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World Class Championship Wrestling
World Class Championship Wrestling
(WCCW), was a popular regional promotion run out of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Originally owned by promoter Ed McLemore, by 1966 it was run by Southwest Sports, Inc., whose president was Jack Adkisson, better known as wrestler Fritz Von Erich. Beginning as a territory of the
National Wrestling Alliance
, it went independent in 1986 in a bid to become a major national promotion, but was unsuccessful in its attempts and eventually went out of business in 1990. Rights to the WCCW tape library currently belong to
World Wrestling Entertainment
World Class Championship Wrestling
was a member of the
National Wrestling Alliance
and was originally known as
Big Time Wrestling
until 1982, when Adkisson requested the name of his federation to be changed. Mickey Grant, who headed the production of its telecasts, suggested the name
, and from there, the rest was history. WCCW was headquartered in Dallas, Texas and held wrestling events at the famed Sportatorium, located just south of Downtown Dallas, which was also a well-known boxing and wrestling arena as well as the one-time home to the famous Big D Jamboree.
During WCCW's golden years (1981-1985), the company was booked for the most part by Ken Mantell, with
David Von Erich
, Gary Hart, Bruiser Brody and after David's death,
Kevin Von Erich
being the go-to people to keep the success of World Class going. During World Class' heyday, the Adkissons owned the majority of the promotion, with partial ownership held by
, Gary Hart and Bronko Lubich.
WCCW's television programming
Weekly wrestling shows were staged there on Tuesday nights until August 1978, then were moved to Sunday nights until the early '80s, and finally were held on Friday nights until the promotion's demise.
WCCW's syndicated show was usually taped at the Sportatorium beginning in 1981, with two hour-long shows being recorded every other Friday. These telecasts were, in the beginning, seen in only a few markets and were hosted at various times by Gene Goodson, Steve Harms, and Marc Lowrance; when the show was taken over in 1982 by Continental Productions (a subsidiary of local station KXTX) and went to international syndication, well-known north Texas journalist/sportscaster Bill Mercer (a former play-by-play announcer for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox along with other Texas-based teams) became the ringside announcer at the Sportatorium. After Mercer left in 1987 to join Ken Mantell's
Wild West Wrestling
promotion, Lowrance returned to the broadcast position, where he would remain until resigning to become a minister in July 1990. Lowrance would later be paired by former wrestler-turned-matchmaker
for one year, then later by "The Beauty"
, a pro wrestler whom resembles
Lowrance left World Class/USWA in May 1990 to become a full-time Methodist minister, after nearly 10 years with the organization.
Craig Johnson (real name: Jon Horton) replaced Lowrance for the final two months of telecasts, as attempts to bring Bill Mercer back were unsuccessful.
Percy Pringle III
would replace Garvin, who returned to the wrestling ring. Horton eventually went on to host the USWA and GWF telecasts in later years, and Pringle went on to greater fame in the WWF/WWE as Paul Bearer, the manager of The Undertaker. Lowrance did return to the Sportatorium as ring announcer in September 1990 (as did Mercer, who filled in for Lowrance on a few cards), when World Class seceded from the USWA, and appeared occasionally during the 1990s in other Dallas-based promotions such as the
Global Wrestling Federation
. Lowrance is no longer in the business, but does appear at vintage pro wrestling conventions on occasion.
Monday and Saturday night matches
The promotion also held matches on Monday nights in Fort Worth at the North Side Coliseum (an indoor rodeo arena, known today as the Cowtown Coliseum), until the mid-1970s, then relocated to the Will Rogers Memorial Center, where it remained until WCCW discontinued its Fort Worth shows in 1988. These matches aired Saturday nights on local station KTVT, as a 90-minute broadcast entitled
Saturday Night Wrestling
, which was expanded to two hours in November 1983 and retitled
. From late 1988 until the station cancelled wrestling in 1990, KTVT's tapings were held at the Sportatorium on Saturday mornings.
, who had served as ring announcer in Fort Worth for many years prior to the Von Erich era, called the action on KTVT from 1966 until 1976, when Bill Mercer was brought in to replace him. When Mercer moved to the syndicated telecasts, Marc Lowrance took over the KTVT show. As he would with the syndicated series, Jon Horton became host of
for its last few episodes.
Lowrance was also the ring announcer at the Sportatorium for several years before moving to TV full-time; he was originally hired in 1980 to replace Boyd Pierce, who had been with the group since the 1960s and left to join
promotion. Other ring announcers in WCCW included George Preston (1960s), Joe Rinelli (from the 1960s until 1988) and Ralph Pulley (mid-1980s), who also served as a referee for a time. Lowrance, who was 21 at the time, was originally hired for a three-week stint until a permanent replacement was found for Pierce. Soon after, when no one was found, Lowrance's stay with World Class became permanent. Doyle King, and for one week
, worked as fill-in announcers for Lowrance for the Fort Worth telecasts. In 1981, Dallas rock 'n roll singer Gene Summers took over the ring announcing duties for both the Dallas and Fort Worth matches. However, his tenure was cut short due to conflicting European music tours. It was during this time period that he released the now famous recording "Ballad of Moon Dog Mayne" under the pseudonym of Ricky Ringside. Summers' announcing career lasted from March 8, 1981 through May 31, 1981. Marc Lowrance returned to the ring announcing duties in Dallas, and either Ralph Pulley or Joe Rinelli handled the Fort Worth matches.
