Sunday, February 17, 2008

Great old-school wrestling angles

By Rick Morris

It's a truism of the pro wrestling business that the most basic and (in many instances) inane storylines keep getting recycled over the years. The excuse frequently given is that there's nothing new under the sun and that repetition of ideas is a necessary evil. But if it were as simple as that, we'd have seen some of the greatest ones ever recreated in some new incarnation instead of gathering dust in our fond-memory banks.

To celebrate the greatest angles never brought back to life, we are listing our five favorites here. We're embedding video for each one; where possible it is footage that directly relates to the angle.

5. When I said I forgave you, I lied. In early 1988, Lex Luger was coming off a stint with the Four Horsemen that saw him at odds with former friend Barry Windham. Soon, they tagged up to win the NWA World Tag Team Titles from the Horsemen combo of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. But nothing was as it seemed, as Windham never bought into the pairing completely and was susceptible to a Horseman recruitment campaign. The subtle tensions crested in a tag title rematch in which Windham ended up betraying Luger, handing the championships back to Anderson and Blanchard and claiming Luger's vacated spot as the fourth Horseman. The video below contains footage from the fateful match.

4. The "Dream Date" ... with Miss Atlanta Lively??? Ric Flair's lust for Jimmy Garvin's valet (and real-life wife) Precious led him to a fateful offer in the summer of 1987: he would put his NWA World Title up against Garvin in return for a shot at the "Dream Date" with Precious if he held off Garvin's challenge. Due to typical Horseman outside interference, Flair was able to win and he preened endlessly in anticipation of the big night. Holed up in a luxury hotel suite with manager JJ Dillon, Flair approached a blond figure as she approached in a dimly-lit room. As "she" whirled around to knock Flair out with one punch, it emerged that Precious was nowhere in sight; rather, Jimmy Garvin had dispatched his brother, fellow wrestler Ronnie Garvin under the guise of his occasional female alter ego Miss Atlanta Lively. Footage of this incident does not appear to be available online (as it is utilized on the WWE's Four Horsemen DVD), but we do have footage below of the cage match that materialized from Ronnie Garvin's shenanigans. In this match, he shocks the world by winning the NWA Title from Flair, only to lose it back two months later in another cage match at Starrcade '87.

3. The Launch of the Superpowers. In the summer of 1986, the Magnum TA/Nikita Koloff feud burned brighter than any other in wrestling, including the Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff battles or the latest version of Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair. With the US Heavyweight Title having been vacated due to a temper outburst of Magnum's that the Russians triggered, TA and Nikita engaged in a coast-to-coast best-of-seven series to crown a new champion. If you guessed that the series went the full seven, then chances are you understand how the business works! Koloff won, but before Magnum could get any further shots at the belt, he suffered a horrific car crash that ended his career. Indeed, in the early autumn days of 1986, it was thought that he might never walk again (thankfully, he regained his ability to walk and lives a normal life today). With the shock of the promotion's #1 babyface out for good in heartbreaking fashion, his in-ring replacement surfaced in the most unlikely of ways. Dusty Rhodes walked to the ring for a tag team match against two of the four Horsemen in a contest in which he was supposed to tag with Magnum -- and with him strode his new tag team partner, Nikita Koloff! The "Russian" superstar explained shortly thereafter that his battles with Magnum instilled a deep respect in him and that he was dedicating the rest of his career to his fallen rival. He would form a team with Dusty called The Superpowers and many subsequent events would branch off of this single move (Dusty's longtime partner and friend Dick Murdoch turned on Dusty for teaming up with a "dirty Russkie," Nikita ended up in a strongman vs. strongman battle for the US title against new Horseman member Lex Luger and The Superpowers teamed up to win the 1987 Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup when Magnum TA made his first public appearance since the accident by walking them to ringside to the batsh#% reaction of the crowd). The first interview with Dusty and Nikita explaining their new team is the subject of the video below.

2. Oh brother, where art thou? Brett Wayne was making a difficult climb during 1983, from young and inexperienced wrestler in Georgia Championship Wrestling to skilled young champion. That fall, in a tremendous upset, he upended Larry Zbyszko for the National Heavyweight Title, only to meet the wrath of the National Tag Team Champions, the Road Warriors. These dominant and egotistical bullies felt that seeing the vulnerable young Wayne ascend to his perch as the top singles wrestler in the territory "tarnished" their accomplishment. As they were beating him severely, who came to his aid? The fiercest "bad guy" in the territory, Buzz Sawyer. To the shock of everyone, Sawyer cleared house and saved the innocent young "good guy." The subsequent interview was a shocker: Brett's full name was Brett Wayne Sawyer and the two polar opposites were in fact brothers! Buzz explained that he had kept the relationship a secret to keep the pressure of the association off of Brett, but that he had to break the secret and save Brett when the Warriors attacked. Shortly thereafter, the Sawyer Brothers won the National tag titles and traded them back and ended up trading them back and forth a few times. This was the greatest reveal of a secret association in wrestling history; the only one that is even close or remotely similar was when Jimmy Garvin rescued Ronnie Garvin from the Midnight Express in 1987, but the two had been known to be storyline brothers in other territories (Ronnie was actually Jimmy's stepfather in real life). While there is apparently no video available online about the Sawyer Brothers' reunion, we do have video of Buzz Sawyer in classic heel mode so that you can appreciate what a bad guy his character was prior to saving his brother.

1. They call him Mr. R. Any old-school Georgia Championship Wrestling fan will tell you this was the greatest angle in wrestling history. Former friends Ted Dibiase and Tommy Rich were engaged in a feud in the winter of 1984, which was supposed to end with a "Loser Leaves Town" match. Rich lost, but a masked newcomer named Mr. R immediately surfaced. Sporting Rich's flowing blond hair in back and his mannerisms and speech patterns, it was immediately obvious who the Mr. R really was. An enraged Dibiase put up his National Heavyweight Title for a chance to put Rich out of the game permanently. An entertaining, high-energy match ensued, which culminated in Dibiase unmasking Mr. R to reveal ... Brad Armstrong??? As Tommy Rich strolled to ringside to tauntingly wave at Dibiase, Armstrong rolled up Dibiase for the three-count to claim the National championship! Subsequently, Dibiase gained revenge on Armstrong by severely injuring his father, fellow wrestler "Bullet" Bob Armstrong with his legendary "loaded" glove and the feud rolled on from there. Fortunately, we were able to find the video online and below you can see for yourself what may well have been the greatest angle in wrestling history:

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