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Classic review of Smoky Mountain Wrestling episodes 1 and 2:
by Playboy Don Douglas
This is obviously going to be a little different from my previous reviews. I'm not covering a PPV event from one of the major companies. I'm not even dealing with a big show from one of the large independents. Instead, I will be covering (in an unknown number of installments) the weekly television of what could be considered the last territory: Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
I'm sure you're all aware that the company was started by Jim Cornette relatively soon after he left WCW, and he had apparently began the planning while still under contract there. Based out of Knoxville, TN the company aimed for the old school southern fan who was possibly becoming disillusioned with the big 2. The company tag line was, "Wrestling the way you remember it, and the way you like it." Just as a side note to Jim or anyone else, we're disillusioned with the big 2 again. Sadly, I don't think anyone's going to step up and try again, and as hard as it is to make a go of things, you can't really blame them. So let's started.
Air Date: 2/1/92
From the Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, SC, we're welcomed by the familiar voice of Bob Caudle. He's joined by Dutch Mantel and mentions some of names we'll be seeing.
The main event is Ivan Koloff vs Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics. Dutch is interested in getting his first look at "Prime Time" Brian Lee. Why?
Match 1: Killer Kyle vs. Robert Gibson
Kyle is a big bald headed guy decked out in a suit, shades, and fedora who has a violin case handcuffed to himself. As a side note, I miss the old school touch of an actual cop escorting the heel to the ring. Crowd is solidly behind Gibson. Bob wonders what's in the case, and Dutch basically says it's none of their business. They put Kyle over as a street fighter and also mention Gibson's tag team championship history. Gibson bounces off Kyle a few times before finally grabbing him by the head and yanking him down.
Kyle takes over when Gibson misses a charge into the corner and starts working the arm. Dutch wants to know why they were called the Rock n Roll Express, asking if they were a band. Bob says he heard them. Dutch makes the old joke about their album going plywood. Gibson hits a victory roll out of the corner for the sudden pin.
The Fantastics offer a pre-taped promo. This is the Bobby and Jackie Fulton version, not Bobby and Tommy Rogers. I'm pretty sure these two are supposed to be the pretty boy tag team. See if you can figure it out, I can't. Bobby does most of the talking, and that's a good thing. They put over the company and Bobby says Ivan had better be ready for the fight of his life. So that whole match with Bruno Sammartino? Forget about it.
Bob informs us that SMW commissioner Bob Armstrong has a lot of ideas to make the company great, and we go to a pre-tape of the Bobs.
Armstrong says he brings 30 years of experience to the job and he's always been proud of the business and what it's given him and his family. He's had a problem with the way things have been, and this is his chance to change things. Prices will be affordable so families can come. The fines will be heavy for anyone who breaks the rules. There will be no foreign objects allowed (what about encouraged?) and manhandling the referree will not be tolerated. He wants SMW to be a part of the fans' communities, and for them to be a part of SMW.
Match 2: vs.
They announce the match as having a 15 minute time limit. Unlike now, that doesn't mean it's going to be a draw. Bob puts over Lee's size and strength. Dutch says he's here to tell us how things really are and starts going over Lee's bio while Lee hits a bunch of arm drags and finally grabs an armbar. Dutch says Lee played baseball and football, while Horowitz was a wrestler. Barry takes over and drops the big man with a clothesline and...pats himself on the back. Dutch says Lee has already made some mistakes that he himself wouldn't have made. Lee gets pissed and tries a comeback, but Barry cuts him off. Belly to belly only gets 2. Dutch says he would have kicked out at 1. This is the most offense I've ever seen Barry get. Lee tries to come back again, but gets a thumb to the eye. Another near fall. Dutch decides he doesn't like Brian Lee. Lee takes over and hits the Cancellation for three. Of course, in a few years, Lee would go on to be the fake Undertaker.
