WCCW #8 Page #2

Arriving in World Class was a young Polynesian preliminary wrestler simply called The Samoan. The Samoan later gained fame as Samala, a member the Wild Samoans. As Samala he teamed with his father Afa and uncle Sika in the WWF. He later took the name Samu and teamed with Fatu as The SST and The Headshrinkers. Here’s a more in depth look at some of the more notable additions to the World Class roster. 

The Freebirds Land in Texas

In early October a new face arrived in World Class, Michael Hayes. Hayes actually came in on his own, briefly billed as simply The Fabulous Freebird. Although Hayes and his Freebird brothers are best remembered in Texas for being heels, Hayes was initially pushed as a babyface. Although cable television was not widely available in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, many fans had witnessed Hayes’ exploits on Georgia Championship Wrestling via WTBS. Between this and his good looks and natural charisma and his ring entrance to “I Love Rock n Roll” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Michael Hayes immediately got over as a real superstar. He had not actually intended to remain in World Class for long. World Class was still considered something of a minor promotion. Hayes was going to do a few weeks and then move on. However he stayed and soon Terry Gordy joined him and they won the American Tag Team Title from King Kong Bundy and Wild Bill Irwin. It became very clear, very soon that The Freebirds stood behind only the Von Erichs in popularity. There’s an old adage that the most over babyfaces make the most over heels. World Class would soon prove that adage to be true.

Who was that masked man? Part II 

The Superfly had departed World Class rings, but new to the promotion and H and H was the mysterious Checkmate. Checkmate was a masked wrestler whose white singlet and mask were adorned with a chessboard and chess piece motif. Indeed he referred to professional wrestling as human chess. As with The Superfly, Checkmate’s true identity has been subject to plenty of debate through the years. For a long time Les Thornton was thought to be Checkmate. However reliable sources identify Checkmate as Tony Charles, a native of Wales, an outstanding wrestler, and ironically a frequent tag team partner and opponent of Thornton. There can be no debate about Checkmate’s outstanding wrestling ability. Billed as hailing from the Isle of Man, Checkmate used the rough and tumble mat based British style of pro wrestling that still lives on to this day in William Regal. Checkmate was unique in that he really didn’t break the rules very often and wasn’t exactly a bragger either. Checkmate was more of a roughhouse kind of wrestler. He was a wrestler who would be more likely to bully an opponent his stiff forearm uppercuts than use a foreign object. Checkmate wrestled his share of singles matches. Checkmate’s high water mark was a run in Fort Worth as TV Champion in October. He also teamed with Kabuki and Magic Dragon in six man tags, and eventually teamed fairly regularly with Magic Dragon when Kabuki got more of a singles push.  

King Kong Bundy Makes His Move 

An interesting angle developed during the fall with King Kong Bundy. Bundy went on strike demanding to be released from his H and H contract so that he could become a free agent. This was a topical angle tying into the biggest news story of the day, the NFL players’ strike that cancelled 7 games out of each team’s 16 game schedule. In the end Bundy’s wish was granted. He was freed from H and H, much to the chagrin of Arman Hussein. Despite his split from H and H, Bundy remained staunchly in the heel camp. Bundy had something of a mixed fall in general. Apart from the ongoing strike angle, he had lost the American Title to Kevin Von Erich in September. While he and Wild Bill Irwin won the American Tag Team Title from Kerry and Kevin just a few days later, at a time when this championship once again became the main tag team title in the promotion, Bundy’s insistence on striking saw those belts rarely put at stake. It took the taunts and attitude of Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy to awake the sleeping giant. After Bundy and Irwin and The Freebirds engaged in a wild, unscheduled brawl at The Sportatorium prior to a Freebirds squash, Bundy ended his strike and the match was made. Hayes and Gordy won the American Tag Team Title on November 26, 1982 in Dallas. However, as far as Bundy was concerned he had bigger fish to fry. Bundy had parlayed his free agency into a lucrative contract with a new management group. He called his new as yet unseen manager simply The Man. We’ll learn of his identity in our next installment. 

Kevin and David Bide Their Time 

Kevin and David Von Erich reigned that fall as the American Champion and Texas Champion respectively. Both men were in their physical prime and were wrestling well, especially David. David was now a fulltime wrestler in World Class apart from the occasional forays with All-Japan and in St. Louis. Kevin and Kerry made those trips as well. Kevin’s main rival was King Kong Bundy. David mainly faced The Great Kabuki and former champ Wild Bill Irwin. Although some of these match ups were a tad overly familiar, the rivalries were still intense. To a great extent Kevin and David were taking a backseat to younger brother Kerry, but both would get their chance to shine with major feuds in the coming year. 

