1. DAVID VON ERICH DIES (1984)
On February 10, 1984, the professional wrestling industry lost one of its most promising young superstars when David Von Erich died suddenly at the age of 24 in his Tokyo hotel room. David was to begin what he deemed an important tour of Japan, as rumors were spreading rampantly within the industry that David was going to win the NWA World championship sometime in 1984. Apparently, the NWA Board of Directors would wait anxiously to hear the reports of David's latest tour of Japan before deciding his championship fate.
David's death was initially speculated to have resulted from either food poisoning, an injury sustained during a match in Japan (which was untrue as David had yet to wrestle a match on this tour), or -- as reported in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer newsletter -- a drug overdose (although this remains unproven), as the Adkisson family initially had difficulty getting information on the death from Japan officials. The cause of David's death, however, was officially ruled as acute enteritis, an inflammation of the intestines which is believed to be stress related. If left untreated, this condition can become fatal and apparently did for David; brother Kevin stated David had complained of feeling ill for several weeks prior to his tour of Japan.
On a personal level, the Adkisson family lost a beloved husband, son and brother; wrestling fans lost their "Yellow Rose of Texas" and the apparent heir to the NWA World championship; and the World Class organization lost its most popular wrestler at a vital time when the industry would see its largest surge in popularity. Many speculated that the very successful World Class Championship Wrestling organization would eventually fall into the capable hands of David Adkisson, who would thus join the new breed of multi-generational promoters which included Mid-Atlantic's Jim Crockett, Jr. and the WWF's Vince McMahon, Jr., as pioneers who would lead the industry into the next century.
Inside and out of the ring, David had inherited his father's acumen for the industry. He was negotiating deals for products that were new to the business at the time, such as wrestling action figures, t-shirts, videos, etc. Those close to the World Class scene have stated that Fritz Von Erich relied on two vital people when tough decisions had to be made: wrestling veteran Gary Hart, and David.
David possessed an eye for wrestling talent, bringing in such World Class superstars as the Fabulous Freebirds, "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin, the Irwin Brothers, Gino Hernandez and others at different times.
David was also gaining influence within the National Wrestling Alliance. He was highly respected amongst the Alliance's board of directors, chiefly with vital members such as Florida's Eddie Graham (for whom David worked as a heel during 1981-82), St. Louis' Sam Muchnick and Japan's Giant Baba, as well as current/former NWA World champions Harley Race and Ric Flair (with the latter two stating that David surely would have become the NWA World champion had he lived).
After David's death, World Class held its biggest card on May 6, 1984, entitled the Parade of Champions, which was dedicated to the memory of the fallen warrior. Over 32,000 fans packed Texas Stadium to witness David's younger brother Kerry capture the NWA World title from Ric Flair, and his father Fritz coming out of retirement to team with sons Kevin and Mike to capture the World Six-Man Tag Team titles from old rivals the Fabulous Freebirds. Sung before the memorial card was a touching tribute song, "Heaven Needed a Champion", which singer/songwriter Glen Goza wrote about David's passing.
While World Class would still have another two years of substantial success, neither the promotion nor the Adkisson family ever quite recovered from the death of David Von Erich. In an industry where fans like to debate the "what ifs", one can only speculate how different professional wrestling would be today had David lived. Would Crockett hold the reins on the NWA World title for his Mid-Atlantic promotion? Would World Class eventually join both the WWF and NWA as professional wrestling's elite promotions? Could several more Adkisson family tragedies have been averted? David's death continues to be felt today, even in an industry that has experienced mind-boggling numbers of deaths since that cold February morning.
2. THE VON ERICHS-FREEBIRDS FEUD BEGINS (1982)
Following a controversial 2 out of 3 falls match on August 15, 1982 between NWA World Champion Ric Flair and Kerry Von Erich in which Flair barely escaped Texas with his world title strap -- and now having evidence that Flair was in on a devious deal with World Class manager Gary Hart in an attempt to end his son's career -- family patriarch Fritz Von Erich demanded a second enforcer referee be assigned to the December 25, 1982 cage match between Flair and Kerry in order for a decisive winner to emerge.
Television viewers were asked to choose amongst several wrestlers to serve as a special referee for the bout, with World Class newcomer (and then babyface) Michael Hayes edging out the others to become the title bout's "special enforcer referee", and it was a duty Hayes was determined to take seriously.
On the Christmas night bout between Flair and Kerry, referee Hayes had several near-confrontations with the world champion before finally losing his cool and slugging Flair. Hayes then wanted Kerry to quickly cover the unconscious Flair to become the new world's champion.
But Von Erich, trying to win the title in an honorable fashion, refused to make the easy cover on Flair, which incensed Hayes. Hayes and Kerry began to argue, and Hayes left the ring with Kerry following him still pleading his case to Hayes. As Kerry leaned out of the cage to make a last effort to gain Michael's attention, Hayes' fellow Freebird Terry Gordy, who was stationed outside of the cage, slammed the door on Kerry's head, allowing Flair the victory. Fans today still refer to the incident as "the slam heard around the world".
Now the war "between decency and filth", as Kevin Von Erich called it, was on! Older brothers Kevin and David Von Erich joined in Kerry's crusade, as did the entire Freebird unit of Gordy and Buddy Roberts joining Michael Hayes.
The two trios set attendance and television viewership records in nearly every World Class market they fought in during the early to mid-1980's. The feud was not only about their mutual hatred towards each other, but also the coveted World Six-Man Tag Team trophy (later replaced by belts), and this particular title changed between the two factions numerous times.
When World Class went into massive syndication in late 1983 across the United States, the Von Erich-Freebird feud was at its peak and instantly became one of the sport's most talked about feuds, remaining so for many years to come. Whether it was a six-man tag match, a cage match, a country whipping match, fans in attendance or watching television knew they were guaranteed excitement when there was a Von Erich-Freebird match on the card they were watching.
As years went by, Mike Von Erich filled the spot on the Von Erich squad for his late brother David, and faux cousin Lance would also join in to battle the 'Birds.
Amazingly, in 1988, Freebird Michael Hayes would actually capture the World Six-Man titles with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich when they defeated the new Freebird faction of Gordy, Roberts and Iceman King Parsons.
The final Von Erich-Freebird battle in Texas took place in 1993 at the Kerry Von Erich Memorial Card sponsored by the Global Wrestling Federation at the Sportatorium. The main event of the card featured Kevin Von Erich and longtime ally "Gentleman" Chris Adams taking on, and defeating, Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts. "For a moment, it seemed like someone turned back the hands of time", Kevin remarked after the match.
3. WCCW TELEVISION GOES NATIONAL, THEN INTERNATIONAL (1982)
In April 1982, at the urging of newly-hired television producer Mickey Grant and veteran television announcer Bill Mercer, longtime Dallas/Fort Worth wrestling promoter Jack Adkisson took his Big Time Wrestling promotion and rechristened it World Class Championship Wrestling.
"I wanted the word 'Class' in the name of the promotion", said Grant, who came up with the name.
Seen in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on the Christian Broadcasting Network, World Class Championship Wrestling television seemingly had no other delusions of grandeur other than to increase their television ratings in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and quite possibly go deeper into the Texas region. However, Adkisson was also able to regionally expand his viewership across Texas with a deal with KTVT, which would later become an affiliate for CBS.
The deal with KTVT ultimately opened doors for World Class to gain syndication in 66 U.S. markets as well as overseas in Israel, Japan and throughout South America. This was before Vince McMahon, Jr. took his World Wrestling Federation product and expanded it nationally, remarkably enough accomplishing this during the early days of cable television.
The weekly television shows, under producer Mickey Grant, would undergo many production overhauls such as the use of instant replays, state-of-the-art graphics, intimate interviews from outside the squared circle, the use of music videos, three cameras in constant use throughout the matches and microphones that allowed fans to hear the action from inside the ring.
The television shows essentially catered to all kinds of wrestling fans. For the females there were the "matinee idol" types such as Jack Adkisson's young and athletic sons Kevin, David and Kerry Von Erich (later Mike and then Chris), the charismatic Michael Hayes, the handsome Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez and "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin.
There were still the stereotypical, unusual characters such as Bugsy McGraw, the Missing Link and Kamala, as well as wild brawlers such as Bruiser Brody, Terry Gordy and Killer Khan.
"The show essentially syndicated itself", explains Grant. "Everyone saw the kind of ratings World Class was getting, and wanted to add it to their programming."
Filmed weekly from the Dallas Sportatorium, and hosted by former Dallas reporter and Texas Rangers' announcer Bill Mercer (and occasionally by ring announcer Marc Lowrance), the syndicated show quickly made World Class one of the hottest promotions within the industry on a national, then international level, without compromising the gentlemen's agreement amongst the National Wrestling Alliance pertaining to promotions staying within the boundaries of their designated regions (yet Jack Adkisson would still take some flack for bringing his product to both a national and international audience from the National Wrestling Alliance).
4. KERRY VON ERICH WINS NWA WORLD TITLE (1984)
On May 6, 1984, the Adkisson family and WCCW held its first annual Parade of Champions in memory of David Von Erich, who had passed away just three months earlier.
The main event of the card was National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Champion Ric Flair taking on David’s younger brother, “Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich, for the world title that David seemed destined to win before his untimely passing.
After the opening notes of his own theme song, Rush's “Tom Sawyer”, Kerry entered Texas Stadium to what had been David's entrance song, Tanya Tucker’s “Texas (When I Die)”, in a royal blue velvet robe made by his mother Doris, reading In Memory of David on the back. In what was David’s trademark, Kerry brought with him to the ring a single yellow rose, which he kissed and threw to the adoring crowd.
Due to the excessive heat (the temperature on the field peaking at 100-plus degrees), the actual bout -- clocking in at just under thirteen minutes -- was considerably shorter than previous Flair-Kerry classic confrontations, and did not begin to measure up to their classic best-of-three-falls bout on August 15, 1982, nor the Christmas night cage match from the same year. However, in terms of the pure, raw affection and emotion displayed by the over 32,000 fans at Texas Stadium on this day, this particular bout became an instant classic.
Although Kerry’s title reign was seen as a gift to the Adkisson family and was never intended to be a lengthy run, it was a belt that was highly coveted by Von Erich wrestling patriarch Fritz Von Erich (himself a former American Wrestling Association world champion), and by Kerry’s late brother David.