Big Time Wrestling: 1966-1981
WCCW was originally known as
Big Time Wrestling
and, until the late 1970s, was dominated by its owner, Fritz Von Erich. In 1966, Von Erich and Ed McLemore-owner of the Dallas Sportatorium- bought out the Dallas/Fort Worth Wrestling Office, breaking away from Houston Wrestling Office, which was ran by Paul Boesch. In 1969, Von Erich took sole control over the Office after McLemore died from a heart attack, and also gained ownership of the Dallas Sportatorium. Initially playing his longtime role of a snarling, goose-stepping Nazi monster heel and sometimes teaming with "brother" Waldo, Fritz turned babyface in late 1966 and began feuding with Gary Hart and his stable of wrestlers (which at this time included Karl Von Brauner, Al Costello and the masked Spoilers); the feud between Hart and Fritz (and his sons) would continue off and on for more than two decades. Fritz's other classic rivalries during this early period were with such stars as
Professor Toru Tanaka
Lord Alfred Hayes
The Great Kabuki
. Babyface wrestlers playing secondary roles in the promotion at various times included
. Many of these wrestlers were regular mainstays of the Grand Olympic Auditorium wrestling promotion in Los Angeles, who would compete in Dallas regularly, as did Fritz and several Texas-based wrestlers doing the same to Gene and Mike LeBell's promotion in L.A.
As his sons began to launch wrestling careers of their own in the mid-to-late 1970s, Fritz gradually cut back on his in-ring appearances and concentrated on promoting, finally retiring from the ring altogether after a 1982 NWA American Title win over
King Kong Bundy
at Texas Stadium in Irving. By then, the promotion had switched to the World Class name and was centered around Fritz's sons, Kevin, David and Kerry (and, later, Mike) Von Erich.
Peak years: 1982-1985
Around this same time, WCCW began its hour-long weekly syndicated television show which introduced numerous innovative production techniques, many of which are still commonly used today. The promotion was also the first to use familiar rock songs as entrance music for its wrestlers. Talent deals and exchanges helped WCCW bring in future stars such as
, The Fabulous Freebirds,
, a young
Iceman King Parsons
, Jimmy Phillips, and others. The show was syndicated across the United States, and at one point, arguably scored higher ratings than Saturday Night Live.
The opening sequence of World Class' syndicated broadcasts began with a NASA photo of Earth, taken during the Apollo 16 mission back in 1972. An animated satellite would beam down over Dallas, and as it moves east, the World Class logo would appear and move across to the upper left hand corner of the picture. Two more satellite beams aired two highlights from World Class: one involving a match between Kerry Von Erich and Michael Hayes, and another between David Von Erich and Jimmy Garvin. In late-1984, a different World Class logo was used and two different match sequences: one involving Skandor Akbar urging The Missing Link to head-butt Kerry Von Erich; while the other scene was with Kamala executing a suplex on another wrestler, with his handler Friday outside the ring moving his fist down as Kamala finished his suplex, with announcers Marc Lowrance and Ralph Pulley watching. This opening sequence would be used again in 1991 with Boston-based
International World Class Championship Wrestling
By 1987, the opening sequence changed; beginning with a dusk photo of Dallas, and other shots of the city, including the Dallas North Tollway, before the World Class logo would appear; then scenes of past wrestling events (mostly from the 1987 Texas Stadium event) would follow before the logo reappeared again.
The death of David Von Erich
On February 10, 1984, at the height of the Von Erich-Freebird wars,
David Von Erich
died from an intestinal rupture caused by a stomach ailment just after arriving in Japan for a series of appearances. Although
asserted in his autobiography that most people in wrestling believe David died of a drug overdose, with
flushing pills down a hotel toilet before the police arrived, David's autopsy report indicated no drugs in his system and that his death was definitely caused by acute enteritis. His death was front page news in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, triggering an area-wide outpouring of shock and grief among fans, and was the beginning of the Von Erichs' decline and fall (and WCCW's as well, although attendance levels would remain high for a time).
His death prompted a few changes in upcoming events. The February 10 non-televised card at the Dallas Sportatorium was to have Kamala, The Missing Link and Jimmy Garvin face Chris Adams and Kevin and Kerry Von Erich in the main event. Instead, Brian Adias and King Parsons took Kevin and Kerry's places, and the trio of Adams, Parsons and Adias defeated Kamala, Link and Garvin in an emotional match for all involved. The February 13 card, featured Marc Lowrance and David Manning in the ring alongside Sunshine, Adams, Parsons, Adias, Junkyard Dog, Chief Jules Strongbow, Jimmy Phillips, Bronko Lubich and Johnny Mantell as a ten-bell salute to honor David Von Erich was carried out.
A February 18, 1984 telecast of
World Class Championship Wrestling
was dedicated exclusively to the life of David Von Erich, with wrestlers Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, Harley Race, Chris Adams and Ric Flair paying tribute to the fallen hero. Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant also provided footage of David's earlier times as a high school basketball standout and had an interview with Fritz, Kevin and Kerry during the broadcast. The Von Erichs, who took David's death extremely hard, did not compete again until February 27, when they teamed with Adams to defeat Butch Reed, Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy.
