Thursday, February 22, 2018

Power Pro Wrestling vs. Memphis Championship Wrestling – Part I

In the year 2001, two major wrestling promotions operated out of Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis Championship Wrestling and Power Pro Wrestling. The two companies battled it out and worked together until both companies ultimately folded by the end of the year. This is the story of how these two promotions found themselves squaring off and subsequently working together.

Power Pro Wrestling rose from the ashes of the USWA in 1998 and occupied the Saturday morning timeslot that Memphis wrestling was known for. The show was anchored by Memphis legends like Jerry The King Lawler and Bill “Superstar” Dundee, but also featured some major up-and-comers thanks to a WWF development deal. Before wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Rikishi were main eventing for the WWF, they were working their butts off in front of the WMC TV Channel 5 studio audience live each and every Saturday morning.


Power Pro had use of studio cameras, a well-lit studio, and a built-in audience that had been enjoying Memphis wrestling every Saturday morning on Channel 5 for many years. And of course, they had The King of Memphis himself, Jerry Lawler and a WWF developmental deal. It was everything an independent promotion could ask for the late 1990’s.

By all accounts, things were going well for Power Pro Wrestling until one Saturday morning in October of 1999 when things got out of hand when Doug Gilbert went off script and decided to shoot on Jerry Lawler.


Now before we dive into this infamous live TV debacle, let’s talk about the events that led up to it.

Doug Gilbert is the brother of the late Eddie Gilbert, a wrestler who was involved with one of the most popular Memphis storylines when he ran over Jerry Lawler with his car out of retaliation for being fired. Jerry Lawler hit the car perfectly and this led quite a few Memphians to call the police and report that a crime had taken place.


Things were so hot in Memphis for the Gilbert brothers Jerry Lawler had to come out on TV the follow week just to calm the audience down and ensure everyone watching that he was indeed alright. This angle took place in September 1990.

Fast forward nine years later, and Eddie Gilbert has since passed away, but his brother Doug was still drawing heat from the Gilbert/Lawler feud. This kept him bouncing around the Memphis territory and he was now teaming up with Tommy “Wildfire” Rich.


Doug and Tommy are both very capable wrestlers, but in 1999 they were out of place in Attitude Era. Another tag team consisting of Brian Christopher and The Spellbinder (Phantasio in the WWF) decided to spoof Rich/Gilbert several Saturday mornings leading up to Gilbert’s shoot. The two young stars decided to play Rich off as a drunk and made Gilbert out to be a bitter friend of The King’s who felt like Jerry blackballed him from the WWF.

The next week they came out portraying Doug Gilbert’s parents where it was revealed that Doug’s real father was the ice cream man. And finally on the third week they came out in suits to mourn the deaths of both Rich/Gilbert. They made fun of Rich being the shortest reigning NWA champion of all-time and mentioned that Doug Gilbert got his nickname Dangerous after he burnt down the family trailer park.

You can see a compilation of the clips below, but in a nutshell these spoofs were very reminiscent of what DX did with the Nation of Domination and the NWO did on The Four Horsemen. It was mean spirited, but played off by the announcers as a complete distasteful parody and wasn't to be taken serious.



On October 23rd, 1999, right after Christopher and The Spellbinder finished their mock funeral Gilbert and Rich ran them off and both wrestlers cut frustrated promos on the two young guys. Like all big moments in wrestling there is a lot of confusion about how much of this was planned out and how much of it was off script, but from my assessment and understanding Gilbert and Rich were advised to cut a work-shoot promo. It was supposed to sound real and cut through the gimmicks, which was something that was very popular in the big three at the time (ECW, WWF, and WCW).

Things started out okay when Tommy Rich got on the mic and tore into The Spellbinder. They had all the pieces for a very hot feud in Memphis featuring two young and capable young guys and two hard-hitting and grizzled veterans. Then Doug grabbed the mic and that’s when things went out of control.


It’s worth watching for yourself, but in a nutshell Doug Gilbert prefaces the interview by saying that there are things he’s not supposed to talk about, but he’s forgotten what they were, so he’s just going to say what needs to be said. He immediately outs Brian Christopher as Jerry Lawler’s son, and credits Jerry for all of Christopher’s success and title runs. This may not sound like a big deal in 2017, but in 1999 it was still not common knowledge that Brian Christopher was indeed Jerry Lawler’s son. Don’t get wrong, it was one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling, but it was still something that wasn’t talked about openly.