Kerry only had the belt for 18 days before losing the title back to Flair in Japan. But in those 18 days, Kerry had an exhausting schedule:
May 7 - Terry Gordy - Fort Worth, Texas
May 8 - Ric Flair - Muskogee, Oklahoma (non-title)
May 9 - Ric Flair - Corpus Christi, Texas
May 10 - Missing Link - Allen, Texas (non-title)
May 11 - Ric Flair - Dallas, Texas (non-title)
May 12 - Ric Flair - San Antonio, Texas
May 13 - Mike Rotundo - Ocala, Florida (daytime card)
May 13 - Superstar Billy Graham - Orlando, Florida (nighttime card)
May 14 - Ron Bass - West Palm Beach, Florida
May 15 - Superstar Billy Graham - Miami Beach, Florida
May 16 - Mike Rotundo (?) - Fort Myers, Florida (?)
May 17 - Black Bart - Melbourne, Florida
May 18 - Superstar Billy Graham - Lake City, Florida
May 19 - Ron Bass - Tampa, Florida
May 22 - Jumbo Tsuruta - Tokyo, Japan
May 24 - Ric Flair - Yokosuka City, Japan (loses title)
Kerry's title loss took place in Japan (it should be noted that the NWA board did not seem to care as long as Kerry lost the title back to Flair before Ric’s May 24th encounter with Ricky Steamboat at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey) at the insistence of Jack Adkisson, in order for World Class to limit the amount of times the loss would be shown on its programming, and allow them to even put their own spin on things, such as Flair allegedly winning back the title due to an incompetent Sumo referee (which was obviously false, as the highly respected Japanese referee Joe Higuchi had done the officiating and the win was perfectly clean).
Unfortunately, this would be the first and only NWA World title win for Kerry and the rest of the Von Erich family. Shortly after Kerry’s loss of the belt back to Flair, Jim Crockett Promotions took control of the title and its champions, which would cut off Kerry and his brother Kevin from any further title reigns and made getting title shots a tougher task than before, which would ultimately lead World Class to withdraw its membership from the NWA and declare its own world title.
5. CHRIS ADAMS' HEEL TURN (1984)
In late summer 1984, soon after the blowoff match which (temporarily) ended the feud between the Von Erichs and the Fabulous Freebirds, a shocking betrayal opened another historic chapter in the annals of WCCW history. During a tag team match, the very popular “Gentleman” Chris Adams turned on Kevin Von Erich in a tag team match that pitted Kevin and Adams against the team of Gino Hernandez and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Sunshine's "aunt" Stella Mae French, who had been feuding with Gino Hernandez, attempted to assist the Adams/Von Erich team, but her interference backfired, costing the popular duo the match. Manager Gary Hart, who had recently begun managing Adams, became very upset with Stella Mae and a physical confrontation with her started.
Kevin attempted to calm Hart down, but Hart grabbed Stella and was about to strike her. Ever the popular hero, Von Erich punched Hart for his abuse of Stella Mae, and when Kevin turned to face Adams, he was met with a superkick to the chin. Adams walked out of the ring with Hart, despite the pleas of both Stella Mae and the fans. Hernandez and Roberts used this opportunity to destroy the fallen Von Erich after dumping Stella Mae over the top rope and out of the ring.
When Adams joined up with Hernandez to form the Dynamic Duo shortly after this incident, their ensuing war with the Von Erichs (specifically Kevin) proved to be nearly as intense as the Von Erich-Freebird rivalry.
6. WCCW INTRODUCES STATE-OF-THE-ART TELEVISION PRODUCTION (1982)
Though the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) usually gets the credit -- and often rightfully so -- for their many innovative concepts in professional wrestling, it was World Class that was years ahead of its time in terms of professional wrestling television shows.
Due to the fact that the WCCW territory, at the time, ran shows only in Dallas/Fort Worth and the surrounding area, it was necessary for the promotion to give its viewers nationwide a superior wrestling card on a weekly basis. Regardless of the fact that the matches were available for free on TV, the Sportatorium would be packed every week from late 1982 until things started to fall apart after Kerry Von Erich’s motorcycle accident in the summer of 1986.
World Class’s weekly television programs were unique at the time, featuring main event caliber matches in an age where “squash” matches (an established superstar destroying enhancement talent in shorter matches suited for a television program) were the norm.
Many memorable angles were shown on TV to viewers around the country. In the days of cable’s infancy, years before pay-per-view events became a promotion’s “bread and butter”, the big payoffs to feuds and angles usually came at their big house shows. From 1984 to 1988, WCCW ran a big card at Texas Stadium on the first Sunday of May (the Parade of Champions); and also a show in the fall at the Cotton Bowl. They also held seasonal Wrestling Star Wars events at Reunion Arena, usually on Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The matches from these events were usually shown in their entirety on free television shortly after the event.
Aside from showing main events on free TV, WCCW television production was way ahead of its time, thanks to its syndicated program's original producer Mickey Grant. Under Grant, World Class was the first wrestling promotion to use multiple hand-held cameras, to give the matches an up-close, more "urgent" feel. The show was also among the first to air pre-taped vignettes of the wrestlers outside the squared circle.
7. KERRY VON ERICH'S MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT (1986)
The life of Kerry Gene Adkisson changed forever on June 4, 1986, when the motorcycle he was riding hit a parked police car. Kerry, who was riding barefoot, had apparently gotten his right foot caught in the rack of lights atop the squad car, nearly ripping his entire foot off. Doctors at Baylor Hospital performed hours of delicate surgery in order to try to save the foot, ultimately having to fuse the ankle in order for Kerry to be able to use it properly.
At the time of the accident, Kerry was World Class’ most popular superstar, and his lengthy absence due to the injury was a factor in attendance dropping throughout the area. Although fans were told Kerry would not be out of action for long, fans started to think differently after seeing Kerry struggling on crutches for nearly eighteen months.
Trying to rush back to the squared circle was the greatest mistake of the young warrior’s life, as he attempted his initial comeback against Brian Adias in February 1987. Although Kerry and Adias wrestled a very cautious match, Kerry re-injured the foot to the extent where doctors had to amputate it.
In what was at that time one of the sport’s greatest secrets, Kerry returned to professional wrestling full time with the help of a prosthetic foot, which Kerry was able to conceal with a larger wrestling boot. It wasn’t until 1988 during a match against Col. DeBeers in Las Vegas, in which DeBeers accidentally pulled Kerry’s right boot off along with the prosthesis, that the “dirt sheet” writers caught onto the fact that Kerry had lost his right foot (although it never got mainstream attention until after he had passed away).
Remarkably, Kerry Von Erich was seemingly better than ever in the eyes of wrestling fans. He was still able to throw an effective dropkick, run around the ring and perform seemingly death-defying moves. However, this facade came with a big price, another secret Kerry had to keep from the fans: due to the constant pain he was in, Kerry became addicted to painkillers, and later harder drugs.
This addiction would cause Kerry’s life to spiral out of control. Though he did hold the Intercontinental title during his only venture into the WWF, Kerry fell deeper into depression and addiction which would ultimately cause grave consequences.
8. ERIC EMBRY VS. DEVASTATION INC. FOR CONTROL OF WCCW (1989)
|Marc Lowrance in the clutches of P.Y. Chu-Hi|
(Championship Sports 7/22/89)
|Eric Embry cuts an emotional promo after Chu-Hi destroys |
a gift from a fan (Championship Sports 7/29/89)
With this victory, the promotion known internationally as World Class Championship Wrestling became the Dallas branch of the United States Wrestling Association (USWA). This fact was accentuated when Embry and his manager Percy Pringle III tore down the WCCW banner hanging from the Sportatorium’s ceiling, declaring the promotion’s independence from the evil grasp of Devastation, Inc.
In actuality, new promotion owner Jerry Jarrett was forced to rename the organization after a dispute with the Adkisson family regarding the sale of the rights to the World Class Championship Wrestling name.
Most who followed both WCCW and the USWA agree that when Jarrett took over the Dallas/ Fort Worth area promotion, it bore little resemblance to the WCCW of yesteryear. It was not for a lack of success, as venue gates were at the highest they had been in nearly three years, but Texas fans saw an influx of traditionally Tennessee area wrestlers such as Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, Robert Fuller, Bill Dundee and others gaining a prominent role within the promotion. The Texas element of the television programming was reduced and ultimately de-emphasized, with veteran Texas superstars like Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, Chris Adams, and Iceman King Parsons being relegated to the middle portion of the wrestling card.
In addition, the booking style was dramatically changed, with matches normally associated with Jerry Jarrett’s style of booking such as coal miner’s glove matches, ladder matches, and “come as you are” matches being prominently showcased.
Whether you were a fan of Fritz Von Erich’s WCCW, or of Jerry Jarrett’s USWA, one cannot ignore the fact that on August 4, 1989, professional wrestling in the state of Texas would be changed forever, and wrestling’s version of Camelot would never be the same.
9. WCCW PULLS OUT OF THE NWA (1986)
Once a cohesive organization of territorial promotions primarily throughout North America, the National Wrestling Alliance by the mid-1980’s was only a shell of its former collective self. With his own wrestler Ric Flair as NWA World Champion, Mid-Atlantic promoter Jim Crockett, Jr. took hold of the title, attempting to make the traveling NWA World champion a thing of the past by making territorial title defenses fewer and more expensive for less affluent promotions.
Unlike in the past, when Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich) was in former St. Louis promoter and NWA President Sam Muchnick’s inner circle, Adkisson now saw a shift in the balance of power go solely towards Crockett, and having his World Class promotion in the National Wrestling Alliance was no longer to his advantage.
On February 20, 1986, Adkisson made the difficult decision of withdrawing World Class’ membership from the NWA, and operating his promotion -- now called the “World Class Wrestling Association” -- independently. “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who held the NWA American Heavyweight title at the time, officially became WCCW's first recognized world champion.
10. KEN MANTELL LEAVES WCCW (1986)
In May 1986, shortly after the third annual Parade of Champions, Mid-South wrestling promoter Bill Watts set his plan of national expansion (ala the World Wrestling Federation and Jim Crockett Promotions) into motion when he hired Ken Mantell away from WCCW to be his primary booker, in hopes of luring faithful World Class fans to his newly renamed Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).
