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Saturday morning wrestling in Memphis

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This is what a typical Saturday morning might look like for me at various points in the early ’80s.

As much I was a huge Memphis wrestling 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 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 hooked on the show immediately. Not surprising that at the same time, Jarrett’s Memphis TV was producing music videos and 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 men, women and teenage girls/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.

The Poffos’ ICW aired in Memphis on channel 24, WPTY at 1o a.m., for more than two years, from 1979 until early 1982. (This show also aired throughout Kentucky; its theme clearly inspired Jim Cornette at an early age.) ICW was damn entertaining TV, with angles that rivaled Memphis for their audacity. Still, the Poffos only drew crowds of about 500 when they tried run in Memphis at the Cooke Convention Center. The most intriguing aspect of the show was the ICW outlaws running down Memphis stars and revealing their real names instead of focusing on promoting their own events, prompting some of the Memphis boys to pack guns when traveling to shows in Kentucky. The ICW show’s violent opening reminds me of ECW TV. After closing up shop, ICW stars Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo joined Jarrett and Lawler, with a hot, ready-made feud between the Macho Man and the King.

Jim Crockett’s World Wide TV also started airing in Memphis, coming on at 10 a.m. after the World Class show. Like Savage years before, MACW stars like Roddy Piper and Ric Flair would cut promos aimed at Memphis stars like Lawler. These were less personal than the shoot challenges Savage, Bob Roop and Bob Orton Jr. would issue in ICW–the JCP guys were cutting more traditional promos, making you think that Crockett would be promoting with Jarrett in the near future. But it didn’t happen until 1985. I loved the emphasis on titles and competition on World Wide, which would heat up in the months leading to Starrcade ’83. I recall my mom watching a bit of Crockett TV and blurting out, “See, this doesn’t look as fake as our [Memphis] wrestling.” As a kid who never wanted to entertain the possibility that rasslin’ was fake, I politely asked my mom to leave the room.

Then, of course, there was the institution: Memphis TV at 11, a 90-minute show that aired live from the WMC-TV studio on Union Ave. I lived and died with my heroes every week for years until I would eventually make my own debut. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

  1. Sean D.
    October 2nd, 2010 at 09:06 | #1

    Oh dear lord. Until watching the the ICW clips in the open, I’d blocked out a lot of those angles.

  2. PG-13
    October 2nd, 2010 at 12:04 | #2

    man I wish I had grown up then by the time I was introduced to wrestling there was only 1 show on Saturday and that was USWA (introduced somewhere around 90-92) but I have many great memories of watching the show and then hearing the siren at noon (not sure if they still do that or not) but I always knew when that siren rang that USWA was off the air and it was time to go outside and play. some great clips there

  3. Steve
    October 4th, 2010 at 04:55 | #3

    When I was a kid, I’d go to my grandpa’s every Friday night. There, we’d stay up to watch ICW. When the weather cooperated(which was rare), I tried to catch Memphis out of Evansville. A couple of years later, World Class showed up on another station. Then it was replaced by WWF.

  4. October 4th, 2010 at 17:01 | #4

    They ran ICW matches down here in Pinellas County (Clearwater-St. Pete), Florida…but they ran (no joke) on about a six or seven year tape-delay. The “big names” were up in McMahonland by that time.

  5. Old School Sammy
    October 5th, 2010 at 04:11 | #5

    I was in college in 1983, and clicking through the channels in the morning and hit Buddy Landell doing a post-Starrcade angle and was like “WTF is this?” All of the sudden, this “stay up late until midnight to watch WWWF on channel 9 from NY” huge wrestling mark got to watch the guys he only got to read about in the Apter mags. We got a new Indy channel in Connecticut that year, channel 61, and all of the sudden, we found out it was wrestling HEAVEN! Starting in late 1983, and for like the next 3 years, we got on Saturday Morning:
    1. Florida Championship Wrestling at 8 AM
    2. World Class Championship Wrestling at 9 AM
    3. Crockett’s NWA show at 10 AM (which was MUST-SEE TV for me back then, even with the annoying end of each show during the BIG angle of the week, with David Crockett yelling at 10:58 “we gotta go!”
    4. WWF Spotlight at 11 AM
    5. WWF Superstars at noon

    Yes, be jealous, we had that lineup ever Saturday morning for nearly 3 years or so…

    In the college years, we had beers on ice Friday night for 7:45 AM Saturday Morning, and a batch of guys in the dorm lounge ready to watch 5 plus hours of rasslin!

  6. Cousar
    August 7th, 2015 at 04:52 | #6

    Does anyone recall another Memphis promotion that ran for a short time on WPTY-TV 24? The announcer was a local guy who had been doing commercials for a while before. One of the wrestlers was referred to as “Mr Personality” in one of the ads. Does anyone remember this group or have any more information on them?

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