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A Mark’s Eye View: A Million Dollar Turn

Ted Dibiase goes for the World Championship in a bloody affair.

When we last left Mid South, NWA World Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair had used his normal underhanded tactics to avoid defending his title against North American Champion “Hacksaw” Butch Reed. The most hated bad guy in Mid-South, Ted DiBiase, was given the title shot. Longtime fan favorite Dick Murdoch felt he deserved the shot. Flair wanted nothing to do with either man. Just as the match between the two heels was about to begin, Murdoch tried to convince DiBiase one last time.

The DiBiase/Murdoch double turn is one of the best examples of simple motivations given maximum value. I had only been watching wrestling for a few weeks at this point. I knew DiBiase was a horrible person and I knew Murdoch was a nice guy. I did not understand why Watts would want to have two bad guys fight. I sorta thought DiBiase and Flair were both cool, but shouldn’t there be a good guy?

Things became even more confusing when Murdoch tried to convince DiBiase to give him the title shot. DiBiase told Murdoch he was old and that his time had passed. Murdoch punched him in the face and the two proceeded to brawl. It made sense to me — the bad guy was getting beat up for saying the wrong things. Murdoch was simply frustrated. He may be older but that didn’t mean he didn’t deserve the shot. Flair attacking DiBiase from behind did not shock me either. I figured he would do the same thing to Murdoch if the opportunity arrived.

Everything changed when Murdoch slammed DiBiase’s head in the ringpost. In 1985, this was almost guaranteed to lacerate the victim. DiBiase was a mess. Blood leaked from his head as Murdoch stomped him. All of a sudden, it was hard to feel bad for “Captain Redneck.” As DiBiase’s blood poured down his body and to the concrete, Flair announced he was leaving.

Backstage, Watts talked about how doctors were unable to stop the bleeding. Still, DiBiase was not giving up his title shot. World Title shots don’t come around often, after all. Watts warned viewers that DiBiase would be wrestling and would have nothing but a bandage on his forehead. Children and those with weak stomachs were told things may get gory. The announcement was made to the crowd the match would still be happening. There were hardly any boos for the gutsy DiBiase.

DiBiase came to the ring with a bandage wrapped around his head. Blood covered his left arm and chest. And wouldn’t you know it? Fans were chanting “Teddy.” In an incredibly bloody match, the fans cheered for DiBiase. Watts simply built up the importance of the World Title. It was impossible to not cheer for someone trying to accomplish their lifelong dream. Announcer Jim Ross said as much stating he did not agree with DiBiase’s tactics but he understood what was at stake. The loss of blood ended up being too much (DiBiase, Flair, the mat, and even the referee were covered in blood) and the challenger ended up being counted out.

But things did not end there. Murdoch casually strolled to the ring. He walked up to the severely weakened DiBiase and nailed him. There was no feeling sorry for Murdoch anymore. As Murdoch lifted DiBiase up for his patented Brainbuster, fans screamed in horror. The man they had booed so vociferously an hour earlier had valiantly fought to fulfill his dream while the person they had cheered for callously attacked the former heel when he was at his most defenseless. And just like that, in the space of one hour pro wrestling saw the greatest double turn of all time.

DiBiase and Flair went on to have Hall of Fame careers. They both were parts of many angles that were more well known and arguably better. Dick Murdoch is a footnote in history. For many fans, this is the peak of his career. Due to WWE’s habit of cherry picking history that only matters to them, he is relatively unknown to most fans. Still, there is no doubting he provided a lifelong memory for a new wrestling fan.

Next week: WCW…in 1985?

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