Mantell, who was highly respected by both Jack Adkisson and the talent in the World Class locker room, was a valuable braintrust behind the scenes at World Class, and after David Von Erich's tragic passing in February 1984, Mantell was often thought of as Fritz’s "go-to guy”.
He was able to lure many of his old associates (including the Fabulous Freebirds, Iceman King Parsons, Chris Adams, Skandor Akbar, Missy Hyatt, John Tatum, Sunshine, the Missing Link, the One Man Gang and Kamala) over to the revamped Mid-South area, where they would be featured prominently on Watts’ weekly television show.
World Class began to decline sharply in the latter half of 1986 as the Texas oil recession, which accounted for many job losses throughout the state of Texas, resulted in declining attendance at WCCW house shows. The near fatal motorcycle accident of the promotion's most popular wrestler Kerry Von Erich, which would keep him out of full-time action for nearly 18 months, would be the final nail in the coffin for an organization that had been vastly successful just a few short months earlier.
After Watts sold the UWF to Jim Crockett, Jr., Mantell went on to start his own professional wrestling promotion based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, known as Wild West Wrestling. He would merge the company with World Class upon becoming a part owner of WCCW along with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich in early 1988, after Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich) sold his once highly successful promotion.
11. UWF TALENT RAID (1986)
During the peak years of its popularity, World Class was booked brilliantly by former wrestler Ken Mantell, who along with his brother Johnny, were Texas wrestling mainstays throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
In 1986, however, legendary ex-wrestler and promoter Bill Watts wanted to expand his regional wrestling phenomenon, the Mid-South territory, nationally as Vince McMahon, Jr. (WWF) and Jim Crockett, Jr. (NWA) had done before him. Watts renamed his longstanding promotion the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), secured a hefty television syndication deal and set his sights on the Dallas-Fort Worth professional wrestling market, wanting as many big names from the popular World Class promotion as possible in order to give the UWF the additional drawing power he felt it needed in that region, and to compete successfully with WCCW.
In May 1986, shortly after the third annual Parade of Champions, Watts set his plan of Texas and Southwest dominance into motion when he hired Ken Mantell away from WCCW to be his primary booker. Mantell, who was highly respected by both Jack Adkisson and the talent in the World Class locker room, was able to lure many of his old associates (including the Fabulous Freebirds, Iceman King Parsons, Chris Adams, Skandor Akbar, Missy Hyatt, John Tatum, Sunshine, the Missing Link, the One Man Gang and Kamala) over to the revamped Mid-South area, where they would be featured prominently on Watts’ weekly television show.
From there, things would seemingly get worse for WCCW in the latter half of 1986 as the Texas oil recession, which accounted for many job losses throughout the state of Texas, resulted in declining attendance at WCCW house shows. The near fatal motorcycle accident of World Class’ most popular wrestler Kerry Von Erich, which would keep him out of full-time action for nearly 18 months, would be the final nail in the coffin for a promotion that had been vastly successful just a few short months earlier.
12. CHRIS ADAMS LAYS OUT KEVIN VON ERICH AT THE COTTON BOWL (1984)
It appeared that World Class would need a stroke of genius to turn its fans against the "Gentleman". However, one stiff chair shot on Saturday, October 27, 1984 at the Cotton Bowl would convert Adams into a full-fledged heel, and reignite World Class Championship Wrestling in the process.
The main event of this first annual Cotton Bowl card was scheduled as a World Class Six-Man Tag Team Title defense, with champs Kerry, Kevin, and Mike Von Erich putting the prestigious trophy on the line against Adams, Gino Hernandez and Jake Roberts.
Kevin and Chris wrestled earlier on the card in a captain's match, which remained purely scientific with Kevin winning using a bridge. After the bout, Kevin offered to make amends with Adams, provided that Chris parted company with manager Gary Hart. However, when Kevin turned away from Chris, Adams nailed him with a wooden chair. While Adams stated in later years that it did not seem to him that he had hit Kevin particularly hard with the chair, Kevin did suffer a legitimate concussion from the blow.
As WCCW referee David Manning called frantically for an ambulance, and Kevin lay on the mat with blood streaming from his head after the attack, ringside fans -- especially the young females in attendance -- were in hysterics, crying loudly: "Don't die on us, too, Kevin! We love you!"
13. FRITZ VON ERICH RETIREMENT SHOW (1982)
On June 6, 1982, Texas wrestling fans said goodbye to their longtime wrestling hero, as the curtain came down on the career of the legendary Fritz Von Erich at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas as he battled nemesis King Kong Bundy in the main event of WCCW’s first big card.
Although the attendance for the show was disappointing (this was before national and international syndication took off, and prior to the arrival of the Fabulous Freebirds), with approximately 6,000 fans in attendance, the card was nonetheless a turning point in the history of World Class as the elder Von Erich stepped aside and allowed his sons Kevin, David and Kerry to become full-fledged superstars of the sport.
Complete results of the event:
- El Solitario defeated Rene Guajardo to win the NWA World Light Heavyweight title.
- Andre the Giant defeated Bugsy McGraw by disqualification.
- Andre the Giant won a bodyslam battle royal.
- Lola Gonzales defeated Irma Gonzales.
- Wild Bill Irwin defeated Ken Mantell.
- The Spoiler defeated Frank Dusek.
- The Great Kabuki and Magic Dragon defeated David & Kevin Von Erich to win the All-Asian Tag Team titles.
- Kerry Von Erich defeated Harley Race in a no disqualification match.
- Fritz Von Erich defeated King Kong Bundy in a falls count anywhere match to win the American Heavyweight title in his retirement match.
14. TEXAS ECONOMY GOES BELLY UP (1986)
With the sudden death of the promotion’s top heel (Gino Hernandez) in January 1986, the indefinite layoff of its top babyface (Kerry Von Erich) in June 1986 due to a near fatal motorcycle accident and the recent defection of longtime World Class booker Ken Mantell to Bill Watts’ UWF (which resulted in numerous WCCW talent leaving World Class with Mantell), many wrestling insiders wondered what else a single promotion would have to endure in such a relatively short period of time.
They were to soon find out…
In the summer of 1986, the state of Texas’ petroleum economy had declined at such an alarming rate that thousands of local Dallas/Fort Worth residents suddenly became unemployed. This obviously caused a lot of families to tighten their belts, leaving little surplus cash available for leisure activities -- which, for thousands of Dallas/Fort Worth area residents, included attending World Class Championship Wrestling house shows.
From May 1986 onwards, attendance at World Class cards dropped considerably, to say the least. Just the year before, at the height of the Von Erich-Dynamic Duo wars, the promotion was drawing turnaway crowds. Now, though, WCCW's regular venues -- some of which held 10,000 to 15,000 people -- were lucky to have 1,000 fans in attendance.
The promotion at this point seemed to be struggling with little direction, with surprisingly substandard booking. Popular angles were being rehashed with little success (for example, longtime Von Erich ally Brian Adias, a la Chris Adams before him, turning on the beloved family); television main events consisted of matches with little buildup, making them seem less important to the viewer; and numerous wrestlers who had been lower to mid-card in other regions were now receiving top billing in World Class.
Not only did the talent drift away from WCCW, but Bill Watts began booking his promotion in popular World Class venues. Watts' roster at the time (consisting of the Freebirds, Steve ”Dr. Death” Williams, Ted DiBiase, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Eddie Gilbert among other superstars) was seen as being equally talented as anyone working for the WWF or the NWA -- while a typical World Class main event during this period would consist of Master Gee versus Lance Von Erich.
The once mighty World Class seemed to have surely fallen.
15. JERRY JARRETT PURCHASES WCCW (1988)
After the painful losses of his sons, David in February 1984 and Mike in April 1987, longtime Dallas/Fort Worth professional wrestling legend and World Class owner Fritz Von Erich decided that remaining in the business had become too painful and opted out.
The individuals who bought Fritz out were his sons Kevin and Kerry, as well as longtime associate Ken Mantell, with the latter returning to merge his recently-launched Wild West Wrestling promotion into World Class. Unfortunately, the once striving promotion had dwindled down to a financial vacuum, and the trio was steadily losing money.
By the fall of 1988 the promotion was in serious jeopardy and, at the suggestion of Kerry Von Erich, longtime Tennessee wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett stepped in and purchased WCCW for a staggeringly low sum.
“Fritz's sons had zero business experience”, Jarrett stated. “They were not running shows, the syndication arm with Max Andrews was closed, and they owed considerable money to the building and Channel 11, when Kerry called and asked if I was interested in (purchasing World Class).”
Jarrett almost immediately named wrestling veteran Eric Embry as his booker, and things in World Class quickly picked up.
“We went to Texas and got the building (the Sportatorium) back”, Jarrett continued, “got the television back, built the gates at the Sportatorium from zero to sell-out in about 8 weeks, paid off all the bills from the past, and enjoyed great profits in about 6 months.”
16. FIRST ANNUAL PARADE OF CHAMPIONS AT TEXAS STADIUM (1984)
On Sunday, May 6, 1984, the World Class promotion held its biggest card ever, for perhaps its greatest superstar ever -- the late David Von Erich, who died unexpectedly on February 10, 1984 at the age of 25 in his Tokyo hotel room.
On an extremely hot, late-spring day that saw on-field temperatures at Texas Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) hit 100 degrees, an emotional 32,000-plus people in attendance celebrated the life of its “Yellow Rose of Texas”. They saw Kerry Von Erich fulfill his family’s professional dream and capture the NWA World title from Ric Flair; Fritz Von Erich coming out of retirement for one day to help his sons battle the Freebirds and capture the prestigious WCCW Six Man Tag Team titles from their long time rivals; and the return to World Class of Gino Hernandez.
“The electricity was high that day and the crowd I was sitting around was popping big for anything,” said longtime World Class fan Paul Barton.
Local singer-songwriter Glen Goza even recited a poem for the crowd he had written in tribute to David, and had his song “Heaven Needed a Champion” sung to Texas’ largest professional wrestling crowd ever, as many fans unashamedly shed tears throughout the event.
