Mid-South #19 Page #2

Unlike most cities of its size, New Orleans did not construct any kind of large civic arena capable until the 19,000 capacity New Orleans Arena opened in the fall of 1999. Resources that might have gone towards such a building in the 1970s went to The Superdome. At times in the 1980s the 10,000 seat Lakefront Arena was utilized at the University of New Orleans, but never on a regular basis. The Superdome thus became a home for Mid-South Wrestling due to a desire to put on major cards and because no other suitable venue existed at a time when the promotion was on fire. 

The first pro wrestling event at The Superdome predates the Mid-South era. Leroy McGuirk’s Tri-States promotion ran a supercard at The Superdome on July 17, 1976, headlined by an NWA World Title defense by Terry Funk against Cowboy Bill Watts and featuring appearances by Andre The Giant, Dick The Bruiser, Ted DiBiase, Grizzly Smith, Ken Patera, and more. McGuirk ran another Superdome Spectacular on July 22, 1978 that drew more than 31,000 fans making this show one of the highest attended cards of the modern era to that point. This card’s main event pitted Ray Candy against Ernie Ladd in a steel cage match as well as other bouts featuring the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Superstar Billy Graham, Paul Orndorff, and Bruiser Brody. McGuirk ran further shows at The Superdome on Christmas 1978 and on July 21, 1979. Around that time Bill Watts split from Leroy McGuirk and formed Mid-South Wrestling. After the split New Orleans became even more important in the scheme of things. With only Louisiana and Mississippi under the Mid-South banner for the first few years of the promotion’s existence, New Orleans was easily the largest market and it became vital to Watts to maximize the gate receipts in this city.  

Long after the evenings have faded in to the past, memories linger of the matches. There are far too many to mention in this article, but let’s take a look at some of the truly memorable matches from The Superdome. Some matches settled feuds. Other matches stood out for different reasons due to an odd pairing or the involvement of a future star. Regardless, all of these matches add to the lore of Mid-South Wrestling and gives us a memento of an era that sadly ended far too soon.  

One of the main events of the June 1, 1985 show featured Ric Flair defending the NWA World Title against Terry Taylor. No one loved to party like the Nature Boy so one could imagine what he would be like in New Orleans. Flair closed down Bourbon Street and wasn’t home until the sun came up. The night of the card Flair spent most of the show lying on a bench in the locker room sleeping. Taylor worried about how Flair would ever get through the match, but when it came time to wrestle Flair, as always, was ready to go. Throughout the match Flair wrestled as though he had quiet evening at his hotel and then turned in at 9:00 pm for 12 hours of peaceful sleep. As the match went on Flair got stronger and wanted to keep going. Pretty soon it was Terry Taylor who was out of gas! As Taylor hoped for a conclusion Flair kept the match going, working his magic, now not only entertaining the audience, but also himself and the wrestlers in the back by dragging out the match with the exhausted Taylor. Finally the rib was over as Flair pinned Taylor to retain the NWA World Title after more than 40 minutes of wrestling. 

That same show featured the appearance of one the greatest sports legends of all time, Muhammad Ali. Ali had loved professional wrestling since his youth and was on hand on this day to second The Snowman, the reigning Mid-South TV Champion. The Snowman’s opponent on the day was devious heel Jake “The Snake” Roberts. There was a spot where Ali was supposed to intimidate Roberts, but Jake being Jake didn’t act fearful or intimidated at all although he did finally sell Ali’s knockout punch in the end. 

Sometimes the results of matches defied expectations. When Bill Watts teamed with Hacksaw Jim Duggan on August 10, 1985 against General Skandor Akbar, Kamala, and Kareem Muhammad in a handicap match, most fans still believed that the babyfaces would prevail. Instead Watts was pinned and had to depart his own promotion due to the “loser leaves town” stipulation. Another shocking result came on July 16, 1983 when King Kong Bundy defeated Dusty Rhodes in a Texas Bullrope match, Dusty’s own specialty bout. On June 16, 1984 Magnum TA, by this time on the verge of cementing his status as a major star, pinned Ted DiBiase at a time when Ted seemed unbeatable. 

