Gotta at least get this one in before the Road Warrior Hawk one tonight.
This episode is titled: Cocaine and Cowboy Boots: The Herb Abrams Story
Chris Jericho is YOUR narrator.
At the end of the 1980s, Vince McMahon and the WWF were riding high, dominating the wrestling landscape. But little did they know a challenge was coming.
In 1990 the Universal Wrestling Federation appeared as the dream of a man named Herb Abrams. He had a vision of success, but the more Abrams talked, the less he could deliver.
We meet Skinny Mick Foley here. He looks amazingly healthy right now and that’s good to see. He describes Abrams as a little guy with big personality and he had energy that was contagious. He met Abrams while at an event hosted by John Arezzi.
Arezzi says Abrams was looking to start a promotion. He was strange, he had big ideas and promised a lot of money. He talked about having Bruno Sammartino on board and for Arezzi that was a big feather in the cap. Abrams used the event to get himself in front of guys that could potentially help him launch the promotion.
We meet Rick Allen, known as Sunny Beach or Sandy Beach, he’s been all around, even had a couple of cups of coffee in New York as an enhancement guy. He met Abrams and was promised big things.
Next up with Steve Ray and his little dog. Steve Ray (not to be confused with Stevie Ray), was known as Steve “Wild Thing” Ray on the circuit. And finally we meet B Brian Blair, I’ll assume most of you have heard of him through one form or another. He knew Abrams for years and he thought of the this new promotion as a good way to get back to the WWF without working heavy dates on the Indies.
Abrams announced his new promotion during the event and they did an angle with Dan Spivey and Blair right away, tearing up tables and shit right and left. Meanwhile Abrams said Blackjack Mulligan was going to be head booker and Bruiser Brody was also coming in. This sounds amazing but at the time ol’ Blackjack was serving 24 months in the federal poke along with Kendall Windham for trying to counterfeit money and Bruiser Brody had been MURDERED by Invader I a.k.a. Jose Gonzalez, who remains free despite being a piece of shit murderer. Minor issues I suppose.
Foley said that sure Abrams was full of shit, but all promoters are full of shit and he was looking for an opportunity so why the hell not. Abrams told the boys he was involved in business, whether that was clothing or stock markets depended on who he was telling the story to. Former UWF director Lenny Duge said Abrams made his money through clothing for larger women. They were best friends and Duge wanted to get involved in pro wrestling.
On October 1, 1990 UWF Fury debut in California. Blair and Foley said he had a good roster with Foley, Paul Orndorff, Bob Orton, Steve Williams, etc. All those names gave the UWF credibility. Blair and Foley said that Abrams’ way of giving the boys creative freedom was received positively.
Abrams meets with McMahon and hopes for an alliance, offering to book the West Coast for WWF and McMahon basically told him to get lost. That motivated Abrams to become a direct challenger for the WWF. He needed more talent and got a bunch of guys. We meet Marty “The Colonel” Yesberg. He and Jimmy Valiant were hearing about a “mark” out of California who had money and was putting together this promotion made for TV.
Yesberg said Abrams set him up in a spot in Beverly Hills that was very nice. Abrams comes in with a couple of “high-end” hookers and cocaine. Yesberg quickly assessed that this wasn’t a good idea and needed to get the fuck out. The way he described the thoughts going through his head were hilarious. He closes by saying it was a “very long night” with him sitting and watching this display while Abrams did his thing.
Duge shows the UWF TV Title and says Abrams held it high as a “fuck you” to Vince. As belts go, it’s not a bad looking strap for the time period. Blair said Abrams wanted to destroy the WWF at all cost. He fires his first missile by bringing in Andre the Giant and putting him on TV on Nov. 5, 1990, just two weeks after he appeared on WWF television. Andre made the appearances for UWF but eventually went right back to Vince. Abrams realizes he can’t match Vince’s money, so he did the next best thing and threw every piece of shit against the wall he could think of. They show a bunch of clips of the ridiculousness, including an awful promo by “The Viking”.
Blair talks about how guys struggled to work with each other because they were basically calling their own matches. Abrams next idea was to become the talent and has confrontations with the boy. Next thing was merchandize, which included shirts, tapes, and cookie mix? To the shock of no one Abrams even had a cookie mix named after himself.
