“At TNA, we’re always looking for that next pop-culture icon, whether it be Pacman Jones, Jenna Morasca or Jonny Fairplay, to get people talking around the water cooler about our product,” explains Bischoff as he once again turns controversy into cash. “Giant LEGO Man is undefeated in active competition and a huge coup for our organization. And for those Internet nerds out there dismissing LEGO Man as the just the latest washed-up stiff on our roster, at least we didn’t re-sign Kevin Nash like WWE. In our initial workouts, Giant LEGO Man already displays more charisma and athleticism than half the X Division–whatever that is.”
TNA Creative is working around the clock on an engaging, riveting, logical storyline–a first for the company–to set up LEGO Man as the next monster to challenge the legacy of the immortal Hulk Hogan, former WWE heavyweight champion and current spokesperson for CarTitleLoanMart.com and Rent-A-Center.
Know-it-all Internet critics have labeled LEGO Man the biggest TNA washout since Jeff Hardy.
“Let me tell ya somethin’, brother, the biggest and the baddest in the land have tried to knock the Hulkster off the top of the mountain, and I’m…still…standing…sort of,” says Hogan, hobbling with a cane after his recent “retirement” match against Sting. “Andre the Giant, the Big Show, King Kong Bundy–they’ve all gone down at the hands of me and all my Hulkamanics. I’m not gonna stop, dude, until I bodyslam that smelly, seaweed-wrapped, 700-pound Giant LEGO Man through the floor of the iMPACT Zone. Then, I’m gonna take that LEGO freak apart…brick by brick by brick by brick…brother! Whatcha gonna do, Giant LEGO Man, when the power of Hulkamania runs wild on youuuuuu?!”
Hogan closed his press conference by saying he will be donating the spare LEGO parts to the Make-A-Wish Foundation shortly after dismantling the Giant on SPIKE TV next Thursday night.
Displaying a quiet, eerie confidence, Giant LEGO Man had no comment.
Troubled waters: Von Erich and Lawler prepare to apply the dreaded "rowboat" maneuver to Blackjacks Mulligan and Lanza.
Although I was a huge Memphis fan since 1977, I was excited to see a new wrestling show air locally with the addition of World Class Championship Wrestling to the lineup of debuting channel 30 in fall 1982. I was an avid reader of the newsstand Apter mags, so I was familiar with NWA champ Ric Flair and the Von Erichs, while the Freebirds had worked Jerry Jarrett’s territory in 1979.
With superior production values and camerawork and marquee match-ups, I was immediately hooked on the World Class show, which came to the viewing audience from the “world-famous” Sportatorium in Dallas. Credit the genius of World Class producer/visionary Mickey Grant, who somehow convincingly presented the Sportatorium as a major sports arena–in fact, it was a dump without air conditioning; however, it made for a heated environment (in more ways than one) and, more important, great television.
During the same time period, Jarrett’s Memphis TV was producing music videos featuring young heartthrobs like the Fabulous Ones and Terry Taylor, with the Rock ‘n’ Express to debut in 1983. World Class and Memphis were two of the most innovative shows in the country and wildly popular with not only the traditional male audience but also the growing demographic of women and teenage girls and boys. As good as Mid-South TV was, they wouldn’t expand their demographic until the end of ’83, when Dundee took the booking job and recreated that Memphis magic focusing on younger, smaller talent who could work a fast pace like the Express teams and Taylor in place of the methodical big men who had dominated the territory previously.
Eat your hearts out, Midnight Express.
So I was thrilled when I saw the headline at the top of the cover of the January 1984 of The Wrestler, which declared that the unlikely duo of David Von Erich and Lawler were on a mission to stop Blackjacks Mulligan and Lanza “before they rule again.” The match took place on the August 26, 1983, lineup at Kiel Auditorium in St Louis, which was headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Crusher Blackwell.
According to the Apter mag “account,” the St. Louis promoter (Larry Matysik?) was concerned that the reuniting Blackjacks, former WWA and WWF tag champions, would run roughshod over the territory unless a team stepped up to cut these outlaws off at the pass. No established teams would dare take the challenge, so David Von Erich, in his youthful exuberance, volunteered his services. (Undoubtedly, the master of the Von Erich Iron Claw wanted to test his grip against that of the famed Blackjacks.) When the desperate promoter recommended Lawler (who had been booked sparingly early in his career as a ’70s TV jobber by longtime St. Louis-based NWA godfather Sam Muchnick before the promoter retired in 1982), Von Erich got on the phone to convince the King to join his side. Impressed by the young man’s fire, Lawler accepted; after all, the King knew a thing or two about fire. While no footage of the bout exists, Lawler and Von Erich defeated the Blackjacks, ending their new reign of terror before it even began–mission accomplished!
