Mid-South #9 Page #2

But despite that statement, Reed pulled a fast one and unilaterally decided that heíd defend the title against Magnum TA. Reedís intent was clear. His title defense was little more than an excuse to soften up Magnum for the Tag Title match later on. To a point his plan worked. Reed and Neidhardt did leave Shreveport as Mid-South Tag Team Champions, as usual cheating to steal a victory. But before this occurred Butch Reed discovered, to his cost, that often the best-laid plans go awry. Reed thought he had himself a pushover, that Magnum was too young and inexperienced to do him any harm. Reed would work over Magnum easily, retain the North American Title, and get a clearer path to the tag team championship. Instead Reed fell victim to overconfidence, poor planning, and a young superstar ready for his breakout moment. Anything Reed tried, Magnum answered. Even Reedís typically underhanded tactics failed to produce results because Junkyard Dog served as special guest referee. With the crowd going wild for his every move and JYD providing a level playing field, Magnum TA gave the best performance of his career so far and, to the delight of the fans, walked out of the ring as the new North American Heavyweight Champion.

Unfortunately for Magnum, his reign would be short and shrouded in controversy. Just twelve days later, on October 24, 1983, Magnum TA lost his belt to Nikolai Volkoff in New Orleans.  Compounding matters his original win over Reed was nullified on a technicality. Only the Mid-South Championship Committee or the official matchmaker could grant a title match. The champ could not pick his own challenger as Reed had. Therefore Magnumís win over Reed was never officially for the title and neither was Volkoffís win over Magnum, as TA never actually held the title. Despite this double dose of disappointment, Magnum was unbowed. He had scaled the mountain once and could do it again. All he needed was an opportunity. That opportunity turned out to be just around the corner. Unfortunately heartbreak was around the corner as well.

Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II righted the wrong committed by Butch Reed and Jim Neidhart by capturing the Mid-South Tag Team Title in New Orleans on December 25, 1983, a great Christmas present for their fans. On the singles front, based on his brief phantom reign as North American Champion and his fine skills and record, Magnum TA was named the number one contender to that title. Mid-South televised a special contract signing for a title match between Junkyard Dog and Magnum TA. Mr. Wrestling II should have been proud that his protťgť had earned the title shot and stood on the verge of greatness. Instead II reacted with an envious rage that he could barely contain. The advantage of a masked wrestler has long been his ability to hide his facial expressions. In this case not even Mr. Wrestling IIís mask could conceal the bitterness on his face. He denigrated Magnum as too inexperienced and totally out of his league. Then he knocked JYD, effectively calling him a cowardly champion, accusing him of only wrestling TA because he would be an easy opponent. IIís words and attitude shocked everyone. This was totally out of character. Magnum immediately tried to calm down his mentor. II amazingly thanked Magnum with a hard slap in the face. Ordinarily this might set off a brawl, but Magnum showed tremendous patience and grace under fire. He seemed stunned rather than angry or upset and he certainly wasnít alone in that feeling.

On the heels of this uncomfortable incident, somehow Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum TA had to function as teacher and student and as tag team champions. Magnum did not want something like a title shot to come between him and II. So, in a gesture of great sacrifice and unselfishness, Magnum offered to give his title match with Junkyard Dog to Mr. Wrestling II. Mr. Wrestling IIís reaction once again shocked everyone. Just as before, II slapped Magnum TA across the face. He showed no gratitude or humility, only self-centered rage. Magnum for his part ripped up the title match contract. He made it clear from the beginning. Mr. Wrestling II meant more to him than a title match. Meanwhile Mr. Wrestling II continued to act belligerently. Not even Cowboy Bill Watts could reason with him. It truly depressed the fans to see one of their heroes behaving this way.

That should have been the end of the issue. Instead tensions continued to rise and all the blame goes to Mr. Wrestling II. II totally ignored Magnumís obvious, natural talent and insisted that all of TAís accomplishment came from IIís coaching. II teamed with a jobber, John King, to show the world that he could make anyone a star.  IIís boasts had nothing to do with any concern for Kingís career. He just wanted to feed his own ego. When the pair teamed up to face the Midnight Express, IIís behavior sank to a new low. As soon as the inexperienced King ran into trouble, Mr. Wrestling II took a walk, leaving King to take a beating and the loss. The fans could not believe their eyes. Could this really be the same Mr. Wrestling II they had loved for so many years?

II displayed even more outrageous behavior as Magnum faced off against the powerful Krusher Khrushschev. With Magnum in control and seemingly en route to victory, II threw in the towel. Magnum questioned II about his latest act of treachery and once again Mr. Wrestling II slapped him in the face. This time Magnum had had enough. He entered the ring and challenged II to an immediate match. The fans were absolutely going crazy, ready to see Magnum finally give II what he deserved. II responded to the challenge by walking off. He arrogantly claimed that when Magnum lost, TA would use the impromptu nature of the match as an excuse. Magnum and the crowd seethed with rage over IIís latest cowardly act.

