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As a result, Hacksaw Butch Reed got a title shot and beat the Dog in July of 1983 to become the new Champ. Reed was a killer bad guy, and took over as the territory's lead heel once Ted DiBiase left for a tour of Georgia. Reed's best heel quality was this total arrogance he walked around with. He knew he was the best, and if he wasn't, he would figure out a way to cheat for a victory.
Reed was the undisputed kingpin until he decided that he would let the fans choose his opponent for a televised title defense in October of 1983. The fans got to choose between Crusher Darsow, Magnum TA, Hacksaw Duggan, and The Junkyard Dog. Not surprisingly, the fans chose The Junkyard Dog. Reed, however, said that he had faced the Dog enough and he wouldn't give him a shot. He chose instead to defend the belt against a relatively inexperienced Magnum TA. Reed obviously thought he would have no trouble handling the still green TA. And, he might have been right, but the Mid-South bookers threw a wrench in the works when they appointed The Junkyard Dog as the special referee for the match. After JYD stopped Reed from coming off of the top turnbuckle onto Magnum, a move that would have gotten Reed disqualified, Magnum TA caught Reed with a belly to belly suplex and walked away with the North American Title.
About two weeks after Magnum beat Reed, the Russian Strongman, Nikolai Volkoff pounded Magnum and took the title. But, all was not as it seemed, because Mid-South officials had decided that Magnum's victory over Reed was invalid for several reasons. First of all, JYD was supposed to be the opponent, not Magnum TA. Second, the Dog was not a suitable referee. And third, Reed should have been disqualified for coming off the top rope. So, in an unprecedented move in Mid-South history, Volkoff was stripped of the belt, and it was returned to Butch Reed. However, Mid-South also declared that since JYD was the people's choice as an opponent for Reed, he would be given a title shot two days later at a TV taping. This time, Mid-South chose the special referee for the big title match. And that man was none other than the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. With the Living Stardust keeping law and order, The Junkyard Dog pinned Butch Reed to become the Champion for a fourth time. This was also the fourth time in October of 1983 that the title changed hands. Of course it was the only time it was official. Whew, that was one busy month!
The Dog enjoyed a fairly long reign after all was said and done. He managed to turn back repeated challenges from Reed, Volkoff and his protégé Krusher Kruschev, and many others. JYD finally got knocked off the throne in March of 1984 by none other than Mr. Wrestling II. II had been in a tremendous angle with Magnum TA which I'll be spending a future column discussing, but let me just recap it in a nutshell this time. II had been acting as Magnum's coach. At first, all was going well. But, when Magnum was declared the number one contender to JYD, II got furious. He became insanely jealous of Magnum. He even deserted TA in a tag-team match against The Midnight Express that not only cost he and TA the tag titles, but also forced Magnum to take ten lashes with a belt. II challenged the Dog, and said JYD was only going to wrestle TA since he knew he could beat him. TA finally stepped aside, and gave II the shot. II then stunned everyone by using a loaded kneepad to finish off the Dog, and officially complete his heel turn.
Wrestling II was still feuding big with Magnum, even though the two hadn't met in the ring yet. There were several incidents where II tried to get Magnum angry enough to get in the ring with him. He even slapped Magnum in the face on a couple of occasions on Mid-South TV. Finally, TA had enough. He agreed to meet his former mentor in the ring. And in May of 1984, Magnum TA finally lived up to all the hype by defeating Mr. Wrestling II for the Title.
TA had a good run on top. He defended the belt against the challenges of Mr. Wrestling II (now calling himself Mr. Wrestling) and his new masked protégé, who turned out to be none other than Hercules Hernandez. He also battled Hacksaw Butch Reed, and had several shots at Ric Flair's NWA Heavyweight Title. This was an interesting time in the Mid-South area as The Junkyard Dog had just left for the WWF, and Magnum managed to step into the role of top babyface pretty well. He held the belt all the way to October of 1984, when he decided to move on to Jim Crockett's promotion in the Mid-Atlantic area. Long time Mid-South star Ernie Ladd was brought in to be the guy who took the title from Magnum. They had a very entertaining TV match that ended when the ref took a bump, and Ladd choked out Magnum with a piece of rope. Ladd then woke up the ref and managed to manipulate Magnum TA in such a way that it appeared Magnum was still conscious. Ladd then pinned TA and became the new North American Heavyweight Champion.
