Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Rich’

YouTube Finds: Jerry Lawler is a snappy dresser

June 17th, 2010 No comments

Part of the reason “Wildfire” Tommy Rich didn’t get over as a heel when he attacked the crippled Jerry Lawler in August 1980 is that the King had it coming: wearing a suit like that, he deserved to get his ass kicked. Rich’s heel turn stunned the wrestling world, as he was fresh off a run in Atlanta that had made him the hottest babyface in the country at the time. Supposedly, Rich returned to Memphis to not only spark houses with Lawler on the shelf but also so he could perfect the heel working style, as he was under consideration to be a long-term touring NWA World champion, who would have to work with local babyfaces nightly in the role. Moments before, Rich had stolen a victory from “Superstar” Bill Dundee, headbutting him below the belt and quickly ensnaring his supposed friend in a small package before he had a chance to recover. Rich’s promo is actually pretty strong here, and Lance Russell is his usual great self, acting awfully disappointed in the young man’s behavior and overall attitude.

Given that the King was only a few months away from returning from his broken leg I suspect the initial plan may have been for a Lawler vs. Rich bout to headline in late December. However, crowds averaged less than 4,000 with Rich on top as a heel, so he was abruptly switched babyface and “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant was turned heel all within a 30-minute time span on the same TV episode on Nov. 29. Weeks before, Jimmy Hart and Jerry Jarrett had stumbled upon journeyman Troy Graham, who delivered golden promos that reminded them of Dusty Rhodes, so he was to be Lawler’s handpicked foe for his big return bout.

At the time, it almost seemed like the home-state fans didn’t want to boo Rich, who was in his prime physically (and mentally, no doubt). By the time I managed Rich in 1994, his star long since faded, the fans had no problem hating him. But in 1980, the fans loved ol’ Wildfire, no matter what he did–or maybe it was just because they hated Lawler’s taste in fashion, or lack thereof.

YouTube Finds: Rich gets richer

April 13th, 2010 No comments

In September 1976, about a year after paying his dues on promoter Jerry Jarrett’s farm just for the opportunity to be trained into the business, young Tommy Rich shocked Memphis wrestling fans by upsetting Jerry Lawler for the NWA Southern title. Not only did the match help establish the young rookie as a star, but the finish also fueled the fire of the ongoing Lawler vs. Jackie Fargo feud. The bout tells a great story: the cocky, more experienced heel punishing the youngster, who refuses to stay down, with the aging superstar observing the future of wrestling from his ringside seat. Lawler is more concerned with goading Fargo into the ring than he is with beating Rich–and it costs him in the end. The following week, the Memphis promotion drew a near sellout of 10,938 for a Lawler vs. Fargo grudge match at the Coliseum. (Clippings courtesy of Mark James over at www.memphiswrestlinghistory.com )

 

Peachy King: Ric Flair’s first Georgia appearance as NWA World champion

March 11th, 2010 No comments

A few days after dethroning Dusty Rhodes for the NWA World title (in Kansas City of all places), Ric Flair preened in front of the Georgia Championship Wrestling cameras at the WTBS Studio in Atlanta carrying the fruits of his labor: the vaunted Ten Pounds of Gold. But before the nation’s expanding cable TV audience could feast their eyes on the new titlist, the show opened with Tommy Rich accepting his award and plaque as the area’s Most Popular Wrestler as voted by “thousands and thousands and thousands” of fans. (I wonder if Rich took Solie’s advice and hung the plaque in his living room for all to see.) While fellow babyfaces Michael Hayes and Steve O (who would shoot to fame later as part of MTV’s “Jackass” crew) were good sports about Wildfire’s overwhelming popularity, Mr. Wrestling II was not too thrilled (or maybe he was just fed up with being incessantly referred to by Rich as “Rasslin’ II”). While II ended on a gracious note, this appears to be the subtle start of an angle that was later scratched (and eventually done by the masked Johnny Walker in Mid-South, with Magnum TA playing the young student role).

Waiting to be introduced, Flair was rightfully insulted. When Solie finally called the champ over to the podium, the Nature Boy humbly discussed his title win and raised some legitimate questions as to the monetary value of Rich’s honor. (However, I hear that eventually Rich did in fact successfully exchange the award for a cup of coffee in downtown Atlanta.)