Bob says we're going to take a moment to hear words from wrestling great and now top manager, Ron Wright. If you're outside of east Tennessee and Kentucky, you've probably never heard of Ron because he never left the area much. He apparently didn't have to. In the Midnight Express Scrapbook, Jim Cornette said that Wright "probably had more heat per capita than anyone in the business." I grew up hearing stories about his wrestling days from my dad, who used to go to local shows. I will tell you now: I love this guy.
In a pre-taped video, Ron is sitting in a wheelchair.
He tells us that it's great to be on the program. If we're wondering why he's sitting in a wheelchair, it's because all the beatings he took in his career are taking their toll and he needs a hip implant and a knee implant, and he's hoping to get a contract with one of the top stars so he can make some money and get the surgeries. He wants everyone to show him what they've got, because he's one of the most famous and greatest wrestlers in the world and he'll take them straight to the top of "this Smoky Mountain Wrestling empire."
Match 3: vs.
I wonder if Cazana is related to John Cazana, who used to promote Knoxville. Bob tells us both of these guys are quick. Dutch answers my question, and Joe is apparently the grandson of the old promoter. Dutch tells us he feels sorry for Ron Wright. Bob tells us he was one of the meanest wrestlers around. Dutch says he's a kind hearted old man and he feels sorry for him, but Bob doesn't think too man fans have felt that way about him. Tim handles most of this one pretty easily. Dutch says that Tim being from Morristown, TN is a detriment to him. Having been there, I could agree. You always know you're entering Morristown by the smell. I'm not trying to be a heel, that's the truth. Cazana takes over on the ropes. Dutch puts himself over and gets Caudle to laugh a bit. Joe goes up top and gets slammed off. He then starts begging. Who does he think he is, Ric Flair? Bob tells us that the Black Scorpion will debut next. Something tells me Cornette decided to have a sense of humor. Horner gets the bridging O'Connor roll ("the natural bridge," they call it) for 3.
Bob Caudle is with Jim Cornette. Jim knows all of us watching know he's a big celebrity and are wondering why he's in a place like Greenville. He says he was feeling charitable. He talks about how wrestling has changed, mentioning that it's not about wrestling or fighting anymore, it's about selling dolls and taking steroids, which gets a noticeable reaction from Bob. Jim puts over his accomplishments with the Midnight Express and tells us he's bringing in another team who will be just as successful.
Match 4: vs. the Black Scorpion
This Scorpion is obviously not Ric Flair. . Scorpion goes on the attack but Miller leapfrogs him and uses his speed for a while, but the Scorpion takes over again with a powerslam. Gutwrench suplex. Dutch wants him to do it to someone like Brian Lee. A clothesline sends Miller into the "inside out" bump. Miller tries to fight back but gets mauled. Dutch says Scorpion could pin Miller if he wanted to. Another body slam and the same generic taunt. Miller catches a small package out of nowhere for 3 and the win. Didn't see that one coming.
Bob is joined by Brian Lee. He lets us know he plans to win the upcoming tournament and become champion and kisses the fans' butts a bit. Dutch comes over and tells him he made some mistakes earlier, and he himself would have wrestled the entire match differently. Lee agrees Dutch would have wrestled it differently - he would have lost. He says Dutch isn't ready for Prime Time and walks away. Dutch isn't too pleased.
