Tully Blanchard Page 2

All good things must come to an end, and something wasn't quite right with the Duo in October of 1982. Gino failed to arrive for a title defense against Dick Slater and Bob Sweetan. Tully and a substitute lost the match and the Southwest Tag Team Titles. Obviously the teamwork was the missing key. The titles eventually ended up in the unpopular hands of The Grapplers. Texas fans were looking forward to seeing The Dynamic Duo do away with the masked Grapplers and regain the titles. When Gino and Tully had their big reunion title match on March 21, 1983, the belts ended up with The Duo -- and then one of the belts went upside Gino's head, courtesy of Tully! The fans were shocked. It seemed as though Tully was still bitter about Gino's absence and decided to end their relationship. Then and there, Tully showed that no one, not even his best friend, can trust him.

Eventually, Tully regained the Southwest singles title again. He even regained some popularity when he rescued his father from a beating at the hands of The Sheepherders. Still, Tully had grown restless, and he headed to the Central States region. This was a big step for him since this promotion was under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Although he won the Central States Title from Buzz Tyler, this title reign was short, and he moved to the red-hot Mid-Atlantic area.

Under the schooling of the area's most despised manager, Paul Jones, Tully Blanchard won the Mid-Atlantic TV Title from Mark Youngblood on March 28, 1984. Not satisfied with just that title, Tully spent most of his efforts harassing every other titleholder in the area, and used his own belt to humiliate others in his spare time. Everything Tully did revolved around his lust for more titles, more glory, and more money.

Did we say money? Tully Blanchard has always been known to have matches with cash-prize stipulations, and this was only the beginning. Young Brian Adias, the boyhood friend of the Von Erich brothers, took Tully's offer of $10,000 for anyone who could pin his shoulders to the mat. Adias never won the title, but he shocked Tully with a non-title pinfall victory which earned him some quick cash. Brian tossed some of the bucks to the crowd, but Tully got the last laugh by injuring Brian's knee in another encounter. At the 1984 Cadillac Cup Tournament, Tully got past Adias, as well as Manny Fernandez and Jimmy Valiant. However, the indominitible Dusty Rhodes ended Tully's fortune in the final round. Surprisingly, Adias got the better of Blanchard when they locked up in a tournament for the Canadian Heavyweight Title. It was no fluke, as Adias made it all the way to the finals, losing to Ivan Koloff.

Never one to keep out of others' business, Tully Blanchard loved to take over his rivals' interviews. For example, when Rick Steamboat returned from his first retirement and regained the United States Title, Tully couldn't keep away from the Steamer. The two met as often in interrupted interviews as they did in the ring. Although Tully couldn't quite snatch the US Title from Ricky, he was obsessed with seeing Steamboat lose the title -- even if it was to one of his own enemies!

Wahoo McDaniel had become one of the Mid-Atlantic area's top heroes, but he was seldom in the main event. He was bitter over a lack of title matches with the local hero, NWA World Champion Ric Flair. Envy caused him to question Flair's courage in an interview, but when "The Nature Boy" confronted Wahoo, Tully Blanchard decked Flair from behind. Cementing his place amidst the rulebreakers, Wahoo stood and watched as Tully worked over Flair. Their partnership continued as Tully, wielding a steel chair, helped Wahoo win the US Title from Steamboat. The controversy surrounding the match caused Wahoo to be stripped of the title, so Tully once again had a chance to take the belt, without even having to take on Steamboat. He pinned Jimmy Valiant in round one and gained a bye to the quarter finals, but Manny Fernandez stopped Tully at that point. Still, his partner Wahoo won the belt for good that night, and Tully's goal of removing the gold from Steamboat was finally successful.

Eventually, Tully's actions received some unwanted attention. Dick Slater surprised everybody by coming to Adias's aid. Slater and The Junkyard Dog both took shots at the TV Champ. Tully even placed a cash bounty on the head of Slater, which only made him more vindictive. Still, San Antonio's "Superbrat" managed to cling to his gold. Revenge would come swiftly to the likes of Tully and Wahoo. Flair recruited his old partner Blackjack Mulligan, and they thrashed Tully and Wahoo in several tag team bouts. Without Mulligan, Flair even had the assistance of The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. Ricky Steamboat continued to seek the TV Title with the tenacity of ... well, of a Dragon. The odds were overwhelming. How could Tully survive? Well, as always, he somehow did.

Before you knew it, it was time for Starrcade '84. Tully Blanchard accepted the challenge of Ricky Steamboat for the Television Championship in a special match with two stipulations. First, the winner would take home $10,000, no questions asked. Second (and the one that hindered Tully's style the most), this was to be a "No Run" match. This meant that if Tully got counted out, he would lose the match and the title immediately. Stalling outside of the ring was a big part of his defensive gameplan, so Tully needed to bring some extra help. That something extra was a small weapon which he used to KO Steamboat in the midst of a sunset flip. 1,2,3. Tully survived. This victory earned Tully a handful of title matches with Ric Flair, but he was unable to take the NWA World Title from The Nature Boy.

