1983 was such a banner year for WCCW. Some would call it WCCW’s best year due to all the great feuds. Of course, the Von Erich-Freebird feud tops the list but also David Von Erich-Jimmy Garvin, “Iceman” King Parsons-Buddy Roberts, and Chris Adams-Jimmy Garvin deserve mention. Of course, the battle of the valets between Sunshine and Precious cannot be ignored.
What happens in 1984? Can WCCW keep the momentum going as their syndicated show gets more coverage across the country?
“Heaven needed a champion.
That’s why He took you.
Heaven needed a champion.
But God knows we need you too.” – Glen Goza
Let’s start with the obvious—the Von Erich-Freebird feud. Despite the Von Erichs’ ability to give the Freebirds their comeuppance for the Christmas ’82 angle, the Freebirds find their way back into WCCW after losing loser-leaves-Texas matches. This becomes important later in 1984.
The six-man title became the centerpiece within the Von Erich-Freebird feud. Although no match took place, the Freebirds won the title on a technicality thanks to:
- The “match” being in Georgia.
- The Iron claw being banned.
Let’s bookmark this subject as a real and catastrophic event occurred early in 1984.
David Von Erich was found dead in Tokyo, Japan at 25 years of age on February 10. This news sent shockwaves throughout the wrestling world and not just Texas. From September 1983 to January 1984, David held the NWA Missouri title which was the steppingstone to becoming the NWA World champion. While a firm date had not been set, David was scheduled to defeat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and attain the World title.
Those plans changed when David took a trip to Tokyo, Japan to wrestle for All-Japan Pro Wrestling. Before he could set foot in a ring, David, who, according to brother Kevin, had been sick for weeks, perished.
IMPORTANT FACTORS: Along with his commitments in St. Louis, David wrestled in twenty-five cards for WCCW in the final two months of 1983. Due to these commitments, David did not seek medical attention and suffered through the pain. Since he took bumps on a regular basis, David allegedly used Vicodin to soothe his pain.
If he had sought medical attention for his documented cause of death—acute enteritis, doctors would have told him to limit his schedule and take the necessary steps to improve his intestinal health. Since that was against the mantra of “keep working to maintain a commitment to the business” which Fritz held high, David continued to wrestle to the detriment of his health.
HYPOTHESIS: Based upon my research, David, with gastroenteritis, went to Japan and ate sushi. Since the food was uncooked, his intestines ruptured which caused a heart attack. Flair noted in his autobiography that Bruiser Brody found David and removed David’s Vicodin from the room to avoid negative publicity.
In my 2/11 reflection, I offered these words about David:
“Without question, David had IT. He was the complete package and the one Von Erich who should have been NWA World champion. Although I only picked up his career in late 1982, I have watched him outshine the competition on a regular basis. Had he not died on 2/10/84, I believe David would have succeeded…as World champion. The wrestling world took a tremendous hit with his departure, yet I hope WCCW can reflect and move on with David’s legacy in the rearview mirror.
When you Google “how did David Von Erich die,” the response you receive is “speculative.” While the initial reports describe stroke as the cause of death, acute enteritis was determined by the coroner. Is it definitive? Some speculate that David died of a drug overdose, but wrestlers covered it up to protect the family and promotion.
While David took painkillers to soothe pain after his matches, his father Fritz Von Erich instilled a duty upon each of his sons to compete no matter the situation. Despite being sick with “flu-like symptoms” for two weeks, David flew to Japan where his intestines apparently ruptured because he hadn’t sought medical attention. That caused a heart attack and his death. In subsequent interviews, Kevin Von Erich swore that David didn’t overdose. In my opinion, a coroner/forensic pathologist in Japan would be difficult if not impossible to influence from Texas.
RIP David Von Erich. You would have made a significant impact upon professional wrestling later into the 1980s as well as the 1990s.”
Nevertheless, WCCW, with wrestlers not bearing the name Von Erich, continued while the family mourned.
On the 3/24 episode, Fritz announced that the Parade of Champions at Texas Stadium on 5/6 would be in David’s memory. He continued by mentioning that either Kerry or Kevin would battle Flair for the NWA World title.