David had been seen by many in the NWA as potential World Championship material. According to Ric Flair, David had indeed been chosen by the NWA to become the World Heavyweight Champion and Flair also stated in his autobiography
To Be The Man
that had David lived, he would have had the potential to be a long-term NWA Champion.
On May 6, 1984, as a tribute to his late brother, Kerry Von Erich finally defeated Ric Flair after a hard-fought 14-minute battle to win the title at the first annual
David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions
supercard held at Texas Stadium in Irving. However, because Kerry already had a reputation within the industry for being unreliable due to substance abuse, the NWA only allowed him a brief title reign; he lost the belt back to Flair in Yokosuka, Japan on May 24 (May 23 in the U.S.) in another hard-fought match.
The match, which did not air on television initially, allowed World Class to use an angle in which Flair cheated in the match, and claimed the referee was a sumo official who did not understand the rules of pro wrestling. The match in fact was officiated by veteran
All Japan Pro Wrestling
referee Joe Higuchi, who found David Von Erich's body the previous February, and was also the one who alerted David Manning of his death.
Afterwards, the Freebirds left World Class in the summer of 1984, and, except for a few appearances, did not return until December 1985. Jimmy Garvin and Precious also departed WCCW during this time to join the AWA.
In 1985, World Class went on a major tour to the Middle East (including Israel). The tour, which ran from August 3 through August 7, was held mostly in Tel Aviv, and proved to be extremely successful, but was also the start of another episode for the Adkisson family, as it was during this tour that Mike Von Erich suffered a separated shoulder (in a tag team match with Kevin against Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams) that led to his near-fatal bout with toxic shock syndrome following surgery. In an ill-advised desperation move that would later infamously backfire, Fritz brought in Pacific Northwest Wrestling Champion, Kevin Vaughn as "cousin"
Lance Von Erich
to fill the gap while Mike was recovering. Fritz billed Lance as the "son" of
Waldo Von Erich
, with whom Fritz tagged years earlier, but was not related to Fritz in any way. Vaughn made his WCCW debut at the 1985 Cotton Bowl event. To this day, it was considered to be the worst idea that Fritz came up with.
Among the main participants on the Israel tour included Kevin and Mike Von Erich, Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, Iceman King Parsons, Freebird Buddy Roberts, Scott Casey, Brian Adias, Rip Oliver, Kelly Kiniski and Johnny Mantell.
On February 4, 1986, local authorities and friends of Gino Hernandez- now one the company's major stars- discovered him dead in his apartment. In addition, the NWA President at the time,
Jim Crockett, Jr.
, had also decided that he would no longer book the NWA World Champion at the time, Ric Flair, to wrestle in the state of Texas. World Class, still reeling over the death of
, withdrew its membership from the NWA on February 20, 1986, became known as the
World Class Wrestling Association
. The NWA American Heavyweight Championship, which had been the promotion's top championship for nearly 20 years, was immediately renamed and declared it to be their "World" title and
e, the holder of the American Heavyweight Championship, was recognized as the promotion's first World champion. While there is no official means of granting a championship "World" title status in professional wrestling, [[
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
]] didn't recognize the championship's status as a "World" title as it had with the AWA, NWA, and WWF titles. It was rumored that the NWA didn't want to give Kerry the title back, and the NWA didn't recognize the faster pace of the sport. The new corporation also gained a deal with ESPN to air a weekly show on the network as well.
As a result of the NWA withdrawal, the WCWA also introduced a title-change rule in which a champion could lose the belt on a disqualification or a countout, much to the dismay of heel wrestlers, who opt to DQ themselves to keep the championship (most notably
). That rule had previously been in place during the 1984
National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship
match between Flair and Kerry Von Erich, and had been used sporadically before World Class seceded from the NWA.
The Freebirds-Von Erich war reignited in late-1985, with Hayes, Gordy and Roberts against Kevin, Kerry and Lance Von Erich; reborn following a surprise gang-up on Kevin and Kerry during a match in Fort Worth, with announcer Marc Lowrance exclaiming that
The Devil has emerged
when returning from the commercial break. John Tatum and Missy Hyatt entered the promotion, and started a feud with The Fantastics and Sunshine. Chris Adams returned in April to do two house shows, and in May received a huge ovation from the crowd at Texas Stadium in his first televised match since the "blinding" angle. Chris did begin an angle with Rick Rude; but not before becoming a full-fledged face. However, when the WCWA was formed Fritz von Erich refused to book his shows outside of Dallas. This move led to a disputes with Fritz von Erich and the company's head booker Ken Mantell, who soon left the WCWA to become the head booker for the newly formed
Universal Wrestling Federation
(UWF); Referee David Manning took Mantell's place. After Mantell's depature in May of 1986, attendance for WCWA shows began to drop greatly; along with Mantell, the new UWF was able to lure away more WCWA talent as well.
