When the subject of legendary Memphis wresting managers is broached, the names Sam Bass, Dr. Ken Ramey, “Gentleman” Saul Weingeroff, Jimmy Hart, Jim Cornette and Paul E. Dangerly (Heyman) are usually in the conversation. (Meanwhile, I’m usually badmouthed in an altogether different conversation.) But you’ve got to give proper kudos to Mark Golleen–you know, of the infamous House of Goleen–who had not only had the most…memorable…accent in the business in 1987 but also an eye for fashion as well as raw talent and an appreciation for “blood sport.”
When Vince McMahon’s own instincts for style instructed Shawn Michaels that his “boots were made for walking” just before firing the Rockers after one of the shortest runs in company history after HBK and tag partner Marty Jannetty allegedly tore apart a bar during a spat with Jimmy Jack Funk (Jesse Barr) right after their debut in the Former Fed, the hell raisers wound up back in the AWA in fall 1987, with frequent apperances in Memphis.
Trouble was, Memphis was practically not only the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll itself but also MTV-inspired tag teams like the Fabulous Ones and the spandex-wearing Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Every team that followed, not matter how talented, came off as second rate, most notably “The New Fabulous Ones,” Tommy Rich and Eddie Gilbert, whose appearances in the territory following the departure of Stan Lane and Steve Keirn killed the gimmick. (On that note, for those wondering why the Fabs aren’t featured in the “Memphis Heat” documentary, the charismatic duo had only about about 16 months of incredible success before leaving for the AWA and Verne Gagne, who had no idea how to properly get them over, especially without the benefit of the backing of a Southern superstar like Jackie Fargo. Sure, Lane and Keirn eventually returned and drew decent houses after Rich and Gilbert failed, but it was never the same. By late 1984–less than two years after their debut–business was down not only at the arenas but also in the Fabs’ legendary decked-out-yet-classy love van.)
Anyway, it was Golleen who turned the Rockers from babyface Rock ‘n’ Roll Express rip-offs into cocky young heel champions, cultivating the arrogance that would help make Shawn Michaels a singles superstar in the World Wrestling Federation. (Actually, the Rockers sort of turned themselves heel in the territory after Jarrett observed all the heat they had in the Memphis locker room.)
But perhaps Gollen’s greatest find was Teijo Khan, an exotic grappler whom he reportedly discovered during his world travels to a monastery in China…although most likely it was Khan’s many appearances on WTBS for Jim Crockett earlier in the year that caught the wicked manager’s eye. (Khan was Tom Cassett, an Eddie Sharkey trainee from the same school of hard knocks as the Road Warriors and Rick Rude.)
In yet another introductory video that may well have been filmed on Memphis promoter Jarrett’s Nashville estate, Golleen braves the harshest of winter chills (apparently ignoring Dave Brown’s forecast for the area) to reveal his latest find, stressing not only his man’s toughness but also his near Olympic time in the 40-yard dash…in combat boots no less. (Pack your bags, Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee, this evil speedster will only track you down on foot.) I love how the wind gusts blow off Golleen’s jacket yet he continues his spiel–I’ll bet the boys in the back watching the monitors in the WMC-TV studio on Union Avenue howled over that. A distraught Khan emerges from the Nashville pond, obviously freezing; I don’t believe he stopped running until he hit Memphis…or perhaps crossed paths with Apocalypse in Jarrett’s crowded woods. For Khan’s sake, I hope they got this on the first take.
In what had to be a rib, Golleen closes the promo by also announcing the impending arrival of a jungle savage reminiscent of Kimala, a wrestler whose name sounds a lot like “Yo, Mama!” Classic camp Memphis.