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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Championship Wrestling’

Remembering Gino Hernandez & Farrah Fawcett

April 9th, 2010 1 comment

The Blonde Bombshell and the Handsome Half-Breed. (Incidentally, Farrah was the one who courted Gino with roses.)

This morning at KFR, we salute one of the greatest love affairs of all time–no, no, dah-ling, not Austin Idol’s obsession every time he gazes into a mirror. I’m talking about one of the most torrid-yet-brief romantic liaisons the wrestling business has ever known (which covers a helluva lot of ground): Gino Hernandez and Farrah Fawcett. (Way before Brangelina and TomKat, there was Farrandez.) Oh, if only the rigorous demands of their respective entertainment professions hadn’t kept them apart. (Supposedly, Gino was also insanely jealous that Farrah’s poster outsold his.)

Think Tommy Rich ever had a woman like Farrah? Not on your life. After all, as Gino says, “It’s all about quality–not quantity.” (At least that’s what he tried to explain to Georgia Championship Wrestling commentator Roddy Piper–I think.)

Anatomy of an Angle: The Freebirds flat out frame Austin Idol on Georgia Championship Wrestling

April 1st, 2010 2 comments

By John Keating, KFR guest columnist

Don't trust this man

If you say the words “Fabulous Freebirds” to any fan of pro wrestling, most will immediately recall memories of wild brawls with the Von Erichs and a war that set Texas on fire and captured the imagination of the wrestling world. A lot of fans will point to World Class Championship Wrestling as the team’s greatest run. While there is no doubt that the Freebirds had their most famous and lucrative run in World Class, I feel that, creatively, their best was in Georgia Championship Wrestling.

The ‘Birds, fresh off a red-hot stint in Mid South, in which they blinded Junkyard Dog with the infamous Freebird Hair Removal Cream, made a surprise appearance at the Omni on October 10, 1980. During a Georgia Tag Team Title match between The Assassins and Wrestling 1 & 2, the familiar strains of Lynard Skynard’s anthem played and out came Terry, Buddy and Michael. Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy won the titles in an early incarnation of the Three Way Dance.

One of their earliest challenges came from the newly formed team of Austin Idol and Kevin Sullivan. I always found Sullivan to be an odd babyface in Georgia, what with his strong Boston accent. Idol and Sullivan had been feuding for awhile, with the peak of the storyline occurring when Idol broke the leg of Kevin’s brother (no, not Evad). As we know, in pro wrestling, hatred soon breeds respect and Idol was making the save for Sullivan in a beatdown from The Assassins in an effort to score some karmic payback for breaking the younger Sullivan’s leg. Sullivan repays the favor later on as Idol is getting the boots put to him by Abdullah the Butcher and Mark Lewin. On an unrelated note, I love that Abby owns a restaurant. In my head, I imagine you walk in and he’s sitting in the back with a white suit and little fez atop his scarred head, looking a lot like Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca. Of course, he’d probably have a poker chip sticking out of one of the scars, but I digress….

The teaming of Sullivan and Idol leads to one of my favorite angles ever…Four Flat Tires. The babyfaces claim the ‘Birds are ducking them, and Idol goes as far as to call them the “Jailbirds.” Not since The Universal Heartthrob dubbed Baron Von Raschke, “Baron Von Onionhead” has such a vicious insult crossed the ears of Georgia Championship Wrestling and its fans. Sullivan just calls them the “Dolly Sisters.” Finally, Kevin has an idea, producing a contract that says he and a partner of The Freebirds’ choosing will face them in a tag title match. Hayes (he was pretty much acting as a manager for Buddy and Terry as he recovered from a neck injury) likes this idea and after “dwelling it over” picks Georgia jobber Mike Davis and makes the match for the following week. Sullivan watches Hayes sign the contract and then laughs as he reveals the fine print. Yes, he will have to have Mike Davis as his partner…but the special referee will be of his choosing. Cue Austin Idol in a striped referee’s shirt and whistle as the show goes off the air.

The following week, a concerned Kevin Sullivan lets Gordon Solie know that Idol hasn’t shown. He asks for some time because “the man gave me his word that he’d be here.” You know that the man gave him his word because Sullivan says that same exact sentence about 27 times over the course of the show. No scriptwriting in those days. I recommend using this footage for a drinking game. Every time Sullivan says “the man gave his word,” take a drink. Once you wake up and get over the hangover the next day, you can go back and watch the entire thing again.