During a May 26, 1986 six-man tag match in Fort Worth, Texas, Adams was paired with Lance and Kevin Von Erich against Rick Rude, Kabuki and the One Man Gang. It was the first time since September 30, 1984 that Adams was partnered with a Von Erich in any tag team match, and there was still some tension between Kevin and Chris in the early-going, but that eventually changed as the match progressed. As the match wound down, the One Man Gang was about to launch a major assault on Kevin with a chain. As Kabuki and Rude was distracting referee Bronco Lubich, Adams entered the ring and superkicked OMG, then rolled Kevin on top of him and alerted Lubich that a pin was occurring in the ring. Lubich made the three-count and Chris, Kevin and Lance won the match. After several minutes with Chris and Kevin standing in the center of the ring, Kevin extended his hand, and Chris shook it and the two embraced in the center of the ring, signaling the end of World Class Championship Wrestling's most storied feud. Adams also feuded with Tatum and Hyatt, with Sunshine once again managing Chris.
Chris evidently continued wrestling against Rude on several occasions, and in one match after a
neckbreaker, Chris "regained his eyesight." With the patch gone, Chris became the number one contender to Rude's World Class heavyweight title, and on July 4, 1986, he won it after a hard-fought and bloody battle at Reunion Arena in Dallas. Adams won with a small package when interference from Rude's manager Percy Pringle backfired.
Over the course of the next three months, Chris defended the title almost every week, against challengers like Rude, Kabuki, One Man Gang, Blackjack Mulligan and others. In a non-title match at the Dallas Sportatorium, he lost to the
, who was then known as the Dingo Warrior. In that match, Adams used a piledriver on the Warrior, and somehow the force of the piledriver hit Adams' throat; which had been hit earlier due to interference by manager Percy Pringle during a pre-match altercation. Unable to continue, Adams allowed the Warrior to pin him following a flying elbow. Chris gave the Warrior a title shot, and narrowly defeated him. Adams also faced Abdullah the Butcher in some matches, all of which ended either in a countout or a DQ against Abdullah. Abdullah, Mulligan and Bruiser Brody were involved in a three-way feud during that time; while South African Steve Simpson joined World Class as an ally of Adams and the Von Erichs.
Between July and September 1986, many of the top stars of World Class, including Adams, Parsons, Hyatt, John Tatum, and the Freebirds, defected to the
Universal Wrestling Federation
, following longtime WCCW booker Ken Mantell, who had resigned and joined the UWF after a falling-out with Fritz.
World Class heavyweight champion
was forced to relinquish his championship on September 17, 1986; one day after being convicted of misdemeanor assault from an incident on June 30, 1986 inflight between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Dallas. According to testimony and accounts from the Dallas Morning News, Adams, who was under the influence, verbally assaulted a stewardess when he became belligerent when it was announced that liquor sales would no longer be available in flight. He later then head-butted an American Airlines co-pilot before
Kevin Von Erich
, who was also on the flight, restrained Adams. He left World Class shortly thereafter and joined Ken Mantell in the UWF, when it was told that Adams would lose the belt to Black Bart on September 19 at the Dallas Sportatorium, a decision that enraged Adams, then-booker Gary Hart and several other wrestlers. Adams was sentenced on October 25 to 90 days in jail and fined $500. He began his sentence on November 1.
Kevin Von Erich later defeated
for the World Class heavyweight title at the Cotton Bowl, and hold that belt for nearly a year.
It was also at this point that Kerry Von Erich was involved in a motorcycle accident (June 4, 1986) and suffered injuries that later worsened when he attempted to return to the ring too soon (an attempt said by some observers to have taken place under heavy pressure from Fritz) and would finally necessitate the amputation of his right foot. As a result of this accident, the organization's attendance dropped greatly. WCCW's fortunes declined further in 1986-87 with the Texas oil businesses entering a recession and
Mike Von Erich
's health and substance abuse problems and eventual suicide. As a result of these multiple catastrophes, attendance in both Dallas and Fort Worth plummeted; according to some former WCCW wrestlers, many fans became disillusioned with the Von Erichs as the supposedly "clean-living" brothers' drug use became harder to cover up, and they frequently no-showed cards the promotion booked in smaller towns. Sportatorium cards, which at the beginning of the year before drew well over 4,000 had dropped to less than 1,000 within a time span of six months.
In an attempt to keep World Class hot, by means of running long-term angles,
, who was billed as the childhood friend of the Von Erichs (which is legitimate, since Brian grew up with the Adkissons in Denton and also went to high school with Kerry), began a storyline with them by turning heel against
Mike Von Erich
during a match, then eventually began feuding with
Kevin Von Erich
later on. This angle, similar to the one used with Chris Adams in 1984, proved to be unsuccessful, and pairing Adias with Alberto Madril to form a newer version of
The Dynamic Duo
(and even going so far as using Adams and Hernandez's "Bad to the Bone" as their ring entrance music) made matters worse. Adias lacked the charisma and talent that Adams had during his feud with the Von Erichs, and Kevin and Mike dominated this feud from start to finish. There was one high mark in that feud, when Kevin passed out from concussion complications during an eight-man tag team match. That incident was worked into an angle in which Adias tried to end Von Erich's career by applying the Oriental Spike, a finisher made famous by Terry Gordy. Madril often drew the ire of the crowd by shouting in Spanish, sometimes using obscene language. The Los Angeles native eventually turned babyface and began feuding with Adias by 1987.
Between late-1986 and the latter part of 1987, World Class was behind the UWF as the top promotion in Texas, but things were about to change soon, which would include the return of many major World Class stars by year's end.
