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James J. Dillon Pt. 2

 - Gordon Grice

Although this story is about James J. Dillon's triumphant return to Amarillo, we must begin with a history of Andre the Giant's pants. 

Here as elsewhere, Andre was marketed as the King of the Battle Royals.  After he'd won a number of them, promoters found it necessary to thicken the plot to keep fans interested. We knew Andre could throw twenty regular-sized wrestlers out of the ring; but could he toss out 601 pounds of Haystacks Calhoun? (The answer to that one turned out to be yes.) We knew Andre could win any regular battle royal, but could he win an up-the-pole battle royal? The gimmick here was that the prize check was taped to the top of a ten-foot pole in the corner of the ring. Could the Giant climb? 

Andre made the attempt. Early on, he began to scale the pole, and nobody was hoss enough to slam him off the top rope. A dozen men clawed at Andre to keep him from going higher, and some of them pulled at his trunks. The trunks began to come down. We watched in mingled horror and fascination as Andre tried to go up and the trunks inched down. Soon they went low enough to reveal. . . another pair of trunks! The Giant was a genius! He wasn't much of a climber, though, and soon he was pulled down (gently, I have to say) into the ring. Resorting to Plan B, he tossed out everybody else. He was the only man left to claim the prize, but even unhindered, he was too heavy climb up and get it. He beckoned to Nick Kozak, who had been tossed out only a moment or two before, and offered him half the money if he'd get it down. Thus the prize was split. 

Now it was time for another pole battle royal, and the new wrinkle this time was the presence of Abdullah the Butcher, the hottest heel the territory had seen in years. Abby had arrived earlier in that summer of 1977. He had quickly horrified and fascinated the fans by demolishing other grapplers two at a time, beginning with prelim wrestlers like Don Wait and Denny Alberts and soon advancing to established tag teams like Afa and Sika Anoia. Moving in with the Butcher, like a lamprey on a shark, was the despised Jim Dillon.  "Jim" had become "James J," and he'd swapped his trunks for three-piece suits and cigars. With Abby doing the carving and Dillon doing the bragging, they got into hassles with virtually every babyface in the territory and many of the heels as well. Abby had inconclusive but spectacular brawls with Ted DiBiase, Terry Funk, and Dillon's old enemy, Dick Murdoch (whom Dillon still insisted on calling "Richard the Rube"). Ric Flair, young and cocky and already an obvious candidate for greatness, made his Amarillo debut against the Butcher. Abdullah used a razor to carve up Super Destroyer's arm before smacking him with a chair and pinning him. Ox Baker met the Butcher in a couple of parking lot brawls, though the candlestick-maker didn't show up. NWA champ Harley Race hit town with his arm in a sling. After showing video of the brawl he'd had with Abdullah in Japan, he claimed the fight had gone into the parking lot, where Dillon and Abby double-teamed him and separated his shoulder. 

Part of Abdullah's charm was the pleasure he took in torturing his fallen opponents. In one TV match, Denny Alberts was again the sacrificial victim. After dispatching Alberts with an elbow drop, Abby gleefully applied a choke. When the referee insisted he break the hold, Dillon came in to explain matters. Dillon looked really concerned about the referee's threats. He pleaded with the ref not to reverse the decision. It was all a ruse, of course. While Dillon created his distraction, Abby bounced off the ropes and dropped a  quarter ton of leg on Alberts. The ref reversed the decision, but Abby was just beginning to have fun. That's when Dory Funk Jr. hit the ring. He scooped Abdullah up and slammed him - a sight even more amazing than the legdrop. Then he slapped on the spinning toe hold. Abdullah writhed on the mat and screamed as Funk cranked the hold for a third turn. Dillon knew better than to attack Funk head-on. Instead, he kicked off his Italian loafers, climbed the turnbuckles, and leapt off, smacking Funk in the back of the head with a shoe. Funk went down. The heels didn't wait for him to get back up. They headed for the dressing room, Dillon staggering as he supported the limping Butcher. 

The pole battle royal offered the first meeting in Amarillo between Andre and Abdullah. It was the custom in those days for all the wrestlers who had already worked other matches to enter the ring without much ceremony and stand waiting for their brief re-introductions. Then the wrestlers who had come in only for the battle royal-in this case, Andre-would get the full introduction as they came to the ring.  More...

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