Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Bill and Buddy Show

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Bill and Buddy Show – CWA, 1986

History


As 1986 got underway, the Memphis territory was firmly under the control of three heels – Superstar Bill Dundee, Nature Boy Buddy Landel, and Dirty Dutch Mantell. Dundee had cemented their control by defeating Jerry Lawler in a loser leaves town match in January, thereby assuring that Lawler would be out of the picture for six months.

Soon, however, cracks began to appear in their united front as the upper-class Landel and Dundee grew tired of the proud redneck Mantell. Matters reached a boiling point as Lance Russell finally showed a video from the Mid-South Coliseum that showed Landel mocking Mantell behind his back. The Dirty Dutchman took offense and attacked.

At this same time, Jerry Jarrett had decided to retire from the ring. He did a video interview where he explained that he only had sight in one eye due to medical problems, and he didn’t feel like he could go in the ring anymore. He also announced that his son Jeff was beginning wrestling training and would be serving as a referee.

The next week Jeff made his debut as a referee and things went bad. Jeff was chosen to referee a tag match where Landel and Dundee were allied. After winning the match, Landel and Dundee continued their assault on Jim Jameson, one of their opponents. Jeff stepped in and pulled them off, and was thrown aside. As a stunned Jeff lay in the corner, Jerry came out of the back to aid his son. Dundee and Landel quickly beat him down and then began trying to gouge his good eye as a livid Lance Russell left the announce position and headed to the ring to try and help. Jeff also attacked Landel, only for Dundee to knock him out with one punch. Dundee and Landel were eventually run off, and they headed to the back as Mantell carried the unconscious Jeff to the back.

After a tearful Jerry came out with a towel over his eyes to try and talk to Lance about Jeff’s condition, Lance helped him back to the back. The next match’s start was interrupted as promoter Eddie Marlin came out. Marlin talked about how he had never seen Jerry in that condition and then said that things had gone far enough. The crowd erupted as Marlin announced that was ignoring the previous stipulations and he was bringing Jerry Lawler back.

Lawler and Mantell spent the next couple of weeks battling Landel and Dundee on the house show circuit. Tempers came to a boil again as Lance Russell was talking to them and they insisted that they’d never lost a match to Lawler and Mantell for various reasons – most of which involved corrupt referees and Jerry Jarrett and Eddie Marlin being out to get them.

Russell pointed out that Lawler and Mantell had defeated them and Dundee responded by warning Russell to never say that they’d lost. Russell repeated his earlier statement and Dundee staggered the announcer with a slap to the face. Lawler and Mantell sent their opponents scurrying as they came from the back to assist Russell.

The next week Dundee and Mantell came out again. Russell refused to join them in the interview area, instead indicating that there was already a microphone there. Landel and Dundee promised a surprise and headed to the back, emerging with a desk bearing a sign that read “The Bill and Buddy Show.” Chairs soon followed and Dundee explained what was going on as he confiscated microphones from Lance Russell and Dave Brown as well as the ring bell – if Russell and Brown weren’t going to talk to them, they weren’t going to talk to anybody.

After settling in their new positions and deciding who was who (Dundee said he got to be Dave Brown because Dave got to ring the bell), the show continued. Up first was Jos LeDuc going against the team of Garmon and Traylor. As LeDuc pummeled his opponents, Dundee and Landel praised his scientific techniques (and Landel wondered if Russell and Brown really got paid to commentate). After LeDuc lost the match by throwing one of his opponents over the top rope (a disqualification), Dundee said that he thought the opponent was dead. Dundee and Landel then refused to announce him as the loser. As Dundee claimed he jumped over the top rope, they announced LeDuc as the winner (which may have not been a bad idea, since LeDuc came over for a brief interview after the match).

From there, the duo discovered that up next was a commercial for a Jerry Lawler video. They initially refused to run it and prepared for the next match until the show’s director came over and told them they had to run it. They grudgingly agreed as Dundee advised the fans that now would be a good time to get a cup of coffee, use the bathroom, or take a nap.

