While Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) was a nostalgic look at wrestling’s past, the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) stubbornly fought for its existence, casting itself as a major promotion that was on the same level as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) or World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Based in Memphis, Tennessee, a classic wrestling hotbed and arguably the only place to successfully fend off Vince McMahon’s territorial expansion in the 1980s, the USWA was created from a merger of the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in 1989. The promotion tried to run shows along the East Mississippi and Texas in the early 1990s, but the venture proved unsuccessful. By the middle of the decade the USWA was back to running its weekly shows in towns such as Louisville, Kentucky and Evansville, Indiana, as well as holding weekly supercards on Monday nights at the Memphis Coliseum. These events were heavily promoted on USWA TV, filmed at the WMC-TV 5 studio in Memphis. While that may have made USWA TV seem second rate, the company had a talented core with owners and bookers Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler, as well as announcers Lance Russell and Dave Brown (who had a full-time gig as WMC-TV 5’s meteorologist). They were supplemented by older territory stars such as Tommy Rich, Doug Gilbert, and Bill Dundee and a crop of new talent that included Lawler’s son Brian Christopher, PG-13, and wrestlers that the WWF and WCW sent for seasoning as the USWA had a working agreement with both.
Like other wrestling companies in 1995, the USWA saw a downturn in business. Lawler’s decision to start working for the WWF in 1992 was a sign that the promotion was waving the white flag, reinforced by local star Jeff Jarrett’s decision to follow him there the following year. The use of outside talent was no longer increasing houses at the Coliseum and when the Monday Night Wars began in September that made things worse. So as with SMW, USWA’s challenge for the year was staying relevant and profitable in a changing wrestling landscape where territories seemed archaic.
For this column, which will be released each Friday, USWA 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 USWA booking and business. Since USWA had a weekly supercard model, the results of the Coliseum shows will also be added into win/loss totals.
Here were the USWA’s champions to begin the year:
USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship: Sid Vicious (defeated Jerry Lawler in Memphis, Tennessee on July 16, 1994)
USWA World Tag Team Championship: PG-13 (defeated Beauty & the Beast in Memphis, Tennessee on December 26, 1994)
USWA Southern Heavyweight Championship: Brian Christopher (defeated Tommy Rich in Memphis, Tennessee on December 31, 1994)
USWA Women’s Championship: Miss Texas (defeated Candi Devine in Memphis, Tennessee on December 5, 1994)
The first episode of USWA Championship Wrestling aired on January 7, 1995. It was taped at WMC-TV 5 studio with Lance Russell and Dave Brown doing commentary.
A video package to the tune of “The Boys Are Back in Town” hypes the Rock N’ Roll Express, who are coming back to the USWA. A lot of Smoky Mountain footage is used.
A video package puts over USWA Women’s Champion Miss Texas with the song “Dangerous” by Roxette.
Sweet Georgia Brown, who is feuding with Miss Texas, comes out to tell Brown that Texas needs to leave Memphis. She is with Reggie B. Fine and Don Bass, who are wrestling in the opener.
Opening Contest: Don Bass & Reggie B. Fine (w/Sweet Georgia Brown) beat Ken Raper & Tony Williams when Fine pins Williams after Brown trips Williams at 2:25:
Fine, who had an awesome name, was a Memphis mainstay, working for the USWA from its inception to its closing in 1997. At this time in 1995 he dressed like a pimp and was billed as “From every woman’s dream.” Bass was billed as “the Outlaw” like 1980s WWF superstar Ron Bass and the two were once part of a stable in Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling, an old NWA territory, and held the tag team titles together. He was also a carryover talent from the CWA, but never won a USWA title. WWF fans of this era may recognize Ken Raper and Tony Williams as enhancement talents. Raper attracted more notoriety over his unfortunate last name than his wrestling ability, with the WWF eventually billing him as “Ken Rafer.” Raper and Williams guide the match, with Rafer leading Fine through a chain wrestling sequence. Poor Bass can barely move. When Williams runs the ropes he is tripped by Brown and Fine pins him, with Brown holding Williams leg down for good measure.
Miss Texas is interviewed by Russell. She says Brown is so desperate for a man she hangs out with Fine. Brown takes exception to that and comes out and fights with Texas. Fine and Bass come out to hold Texas in place as Brown paintbrushes her until Bill Dundee and PG-13 make the save.
Scott Bowden, who plays a rich man gimmick and has good presence, runs down Dundee and says that he is bringing in some wrestlers to take him out. Memphis usually had one heel manager and once they had a run of a few months they would bring someone new, so things did not get stale.
Bill Dundee pins Jesse Hickerson after a seated senton bomb at 2:41:
Born in Australia, Dundee arrived in the United States in 1974 and primarily wrestled in Memphis, although he did win the American Wrestling Association (AWA) tag team titles with Jerry Lawler and went on to serve as a manager for Lord Steven Regal in WCW in 1993. He had a greater reputation as a booker. One of the big strikes against him in the USWA was that he had never held the Unified title, the promotion’s biggest championship. Dundee methodically outwrestles Hickerson and then “hits” a senton bomb off the top rope that never touches his opponent for the win. It would be good to just ignore that and move on, but the USWA uses a slow-motion replay of the move before going to a commercial break.
Russell interviews Doug Gilbert and Scott Bowden. Gilbert says that Christopher is overlooking him because he wants Sid Vicious’ Unified title.