Full results of the card:
- Johnny Mantell drew Kelly Kiniski (15:00)
- Chris Adams & Sunshine beat Jimmy Garvin & Precious (6:00) when Adams pinned Garvin
- Butch Reed pinned Chic Donovan
- Kamala wrestled to a double disqualification with The Great Kabuki (12:00)
- Junkyard Dog beat The Missing Link (6:00) via DQ
- Iceman King Parsons & Buck Zumhofe beat The Super Destroyers to win the American Tag Team titles
- Fritz, Mike & Kevin Von Erich beat The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts) to win the Six Man Tag Team titles
- Kerry Von Erich pinned Ric Flair (11:24) to win the NWA World Title
17. GINO HERNANDEZ DIES (1986)
On February 4, 1986, Charles Wolfe, better known to wrestling fans as “The Handsome Half Breed” Gino Hernandez , was found dead in the bedroom of his condo in the Highland Park section of Dallas.
Hernandez, at the time of his passing, was World Class’ top heel and was readying for a big program with former Dynamic Duo partner Chris Adams. His passing had evidently occurred less than a week after the duo’s bout on January 27, 1986 at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, in which Gino “blinded” Adams with "Freebird hair cream" during a hair versus hair bout.
Gino, often described by his peers as a “heat machine”, excelled at his role as a wrestling heel. He had an unlimited amount of charisma, and knew how to draw the ire of the most placid wrestling fan in attendance on any given night.
The death, which the Dallas coroner’s office ruled as a cocaine overdose, shocked the professional wrestling world as it occurred at a time when wrestlers were not dying at the alarming rate that many would grow accustomed to in the 1990’s and into the 21st century.
World Class referees David Manning and Rick Hazzard, along with Gino’s friend Walter Aymen, found Gino’s badly-decomposed body sprawled on the floor beside his bed, with no evidence of forced entry or trauma.
Incredibly enough, in those days of strict kayfabe, wrestling fans actually believed that Gino’s ex-tag team partner Chris Adams might have committed the crime to avenge his “blinding” from a few days earlier, a notion that law enforcement authorities quickly dismissed.
The year of 1986, which saw World Class’ separation from the National Wrestling Alliance, Kerry Von Erich’s near fatal motorcycle accident, a massive talent raid from the UWF, the defection of booker Ken Mantell and the death of Gino Hernandez, proved to be World Class Championship Wrestling's most newsworthy year to date.
18. MIKE VON ERICH DIES (1987)
Throughout his professional wrestling career, Mike Von Erich had been prone to shoulder injuries, owing to a dislocation suffered while in high school. One such injury, sustained during a tour of Israel in August 1985, would be the beginning of one of the sport's most heartrending tragedies.
While recovering from surgery back in Dallas, Mike's temperature suddenly shot up to a frightening 107º and his kidneys ceased to function. During the operation, he had contracted an infection which was determined to be toxic shock syndrome -- normally associated with tampon use, and extremely rare in men.
After a long absence, Mike was thought to be ready to resume his wrestling career. After his return at 1986's Fourth of July Star Wars, however, it became clear that his illness had impaired his memory and coordination, and his performances suffered as a result. Mike, who had always been haunted by self-doubt about his ability to live up to the family image, soon began behaving more and more recklessly, running afoul of the law on several occasions. Sadly, he decided to end his own life after an arrest on DWI and drug possession charges in April 1987.
Having never fully gotten over the death of David in February 1984, Mike’s suicide seemed to completely take the wind out of the Von Erichs' sails: less than a year later, family patriarch Jack Adkisson would sell World Class Championship Wrestling to his sons Kevin and Kerry and longtime confidant Ken Mantell, opting to leave the business that now served as a painful reminder of what he had lost.
As Kevin, who cut back his wrestling appearances considerably after Mike’s death, put it: “Wrestling just quit being fun.”
19. DAVID VON ERICH SPANKS SUNSHINE (1983)
Following a match at Dallas' State Fair Coliseum on April 1, 1983, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin’s valet Sunshine found herself humiliated by Texas hero David Von Erich, who spanked her for her constant interference in his and Garvin’s recent series of matches.
The spanking, reminiscent of the famous scene in John Wayne's 1963 film McLintock! in which the Duke turns Maureen O'Hara over his knee, helped to keep David’s tough guy image intact without sacrificing his character's good guy appeal, as this occurred long before women were being struck by men on a regular basis in a professional wrestling ring.
Sunshine, the forerunner to such strong-willed female managers such as Tammy Lynn Sytch and Woman (Nancy Benoit), was portrayed as an independent and dignified woman (by pro wrestling standards) who would do anything she felt necessary to ensure the success of the man she accompanied to the ring.
After desensitization by today’s wrestling product, in which women are put through tables and wrestle men for championships, Sunshine’s spanking can now be looked at as campy fun. In 1983, however, it was one of the biggest stories in the sport, as a man hitting a woman in any fashion was definitely newsworthy.
20. JIMMY GARVIN & SUNSHINE BECOME DAVID VON ERICH'S VALETS FOR A DAY (1983)
On June 17, 1983 at Reunion Arena, Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin lost to David Von Erich during the peak of their heated rivalry, and as a result of that night’s match stipulation, the “Gorgeous One” -- and his valet Sunshine -- had to serve as Von Erich’s “valets for a day” on his 75-acre ranch property.
Needless to say, WCCW cameras and announcer Bill Mercer were on hand at David’s ranch in Denton County, Texas to document the humiliating events that both Garvin and Sunshine endured as David’s personal “ranch hands”.
Performing such manual (and, in their eyes, demeaning) chores as cleaning horse stables, building fences, pitching hay and washing David’s dog, Garvin and Sunshine groaned and whined throughout the day, much to the delight of the taunting David Von Erich. World Class viewers found it hysterical watching both Garvin’s and Sunshine’s expressions of disgust and fatigue each time another order was given by Von Erich.
By the end of the day, Garvin had had enough of being humiliated by his arch enemy, and abruptly left the ranch by shoving Von Erich into a horse stable, triggering a brawl.
21. VON ERICHS VS. DYNAMIC DUO IN HAIR VS. HAIR MATCH (1985)
Prior to their bouts, the Dynamic Duo had recently made a habit of cutting the hair of various World Class babyfaces such as Scott Casey, Brian Adias and Iceman King Parsons, while taunting Kevin and Kerry Von Erich on camera.
When the duo defeated the Von Erichs in a wild match at Fourth of July Star Wars in Fort Worth, it allowed Gino and Adams to select the special stipulations for their bout with Kevin and Kerry at the second Cotton Bowl spectacular.
Consummate showmen and professionals, the Dynamic Duo sold the humiliation of having their heads shaved exceptionally, with Chris angrily yelling, “I’ll kill ya!” at the babyfaces throughout his haircut. Gino, attempting to escape the ringside area, was thwarted when the youngest Von Erich, Chris, tackled Hernandez at ringside. When Chris got the chance to shave Gino’s hair, Hernandez, who could actually be seen seemingly holding back laughter, yelled, "No!!! I'll kill that little punk!").
The feud between the two teams would continue through the end of 1985, with the Von Erichs attempting to unmask The Dynamic Duo to reveal their bald heads.
22. KERRY VON ERICH'S COMEBACK (1987)
Kerry was thrown some fifty feet, landing on the highway’s unforgiving concrete, and suffered a dislocated hip and severely damaged his right knee, ankle and foot. Just that quickly, the professional wrestling career of the "Modern Day Warrior” was in severe jeopardy.
Frantic announcements were made on World Class television that Kerry had indeed been involved in a serious motorcycle wreck but was expected to return to the ring shortly, as Kerry and brother Kevin were WCCW's two top draws, and the promotion undoubtedly feared that fans would lose interest in its programming if it became known just how bad Kerry’s injuries were.
Kerry, who reportedly felt the World Class promotion (which had recently severed its long-standing ties with the National Wrestling Alliance) could not survive his being out of action for a long period of time, rushed his comeback, wrestling a short match with the Von Erichs' childhood friend turned arch-rival Brian Adias in February 1987. He wound up suffering irreversible damage to his right foot and ankle area, and doctors -- who had strongly advised him against performing that evening -- had no other choice but to amputate the majority of Kerry’s right foot, fitting him with a prosthesis.
In late November of 1987, Kerry resumed his wrestling career, the true extent of his injuries hidden from his peers and wrestling fans. The proud warrior would even go so far as to shower with his boots on, in order to hide his disability from other wrestlers and promoters. But in November of 1988, rumors began to circulate within the industry after Colonel DeBeers accidentally pulled off Kerry’s prosthetic wrestling boot during a match in Las Vegas, much to the horror of ringside fans.
Remarkably, Kerry was nearly as mobile in the ring as he was prior to his accident. However, this illusion did take a heavy toll on Von Erich, as he developed an addiction to pain medication, which ultimately led to the events that culminated in his suicide.
23. FRITZ EXPOSES "COUSIN" LANCE AS A FRAUD ON TELEVISION (1987)
In the spring of 1987, World Class Championship Wrestling owner Fritz Von Erich was appearing weekly on KTVT's Championship Sports in a fans' question and answer segment entitled "Front Row Ringside with Fritz". One viewer's question concerned the whereabouts of Von Erich “cousin” Lance, who had seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.
Fritz’s reply shocked the world of professional wrestling, which at that time still strictly adhered to kayfabe. Fritz stated that Lance, who had been billed for the last year and a half as the son of Fritz’s fictitious brother Waldo, was a "coward" who skipped town. He revealed that "Lance" was in fact Pacific Northwest wrestler Ricky Vaughn, and was not a real member of the family. Reportedly, Lance's departure stemmed from a disagreement about jobbing to Nord the Barbarian (John Nord), which infuriated the no-nonsense Fritz.
After Lance’s stint in World Class abruptly came to an end, he went to Ken Mantell’s short lived Texas promotion Wild West Wrestling where he worked as The Fabulous Lance, as Fritz had supposedly threatened legal action if Vaughn continued to use the trademarked Von Erich name.
Unfortunately for Vaughn, his career never recovered in the U.S. after Fritz’s public revelation. He eventually married a woman he had met while on a wrestling tour of South Africa, and still resides there with her today, having retired from the sport.
24. BREAKUP OF THE DYNAMIC DUO (1985)
“Gentleman” Chris Adams and the “Handsome Half-Breed” Gino Hernandez had become one of the industry’s top tag teams during the 1980’s. Collectively, they were known as The Dynamic Duo, and ultimately the tandem was only stopped by internal factors, attributable directly to Hernandez.