Believe it or not, throughout all this turmoil, Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II still held the Mid-South Tag Team title! Back in happier times, they had disposed of the team of Butch Reed and Jim Neidhart. Just before their relationship began to disintegrate, II and TA faced a tough, new challenge from The Midnight Express. Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton and their manager Jim Cornette hit Mid-South Wrestling with hurricane force.  II and TA needed to stick together and initially they did. As time passed and tensions between II and TA stretched to the breaking point, the Midnight Express took advantage. It all broke down one fateful night in Lafayette, Louisiana, March 13, 1984. The two teams faced each other in a match; to the winners went the Mid-South Tag Team Title, while the losers received ten lashes from a belt. With both teams at their peaks this would have been an epic battle. Alas, the II and TA team finally fell apart for good. II abandoned his partner, the match, and the Mid-South Tag Team Title. Magnum possessed great talent, but not even he could withstand two all-stars like Condrey and Eaton, not to mention the energetic Cornette at ringside. The Midnights won the championship and prepared to administer the ten lashes. Magnum took the first five, then Terry Taylor saved the beaten, bloody Magnum by taking the remaining five lashes for him. Nevertheless, Magnum was drenched in blood, beaten down, and thirsty for revenge. He also still wanted the North American Title. Magnum would get the chance to kill two birds with one stone.

Jealousy over a shot at the North American Title had torn Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum TA apart. While Magnum had selflessly given up a title shot earned via true effort and hard work. His partner cheated and schemed his way to title contention. On March 12, 1984, the night before he abandoned Magnum in Lafayette, Mr. Wrestling II got his shot at the belt, taking on the Junkyard Dog in New Orleans. In the not too distant past, this would have been a great scientific battle between friends. How times had changed. II continuously used underhanded tactics to gain the advantage, but JYD always had an answer. Finally, Mr. Wrestling II went for the coup de grace, the knee lift. The knee lift had long been Mr. Wrestling IIís trademark maneuver, but with IIís new, bad attitude came an ominous change to that finisher. With the referee distracted Mr. Wrestling II loaded up his kneepad, giving the already effective knee lift a devastating edge. The illegally augmented knee lift knocked JYD into next week. Mr. Wrestling II had committed highway robbery, stealing the North American Title. He now possessed what Magnum TA wanted most. Mr. Wrestling II became a target for Magnumís North American Title ambitions and vengeance.

Mr. Wrestling IIís ego and bad attitude were now simply out of control. Just to prove his acumen as a trainer, he brought in Mr. Wrestling III, later unmasked as Hercules Hernandez, as his new protťgť. II even had the audacity to proclaim himself Mr. Wrestling and his new student as Mr. Wrestling II. His interviews had degenerated into grumpy, nonstop complaint sessions. The fans could not stand even to listen to his bitter ranting. Mr. Wrestling II had become a shadow of his former self. Magnum TA, meanwhile, continued to put the teachings of the ďoldĒ II to good use. His matches against the likes of Butch Reed, Nikolai Volkoff, Krusher Khrushchev, and others showed that he was ready to move to the next level. The fans stood behind Magnum TA 100%. They wanted Magnum to gain revenge as much as he did.

A major confrontation between the former allies was now only a matter of time. Ric Flair has long stated that to be the man, you have to beat the man. Truer words were never spoken. For Magnum TA to get his revenge and put an end to Mr. Wrestling IIís evil actions, he had to beat II for the North American Heavyweight Title. Although II managed to retain the North American Title against Magnum at the Superdome in New Orleans on April 7, 1984, the 23,000 fans in attendance could certainly vouch for the fact that II cheated his way to another win. Despite that setback, Magnum TA would not be denied his destiny for long. On May 13, 1984 in Tulsa, Magnum TA nailed Mr. Wrestling II with the belly to belly suplex and finally claimed the North American Title and the revenge he so desperately wanted. The fans and Magnum exploded in cathartic joy. The battle and the war had been won at last. Magnum TA had conquered his mentor turned tormentor and in the process lay to rest any doubts about his worthiness as a true superstar.

This was feud of beginnings and endings. This was the last great feud of Mr. Wrestling IIís career and arguably his best. After this great run in Mid-South, II did a stint in Georgia and then had a disappointing stint in the WWF. Mr. Wrestling II later had runs in Continental and other Southern promotions before retiring to Hawaii in the early 1990s. This was the first truly great feud of Magnum TAís career and arguably his best as well. He reigned nearly six months as North American Champion beating all comers. After losing the belt, Magnum moved on to the Carolinas where he achieved even greater fame and fortune. Sadly the career of Magnum TA ended in a horrific auto accident in October 1986. Amazingly Magnum survived and has led a productive life away from the ring. As the years have passed, these two great stars remain linked by this epic feud. Why not? For drama and excitement Magnum TA vs. Mr. Wrestling II may still be the greatest feud in Mid-South and pro wrestling history.

NEXT MONTH:

Names like Hacksaw Duggan, Junkyard Dog, Ted DiBiase, and Butch Reed are synonymous with Mid-South Wrestling. However, Mid-South Wrestling was about more than just these big stars. Next month weíll look at some of the unsung heroes of Mid-South Wrestling, including some stars that you may have forgotten about.

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