Hayes comes out to the podium and mocks Sullivan, saying that Idol had always wanted to be a Freebird but was denied. He produces a telegram that he claims is from the Heartthrob, in which Idol apologizes for going against them and states that he won’t interfere in their affairs any longer. Even Solie, calling back to Sullivan and Idol’s past, thinks that Kevin may have been the victim of a double-cross. Sullivan is undeterred, though. After all, the man gave him his word (drink).

The show progresses until finally Solie can’t buy Kevin any more time. Sullivan acquiesces and goes to the ring with Davis. In a short yet solid match, Gordy and Roberts retain the titles after Gordy hits Davis with his finisher, which is a combination of a piledriver and power bomb. It looks vicious. Davis is out and Hayes goes on a rant, blaming Sullivan for getting the kid hurt (“Sullivan, that kid is hurt because of you! He came out here and tried his hardest and because you didn’t have the guts to get in there and take the whoopin’, that’s why he’s hurt!”). Sullivan comes back out and starts a pull-apart brawl with Hayes. Solie plays his part perfectly here, trying to console Sullivan and looking like a father who has to let his son learn a hard life lesson about trusting the wrong people.

Freddie Miller runs in to inform Gordon that, finally, Austin Idol is in the building! Idol comes in with ref shirt in hand and demands that they get the tag title match underway. Solie scolds him and says the match already took place and demands to know how he can show his face here. Confused, Idol replies: “Sure, I’m showing my face. All the pretty women want to see this beautiful, gorgeous, sexy face.” Idol then goes on to explain to Gordon that he was late because he had to fix a flat tire. Michael Hayes tries to cool the situation down and tells Idol that he told everyone about his telegram. Idol scoffs at the notion of him wanting to be a Freebird (“That’s like Ronald Regan saying he wants to be John Anderson”).

This irks Hayes some and it’s here that he makes his fatal mistake. He tries to tell Idol that the match is already over and done with and blurts out “I guess it would take some time to fix four flat tires…” Idol interrupts: “Wait a minute, what did you just say? I said I had *a* flat tire; I didn’t say nothing about four flat tires!” The jig is up and Hayes discovered as the tire-flattening culprit. Idol throws some bombs at Hayes and here come Terry, Buddy and Sullivan for a Pier 6 brawl.

The reason I love this angle so much is because it shows pro wrestling at its best. WWE and TNA often state how their shows are about the characters and stories but they rarely accomplish what they set out to do. Here you have two weeks of TV shows (and really, ¾ of the angle takes place on one week’s show) that are completely about the characters of the wrestlers involved. The Freebirds playing chicken heels, Sullivan standing up for a man who he believes is going to live up to his word, Idol as the cavalry without ever losing his clueless, self-absorbed persona and finally Solie, as the patriarch of the whole situation. He comments on past dealings with the men and makes logical comments that really forward the story. It’s true characterization.The angle ends with a bloodied Idol and Sullivan flanking Solie. Gordon apologizes to Idol and says that, at this point in time, Sullivan’s faith in Idol has been vindicated. After all, the man gave him his word.

John Keating is a professional stand-up comic/actor/cartoonist and all-around snappy dresser. You can learn more about him and check out his comic strip, “Breaking the Ice,” at www.johnkeating.biz

Georgia on my mind

October 27th, 2009 2 comments

World takeover: WCW was never the same after McMahon took over the 6:05 ET timeslot.

I knew I was in trouble less than 30 minutes into the WWE DVD release THE RISE AND FALL OF WCW when this latest revisionist history lesson claims that Vince McMahon secured Jim Crockett’s longtime 6:05 ET timeslot on Ted Turner’s WTBS SuperStation—the infamous “Black Saturday” of July 14, 1984. Although several stars from his Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling territory often appeared on the World Championship Wrestling show in the early ’80s, Crockett, of course, did not own that WCW timeslot when McMahon took over.

I had been avoiding this DVD because I didn’t want to go through the inevitable frustration of once again hearing the McMahon machine’s corporate spin on how they kicked Turner’s butt and took over the sinking ship that was WCW in 2001. Surprisingly, though, the biggest annoyance isn’t an over-handed account of how McMahon outfoxed his competition, but rather, the lack of knowledge and research on the subject matter.

The early days of WCW are traced back to Georgia Championship Wrestling, which Jim Barnett took over in 1973 during the Peach State’s wrestling war between the NWA and “outlaw” promoter Ann Gunkel. After acquiring GCW stock, Barnett eventually bought out Gunkel for $200,000 to take complete control of Georgia TV wrestling. Barnett, fresh off a controversial-yet-money-making run in Australia, became one of the most powerful members of the Alliance, assuming the responsibility of booking the NWA’s World titlist as the career of St. Louis promoter Sam Muchnick came to an end.

