A VERY special THANK YOU to Linden Walker for his invaluable help on this induction
July 14, 1984.
A date which will live in infamy in the minds of southern wrestling fans. If you’ve been coming to the site for awhile, read Death of WCW or picked up a copy of WWE’s The Rise And Fall of WCW, you most likely know why but allow us to again explain the non-WWE version of events that transpired aka “What REALLY Happened”.
Georgia Championship Wrestling (despite dwindling in terms of quality) was one of the highest rated shows on cable television, if not THE highest rated show on cable television. GCW (or WCW as it came to be called, not to be mistaken with Turner’s renaming of Jim Crockett’s NWA promotion in 1991) had been a permanent staple of WTBS since 1972. The President of GCW/WCW, Ole Anderson was…well, to put it nicely, a real jerk who alienated his business partners and short changed them on their profit sharing checks. Around this same time, Vince McMahon needed more TV clearances for the WWF, as he had gambled his company on the national expansion plan we’re all quite familiar with. Getting one based in the southern U.S. would be necessary, as that was uncharted territory for Vince and his company. Vince possessed the advantage of having the highest rated show on the USA Network, so if he could obtain the TBS time slot, he would be in control of both of the national cable clearances available in wrestling at that point in time.
There was only one problem.
When Vince approached WTBS owner Ted Turner about it, Ted turned his request down pronto.
Vince, not being one to handle rejection in stride, decided to go through the back door and approached Jack Brisco about a buy out. Jack, along with his brother Gerry Brisco (who would become the sub to Vince’s dom, speaking of backdoor…) owned 25% of the company and between them and Jim Barnett, they decided to sell the company out from under Ole Anderson. Needless to say, Ole was none-too-pleased.
Of course in 1984, the internet and “dirt sheet” newsletters were not as widely available so all of this transpired pretty much in secret, with the casual wrestling fan having absolutely zero knowledge of these shady business dealings.
So completely oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes, GCW fans would tune in to WTBS every Saturday night to be welcomed warmly by host/announcer, Gordon Solie. I can confidently say there will never be another Gordon Solie in the world of wrestling. Much like Lance Russell and Pre-WWF Jim Ross, Gordon would figuratively be our guide while conducting interviews with the wrestlers and calling the action during a match, convincing us the viewers of the sincerity of each babyface and heel.
Also in GCW at this time were familiar names like The Road Warriors…
…a sober, lucid and athletic Jake Roberts…
…Nikolai Volkoff, who can’t stop talking about the ’84 Olympics in each promo and disappointed he was not the star of Gymkata…
…Dusty Rhodes, who recorded the self-serving clip montages of himself to wack his bag to later on…
…Ted Dibiase, great interview and working-class ASS KICKER…
…and I haven’t a clue who this sharp-dressed fellow is. I’m kidding of course.
Everyone knows NWA champion, Leslie Nielsen!
(Note from RD: I can just hear Solie asking Flair, “Surely that suit didn’t cost $10,000” and Flair replying, “It sure did, Gordon…and stop calling me Shirley. Woooooo!”)
As you can see, GCW was pretty well-established with good talkers and guys that could get the job done in the ring. The fans in the south flocked to GCW live events in droves and watched the television shows faithfully.
Now, picture this. It’s July 14, 1984. You’re tuned to WTBS on Saturday night, all geared up to watch some exciting, fun wrestling action with guys you’re already familiar with. You probably have a pizza and some beer all ready for consumption, ready for Gordon Solie to open up the show and let you know what’s in store for you tonight.
Well…you’re in for a surprise, southern wrasslin’ fan.
Opening up the show this week is not our pal Gordon Solie but Freddie Miller, GCW’s co-host and ring announcer. He begins by saying, “On behalf of WTBS, it’s a pleasure to welcome the World Wrestling Federation. Exciting new matches, great compet-“
Wait, hold the phone…..Did he just say the words, “World Wrestling Federation”?
Obviously this is quite a faux pas on Freddie’s part.
OH MY GOD!!! HE’S SHAKING HANDS WITH VINCE MCMAHON!!!!
THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING – AND IT’S BEING TELEVISED ON THE SUPERSTATION!
I’m sure that’s the thought that went through the minds of most GCW fans as they watched this exchange transpire on television. That’s like tuning in to watch an episode of House but instead you get a sitcom starring Octo-Mom and the fruits of her Giants Stadium-sized womb.
Vince stands in front of the WCW backdrop claiming that you GCW fans who tuned in disappointed that Gordon and the other guys you enjoyed watching aren’t around, will be exposed to “the greatest professional wrestling entertainment in the world today. And if you don’t like it, you can kiss my AAAAASSSSSS!” Then he proceeded to make 9-year old Trish Stratus crawl around on all fours and bark like a dog while Linda came out to knee Freddie in the groin.
Of course none of that happened because this is when Vince tried to convince us all what a down-to-earth, nice, wimpy announcer, non-territory-conquering kinda guy he was.
But HEY, maybe he’s right! After all, the WWF was getting national exposure in every facet of media. Maybe there’s something to all this attention. Let’s give this WWF “sports entertainment” stuff a shot.
The first match of the WWF on TBS is a tag match involving big name jobber S.D. Jones and stereotypical Italian name jobber Nick DiCarlo (seriously, my people always end up being jobbers!) VS. svelte biker badass Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch.
