Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Phil Hickerson’

Groovy grapplin’: Rare 1978 Memphis wrestling footage featuring Jerry Lawler now available

March 5th, 2012 1 comment

That '70s show: Memphis wrestling from the 1970s has never looked better.

Most longtime Memphis wrestling fans are familiar with the infamous 1979 Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl between Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee vs. The Blonde Bombers (Wayne Ferris, the future Honky Tonk Man, and Larry Latham, a.k.a, Moondog Spot), which caused a young Jim Cornette to buy a VCR to tape the incredible footage, and years later, inspired the hardcore style of action that would make ECW a cult phenomenon. Most important, the Tupelo brawl raised the houses in Memphis, Nashville and Louisville, crowds that had been dwindling under Robert Fuller’s booking.

The sequel in 1981 was more violent (though not as effective draw-wise) than the original, as the very young Southern team of Eddie Gilbert and Rick Morton defended the good ol’ U.S.A. by bringing the good fight to the evil Japanese contingent of Mr. Onita, Masa Fuchi and Tojo Yamamoto, with glass and condiments once again flying in the concession stand in Tupelo. (Onita would later bring this brand of hardcore to Japan as part of his FMW promotion.) More than anything, it got the fans to believe that Morton (son of referee Paul Morton) and Eddie (son of longtime wrestler Tommy Gilbert) were not just two young punks who broke into the biz because of their daddies; these boys could fight.

Turns out the “original” Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl might have occurred a year earlier in January 1978.

Rick Crane over at 70s-tv.com has once again outdone himself, locating rare Memphis wrestling footage from 1978 and 1983 pulled straight from the master tapes. The 1978 set features rare Lawler footage in excellent quality, including the final minutes of the NWA World title Broadway between the challenger and Harley Race in December 1977, and a grudge match with the King vs. his “creation” Dr. Frank. The gem of the ’78 set (Volume 2 of the “Umatic Master Series”) might just be a fantastic 2-out-3-falls bout between Lawler and Robert Gibson vs. the highly underrated team of Phil Hickerson and Dennis Condrey, managed by “Kangaroo” Al Costello, armed with his trusty boomerang. (Gibson and Condrey, of course, would later go on to feud as members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express, respectively.)

As Rick explains, “Over the Christmas holidays, I purchased a large collection of these priceless original Masters from Jeff Osborne. Jeff had purchased these in 1992. Even though Jarrett has reported they recorded over these umatics to save money, a few of them did survive. Each tape had varying dates and at the end of each one, you see the last minute of another show that was underneath. When I picked up my DVD transfers, I was so excited at the quality that was still there. Not being too over the top but, I simply have NOT seen the old shows look this good. Keep in mind that even though these ARE the BROADCAST MASTERS, it is still 30-year-old tape. Some have survived better than others. Even the least good is still better than the best VHS tape. This first volume covers the 3-5-83 show in 60 minute format. The 2nd show is the Legendary 6-5-83 Sunday version on Lawler vs. Dundee: Loser Leave Town Discussion. I do prefer this one to the Saturday show. This turned out to be one of the best-preserved shows. So much fun to watch. I will be releasing more volumes of this series in the coming weeks. I have more shows from 1983, 1981 and a few even from 1978!”

Volume 1 of the “Umatic Masters Series” is available now by clicking here. Volumes 2 and 3 featuring 1978 and 1983 footage, respectively, will be available to order on Monday, March 19 only at 70s-TV.com.

Below is the third fall of the action with Lawler/Gibson vs. Hickerson/Condrey from the Tupelo Sports Arena–which turns into a great Memphis-style bloody brawl. The Pier-6er spills out into the crowd and down below into the concession stand, setting the groundwork for the tremendous brawl a year later. (Any tracking issues you see is strictly from the YouTube upload, as Rick’s DVDs are virtually flawless, especially given the age of the footage.)

Lance Russell explains in the aftermath that the cameraman was unable to make it down to the concession stand to document the mayhem. (This would also prove problematic a year later when an exasperated Lance exults to cameraman Randy West, “C’mon, get the camera down here, we gotta a helluva fight going on! Arrgh–the cord’s caught in the damn door!”) From Lance’s description, the Lawler/Gibson vs. Hickerson/Condrey ’78 version sounds nearly identical to the 1979 brawl that would achieve such notoriety. (Gibson and his brother, the late Rick Gibson, would engage in another Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl with the Blonde Bombers in April 1980–a desperate attempt to spark houses with Lawler on the shelf nursing a broken leg.)

Also included on the ’78 Memphis Wrestling Disc from the “Umatic Master Series” are matches from the June 26, 1978, card at the Mid-South Coliseum, including Jimmy Valiant and Bill Dundee vs. Frankie Lane and Mike Boyer (the future Apocalypse) in a New York City Street Brawl (pretty funny seeing the boys fight in their ’70s-era duds); Special Added Bout: Valiant vs. Joe LeDuc in a Strap Match (an injured Lawler makes an fiery appearance); LeDuc vs. Tommy Gilbert; and Steve Kyle vs. John Louie. Again, this is some of the highest-quality footage I’ve seen from the era–a rare treat. Both ’78 shows–on one disc–run nearly 50 minutes each.