After tearing Christopher apart and crediting his father for all of his success, Gilbert decided to attack Randy Hales, the president of Power Pro, by saying that Hales wasn’t cutting off his mic because he was upstairs smoking crack.


Longtime Memphis announcer Dave Brown did his best to keep things under control, but when you have a three hundred pound man hellbent on saying what he wants to say, it’s hard to do. But the much smaller Dave Brown finally snatched the mic away from Gilbert once he crossed a line that no one expected him to cross; he said Jerry Lawler raped a thirteen year old girl.

(For a little context: In November 1993, Jerry Lawler was accused of raping a thirteen year old girl. I’ve heard a variety of different takes on what actually went down, but I don’t want to spread any false information so I’m not going into that. What I can confirm is in the end the girl recanted her statement and Lawler pleaded down to a lesser charge (harassing a witness) or was simply absolved of all wrong doing.)

What happened next has been debated for years and should be regarded as strictly rumors:

-There are reports that The King was outraged and drove to the station to take the only tape of the show in existence and threatened to sue everyone involved. He only backed off from suing Gilbert once he found out that Gilbert had no money.

-Doug Gilbert’s mother, Peggy, apparently looked into filing charges against Randy Hales and the promotion for suggesting she relations with the ice cream man.

I doubt we will ever know what the fall out truly was since Jerry Lawler has dodged the question recently on his podcast. I can’t blame him, it was a very uncomfortable and damaging event. Needless to say, Doug Gilbert was fired and Jerry Lawler left Power Pro Wrestling.

It should be noted that prior to Doug Gilbert's shoot, Jerry Lawler's relationship with promoter Randy Hales was already rocky. The King participated in the mayoral race of Memphis in the year 2000 and because of equal time regulations, Randy Hales was forced to keep Lawler off TV due to pressure by WMC-5. This soured their relationship some, but it was the Doug Gilbert shoot that ultimately destroyed their relationship.

Tune in for the second part to find out how this led to the formation of Memphis Championship Wrestling and what sunk both companies in the end.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Last Match: The Fabulous Freebirds


The Fabulous Freebirds are one of the greatest and most revolutionary tag teams of all time.  They were unique in that they were a three man team who won the tag team championships and originated what would become known as the Freebird Rule as any two of the three members could defend the titles.

The teamed formed in Mid South Wrestling in 1979 and continued until they disbanded in 1994.  They had success all around the territories including the AWA, WWF, WCW, NWA, Memphis, Florida and more.  They are perhaps best known for the amazing feud in World Class with the Von Erich family.


The Freebirds were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.


Michael P.S. Hayes
Last Match: July 25, 1999 WWF Fully Loaded 1999 Buffalo, New York
with The Hardy Boys: Matt & Jeff lost the Tag Team Championships to The Acolytes: Bradshaw & Faarooq in a no disqualification match

Hayes was pinned in the match that cost the Hardys their titles.  Hayes would go on to compete in the WrestleMania X-7 Gimmick Battle Royal.  Hayes was no doubt the leader of the Freebirds and also was with the team for its entire run.  One of the most colorful and flamboyant men in wrestling.


"Bam Bam" Terry Gordy
Last Match: June 10, 1999 NWA Southwest, Dallas, Texas
defeated The New Dr. X

One of if not the best big man in wrestling Gordy began wrestling in 1975 at the age of 14.  After his run with the Birds Gordy had a successful tag team with "Dr. Death" Steve Williams in All Japan Pro Wrestling and WCW from 1990 - 1993.  Gordy is also a two time AJPW Triple Crown Champion, the promotions top championship.

Gordy passed away on July 16, 2001 from a heart attack.


Buddy Jack Roberts
Last Match: April 2, 1993 GWF Dallas, Texas
with Michael P.S. Hayes was defeated by Chris Adams & Kevin Von Erich

Debuting in 1965 after being trained by Ivan Koloff he joined up with the Freebirds becoming the third member in 1979.  He stayed with the Birds through their major run in World Class leaving them in 1987.  Retiring in 1989 he came out of retirement for his final match teaming with Hayes.

He battled throat cancer but died from pneumonia November 26, 2012 at the age of 65.
 