At the Parade of Champions, Fritz shed retirement to assist his sons against the Freebirds in an anything-goes match for the six-man title. Much to the sheer delight of the Texas Stadium faithful, Fritz applied an Iron claw, and Kevin pinned Roberts making the Von Erichs champions once again. The pop alone by the Texas Stadium faithful is a sight to see.
Also, on the show, the “Handsome Half-Breed” Gino Hernandez made his return to WCCW during the mixed tag match between Adams/Sunshine and Garvin/Precious. His presence boosted the territory all by itself.
Another notable new hire who debuted on the show was Killer Khan who was an associate of the Freebirds.
While the Texas Stadium faithful seemingly got its money’s worth with the Adams/Sunshine victory, their memory of the show was highlighted by one match:
Match 2 for the NWA World title: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (champion) versus the “Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich
- While Kerry made his entrance, he wore a blue robe bearing “In Memory of David” on the back and carried a yellow rose.
- Ring announcer Ralph Pulley declared there was no time limit and the disqualification rule for the champion was waived. Now there’s no way Kerry could win, right?
- As the Irving faithful LOUDLY chanted “go Kerry, go,” Flair leap-frogged their hero but ate a pair of dropkicks.
- Kerry then gorilla-press-slammed Flair who sought refuge on the stadium floor.
- When Flair returned, he tossed Kerry down to the stadium floor, but Kerry returned via sunset flip for 2.
- Kerry then reversed a cross corner whip and hooked a sleeper.
- After Flair countered with a belly-to-back suplex, he delivered a knee drop.
- He then suplexed Kerry for 2.
- Showing that he still had a lot left, Kerry supplied Flair with a standing dropkick.
- He then hooked an abdominal stretch, but Flair escaped with a hip toss.
- As Kerry hit a pair of his own knee drops, he applied an Iron claw.
- Will Flair submit?
- No, he put a knee somewhere down near Brownsville, TX.
- Referee David Manning warned Flair but didn’t disqualify him. Why? Because Kerry can’t really win, right?
- When Flair mounted the top turnbuckle, Kerry caught and slammed him down to the mat.
- He then gave Flair a cross corner whip resulting in a Flair flip.
- While Flair attempted a figure-four leg lock, Kerry blocked it.
- Flair made a second attempt but was denied.
- After each wrestler blocked a hip toss, Kerry hooked a backslide.
- Do we have a new champion?
- No way! I can’t believe it!
- WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!
- Texas Stadium is SHAKING!
Yes, folks. Instead of Flair escaping Texas once again with his title, Kerry grabbed the brass ring and became NWA World champion. It was a spectacular and heartfelt moment for the Von Erichs, their fans, and the territory.
During Kerry’s reign, he defended the title quite often (courtesy of my 6/16/ reflection):
May 7: Kerry beat Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy in Fort Worth, TX.
May 8: Kerry beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in Muskogee, OK
May 9: Kerry beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in Corpus Christi, TX.
May 10: Kerry beat the Missing Link in a non-title match in Allen, TX.
May 11: Kerry beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in a non-title match in Dallas, TX.
May 12: Kerry beat “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in San Antonio, TX.
May 13: Kerry drew Mike Rotundo in Ocala, FL and defeated “Superstar” Billy Graham in Orlando.
May 14: Kerry beat “Superstar” Billy Graham in Fort Myers, FL.
May 15: Kerry beat “Superstar” Billy Graham by DQ in Miami, FL.
May 17: Kerry defeated Black Bart in Melbourne, FL.
May 18: Kerry beat “Superstar” Billy Graham in Lake City, FL.
May 19: Kerry beat “Cowboy” Ron Bass in Tampa, FL.
May 22: Kerry defeated Jumbo Tsuruta in Tokyo, Japan.
On May 24, Kerry defended the NWA World title against Flair but lost. This match never aired on WCCW TV.
Despite the Von Erichs’ victory at Texas Stadium, the six-man title was held up, and a rematch was set for 7/4 in Fort Worth.
On 7/4, the Von Erichs lost, and the Freebirds were once again six-man tag team champions.