Also on Monday, March 19, you can order the Saturday morning TV shows (Louisville feed) from 1/8/83 and 1/15/83 as part of Volume 3. I’ve seen these episodes before but never in this kind of quality–practically bursting with color. Volume 3 of the “Umatic Master Series” includes:

AIRDATE: 1-8-1983 Sheepherders vs. Bobby Fulton/Ira Reese; Jerry Lawler vs. The Invader; Lawler vs. Nick Bockwinkle (AWA World Heavyweight Title Match); Bill Dundee vs. Apocalypse;, Terry Taylor/Jacques Rougeau vs. Bobby Eaton/Koko Ware.

AIRDATE: 1-15-1983 Sheepherders vs. Ira Reese/Ken Raper;, Fabs Promo; Hart Promo, Lawler vs. Bockwinkle (Andy Kaufman returns); Bill Dundee/Terry Taylor vs. Bobby Eaton/Brown Sugar; Lawler vs. Sabu; Adrian Street/Jesse Barr vs. King Cobra/Bobby Fulton.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy all this wild and wooly action as much as I did. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning–or maybe just any Saturday morning of my childhood as I sat transfixed in front of my parents’ TV at 11 a.m. as the unique style of Memphis rasslin’ unfolded before me as part of “another BIG day of Championship Wrestling action.” (As Lance would, and often did, say.)

Anatomy of an Angle: Lawler crowns Hickerson “King of Jackson”

March 3rd, 2010 3 comments

Former NWA Southern tag champions: Jerry Jarrett once described the team as "pure magic from the start."

One of the great things about Memphis Wrestling TV was how Jerry Jarrett and Jerry “the King” Lawler could either slowly build a turn or an angle over a month or make an abrupt change that morning to spark the house for Monday night’s show at the Mid-South Coliseum and attendance the following week (once TV aired around the loop) in the surrounding cities. Such was the case one Saturday morning, when longtime area heel Phil Hickerson turned babyface to become Lawler’s partner in his feud with the Fabulous Freebirds.

For about three weeks, Lawler had been feuding with the ‘Birds, teaming with Austin Idol, and the foursome had two great brawls that drew well, including a show attended by about 8,500 Memphians (including me) on Aug. 5, 1985. The feud had ignited when Lawler accidentally burned Michael Hayes’s hair with a fireball following a match with Bota the Witch Doctor (one those unfortunate Memphis gimmicks no one likes to discusss today). Recently, as part of the WWE Legends of Wrestling Roundtable discussions, Lawler revealed that Hayes wanted a larger payoff following the incident because his precious locks did actually catch fire, which prompted the former Freebird (who was also sitting on the panel) to bring up the fact that successfully lobbied Jarrett for more money–reportedly no small feat in Memphis.

With Jarrett’s territory hurting a bit for talent with Vince McMahon picking off Memphis stars like Randy Savage, Hickerson had received his first huge push as a singles wrestler in the area since ’76, winning the International title from Terry Taylor and beating former NWA World champion Harley Race on consecutive weeks at the Coliseum. (Not too shabby for a guy who was only working part time at that point; I believe was also running a watering hole in his native Jackson, Tenn.)

While other longtime territories were struggling to keep up with McMahon, Jarrett was still packing 'em in with cards like this, on Aug. 5, 1985.

A former star in the territory in the ’70s teaming with Dennis Condrey–largely considered one of the best pairings of the era locally–Hickerson was always a solid wrestler with the gift of gab. He’d returned from relative obscurity the year before, teaming with the Spoiler (Frank Morrell–not Don Jardine) to feud with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and the New Fabulous Ones (Tommy Rich and Eddie Gilbert). During this singles run in ’85, he was turned loose on the mic, and delivered some hilarious promos that had the fans–and nearly announcer Lance Russell–in stitches.  Case in point: When Lance questioned how much longer Phil might hold the belt, the International champion bellowed, “I’ll always be the champion! I love this belt, man! I take a bath with it! I go to bed wearing it!  Heck, my old lady’s got belt marks all over her from sleeping with me.” It was almost getting difficult for the fans to hate the guy as his delivery was priceless.

In what may have been cost-cutting move (what…in Memphis?), Idol was eliminated from the program, with Lawler claiming an injury at the hands of “Florida champion Lord Humongous,” leaving the King without a partner. After numerous guys turned him down on short notice (amusing that Lawler even claims to have called the Von Erichs, given their history with the ‘Birds), Lawler relented and agreed to team with Hickerson,who had been pleading with the King to give him a chance.

Two nights later, Jerry “the King” Lawler walked down the aisle side by side with the newly christened “King of Jackson” Phil Hickerson.

Thankfully, here’s Dave Brown to break down this amazing turn of events:

 

The following week they came back with a Taped Fist match, which was loudly protested by the ‘Birds. After all, as Terry Gordy points out, he “never claimed to be a boxer!” (Apparently, Bamm Bamm was pretty tight with Elvis Presley, a fact I didn’t know.) I love the expression on Gordy’s face when Hayes refers to their good looks.

Clipping courtesy of Memphis Wrestling History.

File under Jerry “the King” Lawler, Phil Hickerson, Memphis Wrestling.