Instead of Barnett, the godfather of WCW is portrayed on the DVD as being Jim Crockett Sr. (Big Jim). A brief history of Jim Crockett Promotions kicks off the documentary, including clips of a new interview with Jim Crockett Jr, who took over the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling territory following the death of Big Jim.

The Crockett history is fine and all; I just wish it had followed after at least an hour covering the heritage of Georgia Championship Wrestling, which planted the seeds for what would become WCW. (At a running time of 1 hour, 45 minutes, the documentary portion of the DVD release is shamefully short.) I was hoping for a detailed look at how Barnett and his stars like Mr. Wrestling II, the Freebirds, Austin Idol, Dusty Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, Masked Superstar, Roddy Piper, Ivan Koloff, Stan Hansen and booker Ole Anderson captured the imagination of wrestling fans nationwide on an expanding WTBS stage in the late ’70s and the early ’80s as this new technology called “cable TV” spread like “Wildfire” Tommy Rich across the country.

The first sign of national prominence for the Georgia promotion was following an angle in which Wrestling II failed to defeat Harley Race for the NWA World heavyweight title in 1980. Fans were encouraged to participate in a letter-writing campaign, which led to II being awarded the Champion of Champions Cup (pissing off Race and several members of the NWA board in the process). In addition to receiving thousands of cards and letters from Georgia and throughout the South, there also was a ton of correspondence from fans in Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia.

Peachy keen: Peachy keen: With stars like Jack Brisco and Ted DiBiase, and announcer Gordon Solie on the mic, Georgia Championship Wrestling was a hit on the SuperStation.

Peachy keen: With stars like Jack Brisco and Ted DiBiase, and announcer Gordon Solie on the mic, Georgia Championship Wrestling was a hit on the SuperStation.

The TV show was renamed World Championship Wrestling (though the official name of the company remained GCW), complete with a spiffy new global logo in the backdrop behind legendary announcer Gordon Solie, to shed the Southern image. By early 1981, the Saturday night broadcast was averaging a 6.4 rating, making the WCW show the most-watched program on cable TV.

As WTBS and WCW began penetrating more and more cable markets located in traditional NWA strongholds, a few of the more observant Alliance promoters began to get nervous—fears that were compounded when Barnett began to extend his house shows into towns like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Wheeling, WV. GCW had an amazing run for the rest of 1981, including three NWA World title changes in Georgia within a period of a little over three months (Race to Rich and back to Race in April and then to Dusty in June); WCW seemed to have a stranglehold over TV wrestling on an ever-increasing national stage.

Domination of the wrestling industry seemed destined for the NWA’s hands as GCW extended its house-show business north to Detroit (The Sheik Ed Farhat’s longtime territory, which was on its last legs) and in borderline WWF markets like Baltimore. Some NWA promoters like Crockett were savvy enough to realize the advantages of such exposure, sending his stars to make frequent appearances in Atlanta, most notably a young Flair, who would benefit when it came time for the NWA board to name a new World champion. Others, like Fritz Von Erich, couldn’t see the big picture and reportedly made it difficult whenever sons Kevin and David were contacted about coming in to appear on WCW.

By 1982, it was clear to almost anyone paying attention that whomever controlled cable TV would rule the business. And unlike a lot of longtime NWA promoters, young Vince McMahon Jr. was paying very close attention. (Not everyone in the NWA was blind—Terry Funk saw the effect that the WCW show was having on his local business, when fans of the thrilling two-hour cable broadcast began asking why Atlanta stars like Rich weren’t appearing in Amarillo. The Funks eventually sold the family’s Amarillo territory.

Of course, nothing lasts in the wrestling biz. GCW booker Ole disliked Barnett and accused him of stealing from the company in an effort to oust him, a power struggle Anderson would win. By the end of ’83, with Barnett forced out, WCW was a mess, a combination of bad booking, poor management and stale stars, most notably, Rich, who had started to go downhill fast because of his lifestyle. The Road Warriors pumped some life into the promotion, but there were inherent limitations in booking two inexperienced muscleheads whose gimmick was to eat up long-established stars like the Brisco Brothers and Mr. Wrestling I and II. Ole clearly demonstrated that he was in over his head booking a suddenly national promotion, pulling crap like the Brett and Buzz Sawyer defeating the Warriors for the National tag titles in several cities throughout the week…and then Hawk and Animal showing up on TV the following Saturday with the straps and no mention of a title change or reversed decision.

Yes, the real history of WCW is fascinating stuff. But none of this is mentioned on the DVD.

(To read the rest of the review, click here to visit comics101.com.)