Christmas Star Wars, Saturday, December 25, 1982, Reunion Arena, Dallas 

Through out the fall and early winter of 1982 World Class built towards its latest Star Wars extravaganza. This show was built around the NWA World Title Steel Cage match between Ric Flair and Kerry Von Erich. Really this was the one big match that the promotion had been building towards all year long. We mainly remember the angle that began the Von Erichs vs. Freebirds war, but the match was something special too. The rest of the card was built around blowing off the remaining feuds. World Class was about to turn its roster upside down and this was the end of the line for many of the names that had been fixtures in 1982. 

Brian Adias defeated Frank Dusek
Jose Lothario and Al Madril defeated Magic Dragon and Checkmate
Lone Eagle defeated Little Tokyo in a midget match
The Great Kabuki defeated Bugsy McGraw to retain the All-Asian Title
David Von Erich defeated Wild Bill Irwin to retain the Texas Title
Kevin Von Erich defeated King Kong Bundy by disqualification to retain the American Title
Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and David Von Erich defeated Tom Steele and Mike and Tommy Sharpe to win the newly created World Class Six Man Tag Team Title

This bout was the final of an alleged tournament that had supposedly taken place across the world. Phantom tournament or not the, winning team would claim the new Six Man Tag Team Title. Buddy Roberts was supposed to team with Hayes and Gordy for this bout but had been unable to appear after his “flight from Denver was snowed in”. Hayes and Gordy were prepared to compete in a handicap match, when David Von Erich came to ringside and offered himself as a substitute. If there was any doubt about who would win in the first place, this clinched the outcome of the match. After their triumph, David immediately announced that he would step aside and let Buddy Roberts take his rightful share of the title. Michael Hayes’ reaction was a bit curious. He seemed disappointed perhaps even insulted that David would selflessly withdraw from the team in favor of Roberts. It was probably nothing or was it perhaps foreshadowing a more sinister side of Michael Hayes?

Ken Mantell won a winner’s check on a pole battle royal 

Ric Flair defeated Kerry Von Erich in a steel cage match to retain the NWA World Title.  This was the big one. For Kerry Von Erich the quest for the NWA World Title had gone far beyond a mere quest for gold. It had surpassed a desire to be the best. It was now a matter of pride, a matter of honor, a matter of destiny. Kerry had nearly tasted victory in August. Only the overly strict rulings of a non World Class referee stood between Kerry and the top. Now at last the rematch had arrived and this time the playing field would be level. No Alfred Neeley to get in the way this time. David Manning would referee the bout along with a special guest referee selected by fan ballot. The fans overwhelmingly chose Michael Hayes to handle the task. The fans felt that Hayes would be able to keep Flair from engaging in his typical chicanery and make sure that Kerry would get a fair shot. Michael Hayes took his duties very seriously, even bringing Terry Gordy to ringside to guard the cage door and make sure no one got in and no one got out until the match had concluded. Unfortunately Hayes may have taken his duties too seriously. 

Flair and Kerry had yet another of their many classic bouts trading holds and taking each other to the limit. As this battle ensued there was another battle in progress, a war of words between a defiant Flair and an increasingly angry Hayes. The more Flair refused to respect Hayes’ authority, the more Hayes tried to show Flair who was boss. Things finally came to head when a collision KO’d David Manning. The verbal battle between Hayes and Flair became a physical one. When Hayes laid out Flair, he told Kerry to go for the cover and the NWA World Title. That may be the Freebird way, but it was not the Von Erich way. Kerry politely refused Hayes’ offer. Michael Hayes was disgusted and insulted that his assistance had been refused. He started to leave the cage, but Kerry followed behind trying to explain himself. At that moment a recovered Flair hit Kerry from behind sending Kerry careening into Hayes sending the Freebird out of the cage to the floor. When Kerry rushed to the door to check on Hayes, an angry Gordy viciously slammed the door in Kerry’s face, knocking the Modern Day Warrior out cold. Victory was inevitable for Flair at that point. Hayes’ misguided attempt to help Kerry and his selfish reaction to Kerry’s refusal of that help had cost Kerry the one honor he had coveted more than any other. This was truly the shot heard round the world. From this moment onwards the World Class Championship Wrestling that most fans remember and love truly began to take shape. 


We have plenty to talk about next time. On the heels of the Freebirds’ heel turn World Class Championship Wrestling was on fire with hot feuds, exciting matches, and a new crop of wrestlers. We’ll look at World Class in the early part of 1983 in our next edition. 

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