A Mark’s Eye View is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
The Lapsed Fan wrestling podcast is a goldmine for any fan of old school wrestling. Hosts Jack Encarnacio and JP Sarro take ridiculously deep dives into what made, and continues to make, professional wrestling so great. The two spend weeks and sometimes months examining the sport under the scope of historians and through the eyes of fans. It’s a perfect mix.
Starting in late 2018, the two began a journey into World Class Championship Wrestling that lasted until early this year. Since I grew up in Texas (one of my earliest wrestling memories is the announcement of the death of Gino Hernandez), I was very interested in what they had to say. Obviously, they touched on the tragedies; it’s impossible not to when discussing World Class. But along with the tragic valleys, the show also went into the peaks of WCCW.
Wrestling has never been known for being cutting edge when it came to angles and characters. This led to everything from Nazi characters in the 1950s to big Russian heels in the 1980s. It also has no problems borrowing ideas from the movies, so over the years fans have been introduced to Frankenstein monsters and Cuban drug dealers. It also gave World Class fans Wrestling Star Wars.
Wrestling Star Wars seem to come with no rhyme or reason. For a fan watching on television, it was particularly hard to make sense of. Sometimes, it seemed as if the cards coincided with the holidays. Then one of the events would be announced for March or June. During interviews, the cards would be referred to as Holiday Star Wars no matter when they were scheduled to take place, however. It was more difficult to understand than the 1982 NWA Tag Team Title Tournament.
Despite the confusion, these cards were home to some of the biggest moments in World Class and professional wrestling history. The second and third events in 1982 focused on Kerry Von Erich’s quest to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title. This led to some great matches with champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair culminating with Christmas Star Wars. It seemed like Kerry would take the belt home for sure that night.
The Kerry/Flair match that Christmas was overshadowed by what would occur. Michael Hayes was voted as the special referee for the bout, and he would bring his partner Terry Gordy to the ring as an enforcer. In one of pro wrestling’s most iconic moments, Gordy would slam the cage door on Kerry’s head. The led to the years long Von Erichs/Freebirds feud that excited Texas fans like nothing before or since.
The two factions would face each other at many Star Wars events over the next few years (including multiple Loser Leaves Town matches). They did not just feud with each other, however. Terry Gordy and Killer Khan had a sickeningly bloody bout in Thanksgiving of 1984 that is one of the best in World Class history. The Dynamic Duo met the Von Erichs in some of the hottest matches in the territory. These events showed how good World Class was at finding matchups that kept the crowds coming back for more.
Star Wars was not just limited to the Von Erichs and Freebirds. Chris Adams and Jimmy Garvin traded the American Heavyweight Title. The Midnight Express and the Fantastics had matches that would rival what they would do years later in the NWA. Legends like Steve Williams and Bruiser Brody would stop in to make appearances. The cards had a distinctive Texas flavor but brought in talent to live up to its intergalactic title.
Much like the franchise it took its name from, Wrestling Star Wars began to falter after the early 80s. Unfortunately, it never had a chance at a revival. However, for a few years, they featured some of the biggest stars and matches in professional wrestling.
Next week: The second one is better.