Jimmy "Jam" Garvin
Last Match: August 2, 2000 Lutte 2000 Verdun, Quebec, Canada
with Ronnie Garvin was defeated by The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers: Jacques & Raymond to win the Johnny Rougeau Tag Team Title

Jimmy Garvin began wrestling in 1968 traveling the independents winding up in World Class in 1983.  He began a loose association with the Freebirds during this run.  On June 14, 1989 he returned to WCW as a official member of the Freebirds teaming with Hayes at Clash of the Champions VII winning the vacant NWA World Tag Team Championships.

He teamed with Hayes until 1992 when he left WCW.  He rejoined Hayes and Gordy in Global Wrestling Federation in 1994 as The Fabulous Freebirds until the promotion folded later that year.

Freebirds Match
Last Match: May 28, 1999 Power Pro Wrestling, Memphis, TN
Michael P.S. Hayes & Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy wrestled Glen Kulka & JR Smooth to a no contest

This is the last match of record that I can find involving members of the Freebirds.  It's only fitting that it's the two original members in Hayes & Gordy that have the final official match of The Fabulous Freebirds.


Badstreet: Brad Armstrong 
Last Match: February 12, 2011 A Nightmare to Remember Villa Rica, GA
defeated by Kyle Matthews

During the Freebirds run in WCW Brad Armstrong donned a masked competing as the mysterious Badstreet.  His association with them was short but I felt should be included.

Sadly Armstrong passed away on November 1, 2012 at the age of 50.


Thanks for reading, please leave a comment, read my other posts, and like my blogs Facebook page and while you're at it check out my weekly podcast Podcast of 1,000 Holds on the Nerdy Legion Podcast Network. 

Later Readers!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ring of Honor's Honor Reigns Supreme Live Report - 2/9/18 Concord, North Carolina

This past weekend I attended my first Ring of Honor show, Honor Reigns Supreme in Concord, North Carolina. The show was originally scheduled as a TV taping, but due to some production restraints they moved the TV tapings to the following night in Atlanta and our show was made into a house show. Initially I was a little bummed about the change, but after some reassurance from The Wrestling Insomniac’s very own Michael Labbe, I started to feel a little better about the whole change. As he put it, “I’d rather watch a three hour house show full of great matches, than a four hour TV taping full of okay matches.” 

Thursday night, the day prior to the tapings, Ring of Honor announced that the Honors Reigns Supreme would be live streamed on Facebook Live, ROHWrestling.com, and Fite. The show had went from a tv taping, to a house show, and now a special event! My excitement for the show tripled almost immediately and I knew I’d be in for something special.


Normally, when I sit down to write a live report, I work on breaking down some details of the matches, but since Honor Reigns Supreme was live streamed and can still be watched on ROHWrestling.com and the Fite App, I’m not going to go into all of that. Let me just say, it was a great show to attend live and I believe a good show to watch and I recommend checking it out for yourself. Instead of discussing the matches in detail, today’s live report is going to focus on the whole Ring of Honor experience.

The Cabarrus Arena and Event’s Center is a 5,000 seat arena located about forty minutes outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The arena has hosted Ring of Honor several times, NXT, and TNA’s Bound for Glory 2015.

This was my first trip to Cabarrus Arena and I really liked it. I prefer to see wrestling/hockey/concerts in smaller venues and Cabarrus is perfect for that. There is not a bad seat in the house and parking was plentiful. 

We arrived at 5:30 PM right when the Meet and Greet was set to begin. As we were crossing the parking lot the line started moving into the building right on time, which made me happy. I love it when wrestling organizations are on top of things.


It didn’t take long to get inside the arena, but a line extended from the floor up into the second level and then wrapped back around for people waiting to buy Meet and Greet Tickets. Not everyone was set up right at 5:30 PM, but the Bullet Club Members were all at their tables and their lines were massive. I knew the Bullet Club was hot, but I wasn’t expecting this. The picture below shoes the three lines for the Bullet Club members (One line for Cody, one line for Marty Scurll, and one line for Adam Page and the Young Bucks). This photo was taken one hour after the Meet and Greet had begun and the lines remained this long up until bell time at 7 PM.


The prices were very reasonable for all of the stars. Its twenty dollars to meet a singles wrestler and thirty dollars to meet a tag team. I was on a bit of a budget, so I restricted myself to meeting just one wrestler and I decided to go straight to the World Champ, Dalton Castle.