Main Event: vs
Ivan is yelling at someone in the crowd and apparently threatens them with a Russian Scicle. Fulton enters to "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top. I thought about using that myself before settling on "Hard to Handle" by Otis Redding. Bell rings and here we go. Bobby starts a small "USA" chant but it doesn't last. We get a cut in of an Ivan Koloff promo from earlier where he promised to make Fulton suffer. Bob points out that Fulton has the speed and agility advantage, but Koloff has him beat in experience. Koloff says his trunks were pulled. Dutch says Brian Lee has a bad attitude. Dutch announces he'll be wrestling next week and he hopes Lee pays attention. Koloff works the arm. Bob points out the tag team success of the Fantastics and Dutch mentions Ivan beating Bruno in Madison Square Garden. Bob mentions Ivan's nephew Vladimir is in the country and we may see some tag team action. Ron Wright wheels himself to the ringside area and intently watches the action. Dutch puts him over as a legend who has fallen on hard times. Ivan roughes up Fulton a bit, but he comes back with a dropkick. Fulton grabs a headlock but Koloff dumps him with a suplex. Bobby comes back with a crossbody and knocks Koloff to the outside with some punches. They brawl around the side of the ring and in front of Ron Wright, who tries to shake hands with Fulton. Ivan uses the distraction to take over, posting Fulton and nailing him with a chair. Ron seemed to think that was a good move. Bob & Dutch speculate on what Ron was trying to do. Fulton takes over and Ivan falls across the middle rope. Wright wheels over and shakes hand with Ivan , who then KOs Fulton with a punch and pins him. Jackie Fulton comes in to complain and jumps on Koloff. Man, he's not much of a role model. Vladimir shows up to even the numbers. Ivan grabs the chain and they attempt to hang Jackie over the top rope. Bobby comes back to run them off.
Bob is with the Fantastics and Commissioner Armstrong. Armstrong tells us Ivan will be fined $500 for using the chain. If they want to fight, he'll sign the Koloffs vs The Fantastics for next week. Fulton says he doesn't know who the goof in the wheelchair is, but he handed something to Ivan. He calls the Koloffs "bald headed commie goofs." As long as the fans stay behind them, they'll kick tail like the armed forces did in Iraq. He threatens to pick Ron Wright up out of his wheelchair and kick his "booty" if he interferes again. He goes on for a bit until Bob raises his arm. Hey, they're running out of time. No great loss.
That does it for week one. Obviously, things are just getting started. Armstrong has been established as a no-nonsense authority figure, at least by wrestling standards. The title tournament has been mentioned. Lee has been introduced as the young babyface who has gotten on the wrong side of surly veteran Dutch. The Fantastics vs the Koloffs is brewing, and Ron Wright has been introduced but we don't fully know what the deal with him is yet.
Air Date: 2/8/92
Also from the Memorial Auditorium in Greenville.
Bob is standing by with Jim Cornette, who is subbing for Dutch since Mantell is wrestling this week. Bob tells us that we'll see "Hollywood" Bob Holly and Rip Rogers. Jim cuts him off and tells us there's 2 main events, the Koloffs vs the Fantastics and Dutch Mantell vs. Scott Armstrong.
Match 1: Tim Frye (?) vs.
One of the great things about watching these old shows is all the mullet sitings. And yes, it's THAT Bob Holly. His jacket actually says "Beautiful" Bob Holly. Cornette puts him over as both a hot wrestling prospect and a man in demand in the movie business. Ron Wright is back at ringside scouting the match. Jim tells us that Ron put more stitches in his opponents' faces than Aunt Betty puts in her homemade quilts. Hollywood Holly actually loses the advantage for a bit until he nails the kid with an elbow to the face. Cornette tells us that later on, we'll see "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. Holly gets 2 on a lax cover. Tim fights back and goes back to the arm. Jim figures they may both be trying to impress Ron Wright. Holly slams him and hits a knee drop off the top. Down come the straps and he pins him with one knee while jawing at the camera. Jim says it reminded him of Bobby Eaton.
Ivan tells us it would have been the end of the Fulton's career if his idiot brother hadn't stuck his nose in. This week WILL be the end. Vladimir is standing with him, and he's no Nikita.
Robert Gibson tells us he's been out for a while with a knee surgery but he's back. He thanks the fans and says rock n roll will never die. Robert always sounds exactly the same on his promos. I get the impression he doesn't like to talk much.
