Friday, 27 March 2015

DVD Review: Legends of Mid-South Wrestling

They were the company that tried to hit it big in the eighties, but ended by being swallowed up by one of their rivals, and recently WWE delved into their vast library for a release looking back at the Legends of Mid-South Wrestling.

It's a three disc set, so let's start at the beginning with.....

Disc One
December 1981
Our collection begins with North American Champion Ted Dibiase taking on Paul Orndorff in a non-title match.

It's a short and fast-paced match with "television time remaining" with both guys getting in their fair share of shots before Dibiase locked in his submission hold of choice back then, the figure four leg lock. But when all looked well and done Orndorff managed to roll over and reverse the positions. The future Mr. Wonderful then applied extra pressure as Dibiase writhed in pain, but just when it looked as if he was going to give up the bell rang, the match being declared a draw.

January 1982
It's on to six-man action as Afa and Sika of the Wild Samoans team with Ernie Ladd against Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes and the Junkyard Dog.

This is the second time I've seen this particular encounter, having recently reviewed it while watching the True Giants DVD. It's quite an entertaining encounter, with all six men getting to do their thing in the time allotted, and the brief confrontation between Ladd and the Giant proving to be quite interesting.

The end came during the all hell breaking loose moment, with Rhodes and JYD taking care of the Samoans before Andre got the pin after a big splash off the second rope.

October 1982
It's the first title match of the collection, with North American Champion Ted Dibiase teaming with his Rat Pack buddy Matt Borne to challenge Junkyard Dog and the masked Mr. Olympia for the Mid-South Tag Team titles in a no disqualification match, with the loser of the fall having to leave the territory for ninety days.

Now don't go thinking that just because this match had a no DQ stipulation that it was full of chair shots and wild brawling throughout the arena. In fact it was quite the opposite, your normal run of the mill tag team encounter with a few relaxed rules, such as top rope moves being allowed.

It was also a very entertaining encounter. Mr. O and JYD did quite well early on until Dibiase and Borne began to use the masked man as their crash test dummy. Eventually things got too much for the Dog as he came in and dragged his partner back to the corner for the tag.

JYD looked capable of defending the titles on his own until Olympia was attacked by a gorilla at ringside. Yep, you read that right, but what I should also tell you is that gorilla was actually the third Rat Pack member Jim Duggan. Duggan slammed Olympia on the floor, taking him out of the equation before he took the Dog out with his spear. Dibiase then clobbered him with his loaded glove for the title-winning pin.

Date Unknown
The Rat Pack is no more, and it's gimmick match overload as  Jim Duggan faces Ted Dibiase in a coal miner's glove steel cage tuxedo loser leaves town match. Don't ask me to explain all the rules, because it would take way too long.

Dibiase's usual technical prowess is nowhere to be seen here. This is basically one big fight, with both guys battering the hell out of each other. Duggan began to shed the red stuff early on thanks to a meeting with the cage, and after Dibiase kept old Hacksaw down for a while he was soon joining him in the crimson mask department when Duggan sent him into the cage.

Duggan eventually climbed the pole to retrieve the glove, only for Dibiase to throw powder into his eyes before he could use it, but when the Big Cheese went to the top rope Duggan rolled out of the way. A few moments later the glove was back on his hand, and one knockout punch later Duggan pinned Dibiase to send him out of the company for thirty days.

February 1983
It's back to championship action as Andre the Giant and Tony Atlas challenge Ted Dibiase and Matt Borne for the Tag Team titles.

This is one of those television matches that you wish could have gone on a whole lot longer, given the way it was developing early on. Both teams looked in good nick, especially Andre and Atlas when they were throwing the champions around the ring like stuffed toys.

But after Borne accidentally clobbered the referee all hell broke loose. Dibiase clobbered Andre with his loaded glove but still couldn't put him away, and then Jim Duggan ran down to help out his Rat Pack buddies. Nope, that doesn't mean he rejoined after he beat Dibiase, it means that these matches were shown out of sequence.

To cap everything off, Skandor Akbar came down with Kamala, and the Ugandan Giant proceeded to clobber Andre with a two-by-four, and even though Atlas recovered enough to stop the attack the odds were too much for them, and after Kamala body slammed Andre the Junkyard Dog and Mr. Wrestling II ran in to even the numbers.