In April, World Class suffered another death when Mike Von Erich-who now was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome- was found dead near Lake Lewisville, having committed suicide by overdosing on Placidyl. The upcoming Parade of Champions card held in May was renamed in honor of both David and Mike Von Erich. This event, which drew over 10,000 fans the previous three years, drew less that amount for the 1987 event, which featured Kevin Von Erich defending the World Class title against
Nord The Barbarian
, who in actuality was a protege of Bruiser Brody's. To make matters worse, the WWF had also reached the pinnacle of its success at
III, and began to gain more national exposure. The Dallas Sportatorium received a facelift with a new ring and red, yellow and blue ring ropes with a World Class banner placed at Section D of the arena, with the American flag moved to Section C. By now, attendance for WCCW shows was nearly dead.
Gary Hart (who along with Brody were now World Class' main go-to people) formed a new stable alongside wrestler/manager Phil Apollo (who was then known as
) which included Brian Adias, Al Madril, and Al Perez, who would eventually win the World Class heavyweight title by August. Eric Embry, Frankie Lancaster, The Rock & Roll RPMs (Mike Davis and Tommy Lane), and Jason Sterling (the son of The Missing Link) also competed for a time in World Class.
In mid-1987, after the buyout of the UWF by
Jim Crockett Promotions
, Ken Mantell launched his own
Wild West Wrestling
promotion with the popular Fort Worth nightspot Billy Bob's Texas as its homebase. Headlining for Mantell's group were such former World Class stars as Fabulous Lance (formerly Lance Von Erich, who by then had walked out on Fritz in a dispute over money), Wild Bill Irwin, The Missing Link, Buddy Roberts, Brian Adias, Jack Victory, Tatum and Parsons. Bill Mercer left World Class to become the ring announcer for Wild West Wrestling. After only a few months, Mantell agreed to return to WCCW as co-promoter with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, following Fritz's decision to sell out his interest in the promotion; Wild West was absorbed into WCCW, and most of its talent — with the notable exception of Fabulous Lance, who was now considered
persona non grata
by the Adkissons after his abrupt departure earlier in the year — returned along with Mantell. Wild West Wrestling continued programming by presenting highlights of
Chris Adams, who stayed with the NWA following their buyout with the UWF, abruptly left the NWA over a money dispute, and returned to World Class soon thereafter. Upon returning, Adams worked an angle with Al Perez and manager Gary Hart, engaging in several matches — including one in which he supposedly won the World Class title following a victory over Perez. The decision was reversed by referee John Keaton who was pushed into Adams's superkick by Perez (backup ref Bronco Lubich made the three-count when Adams surprised Perez with a sunset flip), thus Keaton DQed Adams and Perez retained the championship, a match which fans felt was a Dusty Finish. Adams also engaged in a brief feud with Brian Adias, mostly out of the rights to use the ring entrance music
Bad to the Bone
, which Adias used, much to the objection of Adams, who was best known for this ring entrance music with Gino Hernandez.
Kerry Von Erich also returned to World Class, wrestling with a prosthetic foot, and during a November card at the Sportatorium, he interfered in a match between his brother Kevin and Brian Adias. Adias, who taunted Kerry to enter the ring, was discus-punched out of the ring by Kerry, and then later Kerry and Kevin Von Erich drop-kicked manager Percy Pringle out of the ring, which brought the Sportatorium patrons to their feet. Kerry even bodyslammed Ted Arcidi during the post-match brawl.
Upon Ken Mantell's return, WCCW held its final
Christmas Day Star Wars
show, during which one of the most infamous incidents in Texas wrestling history — known to wrestling purists as the "Christmas Day Massacre" — occurred. WCWA champion Al Perez and Kerry Von Erich were scheduled to face each other in a steel cage main event for the title, with Gary Hart handcuffed to Fritz to prevent interference. However, before the match began,
ran in and made disparaging remarks about Kerry and his motorcycle accident, which started a fight. Buddy Roberts, Iceman King Parsons and the late Angel of Death stormed the ring and handcuffed Fritz to the cage, delivering a furious beating while Kerry was cold-cocked by Perez. Eventually Kevin stormed the ring to save both Kerry and Fritz. After the attack, Fritz — who was normally seen walking away from vicious attacks under his own power — was assisted out of the ring by Kerry and Kevin. Upon leaving the ring, Fritz staged a seizure by self-collapsing onto the floor of Reunion Arena, and was supposedly rushed to a hospital; local news media reported this as a top story, not realizing until later that the entire incident had been a work. Kerry, after an hour or so, returned to the ring to face Perez but lost the match due to outside interference from Hart. The next day on Championship Sports, announcer Marc Lowrance recapped the incident throughout the course of the two-hour program.
Afterwards, World Class promoted the renewed Freebird-Von Erich rivalry, but without Michael Hayes, who would eventually return to World Class, as a face, wrestling alongside the Von Erichs, starting a civil war between Hayes, Roberts and Gordy. Gordy would eventually join Hayes and the Von Erichs later on, but this occurred only weeks before the angle ran its course.
One high mark in this renewed rivalry was a February 1988 country-whipping match between Kevin and Kerry against Gordy and Roberts. Iceman King Parsons and Chris Adams got involved in the match, and eventually turned into a six-man brawl. David Sheldon, aka The Angel of Death, also got involved, and orchestrated a four-on-two gangup on both Kerry and Adams with Kevin handcuffed to the ring rope. Kevin managed to escape and chase Sheldon, Roberts, Gordy and Parsons away.
