While Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) paved the road for wrestling’s future by the end of the decade, Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) was a product yearning for the past. Started by former Midnight Express manager and Louisville native Jim Cornette, and bankrolled by record producer Rick Rubin, in 1991, SMW billed itself as “professional wrestling like it used to be and the way you like it.” Running shows in the Appalachian areas of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the Carolinas, the promotion’s presentation and booking mirrored the territory days, with a traditional babyface-heel alignment and the adoption of Southern wrestling customs like disqualifications for wrestlers who tossed their opponents over the top rope. SMW relied on older NWA talents to boost houses, reviving the careers of the Rock N’ Roll Express and Buddy Landel, but it also became a haven for new acts that would later make their mark in the big time as Chris Jericho, Chris Candido, Tammy Sytch, Boo Bradley (the future Balls Mahoney), D’Lo Brown, the Gangstas, Lance Storm, and Unabomb (the future Kane) spent time in the company.
The big question for SMW going in 1995 was how to grow outside of its core base of support and be profitable. The organization had a devoted fanbase in Eastern Tennessee, especially in Johnson City; possessed a working agreement with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF); and Cornette had a good relationship with Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler, who owned the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) and operated their company five hours from Smoky Mountain’s base. The latter would provide Southern wrestling fans with one of the best inter-promotion angles of the decade, but would it be enough to keep Rubin’s support and secure a better television deal before the end of the year?
For this column, which will be released each Wednesday, Smoky Mountain television in 1995 and the group’s major shows will be reviewed. Wrestlers win/loss totals will also be provided for their matches, noteworthy house shows will be broken down, and at the end of each week a review will be provided of major backstage news that affected Smoky Mountain booking and business. Since SMW did not have a pay-per-view system, some of their big events that did not get a VHS release will still count in a wrestler’s win/loss and appearance totals.
Here were Smoky Mountain’s champions to begin the year:
SMW Heavyweight Champion: The Dirty White Boy (fictitious title change from Jake Roberts dated to July 5, 1994 after Roberts no showed several events)
SMW “Beat the Champ” Television Championship*: Buddy Landel (defeated Brian Lee at a house show on December 5, 1994)
SMW Tag Team Championship: The Rock N’ Roll Express (defeated the Gangstas at Christmas Chaos on December 25, 1994)
*The television title had a provision where the titleholder would face a randomly drawn challenger each week on SMW’s television show. If the champion won, they received $1,000, and if they won five matches in a row, they received a $5,000 bonus and the title was vacated. Unlike other championships in the promotion, there was never a title belt made for the television champion.
The first episode of Smoky Mountain television aired on January 7, 1995. According to prowrestlinghistory.com, the show was taped at Princeton High School in Princeton, West Virginia on December 5, 1994 and drew 250 fans. Jim Ross, Les Thatcher, and Buddy Landel were doing commentary.
Highlights are shown of the Landel facing the Dirty White Boy at Christmas Chaos. Landel won via disqualification when the White Boy took a chain Landel brought into the ring and decked him with it.
Landel says that the White Boy is scared of him and refuses to give him a title shot on January 28, preferring to face Jerry Lawler instead. Landel leaves the announce crew because he says he has to take a conference call off-camera.
Lawler gives pre-recorded comments about how has come to the Knoxville Coliseum because the White Boy lives there because he is homeless. He kicks a guy on the floor who is buried under a pile of dirty clothes and hypes Memphis as the only good city in Tennessee. Lawler vows to win the SMW Heavyweight Championship at Super Saturday Night Fever on January 28.
Ross interviews the Dirty White Boy, who says he looks forward to facing Lawler on January 28. He also informs Landel that he is getting a match against him too on that date, although their match will be a lights out, non-title match.
Call 1-900-73-SMOKY to participate in a fan poll about whether Landel should have gotten an SMW title shot!
Ross interviews Bruiser Bedlam, who says that he does not need Jim Cornette because he is his own man. He insults Ross for some cheap heat and heads to the ring to face Cactus Jack.
Cactus Jack defeats Bruiser Bedlam via disqualification at 5:15:
Bedlam was a Canadian wrestler and veteran of the American Wrestling Association (AWA), holding the promotion’s Southern Heavyweight title in the mid-1980s. He also wrestled for the WWF under the name Johnny K-9 as an enhancement talent. Used as muscle in Jim Cornette’s battles against Bob Armstrong, Bedlam attracted more notoriety when his wrestling career ended, serving a jail sentence for trafficking cocaine and pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in 2013. He died in a halfway house in Toronto in February 2017. Jack was a bigger name to wrestling fans in the 1990s and had just secured a release from WCW, losing to Kevin Sullivan at Fall Brawl in September. He would spend 1995 traveling Japan and working in SMW and ECW. His nickname for this match is nothing to write home about, billed as “Captain Bang Bang.” A sea of empty bleachers becomes noticeable as both men brawl outside the ring and exchange chair shots. Landel rejoins the announce crew and balances out Ross’s announcing since Thatcher adds little insight. Ross tries to prompt him after a near-fall, noting that Jack barely got his shoulder up, to which Thatcher just says “yes.” Bedlam uses a foreign object to knock down Jack and covers, but Brian Lee stops the count and tells referee Mark Curtis what happened. Curtis finds the object and disqualifies Bedlam, putting a damper on what was turning into a fun brawl. Rating: **
Highlights of Chris Candido & Boo Bradley facing Cactus Jack & Tracy Smothers fall counts anywhere match at Christmas Chaos are shown. Lee was supposed to be Jack’s partner but quit the promotion, so his absence was explained away as “transportation issues.” In the lead up to the match, Tammy Fytch threatened to harm Bradley’s cat Boots it if he did not take out Jack. In the match, Bradley accidentally splashed Candido off the top rope, allowing Jack and Smothers to prevail. After the bell, Candido berates Bradley and slaps him, causing Bradley to fight back, but Candido proceeds to beat up Bradley, put Bradley’s cat in a sack, and Fytch spirits it away. Later in the show, they fought back into the ring, with Fytch using hair spray to blind Bradley and Candido doing a senton bomb off the top rope onto the cat in the bag. When Curtis and the Power Ranger try to console Bradley, he just tosses them out of the ring, until Jack comes out and gives the simpleton a hug.