I hopped in line and walked up to Dalton and introduced myself as Brandon. He smiled and said he hated that name, but loved it on me! Meanwhile, he was glancing over at the one of The Boys (whose real name is Brandon) who was holding back a laugh. It made everyone laugh in line and then we exchanged some small talk about where I from before setting up for a photo. I’d asked a fellow wrestling fan in line to take my picture. He locked himself out of my phone pretty quickly, and Dalton began yelling for me to give away my passcode and allow this stranger access to everything on my phone. It was hysterical and got a big laugh out of everyone. Sadly, the stranger only took one picture and it was blurry. I managed to clean it up the best that I could, which you can see below.


Silas Young’s table was located next to Dalton Castle, and Dalton kept poking fun at Silas. Looking back on everything, I regret not snagging a photo with Silas. I won’t make that mistake next time.

Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian were next to the merch booth and were yelling at fans to buy their comic. The merch booth was rather small and the only thing that caught my eye was a poster of the event that was signed by everyone on it except for Adam Page. The merch guy said if you bought the poster you could go to the front of the line and Adam would sign it real quick for free. I loved the poster and really wanted it, but $50 seemed a little steep. I would have purchased a non-signed poster if I could, but apparently all they had were the signed posters and I left empty handed, something else I’d go onto regret quite a bit.


I was excited to see that a screen was set up for the show as well as pyro. It made the show feel special and bigger than the house show that I was expecting just two days earlier. We found our way down to our front row seats and enjoyed a very decent dark match between two local talents from Firestar Pro Wrestling out of Greensboro: Griff Garrison and Marcus Kross. I wasn’t expecting much out of the match, but it was surprisingly good. Griff Garrison has the All-American look going for him and Marcus Kross is doing the big hair anime character thing which I hate. Seriously, every low budget indie has an anime character now and they all suck. Kross has a lot of talent and I could see him working his way up if he bulked up a little and ditched the gimmick. 

Working as two of the outside ring members (who gathered streamers and costumes) were Keith Mack and Billy Brash, two AML Wrestlers I’m very familiar with. It was nice seeing them around ringside.

The second dark match, was actually a taping for the Women of Honor Tournament. Deonna Purrazzo defeated Holidead in a very decent, but forgettable match.


After the WOH match, the show began and Bully Ray was introduced as ROH's new enforcer.


Punishment Martinez defeats Flip Gordon


I’m a fan of both men and it was nice to see them go head-to-head in the ring, especially since their styles clash.

Kenny King defeats Shane Taylor


Kenny King is damn fine showman and I was impressed how well he and Taylor worked, when like the first match, their styles clashed quite a bit.

Arguably the highlight of the night followed the King/Taylor match when Ian Riccaboni to introduce a surprise entrant to the Women of Honor tournament: Tenile Dashwood formerly known as Emma. I was a little bummed I couldn’t make it to her AML debut later this month, so this really made my night. I don’t think any wrestling fan alive who knows how badly she was treated in the WWE and how bad her release was isn’t rooting for this young lady to make it big. Ring of Honor might just be the place where she could make a huge impact. I would have loved to have seen her tournament match, but Bully Ray (ROH’s new enforcer) booked her for a tag team match which I can’t complain about. This was by far the biggest surprise I’ve ever been at a wrestling event live for and that made this a very memorable show.

Silas Young w/Beer City Bruiser defeats Josh Woods


What’s not to love about Silas Young and I can confirm that the Beer City Bruiser was in fact drinking beer when he smashed it into Josh Wood’s head, because we got misted.

SOCAL Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky) defeated Dalton Castle and The Boys




This was the most entertaining match of the night and let me just say, Dalton Castle is truly amazing. His ring presence and humor makes him an instant fan for anyone watching him. My wife Brittni had never seen Dalton Castle before, but became an instant fan just from meeting the guy and then this match sent her over the moon. It’s easy for us to forget the role The Boys play in Dalton’s success, but these two guys are incredibly talented and the chemistry the three of them have is something truly magical. I think my biggest pop of the night came when The Boys looked as if they were going to betray Dalton before attacking SoCal early on in the match.

Following the Dalton Castle match, we went into an almost thirty minute intermission which I’m okay with, but I wish there was a little communication with the audience about what was going on and when we’d be back. The screen just showed the Honor Reigns Supreme logo, and no time limit was given for how long the intermission would last. Also, despite walking around some, I didn’t realize some wrestlers had set back up at tables and were doing Meet and Greets. Even Tenile Dashwood was there taking photos and I missed it! I was so bummed when I found out about this later that night when I saw some Instagram shots. Ring of Honor lost at least twenty bucks from me by not announcing that wrestlers were setting up and were available for photos.