On Christmas night 1985 at Reunion Arena, during their tag team title match, Hernandez allowed Adams to take a prolonged pounding from Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, refusing to take a tag and enter the ring to aid his compromised partner. Adams seemingly had no other alternative but to toss Kevin over the top rope for a disqualification, thus ending the bout. The disqualification allowed the Dynamic Duo to retain their title, but that didn’t stop “The Gentleman” from angrily decking Gino.
Not long afterwards, Hernandez appeared on WCCW television in Fort Worth with Marc Lowrance and dismissed the incident. Gino declared that he and Chris were still the champs and still friends, but that he had to knock out Chris with one punch in the locker room to teach Chris a lesson.
Upon hearing this, it did not take a furious Adams long to enter the ring and call Hernandez upon his acquisitions. An amused Marc Lowrance recapped for Adams what the back-peddling Hernandez had just stated, which infuriated Adams even more. With the crowd again behind him, Adams viciously attacked Gino, resulting in the Dynamic Duo's split.
A new feud was born, and a grudge match was signed for the January 27, 1986 Star Wars card at Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Tragically, though, this match turned out to be Gino's last; he would be dead by the time it aired on KTVT a few days later.
25. THE LIGHTS GO OUT AND KERRY GETS BLOODIED (1988)
In March of 1988 at the Dallas Sportatorium, WCCW World Champion Kerry Von Erich defended the belt against Iceman King Parsons.
Parsons, who had recently become a member of the Freebirds, had joined Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts and the Angel of Death in attacking Kerry’s father Fritz on Christmas night 1987, causing Fritz to "collapse" at ringside prior to Kerry’s match with then-champion Al Perez.
During this version of the ongoing Von Erich/Freebird feud, the Von Erichs received an unexpected ally against their long standing rivals: their former arch-enemy, Freebird Michael Hayes.
As the Kerry-Parsons title match progressed, Parsons’ fellow Freebird members made their presence known at ringside, which prompted Hayes to emerge from the dressing room to aid the now-outnumbered Kerry. However, the arena suddenly went dark as Gordy motioned for the lights to be cut. When they were finally turned back on, no Freebirds were in sight, and Kerry was unconscious in the middle of the ring, a bloody mess. Parsons, capitalizing on this situation, covered Von Erich and captured the WCCW World title.
Outraged, World Class television announcer Marc Lowrance immediately pointed the finger of accusation at Michael Hayes as the culprit...until it was discovered that Hayes, too, was unconscious in a pool of his own blood at ringside.
After the "lights out" attack, WCCW viewers who were in attendance that night were asked on television to send in their flash photos to show what had really happened at the title match's conclusion. However, the results of this inquiry were deemed "inconclusive".
The controversy stemming from this incident led to two key matchups at the 1988 Parade of Champions. The main event of the card would feature WCCW World Champion Parsons taking on Kerry in a rematch for the title (which Kerry won), and Hayes & Gordy facing off in the three-tiered cage hyped as the "Triple Dome of Terror".
The “Triple Dome” match ended with Hayes lying in the ring unconscious, and fellow ‘Birds Buddy Roberts and the Angel of Death goading Gordy to cut Michael's hair. Gordy refused, and was jumped by his teammates for his decision.
26. "SANTA CLAUS" (MICHAEL HAYES) ATTACKS MIKE VON ERICH (1983)
The legendary Von Erichs-Freebirds feud took a bizarre twist on Christmas night in 1983 -- exactly one year after it began -- when Michael Hayes (who had lost a loser-leaves-town match to Kerry Von Erich on Thanksgiving night), disguised as Santa Claus, attacked the youngest Von Erich wrestling brother, Mike, much to the horror and disgust to all that attended and viewed the event on television.
This occurred when Mike and Kevin Von Erich took on the remaining Freebirds, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts, with the stipulation that whichever Freebird was pinned would also have to leave World Class. (If one of the Von Erichs was pinned, it was agreed that Kevin would leave as Mike had only just begun his career.)
During the bout, someone dressed as Santa Claus was seen at ringside (and was also mentioned on television) passing out candy canes and greeting ringside fans. After Kevin pinned Gordy, thus forcing him to leave World Class, the individual dressed as Santa made his way to the ring to congratulate the Von Erichs on their victory. But, after “Santa” raised the hand of Mike Von Erich, he shocked the fans in attendance by attacking young Mike, as World Class television announcer Bill Mercer yelled into his microphone, “Santa Claus just decked Mike Von Erich!”
It was quickly revealed that “Santa” was the departed Michael Hayes, who had returned to Texas in an unsuccessful bid to help his fellow ‘Birds eliminate the beloved Von Erichs.
27. JIMMY GARVIN TURNS ON SUNSHINE (1983)
On October 31, 1983 at the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium in Fort Worth, World Class Television champion Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin was his title against the capable Johnny Mantell, when the “Gorgeous One” would turn his back on his extremely loyal valet, Sunshine.
The story went that Sunshine was being awarded with her own valet by Garvin due to her great job performance. Originally referred to simply as Sunshine II, the new valet would soon be known as Precious (Garvin's real-life wife Patty).
Precious, from the beginning, tried to upstage Sunshine in the eyes of Garvin, which understandably did not sit well with Sunshine. Like Sunshine, Precious began to interfere in Garvin’s matches, except that her interference often cost Garvin victories -- for which Garvin blamed Sunshine.
Precious’ last attempt to interfere backfired once again, costing Garvin the television title. Garvin again blamed Sunshine for the loss and immediately dumped Sunshine, departing with his now sole valet Precious...leaving Sunshine seeking revenge.
28. MIKE VON ERICH'S STRUGGLE WITH TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME (1985)
The professional wrestling industry was shocked when Mike Von Erich nearly died in early September of 1985 of Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS is an illness that is caused by bacteria, commonly found in women who use tampons. These bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream of the afflicted, and these toxins, if left untreated, can kill them.
In Mike Von Erich’s case, the disease stemmed from an infection resulting from shoulder surgery. Shoulder problems had plagued Mike from the start of his career, and he had recently suffered another injury while wrestling Gino Hernandez on the last day of a tour of Israel. As is often the case with TSS victims, Mike did not realize he was ill until the symptoms had become quite severe.
Soon Mike was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and placed in the intensive care unit. His weight and blood pressure and dropped dramatically while a fever rose to 107 degrees at one point. Doctors told the Adkisson family that Mike would probably die; however, he miraculously pulled through and began to make a slow, but steady recovery.
Although his recovery was at first considered an amazing comeback story, Mike’s tragedy, sadly, did not end here. Mike ultimately committed suicide in April 1987, apparently despondent over the lingering effects caused by his illness.
29. KERRY VON ERICH LOSES NWA WORLD TITLE IN JAPAN (1984)
With Kerry Von Erich’s win of the industry’s then top prize, the National Wrestling Alliance’s World Heavyweight Title at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions on May 6, 1984, a professional dream had been fulfilled for family patriarch Fritz Von Erich and family.
With his quest seemingly complete, Kerry went right into a hectic schedule of title defenses. In just 18 days as champion, Kerry would successfully defend the belt against the likes of Terry Gordy, Ric Flair, The Missing Link, and Jimmy Garvin just in the state of Texas. Kerry then traveled with the belt to Florida to face such opponents as Superstar Billy Graham, Ron Bass, and Black Bart. A trip to Japan saw Kerry retain the title against Jumbo Tsuruta, a very formidable challenger (and a former AWA World Champion).
There have been many wrestling insiders who have claimed that Kerry was not reliable enough to be champion, citing personal troubles which ultimately had grave results. However, during his brief title reign, no one could argue that Kerry Von Erich was anything but a credit to the prestigious title. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to bring the belt home from his Japanese tour: on May 24, 1984 in Yokosuka, Japan, Ric Flair defeated Kerry to regain the championship.
It was disdainfully explained on World Class television that Kerry had been cheated out of the title, with announcers Marc Lowrance and Bill Mercer pointing out that Flair had used the ropes and claiming that the referee (the highly respected Japanese official Joe Higuchi) was a Sumo ref who did not understand the rules of pro wrestling.
30. KEVIN VON ERICH PASSES OUT IN THE RING (1987)
During an eight-man tag team bout on May 11, 1987, many fans attending a television taping at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth thought they were witnessing yet another Von Erich family tragedy when Kevin Von Erich legitimately passed out in the ring.
This near-disaster occurred not quite a month after the passing of younger brother Mike, which ultimately left Kevin to take on the heavy burden of becoming the only active wrestling Von Erich brother (David had died in February 1984, and Kerry was out indefinitely due to a June 1986 motorcycle accident) left in the industry.
The bout pitted Kevin, Bruiser Brody, and The Fantastics against Al Perez, Brian Adias, Al Madril and Black Bart. As the match progressed, Von Erich suddenly collapsed in the ring, much to the horror and shock of fans in attendance, and to the other wrestlers participating in the match.
KTVT's television cameras were immediately turned off, and Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics quickly administered CPR to Kevin, who began convulsing and turning blue.
Kevin was taken to Baylor Medical Center for further observation and was eventually released. According to family members, Kevin was suffering at the time from chronic seizures directly related to numerous head injuries, as well as a hectic schedule and general stress.
In an attempt to save face when World Class returned to Will Rogers the following week, it was explained that the Von Erichs' then-arch rival Brian Adias had caused Kevin's condition with a move he had recently mastered, the dreaded Oriental Spike (a thumb thrust to the neck).
31. ERIC EMBRY BECOMES WCCW BOOKER (1988)
When World Class was seemingly on its last legs, what rejuvenated the limping promotion was not a Von Erich, but rather an Eric...namely, Eric Embry.
After coping with tragedy after tragedy, the Von Erich family, understandably enough, seemed to lose any of their enthusiasm for promoting professional wrestling, and sold the fledgling WCCW promotion to longtime Tennessee wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett, who would assign the book to the man most wrestling insiders considered an unlikely candidate to try and save a once-thriving wrestling territory.
“Eric (Embry) was, and is, a bright person with tremendous drive,” former WCCW owner Jerry Jarrett stated, “and a strong work ethic. He was full of good ideas, knew the history of the promotion, and was willing to make great sacrifices to rebuild the business.” (Embry's "sacrifices" included actually living in the rat-infested Dallas Sportatorium!)