To Tully's relief, Ricky Steamboat joined the WWF in 1985, but Dusty Rhodes, having been unsuccessful at winning the World Title from Flair, set his sights on hunting Blanchard. In March, just before Tully's one-year anniversary as champion, Dusty Rhodes put Tully in the poor house by winning the TV Title at SilverStarr '85. Although Tully Blanchard Enterprises, which now included the vivacious Baby Doll, regained the championship a month later, the war would not end any time soon, no matter who was the champion. At the first-ever Great American Bash, Dusty Rhodes pinned Tully in a steel cage to win both the TV Title and 30 days of Baby Doll's services. Although Tully fought for weeks to regain that belt, another piece of gold was gradually becoming Tully's next target

The popular Magnum T.A. had become the United States Champion by pinning Wahoo McDaniel in a steel cage match in March. Despite a huge amount of momentum, he couldn't keep away from Tully Blanchard indefinitely. Whereas Baby Doll was Tully's price for losing to Dusty, she comprised part of his championship victory by dressing as a security guard at his US Title shot on July 21 in Charlotte, NC. She slipped him an "international object" which Tully used to knock Magnum out. Three seconds later, Tully Blanchard had won the United States Heavyweight Title.

Magnum, a man who had fought long and hard to win his title the old-fashioned way, was not going to let Tully get away with this. He fought fire with fire by resorting to the most ferocious of tactics in their rematches. Outside of their matches, Magnum stalked the new champion and, on one occasion, even disguised himself as a security guard in order to get a few shots in on Tully. Still, whenever the belt was on the line, Tully was at his best. He no longer had to win; as champion, he only had to hang on.

Tully was able to enjoy his new belt by avoiding Magnum at all costs. Furthermore, Magnum was splitting his time between chasing Tully and teaming with Dusty Rhodes in their feud with Ole and Arn Anderson. Although the Horsemen had not yet been officially formed, Tully often found himself working alongside the Andersons. Not long after Ric Flair and The Andersons had put Dusty in the hospital with an ankle injury, Tully was openly campaigning for Arn Anderson to be awarded Dusty's TV Title. One day, a lame Rhodes appeared on television in order to officially return the TV Title since he was unable to defend it. Tully was more than happy to help Arn attack Dusty again. While the Andersons and Flair were glad to hinder Rhodes's World Title quest, Tully was overjoyed to gain a measure of revenge for his loss at the Bash.

It was that time of year again. Starrcade '85 was being held in two locations this year and Tully was set to defend his United States Title in what was to be one of the most memorable matches in history. It was a testament to Tully's manhood (or perhaps just his ego?) that he would agree to defend his coveted gold against his nemesis, Magnum T.A.while locked inside a steel cage. As if that wasn't enough, this was a No-DQ "I Quit" Match. After their previous encounters, neither man was a stranger to violence, but this match exceeded their own expectations. After several minutes of each man using the cage as a weapon, both men were bleeding. Tully then beat the referee senseless and instructed Baby Doll to toss a wooden chair over the top of the cage. Instead of striking Magnum with the chair, Tully immediately smashed it against the cage, shattering it into several sharp stakes. The crowd shrieked in disbelief as Tully took a pice the size and shape of an icepick and aimed it down at Magnum's face. Both men struggled for the weapon, and Magnum finally had it in his hands. With the referee back in place, Magnum drove the wooden object into Tully's already-bloody temple until he screamed out his submission.

The drama unfolded as a crazed Magnum T.A. stared at the blood-stained weapon in his hands. He then stared down at the defeated and cringing Blanchard who would be an easy target for more punishment. Was he no better than his foe? Had his thirst for revenge made him as evil as Tully? In an incredible act of nobility, Magnum chose to throw down the weapon, take his belt, and walk away with honor.

After losing to Magnum a second time at the December Star Wars card, Tully knew better than to try to corner Magnum T.A. again. At this point, James J. Dillon decided to intervene into Tully's business, at Baby Doll's expense. Dillon had been the manager for "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel, but he was left without a protege when Landel's personal problems pushed him out of the NWA. In January, Dillon was at Blanchard's side as he tried to recapture the TV Title in a tournament. Blanchard did his new manager a favor by defeating Dillon's arch-rival Ron Bass in round one. Unfortunately, Dillon's interference caused him to lose to Wahoo McDaniel in the semi-finals of the tournament (which was won by Tully's ally Arn Anderson.) In spite of falling short in the tournament, the Dillon-Blanchard alliance seemed strong.