The Briscoes made their way to the ring following the break and I tuned out. The Briscoes do nothing for me anymore. I know a lot of people are thrilled with their reinventions of themselves, but I just need a break from them. I tuned back into the action in the ring when I felt a huge rush of air right next to my head as Alex Shelly flew over my shoulder on his way to the ring to get his ass kicked.

Mandy Leon and Tenile Dashwood defeated Kelly Klein and Stacy Shadows




The tag match was okay, but Mandy Leon looked really out of place. She did quite a bit of MCing prior to the event and I think she would make a great MC/interviewer for ROH. I have no interest in seeing her in the ring again.

Jay Lethal defeated Jonathan Gresham


This match was amazing… too bad I couldn’t concentrate on it. Two drunk rednecks decided to spend the entire match yelling at Todd, the referee. I was so afraid you’d be able to hear it on the broadcast, but I’ve yet to see a review discussing it so I’m thankful ROH was able to keep that from interfering with the audience’s enjoyment of this technical classic like I was. It was by far the most frustrated I’ve ever been with an audience at a wrestling show.

The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan, and Vinny Marseglia) defeated The Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll, and Adam Page)






After dealing with the idiots in the crowd, this was a much welcomed change of pace since it was fast and chaotic and didn’t allow time for the audience to try and get themselves over.

The Young Bucks defeated Best Friends (Chuckie T and Trent Beretta)




God are The Young Bucks over. You know, you see the streamers and hear the cheering on TV, but you just don’t realize how over they are into you are there seeing it in person. I’ve been to Wrestlemania and not felt the energy that I felt when The Bucks came out and posed in the ring.


It was nice to see them continuing Matt’s back issues over from New Japan and I think the match told a great story with Matt selling so much, but it was a little slow in spots for an already tired crowd.



Following the match, The Young Bucks grabbed a mic and said they wanted to clear up a few things about what happened in Japan with the Bullet Club. The Bullet Club made their way to the ring to discuss what went on with Kenny Omega, and Cody played the douche bag cocky jerk that he does so well and said it was “Complicated.” This led Marty Scrull to grab a mic as the soft beats of Avril Lavigne’s Complicated began playing over the speakers and Marty led us all on a sing along while The Young Bucks quietly exited the ring.


Once Marty finished up, Cody recognized Adam Page as the hometown boy and allowed him to close up the show. Right as he finished, Marty grabbed the mic and decided to say a few more things while Cody and Adam looked on in astonishment since Adam was supposed to close the show. Cody eventually took the mic ended the night leading the crowd on a “Fuck the Revival” chant.

By this point in the night, I knew I wanted that Honor Reigns Supreme poster and was hoping the merch booth was still open. Of course, it wasn’t, I had missed out of my opportunity to buy that poster. So, the lesson here is: when you see something exclusive to an event you are at and you really want it, don’t hesitate like I did!

Honor Reigns Supreme was obviously booked as a sort of introduction to Ring of Honor in hopes to gathering new fans for their new HonorClub program. Overall the night was very solid with no matches really coming across bad. We got a little bit of everything and got to see all the stars of Ring of Honor and even a huge surprise with Tenile Dashwood’s debut. Needless to say, I had nothing to complain about and I loved every minute of it. 

Top Three Matches:
1. Jay Lethal vs Jonathan Gresham
2. Dalton Castle and The Boys vs. SoCal Uncensored
3. The Kingdom vs. The Bullet Club

Top Three Moments:
1. Tenile Dashwood’s Debut
2. Marty Scrull Singing Complicated (What can I say, I love Avril Lavgine’s early work!)
3. The Bucks Posing in the Ring 

Honor Reigns Supreme was a wonderful show to attend live. Ring of Honor is organized and everything ran smoothly and was right on time. My only complaint, which is a minor complaint, comes with my seat placement. I’m not sure if this is ROH or the arena’s fault, but when I purchased my tickets based off the Ticketmaster seating guide, I was going to be seated just about dead center of the ring. The side that I was on was broken into two floor groups and I was the first seat which ran just about center of the ring. When we got to the arena, our seats were actually in the corner, which meant my view was a bit restricted as you can tell by the photos. It’s a small complaint, but one worth mentioning. 

Based on my experience, I won’t miss another Ring of Honor show when they come to North Carolina anytime in the future.

I’ve skimmed through the broadcast of the event and you can see me in quite a few shots. I’m the guy in the white and black New Japan shirt.