UWF #29 Page #2

“You could be from Park Ave
Or from a park bench
You could be a politician
Or a bitchy princess
But if you're looking for a fist
And you're looking to unite
Put your knuckleheads together
Make a fist and fight”

Even with the changes happening within the promotion, some things remained constant. Any wrestler who worked for Bill Watts was expected to be, if you’ll pardon the redundancy, a worker. Whether a belt holder or Mike Boyette, there was no slacking or half-assed efforts presented. Watts has since received criticism from some who were under his employ that he was difficult to work for, but a fan could not question the action produced in the ring, whether at the event live or on television. 

Bill Watts also had an uncanny knack of making you want to see next week’s show. Unlike many of the territories at the time and today’s WWE, the UWF built storylines and developed angles that would last over an extended period without becoming stale or repetitive.  Surrounding himself with sharp wrestling minds, at one time or another in Mid South and the UWF, like Ernie Ladd, Bill Dundee, Grizzly Smith, Terry Taylor, and Eddie Gilbert allowed Watts to draw from a vast wealth of experience and ideas. 

By the mid ‘80s, many of the remaining U.S. territorial companies had resorted to depending on “hot shot” appearances from main event wrestlers while trying to maintain some roster stability in the face of Vince McMahon’s conquer and plunder strategy. While there had been talent exchanges with and loans from Jerry Jarrett and Fritz Von Erich during the Mid South era as well as the aforementioned one or two shot appearances by main eventers, by 1986 Bill Watts had adopted a stand alone team approach for his promotion. Gone were the times when an Andre the Giant or a Kerry Von Erich would show up on a Watts promoted card. This cannot be attributed solely to Watts’ dogged individualism. McMahon’s hostile national talent grab had turned U.S. promoters, who were hardly a congenial fraternity to begin with, into a disassociated group struggling to survive in a business that was changing beyond their control… 

“Not to your death
And not to your grave
I'm talking' bout that freedom
Fight like a brave”

So what about a match, even one bout? Okay, how about this for an example of Bill Watts’ booking magic… 

You make me feel so bad that I wish I was dead 
Let the games begin yea here I go again 
I'm never gonna win 
It must have knocked me crazy 
It must have hit me hard 
People must think I'm lazy 

Like my shuffle's short a playing card…

I need you boy like a hole in my head.”

“Hole in My Head,” by the Dixie Chicks. 

What, a debate between Natalie Maines and Bill Watts? Hmmm. Well, that’s not on the videotape my friend gave me. Instead, the tape starts off in high gear, at the finals of the UWF Title Tournament on May 30, 1986 in the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston. Bill Watts must be a fan of the NCAA Basketball Tournament because the tourney bracketing was an oft-used standard for determining champions within his promotion. The UWF Title tourney would crown the “new” promotion’s inaugural champ. Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan had advanced to the night’s final contest. Duggan got there by pinning Buddy Roberts, getting a bye into the semifinals when Chavo Guerrero and Buzz Sawyer battled to a double disqualification, and then eliminating his old Mid South foe Kamala for the right to challenge for the belt. Gordy stormed through his side of the bracket by squashing Koko Ware, downing Ted DiBiase , and advancing to the title bout with a decision over “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. Talk about a tough road to the finals!… 

“…'Cause if he catches you messin'
He's gonna teach you a lesson
Don't let me say it again

Headknocker, headknocker
Comin' on strong, a real showstopper

“Headknocker,” by Foreigner. 

The card had been tremendous, and the final bout was going to be a good one. Jim Duggan was the reformed Rat Pack member who had become the UWF’s most popular wrestler. Terry Gordy had swaggered in with his Freebird brothers and was perhaps the best big man in the U.S. at the time.  Ultimately however, the match would feature as much drama outside the ring as in. 

After introductions, the One Man Gang, fresh from a run with World Class, stormed the ring, indignant that he had been excluded from the tournament.  The suspense built. Was he there to help his fellow heels the Freebirds? Yes, but in a roundabout way.  The Gang attacked Duggan and they brawled onto the floor.  The Freebirds backed off, refusing to take advantage of the situation. The fight continued in frenzy and culminated when the Gang rammed Duggan’s head into an exposed ring post bolt. Until I saw the video again, I had forgotten just how down sick that shot was. Duggan started gushing blood, and it was unclear if Duggan had been seriously injured enough to continue.

I was silly for wondering. Didn’t Ted DiBiase darn near bleed to death on television after Dick Murdoch and Ric Flair had mauled him in Mid South? The UWF officials gave Jim Duggan five minutes to decide if he could continue. Knowing the tough guy Hacksaw, there was no doubt that if he could walk, he would compete.  However, fans watching knew that Duggan had very little chance of winning given his diminished state. Terry Gordy dominated the near squash, with Duggan’s attempts at offense fading quickly.  After one flurry of action, Duggan was tossed outside the ring, only to be hostilely greeted by Michael Hayes.  Hayes rammed Duggan’s head into the steel ring post one more time (well, at least he didn’t get his skull impaled by the bolt again). The battered, bloody Hacksaw was tossed back into the ring, where Gordy applied his vicious pile driver for the pin and the victory. Nobody could blame ol’ Hacksaw if he invested in Advil or Tylenol stock after this match.  One urban Internet legend is that Duggan did in fact develop a nasty infection as a result of the bolt blow. In addition, Houston Wrestling must have replayed the shot of Duggan’s head being slammed into said bolt at least a half dozen times.  Ouch!

Terry Gordy was the first ever UWF Heavyweight Champion.  The Freebirds could rightfully claim that they had no prior knowledge of the One Man Gang’s assault on Jim Duggan. The Gang’s brutal attack on Duggan set the stage for a feud that would continue over the next six months, culminating in a series of Loser Leave Town matches in January 1987 that paved the way for Hacksaw’s exit from the UWF and his entrance into the WWF. Good stuff, huh?… 

“I will stand my ground, won't be turned around
I will keep my world from draggin' me down, I won't back down
No, I won't back down”

“I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty           

Well, that’s it for this time. Thanks once again for reading my ramblings. Any comments, suggestions, corrections, computations or machinations can be sent to me at CL11@swt.edu.

“They say times are hard, if you don't believe it
You can just follow your nose
It don't bother me - times are hard everywhere
We'll just have to see how it goes”

“Floater,” by Bob Dylan 


Matches that Matter, Bouts to Remember, and more Warren Zevon lyrics.

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