March 1984
The Tag Team titles are on the line again as Jim Cornette's Midnight Express team of Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey challenge Magnum T.A. and Mr. Wrestling II for the gold, with the winners getting to lash the losers with a leather strap.

It's house show footage with added Jim Ross commentary here, and it's quite an entertaining encounter with an age old storyline used to good effect. Magnum and Wrestling had some success early on until Cornette's boys began to work over Magnum's left arm. But each time Magnum went to make the tag Cornette ran interference and distracted MW2 so he wasn't in his corner.

Eventually Wrestling began to grow more and more frustrated with his partner and left the ring, and while the referee was trying to talk some sense into him the Midnights clobbered Magnum with Cornette's tennis racket, so when the referee turned his attention back to the match the first thing he saw was Condrey pinning Magnum for the title-winning pin.

It then looked as if Magnum would have to take all of the lashes, but after taking five hits from the Midnights Terry Taylor came down to the ring and took the last five so Magnum wouldn't have to face any more punishment. As soon as that was over Cornette and his boys headed for the hills as fast as possible.

May 1984
With the partnership now dissolved Magnum T.A. challenges Mr. Wrestling for the North American title.

Just a brief highlights package with this one, with the masked man controlling most of the action after ramming Magnum's head into the ring post and busting him open. Magnum rallied and launched his comeback, but when he countered Wrestling's abdominal stretch with a hip toss the masked man hit the referee.

This gave Wrestling's new protégé, the new Mr. Wrestling II, the chance to try his hand at a little interference, but when Wrestling put the metal strap around his leg for his million dollar knee lift Magnum moved out of the way, with the protégé taking the force of the blow. The now-recovered referee then came to as Magnum rolled his former mentor up for the three count and win.

Disc Two
Date Unknown
It's a good old fashioned slobber-knocker as the Junkyard Dog takes on Butch Reed in a ghetto street fight.

Basically what we had here was one big brawl between two guys who hated each other's guts. JYD was bleeding within the first five minutes when Reed took him down with a piledriver on the floor, and when he wasn't hitting him with a brass knuckle-assisted right hand he was choking him with his own belt. The Dog almost passed out at one point, but a spirited comeback saw him giving Hacksaw a taste of his own medicine.

The big turning point came when the referee took an accidental hit. It was then that Ernie Ladd came down to the ring to offer Reed some moral support, and had the referee been awake he would have seen Reed and the Dog connecting with big knockout rights at the same time. Ladd then got back into the ring and dragged Reed on top of JYD. The referee began to count, but confusion reigned for a few moments as Sonny King appeared and sent Ladd packing. He then draped the Dog over Reed, but instead of making a count the referee raised JYD's hand and declared him the winner.

That wasn't the end of things though. As soon as the announcement had been made all four men began to brawl again, and after King took care of Ladd the Dog took Reed down with his powerslam before both villains headed for the hills.

May 1984
It's back to championship action as Jim Cornette's Midnight Express team of Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey challenge Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson of the Rock 'N' Roll Express for the Tag Team titles in a no disqualification match.

Fast-paced action was the order of the day in this very enjoyable encounter. I can see why the rivalry between these two teams is spoken of so highly because this was quality all the way. Both teams put on some great exchanges early on before Morton took the punching bag treatment.

Naturally Morton eventually made it back to his corner to tag Gibson in, and that's when the underhanded stuff began. Devoid of his tennis racket Cornette used other tricks to help his team, pulling the referee out of the ring and then spraying a rag with ether and smothering Gibson's face with it. It wasn't long before Gibson passed out, and when the bloodied Eaton covered him the referee came back into the ring to make the count, crowning new champions.

Date Unknown
It's another Tag Team title match between the Rock 'N' Roll Express and the Midnight Express, but this time around Morton and Gibson added a stipulation that Cornette be put in a straight-jacket and suspended above the ring.

So with Cornette neutered somewhat the two Express teams put on another very enjoyable encounter. The Midnights looked a little lost without their manager at first, but they were soon giving Morton the punching bag treatment again. Morton managed to make it back to his corner, but when the referee took an accidental pasting Condrey took off the official's belt so he could join with Eaton in using it as a weapon. This extra-curricular activity didn't last long though as the referee quickly regained his senses and called for the disqualification.

And to cap things off, the R'N'R's got hold of the belt and gave the Midnights a taste of their own medicine.