Match 2: vs
Something about "Hustler" Rip Rogers always cracks me up. Jim puts Paul over as a tough guy, but says he sucks up to the redneck fans too much. Rogers jumps him from behind as he hands his robe to the attendant. That doesn't last long as Orndorff sends him to the outside and goes after him. He slams Rogers into the barricade and hits him with the microphone. Back in the ring, and elbow from the top to the head drops Rogers and Orndorff is firmly in control. Jim says he knows the fans are wondering how they can bring SMW to their redneck hamlets and Bob says they'll actually be giving the fans an address and Jim says he may have to leave because he doesn't want to go to a lot of those places. Rogers comes back and sends Paul into the barricade and some chairs. Rogers grabs a sleeper in the middle. Orndorff almost goes out, but manages to rush the corner and slam Rogers' face into the turnbuckle. Paul gets a small package for 2, then reverses a suplex. Running kneelift, shades of Mr. Wrestling II. Rogers gets tangled in the ropes and Paul punches him in the nose. Rogers manages to go for a piledriver, but Paul backdrops him and sits down for the 3. Jim informs us that the piledriver would have led to a DQ, which is an old Tennessee "rule."
In a pre-tape, Bob tells us that very soon, SMW will be coming to our towns, and we'll stars like this man, and introduces us to Danny Davis (not the WWF ref) , who cuts a basic babyface promo and says that the fans may remember him as "Nightmare" Danny Davis, but that's a thing of the past. He's now "Nitro" Danny Davis, because "just like a bottle of nitroglycerin, if you get too close and shake me up, I'm gonna explode on you." As if what he said wasn't bad enough, his delivery actually makes it sound worse How did that NOT sound homo-erotic even to Davis? Look at that picture again, it makes it funnier.
Bob is then joined by Commissioner Bob Armstrong. He says he has a list of top stars and some of which they are negotiating with. He mentions he wants to make it something families can attend at affordable prices and the rules will be enforced. He encourages everyone to come see the matches live, because while TV is great, there's nothing like seeing it in person. Remember when TV wasn't just about ratings, but about convincing people to spend their money on the show?
We cut back to Caudle who is joined by Brian Lee. Brian says it's easy for Dutch to sit behind a desk and criticize him and if Dutch has a problem, he's not hard to find. Bob tells us Lee will make an impact and not to forget that name.
Match 3: vs "Dirty" Dutch Mantell
Dutch enters to an old recording of "Rawhide." From Oil Trough, Texas. Is that a real place? Bob wonders where it is and Cornette thinks it's near Cut and Shoot. Mantell is about as hairy as they get. Jim says Lee should have just listened to the criticism because Dutch can dish out more than that and Lee may find out. Scott is controlling this one. Bob says Scott is from a wrestling family and has been around it all his life, and Jim immediately says, "You'd think by now he would have learned a good trade." Dutch takes over and gets and abdominal stretch. That one's for you, Prez. Of course he grabs the ropes while Bob and Jim discuss Dutch's bullwhip, "Shoe-Baby." The ref catches him, and while Dutch jaws at him, Scott gets a small package for 2, but Dutch gets right back on him. Jim calls out Scott for using a closed fist. Scott spills to the floor, and there's no padding. Back in the ring, Scott takes over. The ref pulls him out of the corner, and Dutch grabs the whip. He clotheslines Scott with it for the DQ. He starts to whip him but Brian Lee makes the save with a weapon of his own. Dutch grabs the mic and threatens to whip 5 pounds off of Lee.
Bob is with Commissioner Armstrong, and brings up Dutch's whip. Bob tells us it will cost him $500 the first time and we'll see what happens from there. He says we'll settle the problems between Dutch and Lee next week by putting them in the ring. He leaves and Jim Cornette comes back and he doesn't like that decision. Jim says he would pay that fine just for the priviledge of seeing Scott Armstrong get bullwhipped. He says everyone wonders who his tag team is, but no one's finding out until they're ready, and that will be when the tag titles are decided. Cornette again insults other wrestling companies, saying title matches are decided by who sells the most bubble gum cards. They'll be the champs, and if the rednecks like it, that's fine. If they don't, that's fine too.
