Saturday morning wrestling in Memphis
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.