Ladd held the belt until December of 1984 when a newly arrived Brad Armstrong used Ladd's own rope to choke him out and take the belt from Ernie. Armstrong only held the belt for a month himself, before Ted DiBiase came on in January of 1985 and took the strap from him. DiBiase had the title until March of 1985. He decided he wanted a shot at Terry Taylor's Mid-South TV Title. Since the Mid-South show was airing nationally at the time on WTBS, DiBiase reasoned that the TV belt held a lot of importance. He and Taylor had a "Title vs. Title" match, and Terry Taylor walked out with both belts.
Taylor held on until May of 1985. Taylor had been given several shots at Ric Flair, and he had come close to defeating Flair. The World's Champ was nervous, and he made a deal with newly arrived Eddie Gilbert. He paid Gilbert to take Taylor out of the World's Title picture. So, Gilbert had his man, The Nightmare, wrestle Taylor, and with some underhanded tactics, the two managed to defeat Taylor. This made The Nightmare the new North American Champ, and number one contender to Flair. Then, per Flair's agreement with Eddie Gilbert, The Nightmare refused to take a shot at Flair. Therefore, much to Flair's dismay, Terry Taylor was still the number one contender. The Nightmare was still the North American Champion…that is until August of 1985 when the returning Dick Murdoch knocked the big masked man off the throne.
Murdoch had returned after an extended time away during which he had been a WWF tag champ with Adrian Adonis. Murdoch was hugely popular with the Mid-South fans, and his "Captain Redneck" gimmick was golden. He stepped right back into the big picture and was involved heavily in Bill Watts and Hacksaw Duggan's war with General Scandor Akbar and his foreign invaders. And, things went pretty smoothly, until Ric Flair reentered the picture.
As I wrote about in my last column, Flair was once again trying to duck his most serious challengers. The men seen as most dangerous to Flair were the Hacksaws, Duggan and Reed, and Dick Murdoch. After a series of close calls against his three top challengers, Flair made an ultimatum that he would only wrestle the number one contender for the World's Title. And that would be the North American Champ. At this point, Butch Reed began to push for a title match with Murdoch, since he felt he should be Flair's top challenger. And, the fans seemed to agree with Reed. This led to a North American Title match between Reed and Murdoch in October of 1985 and it also led to Hacksaw Butch Reed walking away as the new champ. Of course it also led to the eventual face turn of Ted DiBiase that I wrote about two columns ago. And if you didn't read that, shame on you.
During the whole "number one contender" controversy, Butch Reed had gotten into a pretty nasty feud with Dick Slater. In fact, Slater had helped Flair injure Reed and cost him a shot at the NWA title. The two feuded for several months, but the feud ended badly for Reed when "Dirty" Dick Slater managed to unseat him as North American Champion in January of 1986. Slater dropped the title to Jake "The Snake" Roberts in February of '86, but "Dirty" Dick took the title back one week later. This change was said to be a case of Mid-South saying, "I'll show you" to the sheetwriters. It was already known that Roberts was heading to the WWF, and everyone said he would never get the belt because of this. Guess Watts just wanted to give the sheetwriters a "Bronx cheer" as Jake "The Snake" headed off to New York.
The final North American Title change was another classic Mid-South angle. Dick Slater, at this point, held both the North American Title and the Mid-South TV title. Slater said there was no way he could defend both belts, and was going to let his good friend "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer defend the TV title for him. Slater and Sawyer had both been involved in a pretty hot feud with Hacksaw Jim Duggan. It had gotten started when Duggan attempted to show that his girlfriend was more of a lady than Slater's valet Dark Journey. Of course, since this took place in the ring, it wound up with Slater and Sawyer attacking Duggan, and Sawyer injuring Duggan's girlfriend. So, Duggan had been hot on Slater's trail for awhile. Duggan had finally gotten Slater in a televised match from Oklahoma. It was supposed to be a TV title match, so, at the contract signing, Slater said Sawyer was going to wrestle the match for him. But, after Duggan and Sawyer signed the contract, Bill Watts revealed that it was a title match, but it wasn't for the TV Title, it was for the North American Heavyweight Title. And, Buzz Sawyer would be defending the Title, not Slater. Slater was livid, but the decision was final and the contract was binding. So, Duggan and Sawyer met for the Title, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan walked away as the final North American Champion in March of 1986. In May of '86, the North American Title was retired, and there was a tournament held in Houston to crown the first UWF Champion. And that is the history of the Mid-South North American Heavyweight Title. Hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed remembering it.
The History of the Mid-South Tag-Team Titles
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