What the World Was Watching: The Super Bowl of Wrestling (1995)

This show took place on Friday, August 4, 1995 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee.  According to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer, the show drew a crowd of 5,000, with 4,600 fans paying, thereby creating a gate of $37,500.  That made this the best-attended card in the history of the promotion.  The show is provided courtesy of a fan cam.

Opening Contest:  Brian Armstrong pins D’Lo Brown (1-3) after a reverse suplex at 8:19:

Armstrong was the youngest of the Armstrong brothers.  He debuted in 1986 and bounced between WCW and SMW after tours for the U.S. Marine Corps.  At this stage of his career he was coming off a run in the WWF as the Roadie, Jeff Jarrett’s manager.  He was poised for a singles push and feud with Jarrett but walked out of the WWF with Jarrett over a booking dispute following Jarrett’s loss to Shawn Michaels at In Your House II.  Armstrong wrestles as a babyface, working a perfectly acceptable match with Brown, who gets more offense than he does on television.  Brown misses a moonsault, allowing Armstrong to hit a reverse suplex and wins his return match.  Rating:  **

The Headbangers (4-1) defeat Flash Flanagan & Chris Michaels when Mosh pins Michaels after the Stage Dive at 11:16 shown:

The Steiner Brothers were originally booked to face the Headbangers, but according to The Wrestling Observer they got into a pay dispute with Jim Cornette, demanding $1,000 each for the match.  When Cornette only offered $500, the Steiners refused to appear and wrestled on ECW’s Wrestlepalooza ’95 card instead.  Flanagan was a Midwestern wrestling talent who was trying to find his niche in the business after debuting in 1992.  In contrast, Michaels was a seasoned East Coast independent wrestler who simultaneously worked as a jobber for big time promotions, working for the WWF from 1991-1992 and WCW in 1994.  He had better success at the mid-independent level, teaming with Johnny Hotbody and Chris Candido as the Suicide Blondes in ECW and winning the tag team titles in April 1993.  Michaels also worked for SMW from 1992-1993, feuding with the Dirty White Boy over the Beat the Champ Television Championship.  The teams try their best to overcome the disappointment of the Steiners not being there, utilizing a creative mix of double team moves, and Flanagan stands out by flying all over the ring in the early going, flattening the Headbangers with a dive to the floor and knocking Thrasher down with a springboard dropkick.  Flanagan also endures a long beating during the heat segment, but he refuses to be pinned, setting the stage for a Michaels hot tag where he awakens the crowd with a hurricanrana.  However, his run cannot be sustained as the Headbangers use a two-on-one advantage when the referee forces Flanagan from the ring to hit the Stage Dive and prevail.  This was a pleasant surprise and the match would have gotten more heat from the crowd if Flanagan and Michaels were an established team.  Rating:  ***

USWA Tag Team Championship Match:  PG-13 (w/Randy Hales) (2-0) defeat Jackie Fulton & Curtis Thompson when J.C. Ice pins Fulton after Wolfie D hits Fulton with a hubcap at 12:49:

In the second substitution of the evening, Thompson takes the place of Scott Armstrong, who started working more of WCW in an enhancement role around this time.  Fulton, the younger brother of the Fantastics star Bobby Fulton, was an experienced veteran, breaking into the business in 1987 and competing for Championship Wrestling of Florida, AWA, Jim Crockett Promotions, and WCW.  Local fans knew him because he worked for SMW in its inaugural year, teaming with his brother Bobby to feud with the Heavenly Bodies.  Thompson is better known to wrestling fans by his WCW gimmick Firebreaker Chip.  Like Fulton, he broke into the business in 1987 and worked in various territories before teaming up with Todd Champion in WCW as the Patriots.  The team won the U.S. Tag Team Championship from the Fabulous Freebirds during their brief tenure in the promotion from 1991 to 1992.  At the time of this show, Thompson was getting into bodybuilding, competing in the Carolinas.  PG-13 are great heat magnets, and like their previous bout at Volunteer Slam, the match invokes the Memphis stall style.  Sometimes it feels like PG-13 is wrestling themselves.  That keeps the crowd engaged for a while, but it cannot be sustained because Fulton and Thompson do not have an organic crowd following.  Fulton gets the hot tag to little reaction and traps Ice in an O’Connor roll.  However, Hales distracts the referee and Wolfie hits Fulton over the head with a hubcap so PG-13 can retain.  Rating:  **

The Punisher (w/Jim Cornette) (2-0) beats Bob Armstrong after using a foreign object at 3:38:

Before the match, Cornette gets on the house mic and talks about all the bad things that the Punisher is going to do to Armstrong.  The Punisher wears out Armstrong until he misses a flying leg drop and then the overbooking kicks in as Al Snow comes out to distract Armstrong during his comeback.  Brad Armstrong runs out to fight with Snow and that distracts referee Mark Curtis.  Meanwhile, Cornette and the Punisher beat on Armstrong and when Armstrong decks Cornette, the Punisher hits him in the back with a foreign object for the win.  The match itself was nothing special and having the Punisher use a foreign object to beat a much older talent makes him look weak.  However, the priority is the Armstrong-Cornette feud and this built some heat for that encounter at Fire on the MountainRating:  ½*

MTW Midwest Championship Match:  Al Snow (1-4-1) pinned Marty Jannetty (Champion) after rolling through a flying body press and using the tights at 27:26:

Jannetty got slotted into this match in mid-July after Chris Benoit’s Japanese commitments prevented him from facing Snow in a rematch of their encounter at ECW’s Double Tables.  Since getting released from the WWF in 1994, supposedly due to the Charles Austin injury lawsuit, Jannetty was spending time on the independents.  He had his most visible run in ECW, having a great match against ECW Champion Shane Douglas at Return of the Funker in February, and wrestling Eddie Guerrero for the promotion’s television title at Enter Sandman.  The title in question here is from the Michigan-based Midwest Territorial Wrestling promotion that existed from 1994-1995.  Jannetty won the title from Bruiser Bedlam at an event in Taylor, Michigan on January 21.  After a long, twelve-minute feeling out process, the action in the match kicks up.  Jannetty takes a somersault bump into the guardrail, Snow gets a near-fall from a springboard moonsault, Jannetty gets a near-fall from a hurricanrana, and Snow gets another near-fall from a springboard leg drop.  After taking a bump to the floor, Snow flies off the top with a sunset flip but that still is not enough.  Jannetty sunset flips out of a powerbomb effort for a close near-fall that the crowd buys as a finish and then flies off the top rope, but Snow rolls through and holds the tights for the victory.  This was good, but the regular resting between near-fall sequences kept it from being something great.  Snow would be the last MTW Midwest titleholder as he vacated the belt after leaving for the WWF and the promotion closed down shortly thereafter.  Jannetty did get a good ending out of this match as he reportedly chatted with Shawn Michaels backstage at the show and landed a new WWF contract as a result.  Rating:  ***½

NWA World Championship Match:  Dan Severn (1-0) beats Bobby Blayze (11-3-1) with a Fujiwara armbar at 4:01:

In the shoot fighting world, Severn was reeling after a quick loss to Ken Shamrock at UFC VI.  Like Charlotte Memories, these two wrestle an amateur-like match that is something out of wrestling’s past.  Blayze does a little better than he did in May, managing to trap Severn in a half Boston crab and hitting a German suplex.  However, an ill-advised charge allows Severn to trap him in a Fujiwara armbar after four minutes of action.  Since Blayze looked competitive, this was better than Charlotte MemoriesRating:  **

Terry Gordy & Tommy Rich defeat Boo Bradley & the Mongolian Stomper after Rich pins Bradley after a blind charge at 10:55:

The Stomper was a Canadian wrestling legend, competing for Stampede Wrestling and winning the North American Championship fourteen times between 1968 and 1984.  When it came to the states, the Stomper was best known in Knoxville, competing for Southeast Championship Wrestling from 1976-1981 and winning the NWA Southeast Heavyweight Championship eleven times.  He also wrestled for SMW in its inaugural year before making this guest appearance.  Neither team provides coherent offense and each man wrestles his own match.  Bradley backdrops out of powerbomb but his hot tag to the Stomper is nullified when Rich distracts the referee.  Bradley then goes to avalanche Gordy against the buckles, but Rich pulls his partner out of the way and runs in to make the winning pin.  Rating:  *½

After the match, Gordy and Rich try to beatdown Bradley but the Stomper drives them off with a chair.

USWA Southern Heavyweight Championship Match:  Brad Armstrong (5-0) beats Billy Jack Haynes (Champion) after a side Russian leg sweep to win the title at 9:33:

Haynes was in the middle of a career renaissance in the USWA in 1995, coming into the promotion and laying waste to everyone in his way, including then-USWA Southern Heavyweight Champion Brian Christopher.  Prior to that he was a big star in the Portland-based Pacific Northwest Wrestling promotion and had small runs in the WWF and WCW before leaving due to drug, booking, and pay issues.  As the match progresses, Armstrong and Haynes lay into each other on the mic, going back and forth on whether SMW is better than the USWA and vice versa.  Haynes runs through his power offense, but Armstrong gets his foot on the bottom rope after a chokeslam, Haynes’ finishing move.  Armstrong does his version of the hulk up after Haynes lays in some chops, but his comeback is directionless.  After a blind charge, Haynes tosses Armstrong over the top rope, hoping to save his title via disqualification, but Armstrong skins the cat back in and surprises the champion with a side Russian leg sweep to take the belt.  Armstrong would lose it back to Haynes three days later at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis.  Rating:  **