Although he was a heel on that night in St. Louis, Mulligan’s babyface son Barry Windham also worked the undercard that night. Speaking of Windham, one of all-time favorite performers, the Wrestling Observer is reporting that Barry is currently in intensive care in Florida after what is believed to have been a heart attack. Mulligan describes the condition of the 50-year-old Windham as “near death.” A former NWA World champion, Windham is the brother-in-law of former tag partner Mike Rotunda, who found Barry collapsed at his ranch yesterday. I hope Barry makes a quick recovery.
On that August evening in 1983, most fans didn’t realize that the balance of power in wrestling would shift from the crumbling National Wrestling Alliance to the World Wrestling Federation, with Hogan winning the WWF title from the Iron Sheik in January 1984, and possible future NWA champ David Von Erich dying in Japan in February 1984.
By March 1984, Mulligan and Lawler were able “to settle their differences” to form yet another unlikely combination for this tag bout in Chicago, challenging Ken Patera and Crusher Blackwell for the AWA World tag titles. Mulligan is one of those guys, along with Roddy Piper, who I think would have been an incredible heel opponent for Lawler during the King’s babyface Memphis heyday.
The Gentrys formed in Memphis in 1963 as a seven-man band, including one skinny kid who would go on to become the Mouth of the South: the city’s own Jimmy Hart. While the Gentrys’ debut album, “Keep On Dancing,” barely made the Top 100, the title cut climbed to No. 4 on the Billboard charts.
The group originally featured Larry Raspberry as their lead singer, with early keyboardist Rick Allen later joining The Box Tops. Riding their small wave of fame, the Gentrys opened for such bands as the Beach Boys, The Shangri-Las and Sonny and Cher. (I’m unable to confirm if Sonny inspired Hart to grow a mustache.).
The Gentrys disbanded in 1966; however, Hart reformed the band in 1969. With Hart now on lead vocals, the Gentrys recorded an album for the legendary Memphis-based Sun label, which also released early recordings of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The Sun album, a turn-of-the-decade, hard-rock record, generated another three Top-100 hits. (For more on Hart’s transformation to pop star to rasslin’ baddie, click here.)
Hart’s greatest lyrical work, however, might have been a 1983 tune that was a touching tribute to a an old flame who was perfect…except for one flaw (well, three, if you include Librace’s smile and Herschel Walker’s thighs): She had Lance Russell’s nose. Appearing on the album Outrageous Conduct, the singles “Lance Russell’s Nose” (an Al Yankovic-type parody of “Bette Davis Eyes”) and “We Hate School” actually received a lot of airplay on local Memphis stations FM 100 and Rock 103, as Memphis wrestling was one of the city’s hottest commodities at the time. (And yes, that is WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware, “Nightmare” Danny Davis and Ali Hassan serving as Hart’s band–the original rock ‘n’ rasslin’ connection.)
In his excellent bio, Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore, the Funker wrote that he was he so over in Japan in 1983 that he was signed to record an album. He admits that because he didn’t want to pay for the rights to cover well-known songs, he simply called in a favor to Hart, who had managed the former NWA World champion in his Memphis appearances against Jerry Lawler.
In his book, Funk writes: The record I made in 1983…contains some of the most godawful singing you’ve ever heard. Jimmy Hart wrote the songs for me because I was too cheap. All the songs on the album had one thing in common–they all sucked. One of them was called “I Hate School.” Can you imagine? Who in the hell would think it would be a good idea to have a 35-year-old man singing, “I hate school!”
Because I was familiar with the original, I howled when I read that, trying to imagine Funk’s voice singing those goofy lyrics, which somehow Jimmy Hart got away with because he was pretty much playing an immature brat on Memphis TV. I often wondered if Funk had recorded a version of “Lance Russell’s Nose” and what the Japanese fans thought of it. Turns out that Funk did indeed record a version of the song..with the lyrics altered to feature a female celebrity singing sensation.
The audio from the album, Great Texan, recently popped up on YouTube, and all I can say is…it’s like having your ears wrapped in barbed wire and dynamite. Pretty damn funny hearing Funk confess his love in song to a woman with Librace’s smile and the thighs of the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Georgia. (Dime a dozen in West Hollywood, or so I have read.) Sadly, while “I Hate School” is also posted below, Funk’s off-the-cuff rendition of “Lucy’s Got a Pussy Like a Javelina Hog” has yet to resurface–sort of an ’80s-era “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”
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