If you ever wanted to find a guy who was more or less a complete success in wrestling during the 1970’s and 80’s, wrestling golden age of the territories, you need look no further than Dick Slater. Known at times as either “Mr. Unpredictable” and “Dirty Dick”, he tore up Florida and the surrounding areas with his redneck attitude and hard nosed style. I mean, just look at the sheer number of championship belts that at one time or another took up space in his duffle bag (title list courtesy of Wrestling Informer):
– NWA United States
– NWA Television
– NWA Missouri
– NWA Mid-Atlantic
– NWA Georgia
– NWA Georgia Tag
– NWA Florida
– NWA Florida Tag
– NWA Florida Television
– NWA Florida Brass Knuckles
– NWA Southeastern
– Mid-South North American
You have to admit, that’s pretty damn impressive. In fact, it seemed a lock that Slater, known at times would one day wind up the NWA World Champion, but, if rumors be true, that never panned out due to his tendency to be, well, a Dick (and no doubt a Dirty one at that) backstage.
These days, though, if you do a Google search for “Dick Slater”, all you come up with is headlines about how he stabbed his girlfriend in an incident in November of 2003. Which begs the question: how could a man so successful and then fall so far?
I blame Mr. Fuji.
Before I can fully explain that, though, let’s take a look at what happened following Slater’s terrific run throughout the south. In the late 80’s, Slater decided to take a shot at the big time, signing with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation. No doubt hoping to cash in on his popularity south of the Mason-Dixon line, McMahon dubbed Slater “The Rebel” and wrapped him, quite literally, in the confederate flag.
In addition, Slater was filmed in vignettes driving his dilapidated pick up truck through towns so rinky dink they made Mayberry look like the big city of Mount Pilot. If anybody could get those hayseeds down south out to the arenas, surely it would be “The Rebel!”
Except it didn’t turn out that way. Slater didn’t connect at all with the fans in the south, or the north, east, or west, for that matter. In fact, he more or less vanished shortly after his arrival. To be fair, even I had forgotten about the guy, and therefore had zero intention of actually giving “The Rebel” the time of day here at the Crap.
But then I got an email asking me what happened to Slater, which led me to vaguely recall his WWF run. I decided to do a little research, and found a Saturday Night’s Main Event bout featuring our redneck hero against The Magnificent Don Muraco. Suddenly, not only was the Rebel’s induction was an absolute necessity, but the reason for his homicidal binge also became abundantly clear.
Prior to the bout, an interview was conducted with Muraco and his manager, the evil Mr. Fuji. Muraco explained his motives for taking the bout, the first being to protect his friends from the wrath of Roddy Piper.
The second reason, though, was the biggie. And rather than even attempt to explain it, I just present to you this image…
…and this sound bite.
The sad truth had come out. If anyone deserved to drive that truck and be draped in the Southern Cross, no doubt it was Fuji.
For Fuji, allegedly from Japan, was more of a redneck than Slater could ever be.
It was shortly following this bout that Slater pulled his vanishing act, no doubt having been humiliated to such a degree that he felt he could never show his face in public again. Although he reappeared in WCW in the early 90’s, he was no longer the man he once was inside the ring. It was apparent that Fuji’s song and dance number had left his soul forever scarred. It wasn’t long before he retired, shunning the bright lights that had become a spotlight upon his shame.
But deep inside, the rage was there. The rage of being mocked by a master…ummm…mocksman. And finally, after years of lying dormant, that rage came out in a violent, bloody manner.
While we here at the Crap would obviously never condone such barbaric behavior, we have to believe if Slater told the story of Fuji’s torment, and of the endless hours of depression and self doubt he suffered because of it, no judge in the country would convict him.
Well, except one.
But I guess that kind of goes without saying.
– Magnificent Muraco: “The second reason is because we like that rebel redneck song. Hit it Mr. Fuji!”
Mr. Fuji (off key to a degree to a Hogan-esque level): “I wish I were in the land of cotton/old times there were never forgotten/look away, look away, look away Dixieland!”
Muraco: “Yee haw! Bonzai!”