USWA Southern Heavyweight Championship Match: Brian Christopher (Champion) defeats Doug Gilbert (w/Scott Bowden) after a roll up at 5:56:
The USWA sometimes created confusion over its titles, billing the Southern Heavyweight title as “the Heavyweight title,” which in most promotions would be the most important championship. Christopher started his career in Memphis, wearing a mask and teaming with Tony Williams. The duo were called the Twilight Zone and when they were forced to unmask, Christopher’s rise as a singles competitor began. He had never held the Unified title, but was enjoying his sixteenth reign as Southern Champion entering this show. Gilbert was from a wrestling family and his brother Eddie Gilbert was more famous in wrestling circles as a creative booker and for good promos and erratic behavior. A staple of the independents, Gilbert worked in the USWA, the Global Wrestling Federation (GWF), ECW before it went extreme, and as Freddy Krueger in Japan. This match was a continuation of a big Christopher-Gilbert rivalry the previous year where Christopher and Gilbert exchanged the Southern title six times. After stalling, Gilbert uses the phantom object trick to antagonize the crowd and when Christopher mounts a comeback, Sid comes into the ring and chokeslams Chistopher before the referee’s back. Gilbert celebrates too much before covering Christopher and when he does, Christopher does sunset roll up to retain. Rating: *½
Non-Title Match: PG-13 (USWA Tag Team Champions) defeat the Hickersons when Wolfie D pins Bobby Ray after Demolition Decapitation at 2:59:
PG-13, composed of J.C. Ice and Wolfie D, were in the midst of their fourth reign as USWA Tag Team Champions, first winning the titles in Memphis against Jeff Jarrett and Brian Christopher in November 1993. They were USWA’s version of the Public Enemy: two white guys who were into hip hop culture and billed from “the hood.” There were several reasons they were still in the USWA in 1995 despite their great chemistry and instincts. One was their smaller size and lack of physique in an era that still emphasized talents that were over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. Another was that Bill Dundee was Ice’s father, so they had a responsibility, much like Brian Christopher, to build on the work laid by talents before them and could always be relied upon to work against the newest team brought to town for a feud. The Hickersons are much bigger than the champions and their last name is a callback to Phil Hickerson, a Memphis Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee who teamed with Dennis Condrey in the 1970s as the Bicentennial Kings. Since the Memphis TV studio did not use guardrails, fans could just walk up to the talent to touch them and several women hug both PG-13 members and give them kisses on the cheek. Lee powerslams Wolfie D for a near-fall in a quick heat segment and then all heel breaks loose, with Ice dropkicking Lee out of the ring, isolating Ray, and pinning him with Demolition Decapitation.
Scott Bowden comes out to talk to Brown with Doug Gilbert and Tommy Rich. He calls PG-13 “white trash” and promises that Gilbert and Rich will turn them into men at the Memphis Coliseum. Rich gives a good, intense heel promo about how Ice is living off the reputation of his father and that Wolfie D does not even know who is father is, so that is why he has to go to the hood. Gilbert adds on a little before PG-13 rush out to brawl with their challengers. The USWA locker room has to empty to end the brawl.
After a commercial break, PG-13 talk to Russell. Wolfie D says he is proud to be from the streets of Nashville and he cannot wait to get ahold of the heels in Memphis. Ice calls Rich “a has been” and he has earned everything in his life. Ice is the better promo of the team, but both men carried some good, babyface fire in this promo.
There is not enough time for a standby match, so Gilbert and Rich come back out and mock PG-13 to end the show.
The Last Word: The focus of the Memphis Coliseum show is the PG-13-Doug Gilbert & Tommy Rich tag team match as those two acts got the most play on this show. If Sid was at the show to chokeslam Christopher it would not have hurt the promotion to give him a quick squash to build his match with Christopher or at least have him cut a promo.
Here were the results of the Memphis Coliseum show that followed this broadcast on January 9. According to prowrestlinghistory.com, the show drew 1,000 fans.
*Tony Williams defeated Doug Basham
*Moondog Spot & Rex defeated the War Machines in a number one contender’s tournament semi-final for the USWA Tag Team Championship
*The Rock N’ Roll Express defeated Reggie B. Fine & Don Bass (1-0) in a number one contender’s tournament semi-final for the USWA Tag Team Championship
*Moondog Spot & Rex (1-0) wrestled the Rock N’ Roll Express (1-0) to a no contest in the finals of the USWA Tag Team Championship Contender’s Tournament when Don Bass, Reggie B. Fine, and the War Marchines attacked both teams
*Sweet Georgia Brown beat Miss Texas
*Bill Dundee (1-0) beat Jim Harris
*Doug Gilbert & Tommy Rich defeated USWA Tag Team Champions PG-13 (1-0) to win the USWA Tag Team Championship
*PG-13 (1-1) defeated USWA Tag Team Champions Doug Gilbert & Tommy Rich (1-1) to regain the USWA Tag Team Championship
*USWA Unified World Champion Sid Vicious beat Brian Christopher (1-0) by disqualification
Backstage News*: John Frederick Regus, who helped promote Memphis shows in the 1960s and 1970s passed away at the age of seventy-eight. The Spellbinder was not booked this week because he was attending WWF television tapings. In talent relations news, Ron Harris has left for the WWF.
*Backstage news is courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 16.
Up Next: USWA Championship Wrestling for January 14!