When we came back from the commercial, Dundee and Landel were asleep. The director woke them and they prepared for the next match (as Landel noted that Lawler should sell No-Doze with his video). This match saw Bill and Pat Rose taking on Lawler and Mantell. Lawler and Mantell immediately spotted Dundee and Landel, who kept yelling at them that they were simply commentators.

The match started with the commentary praising the Roses and yelling about Lawler and Mantell cheating (for example, when Lawler dropped Pat Rose, Dundee yelled at the referee that Lawler had pulled his tights). This went on through the entire match until Lawler and Mantell had had enough and walked out. Dundee and Landel loved it, counting along with the referee as the Roses won by countout.

Then Lawler and Mantell returned. Lawler was carrying a stool, and Mantell had a steel chair. Needless to say, Dundee and Landel wound up in the ring as Lawler and Mantell attacked them, tearing their cheap suits to shreds. The Roses got involved as well, and the brawl lasted until the locker room emptied and they were pulled apart. Landel and Dundee decided it was time to exercise the better part of valor and cleared out.

Lawler and Mantell picked up their chairs, headed to the interview set, and destroyed the makeshift interview desk. Lance Russell and Dave Brown (who’d reclaimed their microphones), simply talked about how this looked like the end of the Bill and Buddy Show.

The feud ended as Lawler defeated Dundee to reclaim his Southern Heavyweight title. By summer, Landel and Dundee were feuding over the same belt.

Analysis

This is the way wrestling should be run. As 1986 had begun, Lawler (easily the company’s top face) was shuffled offscreen by the assault of the three heels. They ran over everyone in the company (including top names like Austin Idol and Steve Keirn) until they finally turned on Mantell.

After that, Landel and Dundee grew even more savage with their attacks on their opponents and finally on Jeff and Jerry Jarrett. The hour of Championship Wrestling where the attack took place and Marlin announced Lawler’s return was must-see television.

With Lawler back and united with his former foe Dutch Mantell, Landel and Dundee suddenly had a lot of problems to deal with. However, they didn’t back down – instead they continued mocking their foes along the way.

In the end, Lawler and Mantell defeated the enemies and the fans went home happy.

(On a side note, Lawler’s first match back was to team with Mantell in a Texas death match against Landel and Dundee. This would trigger three straight weeks of sellouts for the Mid-South Coliseum.)

Most importantly, everything had a realistic feel to it. Jeff was attacked, so his father came out to save him. The villains attacked his father as well, so Eddie Marlin (coincidentally, Jerry Jarrett’s father-in-law) breaks his word and brings Lawler back early. The emotion was strong and well played – Russell’s fury and disgust, and Marlin’s near-desperation, were portrayed perfectly.

It’s no wonder that an angle this strong helped boost attendance throughout the territory.

Where are they now?

Bill Dundee soon left the CWA and became AWA World Tag Team champions with Jerry Lawler. Dundee still was centered in Memphis, but made many stops around the country, including a run in WCW as Sir William, the manager of Lord Steven Regal. Today Dundee is still active on the Memphis wrestling scene and has also competed in a local dodgeball tournament for WNWS FM’s team.

Buddy Landel soon left Memphis and headed to Alabama. In 1990, he headed to the NWA where his peak was a televised match against Ric Flair in a Battle of the Nature Boys. Landel had a run in Smoky Mountain during the mid 1990’s, and headed to the WWF for a brief stay in late 1995 and early 1996. Aside from another quick appearance in WCW, he has been on the independent scene ever since.

Dutch Mantell made his way to WCW in the early 1990’s as a member of the Desperadoes, and then headed to the WWF as Uncle Zeb. In addition to this, Mantell provided color commentary on Smoky Mountain broadcasts. In 2003, Mantell joined TNA, where he currently works behind the scenes.

Jerry Lawler headed to the WWF in 1993. Although he began as an in-ring competitor, it didn’t take long for him to join the commentary team. Lawler remains with the WWE today, where he provides commentary on Raw along with Jim Ross. Lawler was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.

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