December 1984
Ted Dibiase makes another appearance as he takes on an unknown guy by the name of Shawn Michaels.

It's your basic squash match here with Dibiase doing his stuff, although Michaels had a couple of good moments when he almost took got the win. An irate Dibiase soon put him in his place though, finishing him off with his figure four leg lock.

June 1985
It's the first appearance of the Nature Boy himself, as Ric Flair defends his NWA World title against Terry Taylor.

This is a fine example of just how different wrestling was thirty years ago. Fans today, for various reasons, would probably call this match boring. Me, I'd say it was pretty damn good, with both champion and challenger putting in great performances.

Taylor controlled the early going extremely well, wearing Flair down with several headlock variations, but it was only when Flair used a few underhanded tactics that he was able to take control, working over Taylor's arm.

As the action moved along nicely both men had their moments of dominance, with Flair using a few more underhanded tricks to regain control from his challenger, but when he went for his patented figure four Taylor managed to reverse the positions, putting the pressure on the champion, and the only way Flair could escape was by reaching the ropes.

Taylor came extremely close to getting the win when one of his backslide attempts paid off, but by that point the referee was taking a snooze at ringside thanks to an accidental clash of heads, which meant that Taylor's best chance of winning the title slipped from his grasp.

As they kicked it into overdrive both men went all out for victory, but when Taylor went for a roll-up out of the corner Flair reversed the positions and took the pin with a couple of handfuls of tights.

Disc Three
June 1985
It's back to championship action, but with an added twist as Jake Roberts, with the Barbarian in his corner (no, not that Barbarian), challenges TV Champion the Snowman, who has none other than Muhammad Ali watching his back amd Bundini Brown as his advisor, in a no disqualification match.

This was a relatively short encounter, obviously notable for the involvement of Ali. Snowman controlled the action early on, but when Roberts reached into his tights and hit the champion with a foreign object the Snake took control. Meanwhile at ringside Ali kept having to be restrained by Ernie Ladd as the Barbarian taunted him.

A few moments later Roberts took Snowman down with his DDT, and while Ali chased the Barbarian around the ring the Snowman kicked out of Roberts' cover, and did so again after Roberts connected with a leg drop.

The inevitable soon happened when Roberts got his hands on Brown, which angered Ali even more, and it wasn't long before the Ali was peppering Roberts and his crony with big rights. This gave Snowman time to recover, and when the irate Ali was finally pulled down from the ring apron Snowman took Roberts out with a powerslam for the title-retaining pin.

November 1985
Ric Flair is back in the territory as he defends his NWA World title against Ted Dibiase.

Originally this was billed as a heel versus heel encounter, but an attack by Dick Murdock left Dibiase in a bloody mess after Murdock rammed his head into the ring post, and after Dibiase was taken backstage for treatment he insisted on going through with the match.

So Dibiase came out for the match sporting a large bandage around his head, and needless to say he was soon wearing the crimson mask for the second time that evening. Flair tried to take advantage early on, but despite his limitations Dibiase kept coming back time and time again, eventually putting the Nature Boy in a figure four. The only problem was that Flair was way too close to the ropes.

A few moments later, as the fans in attendance started chanting his name, Dibiase went for the hold again, only for Flair to kick him through the ropes. That was it for Dibiase, and it came as no surprise when Flair took the count out win.

That wasn't the end of Dibiase's troubles though. Murdock returned to the scene of the crime and attacked his former pupil again, taking him down with a brain buster on the concrete before order was restored.

And the result of all this was that Dibiase was now a beloved babyface.

Date Unknown
Mid-South Wrestling is no more as the Universal Wrestling Federation takes over, with Rob Ricksteiner taking on Nick Patrick. And yes, that is Rick Steiner, and yes, that is that referee he's facing.

This was a quick five minute encounter designed to make new boy Ricksteiner look good. Mission accomplished in that respect, and although he looked a little rough around the edges it was a creditable performance, with the future Dog-Faced Gremlin taking the win after a belly-to-belly suplex.

March 1986
It's back to tag team action as John O'Reilly and Ken Massey take on Eddie Gilbert's Blade Runners.

By now you should know who the UWF's answer to the Road Warriors were, so let's just refer to them as Sting and the Warrior in what was a basic knock-off match. Sting did a few power moves, Warrior did a couple of press slams, before Sting took the pin after a splash off the ropes. That was it from two guys who looked a little rough around the edges.

