‘A Mark’s Eye View’ is a weekly look at some of the things that made my a huge fan of professional wrestling until one day I realized I just did not care anymore.
Few wrestling promotions were as hot as World Class Championship Wrestling during its heyday, but Mid-South Wrestling, run by Bill Watts, not only gave it a run for its money, it is considered by many fans to be the better promotion. The hot angles, tough action, and free-flowing blood made the territory one of the most fun promotions in history. It was also a very memorable time for a kid on the fringes of fandom.
I was fully sucked into wrestling in 1986, but I had actually started watching sometime in 1985. A cheap little wrestling show called Mid-South wrestling caught my attention every Saturday. It was in a small studio that could not have had more than fifty fans. The wrestlers looked like they hung out in bars. But it was incredibly exciting to watch and its announcer was really good at his job.
Two names stick out from early memories of Mid-South, and both went on to become well known thanks to memorable runs in the then-WWF. However, back in 1985, Ted DiBiase and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan had yet to make a name on the big stage. DiBiase was certainly on his way there. The future Million Dollar Man was great in the ring and had amazing charisma. Even a five year old who was not yet fully into wrestling could see that.
There have been many double turns in wrestling. Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s iconic WrestleMania 13 matchup may be the most known, but none have been done as perfectly as the one involving DiBiase, Dick Murdoch, and Ric Flair. In a nutshell, NWA World Champion Ric Flair (this guy seemed to be on every non-WWF show I watched) was scheduled to defend his title on Mid South television against North American champion Butch Reed. Due to typical Flair shenanigans, Reed was unable to compete.
Watts came out and announced that Ted DiBiase would be replacing Reed. (As a side note, matches involving Flair tended to confuse me. He did not seem like a good guy, but he would also wrestle the most evil bad guys.) I liked both men — I was always partial to heels — but this match just seemed odd to me. DiBiase was probably the biggest villain in Mid-South, but Flair was not acting like a hero.
I had no idea who the good guy in the match was supposed to be. The fans seem to know. Though he wore his infamous glove “Black Beauty” and and there were some boos, the crowd was behind DiBiase. Before the match could begin, Dick Murdoch (who was a fan favorite who had also been considered to replaced Reed) came out and told DiBiase he was more deserving of the shot.
Up until now, the angle has been pretty standard as wrestling goes. One man gets chosen over his friend to challenge for the World Title. The overlooked friend comes out and makes his claim. It is clear what will happen next. However, things do not quite go as expected. DiBiase commences to heel on Murdoch. He calls him “washed up” and tells him to leave. When the two start brawling, the fans have no idea who to cheer for. When Flair uses the opportunity to attack DiBiase from behind, the fans start to rally behind Teddy boy a little. Flair was the only true heel in the situation.
Some great old school booking follows. In an era where throwing people off 25 feet high cages and jumping through tables is the norm, running someone into the steel post seems tame. In Mid-South in 1985, it was an illegal tactic that led to an automatic disqualification. And a whole lot of blood.
Next Week: The price of a double turn.