The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) pins Unabom (w/Al Snow) (2-2) after a Tombstone piledriver 14:48:

This is the first time these two men faced off and the match is historically significant as two years later Unabom would be repackaged from the fake Diesel into the Undertaker’s brother, Kane, creating one of the most memorable feuds of the WWF’s Attitude Era.  The Knoxville crowd is hot for the Undertaker, losing their minds at everything he does.  Most of the match, though, is a slow brawl and Unabom works a three-minute chinlock halfway through.  That kills the flow of the match until the Undertaker breaks it with a side suplex, sits up after a unabomb, and finishes with the Tombstone.  These two would go on to have better matches in the years ahead.  Rating:  ½*

SMW Tag Team Championship Match:  The Heavenly Bodies (w/Jim Cornette) (1-0-1) defeat the THUGS (Champions) (7-2) when Jimmy del Ray pins the Dirty White Boy after Jim Cornette interferes to win the titles at 20:46:

Before the match, Commissioner Bob Armstrong reads a statement that recaps why Ricky Morton was fired from the promotion and Robert Gibson, who gets into the ring with Armstrong, shakes the THUGS hands.  That brings an end to the Express-THUGS feud that was starting on television.  Jim Cornette comes to the ring and asks the THUGS to put up the titles and they agree, with the Bodies being revealed as their opponents.  The Bodies were coming off a release from their WWF as the company shed a bunch of contracts due to financial issues following In Your House II.  The crowd is bummed about the Morton news, so their reaction to the THUGS is tepid throughout the contest.  After going through the conventional tag formula for the first nine minutes, the match keeps going after Smothers gets a hot tag, shines, and is then beaten up by the Bodies and placed into peril, getting busted open in the process.  After Jimmy del Ray misses a moonsault, the Dirty White Boy gets the second hot tag and pulverizes Prichard’s face into the turnbuckle, busting him open.  Smothers piledrives Prichard through a table as the White Boy goes on to plant del Ray with the Bucksnorth Blaster.  However, referee Mark Curtis is busy trying to untangle Smothers from the ropes when he gets caught re-entering the ring, and that gives Cornette the opportunity to soak a towel in ether, put it on the White Boy’s face, and then put del Ray on top of his opponent so the Bodies win the SMW Tag Team Championship for the third time.  Both teams really let it hang out there with very little resting for the twenty-one minutes this match took to find a resolution.  Rating:  ***½

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:  Shawn Michaels (Champion) pins Buddy Landel (w/Jim Cornette) (13-11-1) after Sweet Chin Music at 13:48:

Even though Landel is wrestling in his hometown, Michaels still gets more cheers than he does.  Landel struggles to counter the champion’s offense for the first half of the match, finally getting an opening when Michaels goes shoulder-first into the ring post on a blind charge.  The problem is that Landel’s offense is very 1970s punch-kick-punch-chop, so it never seems to be enough to realistically put Michaels down for the count.  After a flying elbow drop scores a near-fall, Michaels goes for Sweet Chin Music but Landel ducks and the two trade O’Connor rolls for near-falls.  A Michaels rebound out of the corner leads to a ref bump and Cornette violates Landel’s wish for him to remain outside of the ring.  Cornette tries to hit Michaels with his tennis racquet, but Michaels avoids the blow and knocks Cornette out of the ring.  The racquet stays in the ring, although Landel does not need it to hit Michaels with a corkscrew elbow drop and get a visual pin.  Referee Mark Curtis starts the count but stops when he sees the racquet and when Landel pleads his case that he did not use it, Michaels catches him with Sweet Chin Music to retain.  The end featured some creative booking to protect Landel but the match itself was nothing special as this could easily double as a generic television main event.  Rating:  **

After the match, Landel argues with Cornette and Cornette’s Militia come out and surround Michaels.  Brad Armstrong runs out and the two clear the ring, except for Landel who passively watches from the corner.  A frustrated Landel leaves and heads for the locker room without interacting with the babyface crew, though.

The Last Word:  This was a great show that lived up to its hype, even if the main event could have better communicated the story of Buddy Landel trying to complete a career comeback against arguably the best wrestling star of 1995.  The Marty Jannetty-Al Snow and THUGS-Heavenly Bodies were the best matches of the year for the promotion to this point and the latter seems like a fitting substitute for the THUGS-Rock N’ Roll Express feud that was originally planned.  For all of the good of the show, though, it exposed SMW’s flaw at this time in that it could not attract big crowds without outside talent, something that would become painfully apparent as 1995 started to come to a close.

Up Next:  Smoky Mountain TV for August 5!