Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Jason Hess
can scarcely believe that it is already mid-February of 2004!!
While we are sailing along in this new year, we are also sailing
along in our look at the history and legendary action provided by
Mid-South Wrestling. As we
return to our series on 1983, we will focus on a time of transition.
Late 1983 saw a huge influx of talent that would prove over time to
provide some memorable highlights…and gate receipts.
the end of 1983, Mid-South was the territory where “big men” ruled the
day. With such men as
Junkyard Dog, Hacksaw Duggan, Kamala, Butch Reed, Jim Neidhart, King Kong
Bundy, Nikolai Volkoff, and the emerging Steve Williams, Mid-South was a
“big man’s” paradise. While
there were some smaller wrestlers such as Ted DIbiase, Mr. Wrestling 2,
and Magnum TA, the monsters or semi-monsters ruled the roost.
the summer and fall months, Mid-South kept on going, like the juggernaut
it was. Duggan turned face,
leading him to become one of the most popular stars in Mid-South history.
JYD, despite his noticeable weight gain, was still the man to most
Mid-South fans, and had the gate records to back it up.
His feud with newly turned heel Reed, made for some impressive
showings around the Mid-South territory, with sellouts in nearly every
major city, and a crowd in excess of 20,000 fans for a July 1983 bout at
the crown jewel of Mid-South buildings: the New Orleans Superdome.
by the winter months of 1983, the juggernaut began to sputter.
Cards began to draw less. The
oil crunch was still a few months away.
And, even as late as 1983, the holidays were traditionally the
greatest drawing days of the year for most promotions.
As a case in point, the feud between JYD and Reed was still going
great guns on television. The
two were to meet again for the North American title just days before
Thanksgiving at the Superdome. The
two men, who months earlier
had drawn over 20,000 would not draw even half that number.
Despite having stars such as Dusty Rhodes, Kerry and David Von
Erich, and the Road Warriors make guest appearances to augment the gate,
(the Von Erich’s especially, due to World Class having their zenith year
in popularity) the November 19, 1983 Superdome show drew around 8,000
8,000 fans is no laugh off number, and would have sold out their regular
New Orleans stop, the downtown Municipal Auditorium, this was the
Superdome……on a holiday season. The
gate was alarming.
alarming for its gate
condition was Mid-South’s biggest city as far as population, the bayou
city of Houston. Near the end
of 1983, business had fallen to near-panic levels. One
December card in Houston drew only 3,000 fans….to a 10,000 seat Sam
Houston Coliseum. Allow me to quote from an article relating to Houston from the
Houston Wrestling section of Kayfabe Memories:
“Although it was the largest city that Mid-South
regularly ran, Houston was like most towns in that the majority of their
matches came as a result of the Mid-South television program.
Like most other territories, feuds were begun from what happened on
the television show, with house shows occasionally providing more fuel to
the fire. Many times the
house show footage would come from places like the Municipal Auditorium in
New Orleans, or the Convention Center in Tulsa.
Some did come from Houston, such as footage that made the Ted
DiBiase-Hacksaw Duggan feud so hot in 1983.
When a feud would run its course, or have the blow off, there would
be a small lull in the action as the cards were re-shuffled for new feuds.
So although Houston did have some of its own action
(like Mil Mascaras challenging for the AWA title, Gino Hernandez vs. Tully
Blanchard, etc.), most of the action was derived from the television
programs. Bill Watts had
plenty of steak, but not much sizzle.
The main feuds were the big guys.
There was no other type of babyface, or heel that made a real
impact for a while that wasn’t cut from this mold.
Because of the emphasis on that style, fans began to grow tired of
similar looking feuds and matches.”
Crowds were down, which meant gate receipts were down. And when receipts are down, payoffs are down. Houston promoter Paul Boesch actually scaled ticket prices down instead of up during the holidays to encourage ticket buying. Facing an uphill climb, Bill Watts began to make some deals, deals that would yield some amazing returns. More...