The Superdome Spectaculars with their high prestige and high pay outs afforded the opportunity to bring in many major stars from outside Mid-South. Andre The Giant actually appeared at The Superdome seven times which is more than many Mid-South regulars made. Dusty Rhodes was never a regular member of Mid-South crew but still appeared at many times at The Superdome. Kerry Von Erich, The Road Warriors, Sgt. Slaughter, Dick The Bruiser, Tommy Rich, and Hulk Hogan were also major out of town names that made the trip to the Bayou State. Harley Race and Ric Flair both defended the NWA World Title in New Orleans. 

The Superdome was a site of betrayal. On August 10, 1985, while serving as special guest referee, Bob Sweetan turned heel, throwing a Mid-South Tag Team Title defense by Ted DiBiase and Steve Williams to the champions after turning against Jake Roberts and Nord The Barbarian. The Superdome was where future stars like Shawn Michaels, Brian Blair, Bill Irwin, Buddy Landel, Arn Anderson (then called Marty Lunde), and Shane Douglas appeared in preliminaries long before becoming household names among wrestling fans. The Superdome was where some past their primes but still capable veteran stars had a moment to shine for wrestling fans of new era such as Crazy Luke Graham, Baron Von Raschke, and in the mid 1980s Cowboy Bill Watts. The Superdome also played hosts to matches that would not have taken place on a run of the mill card. On March 30, 1985 The Rock n Roll Express won a four corners elimination match over The Road Warriors, The Dirty White Boys (Len Denton and Tony Anthony), and The Fabulous Freebirds (Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts). Certainly this was the only occasion that all four of these teams faced off in one bout. May 1, 1982 saw another rare bout as the unlikely team of Andre The Giant and Dick Murdoch fell to the even less likely duo of Harley Race and One Man Gang. 

Most of all, The Superdome was a site for revenge. This was the venue to settle the score. All the prestige and bragging rights of many a feud was settled in The Crescent City. The largest ever crowd, 31,000 strong, to watch a pro wrestling match at The Superdome actually turned up on July 22, 1978, back during the Tri-States era to watch Ray Candy defeat his hated enemy Ernie Ladd. Possibly the most famous match in the history of not only this stadium, but of Mid-South Wrestling occurred on August 2, 1980 when Junkyard Dog avenged his blinding and humiliation at the evil hands of The Fabulous Freebirds by thrashing Michael Hayes in a dog collar match held inside a steel cage. Junkyard Dog’s “close personal friend” Stagger Lee mopped up on Ted DiBiase at the 1982 Thanksgiving show. Hacksaw Jim Duggan not only stopped DiBiase in 1983 but defeated him again on March 30, 1985 in a combination glove on a pole, tuxedo, steel cage, street fight match to settle the latest chapter of this long running feud. Lest anyone think that Ted couldn’t get a win on the main stage, he an Steve Williams knocked off The Rock n Roll Express on June 1, 1985 and Ted got a big singles win over Bob Roop on Thanksgiving night 1981 to retain the North American Title.  

In the later years of Mid-South’s Superdome Spectaculars, attendance began to fall, even at a time when the promotion was generally faring well at the gate. Several factors explain this change in fortune. For one thing Mid-South ran the building too often. Initially the promotion utilized The Superdome about twice per year, once in the summer and once around the winter holidays. That was few enough to make the shows seem truly special. However in both 1983 and 1984 there were three shows at The Superdome with the shows split between April, June or July, and November. Gates were still strong enough and well they should have been as 1984 was arguably the best year ever for Mid-South from a promotional standpoint. In 1985 Mid-South ran the venue a whopping four times with shows in March, June, August, and November and attendance did drop from past heights. Some of this is attributable to the promotion cooling off after such a hot 1984. However it can’t be denied that Mid-South ran The Superdome often enough to make cards there seem less like a special event and more like a glorified house show unworthy of distant views and higher ticket prices. Ultimately crowds dropped from 20,000 or more to 10,000 to 15,000 and the final two events, held in 1987 during the UWF era, drew terribly only about 4,000 or so. When Jim Crockett Promotions closed the UWF a great era of wrestling at The Superdome, the city of New Orleans, and the Mid-South region in general came to an end. The WWF ran The Superdome in the 1980s and WCW came in with Nitro in the late 1990s, but it wasn’t the same. The true legacy of professional wrestling at The Superdome will always belong to Mid-South. 


Having looked at The Superdome, next time we’ll review some of the great moments of another storied Mid-South venue, the Irish McNeill Boys Club in Shreveport, LA. 

Back to Mid-South Main