August 1986
Yet more championship action as Jim Duggan challenges one third of the Freebirds, Terry Gordy, for the UWF title.

Before the match again UWF officials came down to the ring in an attempt to make this a fair and even contest when they ordered corner men Michael Hayes and Ted Dibiase backstage. Hayes was quite reluctant, until he was told he'd be suspended without pay if he didn't do as he was told.

The match itself was very entertaining. Given the skills of these two it was pretty obvious this wasn't going to be a technical classic, but what we did get was quite a hard hitting affair, with Duggan battering the champion all over the place and Gordy trying to take his challenger down with a few holds, including his Oriental spike.

Towards the end Duggan and the Gordy found themselves tied up in the ropes, but just when Duggan was about to do more damage the other Freebird, Buddy Roberts, raced down to the ring and attacked Duggan. The referee called for the bell immediately, disqualifying Gordy as he joined in the attack. Luckily for Duggan a masked man who had Ted Dibiase's dress sense came down for the save.

September 1986
The Freebirds are up again, this time with Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts taking on Ted Dibiase and Steve Williams in a lumberjack match.

This one may not have lasted that long but they certainly packed a lot of action into what time they had. It was a very fast-paced encounter, with Williams and Dibiase combining well early on as they took their frustrations out on Roberts before the Freebirds began to use Dibiase for target practice.

Needless to say that Dibiase managed to make it back to his corner, and that's when all hell really broke loose. There was the obligatory brawl between the lumberjacks, and in the end Hayes got hold of a leather strap and whipped Dibiase as if he was a government-owned mule. Williams made the save, but as far as the result I have no idea what that was, because it was never actually announced.

September 1986
Steve Williams gets another crack at the Freebirds when he challenges Terry Gordy for the UWF title.

The slower more methodical approach was the order of the day here between these two powerhouses. Williams looked great early on as Gordy found it difficult to handle his power, but it was during the commercial break that the champion took control, ramming him shoulder first into a couple of ring posts at one point.

A few moments later Williams repaid him back in kind before taking him down with two piledrivers. Confusion then reigned for a few moments. The official and then his stand-in both took snoozes, and just as both of them were regaining their senses Williams took Gordy down with a back suplex and bridge, and in a scene that has been repeated countless times over the past few decades both referees counted the pin, with one declaring Gordy the win and the other opting for Williams.

June 1987
It's a battle between the future Twin Towers as Bubba Rogers challenges Skandor Akbar guy One Man Gang for the UWF title.

You know, I remember the match these two had at Wrestlemania VI when they were wearing different hats, and I have to say that this one was a whole lot better. Rogers frustrated the hell out of the Gang early on, simply because the OMG couldn't bully him around like he did his other opponents. The big man eventually had some success, but as the match went on it became more and more obvious that Rogers wasn't going to be a pushover.

Eventually OMG got Rogers into position for his 747 splash, but as he came down from the second rope Rogers rolled out of the way, and as the prone champion lay on the mat Rogers went to the top rope and came down with a splash of his own for the title-winning pin.

July 1987
It's the final match of the collection, and Dr. Death gets another shot at the gold as Steve Williams challenges Bubba Rogers for the UWF title.

Sadly only the final couple of minutes of the match are shown, so it's a little hard to get the feel for what happened. In the end Williams took Rogers down with his Oklahoma stampede powerslam for the pin.

In conclusion - a few hours and a few thousands words later we've finally reached the end, and even though I've never seen anything from this territory during my near 40 years as a wrestling fan I have to say I was very impressed.

Although the match quality is variable everything here was very enjoyable. It was great to see some of the stars I became familiar with in their earlier days, plying their trade and honing their skills away from the big two of the day.

There was one thing though that this set really needed.  Throughout this collection there's various "talking head" moments featuring those who competed for Mid-South and the UWF. These small snippets were great, but at the end of the day that's all they were, snippets. It would have been great if there had been a documentary looking at the history of the territory, at how Bill Watts took over and made it what it was, how they turned from Mid-South to the UWF, and what happened to them and the company's legacy when they were sold to Jim Crockett. All of that would have made for a great piece.

But apart from that criticism I really can't fault this set, which is why this old school wrestling fan is giving this release the big thumbs up.

With thanks to the powers that be for supplying a copy of this release. Legends of Mid-South Wrestling is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.