Several months ago, I noticed an eBay seller offering reels of rare Memphis wrestling footage that had been disposed of by a TV station, including one marked “Jerry Lawler vs. Harley Race 1976.” I have to admit I was intrigued, thinking that it might have been the Southern title defense Lawler made against Race on July 26, 1976, at the Mid-South Coliseum–the night the King’s manager, Sam Bass, was later killed driving from Memphis to Nashville. Incidentally, I’ve always thought that it was ridiculous that this Memphis newspaper clipping mentions the news of Bass’s death…but reports Lawler’s successful Southern title defense first.
When the promotion announced the death of Bass to area fans, they reportedly cheered and applauded. Now that's heat.
Anyway, because I was skeptical of the quality of the footage after all these years and unsure if it could be successfully transfered to home video, I didn’t bid. I’ve sometimes wondered where that footage wound up.
All the heroes from my childhood in one spot.
Turns out it ended up in the hands of Rick Crane over at 70s-TV.com, a wonderful nostalgia site that for years has not only offered quite possibly the best quality footage of classic Memphis wrestling but also rare concerts (Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees, etc.) and TV specials/guest appearances featuring Farrah Fawcett, Lynda Carter, Adrienne Barbeau, Cheryl Tiegs and just about every other woman who adorned my wall as a kid.
As Rick tells it on his site: “I purchased some almost unmarked film reels containing Memphis Wrestling matches. After having them repaired with the latest technology, I was amazed to see the picture and sound quality bursting with COLOR!! Footage that appeared to be from 1974 to 1976… obviously never seen since the original studio shows it was filmed for or possibly never used at all. I hope you enjoy these Extremely Rare 42 minutes of Memphis Wrestling History.
Match listing: 1. Jim & Terry Garvin vs. Tommy Gilbert & Bearcat Brown (Nashville, TN) 2. Jerry Lawler broken leg following Jackie Fargo match (Nashville, TN) 3. The Mongolian Stomper vs. Robert Fuller (Chattanooga, TN) 4. Tommy Rich & Tojo Yamamoto vs. Karl Von Steiger & Otto Von Heller(w/Sam Bass) (Chattanooga, TN) 5. Jerry Lawler (w/Sam Bass) vs. Harley Race(Southern Heavyweight Title Match)(Chattanooga, TN) 6. Lance Russell introduces Champions Bill Dundee & George Barnes for the very first time(MSC for Knoxville, TN) 7. Lance Russell backstage interview with Robert Fuller(MSC for Knoxville, TN) 8. Lance Russell backstage interview with Ron Fuller (MSC for Knoxville, TN) 9. Jackie & Roughouse Fargo vs. Chris Colt & Bill Dundee (MSC) 10. Jerry Lawler vs. The Mongolian Stomper (Southern Heavyweight Title Match) (MSC) 11. Lance Russell backstage interview with Bearcat Wright and Mongolian Stomper (MSC).” MSC= Mid-South Coliseum.
"Battle of the Network Stars" sold separately.
So while I was disappointed to learn that the Race/Lawler bout wasn’t the one on that fateful night in 1976, I am pleased that Rick obtained the footage because it looks amazing. Pick up this rare Memphis footage by clicking here. I also highly recommend his 4-disc collection of Lawler’s career (which includes uncensored tirades by Andy Kaufman [Late Night w/Letterman] and Terry Funk [empty arena], the one-hour special “Return of the King” hosted by Dave Brown the week Lawler came from his broken leg in December 1980, and nearly complete seasons of years of Jerry Jarrett TV, including 1980 and 1981 (Evansville TV feed). Incidentally, if anyone’s looking for the perfect gift for me, I’ll take the VICTORIA PRINCIPAL PICTURE DISC $7.95 (296 pictures of the “Dallas” star from private collections around the globe).