During the summer, Hernandez won a tournament in San Antonio to become Texas champion. The title had remained vacant since David’s death. He had also “attained” the American title in Rio De Janeiro Puerto Rico.
However, on 8/4, a miracle happened, and Mike Von Erich upset Hernandez to become American champion through some mysterious circumstances.
Why mysterious, you ask? Following the Parade of Champions, Sunshine needed some time off to clean herself up so to speak. In her place, Stella Mae French, her (kayfabe) aunt, took her place and vowed to go after Hernandez. Though Hernandez thought French was at ringside, it was just a different blonde who distracted him.
THIS JUST IN: Khan betrayed the Freebirds and joined Devastation, Inc. I bet Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy will have something to say about that.
Come autumn, Kevin Von Erich and Adams began tagging together and made a formidable team.
THIS JUST IN: The Freebirds left WCCW to work for the WWF. Needless to say, but that is a crushing blow to WCCW. Michael Hayes may not be a spectacular wrestler, but he can make you buy a ticket to see him get demolished. Let’s hope the Freebirds return shortly.
With the Freebirds gone, Jake “The Snake” Roberts came to WCCW and hung with his (alleged cocaine) buddy Hernandez.
Gary Hart returned, made a mortal enemy out of Akbar, and joined forces with Adams.
To our dismay, Mike Von Erich would not hold onto the American title long as newcomer Nickla Roberts assisted Hernandez in his attempt to regain the American title.
On the same card, the Von Erichs regained the six-man title, and the Freebirds flew back to Badstreet.
Thanks to Parsons, the Super Destroyers lost their masks unveiling themselves as the Long Riders. Parsons and “Rock’n’Roll” Buck Zumhofe traded the American tag title with them but ultimately lost in the end.
Another team making its WCCW debut was the Fantastics who dethroned the Long Riders for the American titles on 10/22.
Hernandez’s obsession with French led to her interference in a match featuring Kevin/ Adams and Roberts/Hernandez. With French’s involvement, Kevin stood up to Hart for not being a gentleman. To protect his “advisor,” Adams superkicked Kevin and stormed off. That did NOT sit well with Kevin.
COTTON BOWL: In a scientific match with Adams, Kevin prevailed, but Adams got the last laugh with a brutal wooden chair shot. Kevin required serious medical attention due to his injuries. In essence, this became a blood feud.
Also at the Cotton Bowl, the freshly heel-turned Adams, Roberts, and Hernandez teamed up and defeated the Von Erichs for the six-man title. Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics substituted for the injured Kevin, but the odds were not in his favor.
Amazingly, Sunshine returned to WCCW at the Cotton Bowl with a helicopter entrance. This preceded Flair’s helicopter entrance at Great American Bash ’85. I wonder if this is where he got the idea.
Gordy returned to WCCW after the Freebirds couldn’t make a dent with the WWF. His goal was to destroy Khan.
At the Thanksgiving Star Wars show, Gordy and Khan had a bloodbath with Kerry Von Erich as special guest referee. Gordy sent Khan packing.
Later in the show, Kevin got his revenge against Adams despite tasting defeat. Instead, he BUSTED OPEN Adams with a wooden chair shot.
At Holiday Star Wars on Christmas night, the Fantastics encountered their most difficult rival to date—the Midnight Express with Jim Cornette. Fortunately for them, they retained the American tag title.
To complete the bizarre year that was 1984, Kerry got another shot at Flair. Unfortunately, he couldn’t regain the title. Also, Kevin defeated Adams in a lumberjack match to finish their feud.
Conclusion: Despite the tremendous loss of David, WCCW soldiered on with an extremely talented roster and entertaining product. The infusion of Hernandez helped to reduce the significant impact of the Freebirds’ departure. Ultimately, Kerry’s historical victory on 5/6 not only increased his stock but also continued WCCW’s momentum as one of the best territories in the country.
Allow me to share some of the songs that made WCCW great in 1984:
Please let me know your thoughts on WCCW, and let’s hope 1985 is a bright and shining year for them.
Comments? Suggestions? Send them to me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter (@rockstargary202). Also, please check out all of my reflections at rockstargary.com including WCW Thunder and UWF Fury.