Okay, so as I promised/threatened, here is the second installment of “The Superfly Effect,” my alternate history look at the wrestling scene if one little thing had gone differently.
In the first edition (which I will attempt to link to here)…
…the “point of divergence” was Hulk Hogan and Verne Gagne being able to come to terms over Hogan’s extracurricular earnings and putting the AWA World title on the Hulkster and what might have happened in the AWA and WWF going forward. The result was the AWA being in a far better position to compete with Vince, who without the Hulkster as his centerpiece, turned to the Iron Sheik as a longer-reigning champion who eventually is vanquished by Sgt. Slaughter. Many of the same players are still around, but with different roles and the wrestling boom is underway.
This time around, I decided to back up to the beginning of that timeline and cover the NWA and other territories. The plan is to catch up to the first edition of “The Superfly Effect” and go forward doing the entire wrestling world for as long as I can keep it together and have it make sense. As with last time, I’m going for what could realistically have happened given the players involved. So, here we go.
June 10, 1983 – “Handsome” Harley Race defeats “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in Race’s home town of St. Louis to regain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, ending Flair’s first run with the the belt, having defeated Dusty Rhodes for the title back in September of 1981. It is Race’s seventh NWA title reign. In order to protect his championship, Race puts a “bounty” on Flair, effectively turning Flair into a face and sending a bevy of heels after the “Nature Boy.” Eventually Flair is granted a re-match, to be held as part of a special “super-card.” Like Race’s title win, Flair will receive his shot in his own “back yard,” Raleigh, South Carolina. The event will be called “Starrcade.”
November 24, 1983 – At the inaugural NWA “super-card,” Jim Crockett Promotions holds the first Starrcade, live from Raleigh, South Carolina and broadcast via closed-circuit to many sites throughout the southeastern U.S., featuring a number of top-level matches, including Greg Valentine and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in a dog-collar match. The match is so vicious, Piper loses partial hearing in his right ear. The story of the show, though, is the Main Event. In a steel cage, Ric Flair regains the NWA title from Harley Race. Although the match and the card are considered a success, and Race has all but named Flair as the guy he is “passing the torch” to, there is still some question about whether or not Flair is acceptable to the NWA Board of Directors as the long-term champion. Some feel that Flair’s previous first run with the belt was enough of Flair and he has had his run at the top. Race cuts back on his ring appearances, going into semi-retirement, as Flair becomes the NWA’s touring champion, defending the belt against the likes of Dick Slater, Dusty Rhodes, Manny Fernandez, Wahoo McDaniel and Dick Murdoch. While Flair draws solid crowds as a touring champ, a contingent of NWA promoters begin to weigh other options, including Valentine and Piper as possible champs. However, both men soon leave the area to begin competing full-time in the WWF.
February 8, 1984 – David Von Erich of the popular Texas-based promotion World Class Championship Wrestling and a member of the famed Von Erich Wrestling Family, cancels a planned tour of Japan due to severe stomach pain. Von Erich is ultimately diagnosed with acute enteritis, and emergency surgery avoids what could have been a potential life-threatening situation.
April 3, 1984 – On a trip to Texas, Ric Flair makes an appearance on WCCW television and insults the still-recovering David Von Erich. David’s brothers Kevin and Kerry intervene on David’s behalf, setting up a NWA title match between Flair and Kerry at a super-card WCCW promoter dubs the Parade of Champions, taking the name from a similar event in 1972 at Texas Stadium.
May 6, 1984 – At the WCCW Parade of Champions, Kerry Von Erich appears to have won the NWA World Title in front of 50,000 fans at Texas Stadium, but the decision is reversed after a second referee reports Flair having used a chair earlier in the match, changing the decision to a DQ win for Kerry. On the undercard, David Von Erich impresses NWA officials in attendance by press slamming the colossal King Kong Bundy and by drawing the loudest cheers from the crowd after defeating Bundy in a “loser leaves Texas” match.
November 22, 1984 – Thanksgiving night, and Jim Crocket Promotions holds its second Starrcade. It is a modest success, but the Main Event, featuring a “$1 Million” NWA title match between Flair and Dusty Rhodes fails to excite. However, following the match, a surprise appearance from David Von Erich in Greensboro, North Carolina, far from his home base of Texas, creates a buzz. He confronts Flair in the ring and the two have a pull-apart.
March 1, 1985 – A new player on the national scene arrives as Bill Watts expands his Louisiana-based Mid-South Wrestling and acquires a time slot on the emerging “super-station” WTBS, despite the station already airing NWA-affiliated Georgia Championship Wrestling. Watts, Jim Crockett, and Georgia promoter Jim Barnett begin to work on an arrangement to curb the expansion of the “Big Two,” the AWA and WWF. Before long, Fritz Von Erich is brought into the mix. Ric Flair begins an extended tour of the involved territories, including big matches against Mid-South’s Junkyard Dog, Crockett’s Dusty Rhodes, Georgia’s Butch Reed and Texas’ Kevin Von Erich. The last of these sees Flair “break” Kevin’s neck following a Ole and Arn Anderson-assisted spike piledriver. On the same card, the Andersons, NWA tag-team champs at the time, win a tough match against Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez.
May 7, 1985 – The Parade of Champions returns to Texas Stadium, only this time with the cooperation between Watts, Crockett, Von Erich and Barnett. The show has received massive promotion on all of the various territories’ programming and is available throughout the Southeast, Deep South, Texas and Mid-South, as well as a few select other cities. On the card, Kerry and Mike Von Erich with Fritz in their corner defeat the Andersons to win the NWA World tag-team titles. After the match, Arn turns on Ole and beats him down. The Fantastics, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton, make the save. Also, Mid-South North American champion Ted DiBiase drops the belt to Junkyard Dog. A six-man tag match of Terry Taylor, Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez vs. Steve “Dr. Death” Williams and the Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton w/ Jim Cornette) turns out badly for Taylor as his partners abandon him mid-match, turning heel.
In the Main Event, before a rabid crowd of more than 53,000, David Von Erich defeats Ric Flair to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Over the next few months, Von Erich begins a feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts that draws tremendous crowds in the Mid-South circuit, including more than 30,000 fans to the Superdome Supershow in New Orleans over the July 4th weekend. As part of the angle, Roberts also harasses the champ by hiring “hitmen” to take Von Erich down throughout the territories and other NWA regions to build the feud by proxy. Among the memorable moments in that series took place in Tulsa, when David is “blinded” by the mist of the Great Kabuki. Meanwhile, Flair and Anderson go after the other Von Erichs’ tag titles in an extended and bloody feud, while the free exchange of talent between the territories makes the organization a de facto mega-promotion rivaling the “Big Two,” though with not quite the mainstream media attention or nationwide audience. Flair and Anderson decide to gain a numbers advantage, and form a stable with Adams and Hernandez, along with Adams’ valet Sunshine and manager Gary Hart. Dubbing themselves the “Four Horsemen,” the group terrorizes the faces throughout the circuit.
Okay, so that catches us up to where the first “Superfly Effect” column ended, so next time we’ll go forward with all three major U.S. promotions (and maybe a few surprises).
By the way, if you’ve never seen Flair vs. David Von Erich, here’s a match from 1983. Flair bleeds, of course, and the two have a great deal of chemistry together.
Sorry this was not quite as detailed as the first edition, but my knowledge of the NWA is a little sketchy until around 1986 or so. Anyway, thanks for reading.
Tags: Bill Watts, Dusty Rhodes, harley race, Jake Roberts, NWA, Ric Flair, WWE