What did Baby Doll think of all this? In an interview with Blanchard, Dillon, and Baby Doll, Tully demanded to know to where his valet had been in the past few days. Baby Doll claimed that she was in Acapulco, a vacation that was "Dillon's Christmas present from you [Tully]." Dillon then acted befuddled and seemed not to recall any such arrangement on his part. Tully's rage over what looked like unfaithfulness brought out the worst in him, and he struck Baby Doll in the face! Rushing to her aid was none other than Dusty Rhodes, and the feud was reborn. "She belongs to me now!" declared Rhodes.

Nothing had really changed between these two rivals except that Dusty was now toting the National Heavyweight Title. Even before a match could be signed between the two foes, Blanchard interceded on behalf of Arn Anderson in a steel cage match with Dusty on February 23. Along with Ric Flair, Tully and Arn tried (unsuccessfully) to break Dusty's ankle again. The Blanchard - Rhodes war was on all over again. Dusty wanted to avenge Baby Doll's treatment. Tully wanted another prize for his championship collection. The two officially met at the Superstars On The Superstation event, but the match went the time limit before anything could be settled.

A rematch was signed for March 4, 1986. A very polite Ric Flair offered to do color commentary at ringside. To the viewers' amazement, Flair was very impartial as he gave Rhodes credit for having been a formidable foe, and he complimented Rhodes' gameplan as the match progressed. This could not last too long, though. Dusty threw Tully out of the ring at Flair's feet and proceeded to attack Dillon on the apron. Flair helped Tully up to his feet and placed the always-useful and easily-disposable foreign object in Blanchard's fist. Rhodes brought Tully back in the ring with a suplex, but Tully popped Rhodes in the head with the object on the way down. Tully pinned Dusty to win the National Heavyweight Title. As Blanchard, Flair, and Dillon celebrated, Baby Doll slapped Flair in the face. Apparently, this situation required assistance, so Arn Anderson hit the ring. The four men attempted to put Baby Doll away with a top-rope kneedrop from Flair! The ring was immediately flooded with other wrestlers, and Baby Doll was saved.

The trio of Blanchard, Anderson, and Flair ran roughshod all over the east coast and beyond. Each man was a champion, but they acted more like hunters than targets. Blanchard and Anderson were teaming up on a regular basis because of an incident that took place on New Years Day. Ole Anderson's leg had been injured by Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors in retaliation for an Andersons & Flair attack the previous Fall. The new duo of Tully and Arn made their way into the First Annual Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament with a bye into round two, but lost their first match to The Fantastics, Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers. Teaming with Arn was fun for Tully, but his National Title was top priority, and men such as Ronnie Garvin, former champion Dusty Rhodes, and his former partner Wahoo McDaniel were all gunning for "The Superbrat."

Garvin soon proved himself to be the front-runner in the quest for the National Title. When Garvin challenged Arn Anderson for the TV Title, Tully ran into the ring to rescue Arn's belt. They double-teamed Ronnie and then wrapped his knockout-punch hand around the ringpost. With Arn holding Garvin's hand in place, Tully fired off about a dozen swings with his displaced cowboy boot. The "Hand Of Stone" was nearly broken!

Garvin went on to win a series of matches with his hand heavily taped to protect it while it healed. He secured a title match with Tully on a night that saw Dusty Rhodes providing TV color commentary. Tully and Dillon objected both to Dusty's presence, as well as to the tape on Garvin's hand. Referee Tommy Young allowed Rhodes to stay at the announcers' desk, but Garvin's taped fists were not permitted. A wild and brutal match began with each man enduring huge amounts of punishment. Tully worked on the injured hand, but Garvin kept fighting (and punching) back despite the pain. After about thirty minutes, Young was knocked into the corner, and both men were prone in the ring. Dillon placed a roll of quarters in Tully's lifeless hand, but Dusty countered by taping up Garvin's KO fist. When the two warriors staggered to their feet, it was Garvin who connected with the first blow. Young recovered to make a three-count against Tully to give Garvin the title! Or did he? Dillon insisted that Young inspect Garvin's right hand. Sure enough, the tape was evidence enough to reverse the decision to a DQ win for Tully! Dusty was outraged, as he even showed Tommy Young the pile of coins left in the ring by Blanchard. Still, the decision remained in Blanchard's favor. With this momentum, Blanchard went on to defeat Garvin by DQ again at the AWA's Rage In A Cage event as well.

One night in June, yet another Dusty Rhodes - Ric Flair match was ending with Flair's allies hitting the ring. Dusty managed to fight off all three wrestlers until the big brawler, Ole Anderson made a stunning return. As Dillon directed traffic, these four men administered another beating to The American Dream. It was inauguration time. The Four Horsemen were now complete!

Part II coming soon!

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