Seemingly overnight, Embry became World Class’ savior, his booking a breath of fresh air. One of his first major angles was booking himself to take on Akbar’s evil Devastation, Inc. stable, which was the last big money feud of the World Class era.
As Kevin and Kerry Von Erich's appearances on weekly WCCW television became less frequent, Embry quickly became somewhat of a “blue collar” wrestling hero to Dallas/Fort Worth fans, a warrior who could take hellacious beatings and always come back to fight another day.
Wrestling insiders state in retrospect that Embry might have pushed himself too hard as the promotion’s top babyface. However, one cannot argue with the facts: business, as the result of Embry’s booking, went up at a time when the territory had been hurting severely.
“From the beginning, I relied on Eric to help me”, said Jarrett. “After we turned the corner and I realized we could make the promotion successful, I gave Eric more authority in the creative end of the business. I was stretching myself pretty thin in that I was very involved in Tennessee, very involved in Texas, and very involved in the Monster Truck launch. I suppose you could say Eric was in the right place at the right time, but I don't feel Eric was given anything that he did not deserve.”
32. THE CREATION OF LANCE VON ERICH (1985)
With the recent death of the ultra-popular David Von Erich, Mike Von Erich’s near fatal encounter with toxic shock syndrome and the constant demand for public appearances by Kevin and Kerry, family patriarch and World Class owner Fritz Von Erich felt the need to create a fictitious Von Erich to alleviate the pressure his sons were under.
“Lance Von Erich” had been mentioned by Michael Hayes on television as early as April 1984, prior to the first Parade of Champions, and now appeared to be the time for the concept to come into fruition.
Ricky Vaughn, who would assume the role of Lance, had been working out of the view of Texas fans for Don Owen's Portland based territory, where he held the Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship.
Upon the arrival of Lance to World Class in October 1985, Fritz explained to the fans that Lance was his nephew, being the son of his (fictitious) brother Waldo, and had wrestled under another name in Portland until he felt he was ready to live up to the pressures of wrestling under his “real” name.
In the days before the internet, when dirtsheets (insider newsletters such as the Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Torch) were still considered “underground” and kayfabe was closely kept, fans accepted this story as the truth and took to Lance without hesitation.
33. FRITZ TEAMS WITH KEVIN & MIKE TO BATTLE FREEBIRDS AT TEXAS STADIUM (1984)
|Michael Hayes caught in the grip of Fritz's feared Iron Claw|
It was announced prior to the big Texas Stadium supercard that a special partner would join Kevin and Mike Von Erich for the big six-man title match. At various times, it was teased that Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich, Brian Adias, Bruiser Brody and "cousin" Lance Von Erich (a role for which no one would be cast for another eighteen months) might be joining the Von Erich brothers for the bout. Finally, family patriarch Fritz came to the ring to address the situation during an interview in Fort Worth for Championship Sports and was confronted by an irate Michael Hayes, who demanded to know the third member of team Von Erich.
Fritz stated to the cocky Freebird that the mystery partner would be the next person to hit him “right between the eyes” -- then laid a hard fist to Hayes’ head, much to the delight of the crowd at the Will Rogers Coliseum.
The six-man title bout itself was non-stop action, loaded with blood and foreign objects. Fritz, wrestling in his first bout in nearly two years, was heavier and slower but could still brawl with the best. The match concluded when Fritz applied his famous Iron Claw to both Hayes and Gordy simultaneously, while son Kevin hit Buddy Roberts (who, it was later pointed out, was not the legal man in the ring) with a cross body block off the top rope for the title win.
34. THE MICHAEL HAYES CONCERT FIASCO (1988)
Nonetheless, Hayes staged a legitimate rock concert at the Dallas Sportatorium, with local Dallas DJ Kidd Kraddick and his group opening the concert. Hayes performed “Badstreet U.S.A.”, “The Boys Are Back In Town” and other songs from his album Off the Streets, before -- much to the delight and surprise of those attending the show -- welcoming former rivals Kerry and Kevin Von Erich onstage.
This act by Hayes infuriated Gordy, Roberts and Parsons (who, at the time, were the latest incarnation of the Freebirds and had been violently feuding with the Von Erich family), and the dastardly trio stormed the stage, attacking Kevin and Kerry, and “ruining” Hayes’ concert, which infuriated Hayes.
This resulted in Hayes doing the unimaginable…siding with the Von Erichs in the war against the ‘Birds. Hayes would eventually meet up with Gordy at the 1988 Parade of Champions in a three-tiered steel cage match (a match concept NWA booker Kevin Sullivan claimed Hayes stolen from him when both worked for Jim Crockett Promotions), which actually saw Gordy save Hayes from having his hair cut by Roberts and Parsons.
Gordy left WCCW to tour Japan shortly afterward, while Hayes and Roberts continued their feud, recruiting the likes of Steve Cox (former UWF alumni and protégé of Steve "Dr. Death" Williams) and the Samoan Swat Team to their respective sides during their remainder of their stay in World Class.
35. KERRY VS. FLAIR IN CLASSIC BEST-OF-THREE-FALLS MATCH AT REUNION ARENA (1982)
On August 15, 1982 in Reunion Arena, a best two-out-of-three-falls epic encounter, which would ultimately become part of World Class Wrestling folklore, pitted then-NWA World Champion Ric Flair against "Modern Day Warrior" Kerry Von Erich.
Ever since his full-time entrance into the sport in 1980, Kerry, like his older brothers Kevin and David, had been touted as a future world champion, and many wrestling insiders agree that this particular match
solidified Kerry's stake to that claim.
From the get-go, Flair recognized Kerry as a legitimate threat to the coveted belt, and offered a bounty of money to any wrestler who could disable Kerry before the big title defense.
18,000 enthusiastic fans were convinced that they were about to see history made, that they would witness Kerry Von Erich fulfill his destiny by winning the NWA World Title on this night. The referee assigned to the
match was Alfred Neely, a Mid-South territory referee "specially assigned by the National Wrestling Alliance" to referee the big title bout.
After Kerry evened the bout at one fall apiece, the fans at Reunion truly believed that Kerry would take fall number three. Towards the end of the bout, Kerry locked Flair into the full nelson and was seemingly on the verge of dethroning Flair when he accidentally swung one of Flair's arms into referee Neely, knocking him down.
The fans in attendance prematurely erupted, thinking Kerry won the title. However, it became apparent that Neely had called for the bell to disqualify Kerry for "deliberately" swinging Flair into him.
Immediately, Kerry's father Fritz and WCCW referee David Manning entered the ring and angrily disputed the hotly controversial decision. Neely, who had irked fans throughout the match with his overly authoritative demeanor, nearly received a beatdown from Fritz, and would be a hated figure in the territory long after this classic confrontation, as he was chosen by the Dynamic Duo (Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez) as their choice to referee their classic hair vs. hair match four years later. World Class' bookers knew that their loyal fans would remember the name of Alfred Neely, and that it could still garner the heat they would need.
36. FORMATION OF DEVASTATION, INC. (1983)
When King Kong Bundy broke away from H & H Limited (the alliance of managers Gary Hart and Arman Hussain), he became professional wrestling's self-described first "free agent". Bundy's availability would not last long however, as he boldly told World Class announcer Bill Mercer that his new manager would be arriving in Texas shortly -- someone Bundy referred to simply as "The Man".
"The Man", as it would turn out, was General Skandor Akbar, who now had his sights set on World Class Wrestling dominance after his feared stable, Devastation Inc., had already trounced the Mid-South Wrestling territory.
In just a short period of time, Akbar had secured the services of Bundy, the Mongol and the feared Ugandan Beast, Kamala. The crazed Missing Link, the masked Super Destroyers (Bill and Scott Irwin) and former Freebirds ally Killer Khan would eventually join forces with the General as well.
Akbar's stable of wrestlers changed throughout the years (see his bio page for a full list of the men he managed in World Class), but his purpose -- to make life miserable for every wrestler, babyface or heel, in the promotion while continuing to add to his vast wealth -- never did.
37. BRUISER BRODY MURDERED IN PUERTO RICO (1988)
In mid-July of 1988, World Class TV viewers heard the exciting announcement that Bruiser Brody -- probably the promotion's most wildly popular and enduring personality other than the Von Erich family -- was on his way back to the Lone Star State.
Sadly, just after this announcement was taped for television, word reached the United States that the intense, take-no-prisoners brawler had fallen victim to a locker room stabbing just prior to a card in Bayamon, Puerto Rico on July 17. As he had had to do all too often throughout the tragic history of WCCW, Championship Sports host Marc Lowrance once again appeared in an insert from the KTVT studios, breaking the shocking news of Brody's death to North Texas wrestling fans.
Exactly what precipitated the killing has never been fully explained, but it has been speculated that Brody -- whose concern that a loss would damage his larger-than-life image in Japan led him to infuriate promoters elsewhere by refusing to be pinned cleanly -- had balked at a planned finish for his match against Dan Spivey that evening. Moments after Brody was summoned into the shower area by World Wrestling Council booker Jose Gonzales (who wrestled as the masked Invader I), ostensibly for a conversation, a scream was heard and Brody's fellow wrestlers found him bleeding profusely from a chest wound. Paramedics who were summoned took nearly a half hour to arrive at the stadium, and after Brody was finally transported to a local hospital, he died of blood loss during surgery.
Many U.S. wrestlers refused to perform in Puerto Rico for a number of years as a result of the incident, and it has been said that several of those who were present when the attack took place were prepared to testify in court against Jose Gonzales. However, by the time they belatedly received their subpoenas for the trial, Gonzales had already been acquitted of first degree murder.
For WCCW fans who knew nothing of Brody's backstage reputation in that era of strict kayfabe, the news that this seemingly invincible, hellraising hero had suddenly lost his life was an enormous shock. For the struggling World Class promotion, undoubtedly counting heavily on the big man's return to boost ticket sales, it was yet another crippling blow to an organization that, by then, had become virtually subsumed by tragedy.
38. MIKE VON ERICH RETURNS TO THE RING (1987)
On July 4, 1986 at Dallas’ Reunion Arena, Mike Von Erich made his triumphant return to the squared circle after a near fatal encounter with Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is normally associated with tampon use and extremely rare in men.