Candido and Fytch cut a promo, with Candido complaining that Fytch has been suspended and he now has to wrestle Bradley. He warns Bradley that he should stop crying about his cat and worry about what Candido will do to him.
A taped segment shows Bradley and Cactus Jack at the grave of Boots, which has the “s” on it written backwards. Jack urges Bradley to strike a blow against evil and use the spirit of Boots for good. Bradley says that Candido is now his enemy and he will not like him when he is angry.
Ross hypes the Rumble Rules Battle Royal in January, which will be coming to various towns that Smoky Mountain is visit. The rules require participants to pay $250 to enter, with the promotion covering the rest of the purse, and the match is staggered like the WWF’s Royal Rumble.
Highlights of the Rock N’ Roll Express defeating the Gangstas for the Smoky Mountain Tag Team Championship at Christmas Chaos are shown. Jim Cornette was in the Express’ corner and secured an injunction to prevent the Gangstas posse from being in their corner. The Express won the titles when Ricky Morton decked New Jack with Cornette’s tennis racquet. After the match, the Gangstas did a beatdown and Cornette’s feint of a turn proved unsuccessful in stopping it. Cornette also did a bladejob to put over the beating until Cactus Jack and the Dirty White Boy intervened.
Chip Kessler interviews the Rock N’ Roll Express, who say that Cornette can manage them any time.
Cornette is sitting at his house with his Christmas tree still up and says he wants to remember Christmas Chaos for a while. He says his ego got the best of him at Christmas Chaos when he attacked the Gangstas. Cornette says he made a phone call before he went to the hospital to the Heavenly Bodies, who said they would be happy to cancel some WWF dates to come to Smoky Mountain and face the Gangstas on January 28. He appeals to Bob Armstrong to see him next week on SMW television to allow the Bodies to compete in the promotion because they lost a loser leaves town match a year ago.
Tune in next week to see Television Champion Buddy Landel face a challenger!
The Last Word: This was a good show for people who were not as familiar with the Smoky Mountain product because it brought them up to speed on Jim Cornette’s problem with the Gangstas and his interaction with the Rock N’ Roll Express, as well as the brewing feuds between the Dirty White Boy and Buddy Landel and Boo Bradley and Chris Candido. Veteran fans would have had less to see since only one new match aired.
The promotion did two house shows after a television taping on January 2. Here are the results of those shows courtesy of prowrestlinghistory.com:
White, GA – January 5, 1995 (225): The Nightmare pinned D’Lo Brown…Boo Bradley defeated Chris Candido…SMW Champion the Dirty White Boy beat Mustafa Saed via disqualification…SMW Tag Team Champions the Rock N’ Roll Express defeated the Gangstas…The Dirty White Boy won a Smoky Mountain Rumble match.
Barbourville, Kentucky – Knox Central High School – January 7, 1995 (375): The Power Ranger defeated D’Lo Brown…Chris Candido beat Boo Bradley…Buddy Landel defeated SMW Champion the Dirty White Boy via disqualification…SMW Tag Team Champions the Rock N’ Roll Express beat the Gangstas…Boo Bradley won a Smoky Mountain Rumble match.
Backstage News*: Jim Cornette’s feud with the Gangstas is racially charged and at a show in Erlanger, Kentucky he made some racially insensitive remarks that probably made a few African-American fans that attended uncomfortable. The angle on SMW television where Chris Candido killed Boo Bradley’s cat did not air in Atlanta. Although attendance was down in Barbourville on January 7 that was due to a freezing rainstorm and the company was happy with it. On the January 7 show, Tammy Fytch was supposed to do a run-in during the Candido-Bradley match but refused to because of an injured hand. That might be the last appearance for her in the company. In talent relations news, there are rumors that a big new babyface is set to debut in February, but no one knows who it is.
*Backstage news provided courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 9 and 16.
Up Next (on Wednesday): Smoky Mountain TV for January 14!
I should add that YouTube has a lot of Smoky Mountain episodes from this era, as well as the USWA, so feel free to check that out as you follow these columns.