Another hot feud taking place during this period was Chris Adams against both Terry Taylor and Iceman King Parsons, both of whom were brought into WCCW by Mantell. Parsons and Adams resumed their feud that began in the UWF, while Taylor came in during late-January 1988, duping everyone into believing that he was a changed wrestler and wanted to tag-team with Adams again, after a violent feud of their own.
This led to a February 1988 angle at the Sportatorium in which Taylor was to have faced Al Perez for the WCWA World title. Adams came in wondering what Taylor was doing in World Class, and then later went on a tirade against Perez, demanding a title shot. Terry Gordy later came in and began fighting with Adams, with Kerry Von Erich running in to help Adams. With Gordy and Von Erich outside the ring, Taylor sucker-punched Adams, then piledrived Adams twice in the ring with the second one legitimately breaking Adams left hand. Chris was attempting to block the second piledriver, and injured his hand in the process. The Taylor-Perez match never took place, and was ruled a no-contest. Adams missed at least six weeks of action as a result of his injury.
In another strange angle, Adams wrestled Taylor while wearing a catcher's mask, in order to protect Chris from legit injuries he sustained during an earlier match in Missouri. Adams lost that match by DQ when he hit Taylor with the mask.
Meanwhile, Kerry Von Erich won the World Class title from Perez; and lost it to Iceman Parsons following an infamous incident in which the lights at the Sportatorium went out during the match, and when the lights returned, Kerry was down on the mat, with Parsons pinning him. Michael Hayes, who was fighting outside the ring with Buddy Roberts, was also down outside the ring. Many wrestlers believed at one time that Kevin Vaughn, formerly Lance Von Erich, was responsible for the lights being turned off which resulted in the unknown attack on both Hayes and Kerry. Kerry regained the championship the following May at the final Texas Stadium Parade of Champions card.
In the summer of 1988, the major storyline pitted Michael Hayes and Steve Cox against the Samoan Swat Team, managed by Buddy Roberts. Chris Adams, Terry Gordy and Terry Taylor all left World Class at that time (Adams would eventually return towards the end of the year, as a wrestler, promoter and trainer). Gary Hart also left World Class during this time, and would not return to Dallas again until 1991 under the Global Wrestling Federation banner. Hart's decision to stay away from World Class (other than being under contract with the NWA) was mostly due to his concern about the federation that he, Mercer and Grant help build in a time span of eight years, go out of business two years after leaving the federation, as he mentioned in the
Heroes of World Class
DVD documentary, as well as not liking the idea of Ken Mantell buying a portion of the company, which he also revealed on the Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW DVD.
Pro Wrestling USA
(WCCW, CWA, AWA) 1987-1988
Several unsuccessful attempts had been made in 1987-88 to take World Class national; among them was a sparsely-attended
Von Erichs over America
tour, and a merger between World Class, the AWA and CWA the following year. A major pay-per-view card, AWA
III, was held in Chicago in December 1988, featuring a world title unification match in which
defeated Kerry Von Erich. However, SuperClash III was not a hit, and Pro Wrestling USA was dissolved.
The last years: 1989-1990
After SuperClash III, Ken Mantell and Fritz Von Erich sold WCCW to CWA owner
. According to Skandor Akbar, Jarrett got sued by Kevin, although his brother Kerry welcomed Jarrett to the promotion. The combined federation became known as the USWA. Jarrett would run the new USWA out of two headquarters: one in Dallas (the weekly shows in Fort Worth being discontinued at this point), the other in Memphis. In addition, the Sportatorium began to run free wrestling tapings for its
broadcast on KTVT and for several months on its
Wild West Wrestling
program, which in some markets accompanied its
World Class Championship Wrestling
broadcasts, featuring its top stars wrestling preliminary wrestlers and up-and-coming stars, very similar to the Memphis Wrestling programs seen there. These broadcasts lasted until August 1990.
For a time, the USWA Dallas promotion continued under the World Class banner to build up a storyline in which Eric Embry, who was now the group's booker and lead babyface, was feuding with Skandor Akbar and his Devastation Inc. stable (which at this time included a young Mick Foley, billed as Cactus Jack Manson) for control of the organization. Besides Foley,
began his career as
days, and a young Steve Austin also began his career during the Jarrett era.
The Dallas Sportatorium was refurbished with a new ring, and ring aprons with the
logo. Section D also had a large yellow banner promoting Renegades, which did not sit well with some longtime patrons who were more used to the American flag or the World Class banner displayed there. The main camera position was also relocated to the Section D area, and the broadcast table returned to its original position on the southern end of the arena. For a time, a USWA wrestling banner was placed above the Section D sign, but was later moved adjacent to the E and F sections of the Sportatorium, or the east corner of the arena.
Its syndicated programs,
World Class Championship Wrestling
Wild West Wrestling
was later renamed
USWA Main Event
respectively. The latter program featured a main event of its Saturday
program, with the remainder of the program featuring past World Class cards dating as far back as late-1987. These two programs aired in this format until 1991.