Mike teamed with brother Kevin and “cousin” Lance to defeat Matt Borne, Butch Reed and Buzz Sawyer at World Class’ Star Wars supercard, which drew nearly 12,000 fans at a bleak moment in the promotion’s history.
The incident which led to the infection occurred during a highly-publicized tour of Israel in August 1985, during a bout with Gino Hernandez. Mike separated his shoulder -- which he had done on numerous occasions according to reports -- which required what would seemingly be routine shoulder surgery. But while recovering at his home, Mike began complaining of feeling ill, and his family immediately rushed him to the Baylor Medical Center, where doctors gave Mike literally hours to live.
Von Erich’s temperature soared to 107º, with all his major organs shutting down, and many of those close to the family believed Mike subsequently suffered from some form of brain damage as a result.
Remarkably, after being out of action for just under a year, Mike made his return to the ring. However, it soon became evident that his illness had impaired his cognitive abilities and other motor skills, as he seemed to have difficulties with his memory and coordination in the ring. Frustrated with his condition, his behavior began to spiral out of control, resulting in several incidents which made local headlines.
Sadly, Mike's comeback ended with his suicide, as his body was discovered near Lake Lewisville on Wednesday, April 15, 1987.
39. FRITZ VON ERICH "COLLAPSES" AFTER ATTACK BY FREEBIRDS (1987)
One of World Class’ most controversial angles took place at Reunion Arena on Christmas Night in 1987, when Fritz Von Erich collapsed at ringside following an attack by the revamped incarnation of the Fabulous Freebirds (Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, “Iceman” King Parsons and the Angel of Death) prior to the start of a WCCW World title defense between champion Al Perez and Kerry Von Erich.
The title match, which was held in a steel cage, had a special stipulation that Fritz was to be handcuffed to Perez’s manager, Gary Hart inside of the cage. This stipulation, however, allowed the Freebirds to viciously attack Fritz (Kerry had been knocked out shortly beforehand), after handcuffing him to the ring’s top rope.
Following Fritz’s beating, sons Kevin and Kerry were able to get Fritz out of the cage, and the family (accompanied by Chris Adams, the Simpson brothers and the Fantastics) appeared to be headed to the dressing room, when Fritz suddenly “collapsed” on the ringside area’s concrete floor.
In the same year that saw the tragic passing of Fritz’s son Mike and the legitimate in-ring collapse of his oldest living son Kevin, arena fans were in hysterics, thinking they were witnessing yet another Von Erich tragedy. WCCW announcer Marc Lowrance pleaded on the house microphone for fans to make room for paramedics to aid Fritz, and to allow them to get him safely out of the arena. Fans shed tears and prayed, with Fritz’s seemingly serious condition remaining uncertain to those in attendance.
Although angles similar to this have been played out throughout the years in professional wrestling, seemingly without any harsh criticisms, those who are aware of the family’s tragic history cry foul that this fictional angle turned out to be just a mere storyline to enhance the gate for future WCCW cards and to increase television viewership.
The collapse of Fritz is generally thought of by wrestling historians and fans as a (worked) heart attack. But, as Kevin Von Erich has pointed out in recent years, the actual term “heart attack” was never mentioned on World Class television in regards to Fritz’s collapse...although the notion was never quite discouraged, either. Although anyone else in professional wrestling could have gotten away with this very same angle unscathed (and, in fact, many have) , WCCW fans -- eternally scarred by tragedy -- seem to passionately frown upon this night in WCCW history.
40. ROBERTS BEATS ICEMAN IN HAIR VS. HAIR MATCH...BUT LOSES HIS OWN HAIR (1983)
On June 17, 1983 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, as part of the Summer Wrestling Star Wars card, the feud between the mega-popular Iceman King Parsons and the hated Freebird Buddy Roberts was continually heating up.
For Parsons, a close ally of the Von Erichs, this was his first major singles feud in World Class, and for Roberts it was chance to shine outside of the Freebirds' tag team realm.
The feud started when Roberts cut off a few of Iceman's trademarked braids, which naturally incensed Parsons. The feud would climax with a hair vs. hair match at Reunion, in which the loser would have his hair removed with Roberts and his teammates' own "special" concoction, which was referred to simply as Freebird Hair Cream.
The bout itself was classic. Parsons and Roberts kept the fans in attendance on the edge of their seats, as Buddy Roberts seemed to have a dirty counter for every offensive maneuver Parsons tried. Roberts ultimately pinned Iceman with a handful of tights, as the crowd started to become enraged.
Before Roberts had the chance to remove Parsons' hair, however, the Iceman smeared the cream onto Buddy's scalp while his back was turned. Roberts would now attempt to deny the obvious and cover his dome with an obvious faux wig and boxing headgear while claiming that his hair had miraculously grown back overnight, and that in fact, he was no longer bald.
To keep the heat on this angle, Parsons put a bounty on Buddy's wig and headgear, promising a hefty fee to anyone who could expose Buddy's bald head. (The Freebird Hair Cream was apparently a potent mixture indeed: Roberts would continue to wear the wig and headpiece until the Christmas Star Wars card, some six months after he initially lost his hair!)
41. MICHAEL HAYES FEUDS WITH TERRY GORDY AND BUDDY ROBERTS (1988)
Fresh off a brief stint with Jim Crockett, Jr.’s NWA (after the UWF merged with the NWA in mid-1987), Michael Hayes returned to Texas in early 1988 looking not to involve himself in the Von Erich-Freebird feud that once again raged on as a result of the ‘Birds attacking Von Erich patriarch Fritz in a steel cage on Christmas night of 1987 at Reunion Arena.
Hayes went so far as to invite former rivals Kevin and Kerry Von Erich onstage during his Dallas Sportatorium rock concert. When the newest version of the Freebirds disrupted Michael's concert to attack the Von Erichs, Hayes immediately entered the feud on the side of the Von Erichs.
This would lead to a match pitting Hayes vs. Terry Gordy at the 1988 Parade of Champions, and at the conclusion of the match, Gordy refused to help fellow Freebirds Buddy Roberts, “Iceman” King Parsons and the Angel of Death cut Hayes' hair, and saw his team turn on him as a result of his refusal to punish Hayes further. Although Gordy and Hayes made an uneasy peace, there was no formal reconciliation. Gordy teamed with Steve and Shaun Simpson for a time before leaving World Class to wrestle in Japan.
Meanwhile, after Texas Stadium, the Michael Hayes-Buddy Roberts feud would intensify. Buddy would eventually guide Samu and Fatu, the Samoan Swat Team, to take over for him in the feud. Hayes would recruit former UWF youngster Steve Cox as his partner, and the two teams would go on to trade the WCWA World Tag Team titles with the SST during 1988.
42. PERCY PRINGLE'S CAMPAIGN TO GET ERIC EMBRY REINSTATED (1989)
Upon becoming WCCW booker in late 1988, Eric Embry reached heights of popularity that he could have never have imagined. After months of feuding with General Skandor Akbar’s Devastation, Inc., Embry had to abruptly leave World Class as a result of his defeat by “Gorgeous” Gary Young in a loser-leaves-town steel cage match on February 10, 1989 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Longtime heel manager Percy Pringle III, sensing the power and control Akbar and his stable were obtaining in the World Class promotion, became a babyface for the first time in his illustrious career. Pringle made a public plea for fans watching World Class television programming to write in and demand that the "Flamboyant One” be reinstated to help fight off Akbar’s thugs and save the promotion from complete takeover. The write-in campaign was simply called “Bring Back Eric”.
Pringle later would estimate that the World Class offices legitimately received 25,000+ letters in support of having Embry reinstated. WCCW matchmaker Frank Dusek finally went on television and announced that Embry was reinstated effective immediately much to the delight of the fans. Embry not only captured the hearts of World Class fans during this period, but was also challenging the seemingly untouchable Von Erichs as the area’s most beloved wrestler.
Over the next several months, Embry would continue to fight off Akbar and his stable before finally defeating P.Y. Chu-Hi on August 4, 1989 in the Dallas Sportatorium to help reclaim the majority ownership that Akbar claimed to retain. Embry and Pringle subsequently tore down the familiar World Class Championship Wrestling banner from the Sportatorium’s section D wall, thus turning the page in which pro wrestling’s version of Camelot would become the United States Wrestling Association (USWA).
43. THE FREEBIRDS RETURN TO WCCW (1987)
This time around, the ‘Birds consisted not only of mainstays Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts, but also former Freebird “bodyguard” the Angel of Death (from their days in Bill Watts’ UWF promotion), and the once ultra-popular superstar “Iceman” King Parsons, who had turned heel during his recent stay in the UWF.
The new version of the Freebirds picked up where the original team left off in World Class, continuing their legendary feud with the Von Erichs (which now sadly consisted only of Kevin and the recently-returned Kerry) which was put on hiatus when they left WCCW in the spring of 1986, along with numerous other WCCW mainstays and booker Ken Mantell, for Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation (the former Mid-South Wrestling)
Their first strike against the Von Erichs in late 1987 was a hefty one, occurring on Christmas night at Reunion Arena. Prior to a WCCW World title pitting champion Al Perez against Kerry Von Erich inside of a steel cage, Terry Gordy stormed the ring and began belittling Kerry, before the rest of the ’Birds charged the ring to not only help beat down Kerry, but attack family patriarch Fritz Von Erich (who was to have been handcuffed inside the cage to Perez' manager Gary Hart).
In early 1988, the remaining Freebird, Michael Hayes, returned to the World Class promotion fresh off his stint from the NWA (Jim Crockett Promotions) and surprisingly stated he did not want to take sides in the whole Von Erich-Freebird fiasco, but simply wanted to promote his music to the World Class fans -- which infuriated the Freebirds, especially Gordy and Roberts.
When the Freebirds interrupted Hayes' Sportatorium rock concert by attacking his invited on-stage guests Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, Hayes became enraged, declaring war on his former “brothers” and doing the unthinkable, joining the Von Erichs in fighting off his former teammates. The newly-formed trio, at one point, actually held the once-prestigious WCCW 6-man World Tag Team titles!
44. RETURN OF MORE FAMILIAR FACES (1987-88)
When Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich) decided to sell World Class in early 1988 and leave the wrestling profession, one of the buyers (along with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich) was former WCCW wrestler and booker Ken Mantell.