I’d like to add that these matches were previously seen in syndication.
That’s right – Vince was running reruns on his big Superstation debut!
To be fair, the match is okay. But replacing Gordon Solie’s easy-going but spot-on match commentary is the incomparable team of Vince McMahon and Tony Garea.
You’ve never heard more insightful commentary when Vince starts using terms such as, “(insert noun or adjective)-like” and “(insert body part)-area” and Tony proclaims in an uninterested tone, “What a maneuver by Nick DiCarlo. That arm bar is beautifully applied”.
How can you “beautifully apply” an arm bar? You just put it on the guy! It’s not like doing a standing shooting star press or something.
Next we get a “very special” interview with Mr. Fuji and George “The Animal” Steele. What’s so very special about it? No indication is given.
But boy am I enjoying it.
Those guys like Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase and Jake Roberts really bored me to tears with all their big words and stringing those words together to form sentences which in term formed concepts. It’s so much easier listening to one guy that can’t speak English and one that struggles for 3 minutes to shout Fuji’s name then proceeds to eat a turnbuckle pad.
The WWF takes time to announce upcoming live events, one being held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The southern fans are gonna love the WWF even MORE now!
The next match on WWF’s first show on TBS is Chris Curtis Vs. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, wearing a t-shirt from Plato’s Retreat in NYC, which was theplace to go if you desperately wanted an STD but couldn’t take the hassle of sexing one person at a time.
Jesse keeps pointing to Scott Studwell from the Minnesota Vikings in the crowd and challenging him.
And keeps calling him out. For like 6 hours straight.
I love Jesse and all, undeniably quick and entertaining on the mic…but man he was horrible in the ring.
Next we get Mean Gene interviewing Alexis Smirnoff, who alternates between a bad Russian accent via Canada to a pirate voice. He declares he’ll step his opponent’s brain out with his big “kuzzack”, matey.
Gene speculates to the home viewer that word means a foot or a leg. Wow, Gene. What deductive reasoning skills you have. I thought Alexis was talking about his mule.
So far WWF has been hitting these interview segments right out of the ballpark, and beaning unsuspecting people in the skull.
Next match up is the “Dangerous Jokester” from every slasher flick of the 80s vs. The Iron Sheik. The match is about as exciting as you expect, ie, not at all.
But Sheik was in good physical shape for an older gentleman at this time and didn’t yet possess an 8 months pregnant belly and piss his pants on Opie & Anthony’s XM Sirius radio show.
Mel Phillips is the ring announcer on the final match, smuggling foot cream and GI Joe action figures in his hair, no doubt.
The last match of the show is Big John Studd (“giant-like”, as Vince calls him) vs. Bobo Brazil, who has to be pushing 90 at this point.
Strange: two big guys in a 5 minute bear hug isn’t as sportsly entertaining as I thought they’d be.
“The show sucks!! I can’t watch anymore!!”
The show does suck, no doubt, but it may be cataracts too.
The show ends with Gene interviewing Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (a recent GCW escapee), who keeps reminding us how arrogant and womanizing he is. “When women see me, the divorce rate goes up” “It doubles?” “I’ve been in a few”. Ah, he’s not only arrogant and womanizing but he golfs too.
I wonder if that’s where Barry Darsow got the idea for his evil golfer gimmick?
Vince closes the show by promising a (pre-taped) match from Hulk Hogan on the show next week. “Never has 300 pounds looked as good as it looks on *sigh* the 6’8″ frame…”
I swear to you, Vince just sighed and swooned talking about Hulk’s muscley physique.
Their next show should be broadcast from a bath house in San Francisco.
Freddie joins Vince after the break to kiss Vince’s rear, pretend like he enjoyed the show and basically tell the fans, “you’ll get used to it, people. And if you don’t like it, tough cause it’s here to stay, Goodnight, everybody!”
Well, this first WWF show on TBS didn’t go as great as Vince thought it would. Instead of welcoming the WWF’s innovative product with open arms, the station was flooded with over 1,000 phone calls and letters of complaint from people wanting to know where GCW went. Ted Turner also was not too happy with the results, as the ratings for the WWF on TBS went right down the U-bend.
That ratings nose dive? Probably not a fact that WWE will likely mention any time soon.
Ted decided to fix this problem by giving a time slot to Bill Watts’s Mid-South wrestling on TBS to air on Sunday nights, which made WWF’s ratings look even worse by comparison. Also, Ted requested that Vince tape live shows in the Techwood Drive Studios, no more pre-taped arena footage. But Vince did not come through on this part and found himself in legal hot water with Ted. Vince then turned to Jim Barnett for help, who in turn told Vince to go to Jim Crockett for help. Crockett was friendly with Ted and wanted to have a time slot on TBS, so he bought Vince out for a million dollars and all was well once again.
But Vince would never forgive Ted for this humiliation and in his mind, declared TOTAL WAR on Ted Turner that would end 17 years later with Vince McMahon’s victory, only due to the gross incompetence of Turner’s employees who had next to no knowledge of wrestling or how to run a business.
And we, the wrestling fans, are suffering the consequences of their incompetence to this very day.
So Black Saturday may well be long-forgotten history…but we still get to witness Black Mondays pretty much each week at 9pm EST.