He runs the Beach Brawl PPV on July 9, 1991. Foley said this was viewed as potentially a breakthrough moment. Arezzi said it was a roll of the dice that could’ve worked. Abrams can’t secure a big venue, however, and chooses the Manatee County Civic Center in Palmetto, Florida, about 40 minutes from where I live. It actually holds around 3,000-4,000 people so it wasn’t in a highly populated area, but it was a decent-sized venue. Abrams claimed he had all kinds of local promotional coverage to hype the event.
Duge looks at the building and knows there was no way they could fill the house. It was far too big as most of their TV shows were done in small places that around less a few hundred people. Abrams has a few days before the show and he’s out having a good time. Steve Ray says he was a guy who worked hard and played hard and he assumes cocaine was a driving force behind that. Duge said he saw Abrams in real bad shape at his hotel and begged him to clean himself up.
The Beach Brawl is a total flop and that had to cut the lights to hide the lack of attendance. Abrams hid his shame by doing more coke. Blair said the buy rate was horrendous and the boys speculated that the UWF was likely going to die. Oh checks have been bouncing too. Blair went for his money and saw Abrams with some hookers and big bags of cocaine. He paid the hookers $2,000 each according to Blair. Yesberg said it was a train wreck. Shockingly the boys didn’t like being stiffed on their money and stopped dealing with Abrams after this event.
Abrams owed the TV crew as well and according to Yesberg they threatened to leave before doing the next taping. Herb somehow convinces them to take a check and needless to say it bounced. Yesberg says that he was getting threatened by association and claimed someone suggested that Abrams needed to take a short ride off a building and see if he could survive the landing.
Abrams continues partying and he was slowly going out of his mind. Different guys talk about his paranoid state. Duge knows it’s the drugs talking, but Abrams would tear up hotel furniture checking for bugs because he was convinced someone was out for him.
Eventually you get used to fucking over people, you’re going to run into the wrong guy. Steve Ray describes the night where he’s with a hooker and tries to give her a check, she isn’t taking and her pimps come to collect. Abrams, naked as a jaybird, has to jump out of a window and runs for his life. By this point Abrams is out of wrestling while Vince puts on Wrestlemania IX in Las Vegas. Abrams sees Vegas as an opportunity for a comeback and announces the Blackjack Brawl at the MGM Grand.
Once again Abrams spends big on talent. Foley says he saw Abrams’ suite at the hotel and describes Abrams showing him some cowboy boots thinking they would get over. It was then that Foley knew this wasn’t going to end well. No one showed up…and…well you can see this disaster for yourself.
Arezzi suggest he might’ve been coked up for the whole show and it was clear he was. Foley talks about wrestling Jimmy Snuka and taking him up through the mostly empty arena. None of the checks cleared of course. Blair tries to smooth things over by saying that Abrams had too much pressure.
All the failures took a toll on Abrams. Blair says he aged about 10 years in two years, probably not a shock given the amount of blow he snorted. Steve Ray said Abrams left L.A. and hoped he was cleaning himself up. Duge says Abrams calls and promises big things and says he’s straight. They show a film clip of Abrams in 1996 and it looks like he has cleaned up, but Rick Allen says he was very inconsistent, sometimes he would show up hungover, sometimes he wouldn’t show up at all.
On July 23, 1996 the local authorities respond to a scene at Abrams’ office and he is dead. On the night he died Abrams was doing coke and hanging with hookers. He was naked covered in vaseline and cocaine and chasing these women with a baseball bat and smashing up walls. Accounts of his death vary from him hitting his head on a door and having a coronary, others say it happened in a jail cell. Blair coldly says that Abrams left this world doing what his loved most — cocaine and hookers.
The Herb Abrams legend lives on through amazing stories…some of which are true. But Yesberg wonders if Abrams has really died and believes he might’ve faked his death. He talks about a UWF promotion in South Carolina where the promoter swore to him that a “little fella” came to him in blue jeans and cowboy boots and bitched at him about using the UWF name and threatened to sue.
Foley said Abrams couldn’t keep quiet for this long if he wasn’t dead. Duge says if Abrams was alive he would’ve reached out to him and verified his existence. Rick Allen says the UWF could’ve been a great thing with the right support. He took care of Abrams’ dog, Cokie, when he died. Steve Ray said that when Abrams died he lost someone that believed in him. Foley said he had the enthusiasm and courage to live out his dream. Foley is asked if Abrams was alive right now would he be doing.
“Time” Foley says with a laugh.
The Bottom Line: Wow. That was a ride. Clearly Herb Abrams didn’t think he’d live long so he lived hard. Good stuff from all the contributors as they painted of a picture of the guy as he was in all of his glory.