Mantell, who had left WCCW to work as a booker for Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation in the spring of 1986, returned to Fort Worth after the sale of the UWF to start his own pro wrestling promotion based out of Fort Worth, known as Wild West Wrestling.
Wild West was able to secure a sizeable national syndication deal, and boasted the talents of many former World Class stars such as “Iceman” King Parsons, Buddy Roberts, Sunshine, John Tatum, Jack Victory and The Missing Link. But when the offer to buy into one of the world’s once-top professional wrestling promotions became available to him, Mantell jumped at the opportunity, and willingly merged the talents of his Wild West promotion into World Class. (It should also be noted that when Jim Crockett, Jr., who now had sole control of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), purchased Watts' UWF in the summer of 1987, several former wrestlers from that group including Chris Adams, The Fantastics and The Freebirds returned to WCCW.
These returning talents, along with the the current crop of World Class superstars such as Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, Al Perez and the Simpson brothers, seemingly would give the promotion a much needed “shot in the arm”. However, at this point in pro wrestling history, promoters were being forced to put their talent under contract to avoid other promotions from raiding their talent pool. World Class, unfortunately, would suffer from this, as they were no longer in a position to offer long-term contracts and guarantees that would match the likes of Crockett or Vince McMahon.
45. WCCW ESTABLISHES "OPEN-DOOR POLICY" (1986)
As mentioned above, professional wrestling promoters were forced in the late eighties to put their talent under contract to avoid talent raids by their competitors. And, also as mentioned, World Class was no longer in a position to make long-term offers to its talent. By 1988, WCCW television was merely a shell of its former self, and the office knew something had to be done to breathe some much needed life into its lackluster television programming, and its by now sparsely attended house shows.
A somewhat temporary solution seemed to present itself when the promotion established an “open door” policy which would allow wrestlers not otherwise associated with World Class to wrestle under the promotion’s banner as often as they chose. Wrestlers such as then-WWA Champion Mike George, Robert Gibson, Ron Starr, Kendall Windham, Pat Tanaka and Austin Idol came to wrestle for World Class at different times during this period, and were formally introduced by then-WCCW matchmaker Frank Dusek on television.
The “open door” policy would help the World Class promotion utilize those veterans not under contract to the WWF or the NWA to help keep television programming fresh and, more importantly, bolster attendance at live events without being obligated to hold onto them via a contract.
46. AWA SUPERCLASH III (1988)
With the WWF well on its way to total domination of American pro wrestling in 1988, three regional promotions -- Verne Gagne's AWA, the Memphis-based CWA co-owned by Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler, and WCCW -- decided to cooperate in an attempt to counter the threat posed by Vince McMahon.
There had been an earlier attempt at unification by the AWA and various NWA territories, which had formed a loose alliance known as Pro Wrestling USA in the mid-'80s. However, the partnership lasted only a few months before the AWA pulled out and took over the group's cable TV slot on ESPN. Now, with Gagne's federation finding itself unable to compete against the WWF, and WCCW in similarly dire financial straits, it was time to give unification another shot.
The new effort began with Lawler defeating Curt Hennig for the AWA belt in Memphis on May 9, 1988. Lawler would soon begin making regular appearances in Dallas and become embroiled in a feud with then-WCCW champ Kerry Von Erich, which saw both belts held up multiple times due to controversial decisions.
The storyline culminated in what would prove to be the AWA's only pay-per-view event, SuperClash III, held in Chicago on December 13, 1988. The loaded supercard featured competitors from all three feds (even POWW and former GLOW promoter David McLane managed to get into the act, presenting a nine-woman lingerie battle royal won by "Syrian Terrorist" Pali al-Azzar). The main event -- now available in WWE's DVD box sets The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the '80s and The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA -- saw Lawler finally declared the unified champion as Kerry's "excessive bleeding" prompted the referee to stop the bout.
Unfortunately, both the live attendance (officially announced as 1,672, although even that figure is believed to have been inflated) and the PPV buyrate (a minuscule .5) were a major disappointment -- particularly for WCCW, whose continued viability at that point was riding on a strong buyrate. (It's also believed that none of the wrestlers who worked at SuperClash III were ever paid; in fact, Lawler subsequently refused to appear for any further title defenses in the AWA, or even to return the championship belt -- forcing Gagne's organization to have a new strap made and award it to Larry Zbyszko.) As a result, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich were forced to sell 60% ownership of World Class to Jerry Jarrett, who merged it with his Memphis promotion to form the USWA.
Although the new group enjoyed modest success in Texas for a time, it was the end of the line for the Adkisson family as the dominant force in Dallas wrestling: USWA booker Eric Embry would soon begin pushing himself hard as the group's new lead babyface; Kevin Von Erich, plagued by multiple concussions, wrestled less and less frequently; and brother Kerry would eventually leave the area to join McMahon's WWF in what would be the last successful run of his career.
47. KEVIN VON ERICH NEARLY WINS NWA WORLD TITLE (1985)
On April 1, 1983, Von Erich fans in attendance at the State Fair Coliseum were seemingly on the receiving end of a cruel April Fool’s joke when it appeared that the eldest Von Erich son, Kevin, had realized the family’s professional dreams, and captured the NWA World title from "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
As television cameras rolled, Von Erich and Flair fought feverishly for nearly twenty minutes, with the combatants throwing each other over the top rope on different occasions (an automatic disqualification in World Class) while the referee Bronko Lubich was apparently unconscious.
With both Lubich and Flair down, Kevin perched himself onto the top ring rope and did a precise reversed body press onto Flair as run-in referee David Manning made the three count, awarding the world title to Kevin. As the crowd erupted in adulation, and Kevin’s brother David rushed the ring to congratulate his oldest brother, referee Lubich came to and reversed the decision, with Flair retaining the title. (This type of ending would later be referred to within the industry as the Dusty Finish, named after Florida and Mid-Atlantic booker and wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, whose too-frequent use of this swerve is blamed for helping to kill off fan interest in the NWA during the late '80s.)
Needless to say, the fans and the Von Erichs were incensed; however, the image of Kevin doing a reverse flying body press onto Flair with a 1-2-3 count by referee David Manning, became a visual staple on World Class Championship Wrestling television programming for years to come.
48. TERRY GORDY-KILLER KHAN FEUD (1984)
At the first annual Parade of Champions on May 6, 1984, WCCW fans were introduced to Killer Khan, new ally of the Fabulous Freebirds, when he attacked Fritz Von Erich following the Six-Man Tag Team Title match between the Frrebirds and the Von Erich family.
However, Devastation Inc. leader Skandor Akbar would soon align himself with Khan which ultimately led to a violent feud between Khan and Freebird Terry Gordy, with Akbar proudly stating on WCCW television that he had “stolen” Khan from the Freebirds.
Freebird Michael Hayes interrupted Akbar’s interview segment, stating that Khan was just a friend of Gordy's and that Khan was free to do whatever he pleased. Akbar, after insisting that Hayes was not intelligent enough to hold onto Khan, was attacked by Hayes. Khan came to the aid of Akbar and placed the dreaded Oriental Spike on Hayes. Gordy was enraged, as the Spike could have ended Hayes's singing career; and since Gordy had been responsible for bringing in the feared Mongolian terror, he was personally going to take care of Khan. What resulted was a series of brutal clashes, including one memorable, jaw-droppingly wild match at the Sportatorium which ended in a double disqualification and a ten-minute pull-apart brawl involving nearly all the other wrestlers on that evening's card.
The Freebirds would leave World Class after Labor Day 1984 for a brief, abortive stint in the World Wrestling Federation, but Gordy would return alone in November of that same year to resume his feud with Khan and Devastation, Inc. before rejoining his fellow Freebirds in Florida at the start of 1985.
49. BRIAN ADIAS TURNS ON THE VON ERICHS (1986)
A week later, after childhood friend Kerry Von Erich called out Adias in Fort Worth and demanded an explanation for Brian's previous behavior, former World Class superstar Al Madril revealed that it was he who had put Brian up to the turn by claiming that the Von Erichs had held Brian back. Brian then proceeded to attack Kerry, who was still on crutches following his June 1986 motorcycle accident.
Adias and Madril began teaming regularly and would go on to win the World Class World Tag Team titles. WCCW hoped to revisit past glories by having Adias and Madril feud with Kevin and Mike Von Erich, but the feud failed to generate the ticket sales of television viewership that the Von Erichs’ feuds with either the Freebirds or the Dynamic Duo had.
50. CHRIS ADAMS RETURNS TO THE RING AFTER BEING "BLINDED" (1986)
On January 27, 1986 at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, the former Dynamic Duo tandem of Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams squared off in what World Class fans thought would be the first of many encounters between the ex-tag team partners. There would, however, be a major stipulation to this bout…the loser, as both Hernandez and Adams had upon losing to Kevin and Kerry Von Erich at the Cotton Bowl the previous October, would lose his hair once again.
The match, though, came to an abrupt end when the dastardly Hernandez took a vial of the "Freebird hair cream” which awaited the loser and threw it directly into Adams’ eyes.
As Chris fell to the mat in severe agony, several World Class referees rushed to ringside and tried to wash out his eyes, using water as well as soft drinks from several ringside fans.
World Class was banking on huge box office gates for the breakup and feud of the Dynamic Duo...but tragedy struck less than a week later as Hernandez was found dead in his condominium. (Upon announcing the death of Hernandez on WCCW television, announcer Bill Mercer treated the real-life tragedy of Gino’s death and the fictitious blinding of Adams as being equally significant in order to protect kayfabe, a not-so-unusual approach to matters at that time in the industry.)
To try and salvage this once-hot angle and maintain kayfabe, Adams went back to England to “ponder” the last year and a half of his life. The idea, seemingly, was for Chris to sell the blindness for a few months, then return to set up a showdown match with Gino at the upcoming Parade of Champions card at Texas Stadium. (Remarkably, Scotland Yard contacted and questioned Adams in regards to Gino's death, as the "blinding" angle apparently led numerous fans to believe that Chris might have sought revenge against Hernandez.)
Shortly before Adams' return, Bill Mercer interviewed the "Gentleman" at his home. To set the wheels in motion for his babyface turn, Adams expressed thankfulness for regaining his sight, and that he regretted his past actions.
Chris Adams would be back wrestling in World Class with an eye patch by early April 1986, and would go on to win the WCWA World title from “Ravishing” Rick Rude a few months later.