Paul Orndorff, Mid-South 2/3/82 (2/24)
70. Bob Roop vs. Ted DiBiase, Mid-South 4/2/82 (2/24)
71. Junkyard Dog vs. Nick Bockwinkel, Mid-South 6/11/82 (2/24)
72. DJ Gabriel vs. Mark Henry, ECW 2/24 (2/25)
73. Tyson Kidd vs. Jobber, ECW 2/24 (2/25)
74. Paul Burchill vs. Tommy Dreamer, ECW 2/24 (2/25)
75. Jack Swagger vs. Christian, ECW 2/24 (2/25)
76. Joey Ryan vs. Willie Mack, NWA Wrestling Showcase 2/13 (2/26)
77. Lance Cade & Trevor Murdock (how clever) vs. Tito Aquino & Liger Rivera, NWA Wrestling Showcase 2/13 (2/26)
78. Colons vs. Morrison & Miz, Smackdown 2/27 (2/28)
79. Undertaker vs. Vladimir Kozlov, Smackdown 2/27 (2/28)
80. Shelton Benjamin vs. Chavo Guerrero, Smackdown 2/27 (2/28)
81. John Cena vs. Big Show, Smackdown 2/27 (2/28)
82. Mr. Olympia vs. Bob Roop, Mid-South 7/15/82 (2/28)
83. JYD & Mr. Olympia vs. Ted DiBiase & Hacksaw Duggan, Mid-South 8/18/82 (2/28)
84. One Man Gang vs. Buck Robley, Lumberjack Match, Mid-South 9/15/82 (2/28)
85. Rey Mysterio vs. Kane vs. Mike Knox, Raw 3/2 (3/3)
86. Shawn Michaels vs. Vladimir Kozlov, Raw 3/2 (3/3)
87. Edge vs. John Cena, Raw 3/2 (3/3)
88. Xavier vs. Scoot Andrews, ROH Era Of Honor Begins 2/23/02 (3/3)
89. Kane vs. Boogeyman, ECW 3/3 (3/4)
90. Mark Henry vs. Santino Marella, ECW 3/3 (3/4)
91. Christian, Tommy Dreamer & Finlay vs. Jack Swagger, Morrison & Miz, ECW 3/3 (3/4)
92. Border Patrol vs. Espiritu & Sidareal, NWA Wrestling Showcase 2/13 (3/5)
93. Derrick Sanders vs. Blue Demon, NWA Wrestling Showcase 2/13 (3/5)
94. MVP vs. Matt Hardy, Smackdown 3/6 (3/7)
95. Bill Dundee vs. Larry Latham, Memphis 4/19/80 (3/13)
96. Ricky Morton vs. Sonny King, Memphis 4/26/80 (3/13)
97. Bill Dundee vs. Paul Ellering, Memphis 5/24/80 (3/13)
98. Bill Dundee & Tony Boyles vs. Wayne Farris & Larry Latham, Memphis 6/7/80 (3/16)
AND THE NEW ADDITIONS…
99. Christian & MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin & Mark Henry, ECW 3/17 (3/17) (Christian jobs cleanly, again. Because it makes so much sense to base booking decisions solely upon ego and inside jokes.)
100. Evan Bourne vs. Jamie Noble, ECW 3/17 (3/17) (Awesome showcase for Bourne in his return.)
101. Bill Dundee vs. Tommy Rich, Memphis 8/23/80 (3/17) (Rich wins with an “inadvertent” low blow and cuts a heel promo after.)
102. Television Title Battle Royal, Memphis 11/22/80 (3/17) (Fantastic angle in the next segment, with Jimmy Valiant berating Tommy Rich’s mother after she tells the fans to show that no-goodnik Wildfire a little love. Tommy runs to the rescue, Valiant and Tojo team up for a beatdown and Rich taps a freakin’ artery, then turns face. Guys seemed to turn a LOT in Memphis.)
103. Bill Dundee vs. Wayne Farris & Tojo Yamamoto, Memphis 3/7/81 (3/18) (Handicap match for the tag titles. Dundee actually goes to the in-out stall 8 minutes in trying to expend time and possibly draw to keep the belts. Eventually the heels get the better of them.)
104. Bill Dundee & Tommy Rich vs. Dutch Mantell & Austin Idol, Memphis 3/12/81 (3/19)
105. Bill Dundee & Dream Machine vs. Dutch Mantell & Wayne Farris, Memphis 3/14/81 (3/19) (I love how Memphis matches go from stalling and holds to crazy brawling at the drop of a hat. Dream Machine was basically a fat masked dude doing Dusty schtick.)
106. Jerry Lawler vs. Terry Funk (No DQ), Memphis 3/23/81 (3/23)
107. Jerry Lawler vs. Dory Funk Jr., Memphis 3/30/81 (3/23)
108. Jeff Hardy vs. Dolph Ziggler, Raw 3/23 (3/23) (Fear the Jeff Hardy clown fish makeup!)
109. Christian, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston & MVP vs. Finley, Shelton Benjamin, Kane & Mark Henry, Raw 3/23 (3/23)
110. Edge vs. Big Show, Raw 3/23 (3/23) (This could barely be called a match.)
111. Rey Mysterio vs. William Regal, Raw 3/23 (3/23)
112. Mickie James vs. Santino Marella, Raw 3/23 (3/23)
113. Jerry Lawler vs. Terry Funk (Empty Arena), Memphis 4/6/81 (3/24) (Tremendous angle.)
114. Contract Match-Spanky & Ikaika Loa vs. Michael Shane & Oz, ROH Era Of Honor Begins, 2/23/02 (3/25) (How did Michael Shane fall off the map? I don’t get it, I always liked his work before he became one of Raven’s lame boyfriends in TNA.)
115. Jerry Lynn vs. Delirious, ROH TV 3/21 (3/25)
116. Kenny King vs. Sami Callahan, ROH TV 3/21 (3/25) (ROH is pushing King the way WWE should be pushing Shelton Benjamin.)
117. Brent Albright vs. Rhett Titus, ROH TV 3/21 (3/25) (Albright is the wrestling equivalent of toast. A big, beefy piece of toast who could snap your arm, but toast nonetheless.)
118. Jimmy Jacobs vs. Tyler Black, ROH TV 3/21 (3/25) (Surprising lack of intensity between the two given the apparent fury of the rivalry. A fine match, though. ROH TV did a great job establishing the finishers and key moves of all the guys who appeared.)