Among the hot feuds that was promoted included Chris Adams & Toni Adams vs. Phil Hickerson & Tojo Yamamoto; Kerry Von Erich vs. Tarras Bulba (with Kerry doing a stretcher job against Bulba, pinned by Bulba's iron claw); and Eric Embry vs. Billy Travis. Travis later feuded with Chris Adams, Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Von Erich. Kerry later wrestled against Mark Calaway, who was known as
at that time, while Embry was involved in a
angle (similar to the angle used with Chris Adams nearly four years before) involving a white bottle (which may have been Freebird Hair Cream) which Travis used against Embry to blind him.
In fact, Billy Travis became the Sportatorium's biggest heel wrestler who would often sing a line of various songs during ringside interviews, heckle the crowd (a la Gino Hernandez), and on several occasions smash a wooden guitar over the head of several wrestlers. One notable such incident occurred in October 1989 when he cold-cocked Percy Pringle with a guitar during an interview, then claimed that the guitar was given to him by Mick Jagger.
During one incident, Travis spanked Toni Adams in the center of the ring at the Sportatorium (a la Sunshine six years before at the Dallas Fair Park Auditorium), with Chris handcuffed on the ring rope; and in another infamous incident, Travis cold-cocked Adams with a coke bottle over his head, prompting announcer Marc Lowrance to announce that Adams
may be dead
. Chris only received a minor cut on his scalp and returned to wrestle the following day, even disguising himself as another wrestler to gain revenge against Travis.
In December 1989, Adams and Embry began feuding. This was brought about during a tag team match in which Embry began arguing with Toni Adams, who then shoved Toni to the floor of the arena, prompting Adams to attack him. The angle, developed by Embry and Adams, had two of the most popular wrestlers in the promotion paired as a tag team, and arguments would ensue following two significant losses; including a tag team tournament match against Gary Young and Billy Travis. The angle brought mixed reaction to the fans, and a grudge match was signed between the two babyfaces. Most of the Sportatorium crowd sided with Adams during the match, which ended in a double-disqualification. Afterwards, Embry, left the promotion for a few months. He returned to wrestle several matches in 1990, but disappeared again when the Adkissons began to take more control towards the promotion. When Embry returned in 1991 (after the demise of World Class), he reverted to his heel status.
Two major feuds erupted in 1990: one between Chris Adams and "Stunning" Steve Austin (later "Stone Cold" Steve Austin), and the other between Kerry Von Erich and Matt Borne (later the first Doink the Clown). The Adams-Austin feud started slow, but eventually picked up huge heat thanks in part to good promoting by Adams, whom decided to bring in former wife Jeanie Clark (also known as Jeanie Adams for a time, and later married to Austin) and then-current wife Toni Adams into the feud; resulting in a mixed tag-team war very similar to the Adams-Sunshine vs. Garvin-Precious battles of the early 1980s.
The Kerry Von Erich-Matt Borne feud began in May 1990 when Borne turned heel by attacking Chris Von Erich during an interview segment at the Sportatorium. A week or so later, Borne and Von Erich battled in a
pinfall counts anywhere in the building
match, which eventually continued outside the Sportatorium. During the outside confrontation (in a thunderstorm, among other things), Von Erich slammed Borne onto the hood of a parked vehicle and also attempted to attack him with a piece of two-by-four. Minor damage occurred with the vehicles, and the ensuing fight continued until Chris Adams, Jeff Jarrett, and others broke up the brawl.
Promoter Max Andrews
Kerry for his actions, but no time frame was given as to how long he was suspended. This drew the ire of Borne, who demanded the USWA forefit Kerry's Texas heavyweight belt. Instead, Kerry was reinstated days later as the two battled for the belt, which Borne won thanks to interference by Percy Pringle.
Pringle joined Borne in his feud with Kerry, until June 1990, when Von Erich left for the WWF. Percy later joined Austin and Clark in their feud with Chris and Toni Adams, with Chris Von Erich and at times Kevin Von Erich getting involved.
Another feud that drew headlines was between "Hollywood" John Tatum and Bill Dundee, with valet Tessa in the middle of the feud. Originally brought in by Tatum, Tessa, like Sunshine years before, turned face and joined Dundee's side. During a match against Tatum, Kevin Von Erich, who beat Tatum, swept Tessa off her feet and carried her into the dressing room much to the dismay of Tatum.
During a July 1990 match, Tatum knocked Tessa unconscious following a superkick to the head, resulting in Tessa being carried out on a stretcher. In that same event, Toni Adams was carried out on a stretcher following a flying splash from the top rope onto Toni on the concrete floor by Steve Austin, while Toni was on top of her husband Chris, who was piledrived on the concrete floor by Austin earlier, to protect him. These two incidents resulted in a few stations cancelling its
broadcasts due to its violent nature.
Under Jarrett, World Class/USWA Dallas was finally able to turn itself around financially, and became modestly profitable during the 1989-1990 period. However, because of a revenue dispute with the Adkissons (who still owned 40 percent of the Dallas promotion), Jarrett ultimately pulled the promotion out of Dallas in September 1990. Shortly before Jarrett's departure, KTVT dropped its long-running Saturday night wrestling telecasts; according to some reports, the cancellation was the result of frequent on-air profanity (mostly used by Eric Embry), despite multiple warnings from station management, as well as the controversial superkick incident between Tatum and Tessa.