Bob is joined by Wally Yamaguchi, who is here to scout talent and possibly exchange some TV programming. Yamaguchi has a random kid with him, maybe his own. He stumbles over his words a bit. Nothing of note here.
We go back to last week and the end of the Koloff/Fulton match, with Mr. Wright shaking hands with Koloff. We get the post match brawl and the attempt to hang Jackie.
Cornette laughs and says it's the greatest thing he's ever seen and Fulton should be hung.
Back to last week and Armstrong announcing the fine and the signing of the tag match. Unfortunately, they also include Fulton's promo. Everytime he says, "Bald headed commie" I think he's going to say, "Bald headed cocksucker." I'm not sure why.
Bob informs us that Mr. Wright has maintained his innocence and joined them before the show. Jim says that Wright IS innocent, and we go to pre-taped comments from Ron Wright.
Wright, of course, is in his wheelchair. He doesn't know what the Fantastics are upset about or why they're accusing him. He's just a crippled old man in a wheelchair who never harmed anyone in his life. He's just scouting talent, hoping to get a contract and make enough money to have his hip operation.
Main Event: vs the Fantastics (Bobby and Jackie Fulton)
The Fantastics run to the ring and we have a four way brawl to immediately start. Jim says Armstrong will take care of the Fantastics because he'll do that for his friends. Bob says everyone will be treated the same. Jim theorizes that Bob still believes in the tooth fairy. Things calm down and Vladimir and Jackie start us off. Jim puts over Ivan's tag team success. Bob asks, "What is 250 kilos?" and Jim answers, "I'd say about 15 to 20 years in prison." Jackie gets a cross arm breaker, but not for long. Ivan tags in. Jim says you couldn't give the referee power with a Thompson sub machine gun and bags on his haircut. Jim reminisces about the attempt to hang Jackie last week. He says all the peroxide the Fultons have put on their head has affected their brains. Jim is upset about people picking on Ron Wright because he's a gentle old man in need of an operation. He was just giving Ivan a hearty handshake to encourage him. Ivan signals Vladimir to a neutral corner, which brings Jackie over, and while the ref is distracted with him, Vlad aids Ivan. Jim puts over the strategy. With the ref distracted by Jackie again, Ivan introduces Bobby to the barricade. Back in, Bobby gets a sunset flip, but the ref is still with Jackie. Ivan puts the chain over the turnbuckle and rams Bobby's head into it, but it only gets 2. Ivan nails Jackie and again the ref is distracted. Double suplex on Bobby for a near fall. Both men make tags and Jackie manages to take both men down. All four are in, but Bobby spills out. Double team goes wrong and Jackie nails a top rope crossbody on Ivan for 3 as Cornette asks if he was the legal man.
In another pre-taped "we're coming to your town" spot, Bob is joined by Cornette. Jim says going to these redneck towns is like an albatross around his neck. He's calling Bob Armstrong, because he's not going.
Bob is then joined by Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy, who is probably in my top 3 all time favorites. He says he's been from Freebird Mountain to Tokyo, Japan and all around the world but this is the first time he's been to the Smoky Mountains. The bombs are falling and Terry hits the ground. He's going to drop the biggest bomb of all when he comes to our town, wherever Smoky Mountain Wrestling goes. The skies over our towns will be eliminated. Damn, man, that might be taking it a little far, don't you think?
Bob is with Tim Horner, and he knows Tim is happy to be home. Tim is not the best promo out there. That's about all I can say about that. It's going to get worse before it's get better, because they continue to give him air time. There's one promo in particular that I remember, but that's a few months away.
That does it for week #2. We've still got Dutch and Lee cooking a bit, we're suspicious of Ron Wright but we don't really know anything for sure, and hey...he DOES appear to be a crippled old man in a wheelchair. It didn't get talked about this week, but we know there's a title tournament on the way, Cornette has mentioned the future crowning of tag team champions, and we're seeing names like Paul Orndorff and Terry Gordy starting to pop up. What's waiting over the next hill in Smoky Mountain Wrestling?
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