Kevin Von Erich, without the benefit of television (as the result of KTVT's cancellation of Saturday Night's
), the absence of his brother Kerry (who was in the WWF as
The Texas Tornado
), and longtime World Class guru Gary Hart (who was under contract with WCW at the time), began promoting Sportatorium wrestling himself, bringing back the World Class Championship Wrestling name. Longtime World Class mainstays Chris Adams, King Parsons, Kevin's brother Chris Von Erich, Percy Pringle, John Tatum, David Sheldon, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jeanie Clark and Toni Adams remained, while wrestlers associated with the Memphis end of the USWA left. Steve Simpson and Brian Adias also returned to the promotion, with a few appearances by former WCCW referee David Manning. Initially, the return of World Class proved to be a modest success (which included the return of ring announcer Marc Lowrance and a few appearances by Bill Mercer), but financial sources ran out quickly and attendance at the Sportatorium dropped considerably to as many as less than 500. As a result, on November 23, 1990, Von Erich held its last World Class Championship Wrestling card at the Sportatorium, which featured Kevin winning the Texas heavyweight championship from David Sheldon (The Angel of Death) in the card's final match. After that match, referee Bronko Lubich announced his retirement from the sport. Lubich would return a few times as a special referee afterwards in the Global Wrestling Federation, with his last appearance in 1994. Lubich died in 2007.
A month later, the USWA returned to the Sportatorium, but only for a limited basis, as promoters Max Andrews, Joe Pedicino, Grey Pierson and Boni Blackstone were getting their Global Wrestling Federation promotion ready to go for the summer of 1991. WCCW veterans went on to compete in other promotions, including Gary Hart's Texas All-Pro Wrestling group in North Dallas.
After the fall
Several attempts to revive WCCW since then have been modest at best: in 1991, Kevin Von Erich began a working agreement with Boston-based International Championship Wrestling, which renamed itself
International World Class Championship Wrestling
. During that brief time in IWCCW, Kevin had a legendary interview in which Tony Rumble, aka The Boston Bad Boy, made derogatory remarks about Kevin and his brothers, after which Kevin ran Rumble out of the interview studio. The following year, Kevin began promoting a few scattered cards under the WCCW banner (featuring Kerry, who had been released from the WWF, and Chris Adams). Finally, in 1997, Gary Hart -- with no participation by either Kevin or Fritz -- launched a World Class-in-name-only independent promotion at the Sportatorium. This organization, known as
World Class II: The Next Generation
, featured only a few of the surviving wrestlers from the original WCCW group (most notably Chris Adams, Iceman Parsons and Maniac Mike Davis), as well as Gary's son, Chad Hart; it folded in less than a year. That promotion was also co-owned by Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant, and some believe that Adams was also a silent partner in World Class II. Adams, Mike Davis and Terry Gordy died in 2001, and the Sportatorium, which stood since 1934, was demolished in 2003, but not before Kevin Von Erich toured the damaged arena for the last time, along with filmmaker Brian Harrison. Gary Hart died in 2008.
Kevin Von Erich released a compilation DVD of classic Von Erichs matches in 2004. Rumors of an impending WWE buyout of the WCCW video library began to spread on internet message boards the following year, and on June 5, 2006, the company issued a press release announcing that the purchase had been finalized. WWE released a DVD entitled
The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling
on December 11, 2007. A documentary by Chicago filmmaker Brian Harrison on WCCW and the Von Erichs,
Heroes of World Class
, was released on DVD on June 15, 2006, to rave reviews from fans and critics alike. An updated "Director's Cut" DVD of
Heroes of World Class
, 30 minutes longer than the original, was released in December 2006. The documentary featured interviews from several of the key figures in World Class, including Kevin, Mercer, Grant, Hart, Adams, Skandor Akbar, Marc Lowrance, David Manning and Johnny Mantell.
On 2/14/07 WWE 24/7 had the debut of WCCW on WWE 24/7 hosted by Kevin Von Erich and Michael "P.S." Hayes.
Danny "Bulldog" Plechas
Tully Blanchard (mid-1970s)
Fred St. Clair
Cowboy Tony Falk
WCCW Parade of Champions
WCCW Cotton Bowl Extravaganza
WCCW Wrestling Star Wars
WCCW Fritz Von Erich Retirement Show
WCCW Cotton Bowl Firecracker Special
WCCW Super Summer Bash
World Class titles
Continental Wrestling Assoiation Southwestern Heavyweight Championship
National Wrestling Alliance Texas Brass Knuckles Championship
- Later renamed NWA Texas Hardcore Championship in 1999
National Wrestling Alliance Texas Heavyweight Championship
- later renamed the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship before eventually being renamed the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship in 1998
National Wrestling Alliance Texas Tag Team Championship
- was renamed the WCWA Texas Tag Team Championship after WCCW's withdrawal from the NWA. Renamed the NWA Texas Tag Team Championship in 1998.
World Class Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
- also known as the NWA American Heavyweight Championship until WCCW's withdrawal from the NWA in Feb. 1986
World Class Championship Wrestling World Light Heavyweight Championship
World Class Championship Wrestling World Six-Man Tag Team Championship
- also known as the WCCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship until World Class' withdrawal from the NWA in Feb. 1986
World Class Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
- also known as the NWA American Tag Team Championship until WCCW's withdrawal from the NWA in Feb. 1986
World Class Championship Wrestling Middle Eastern Championship
World Class Championship Wrestling Television Championship
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