The Morton Downey Jr. Show Meets Pro Wrestling!

I enjoyed reviewing the Donahue episode on wrestling a few weeks ago, so thought I’d look at the even lower rent version from two or three years prior. I believe this was recorded after his appearance at WrestleMania V. The YouTube version up currently is incomplete, but proceeded with ex-footballer Jim Wilson alleging that by turning down the advances of gay promoter Jim Barnett he was blackballed from wrestling and denied a sure opportunity at being the NWA world heavyweight champion, so I guess we all have James E. to thank posthumously for sparing us that. The first person to rebuke that… We’ll see!

At Loudmouth No. 1 we have everyone’s favourite hothead, Dr. D David Schultz, who says there’s nothing fake about himself and that he’d never heard of Jim Wilson before he went whining to the press. He reckons that WILSON must be the gay one and taunts him with “Did you kiss him?”. Wilson is pretty reserved, to the point of having no charisma even if he’s telling the truth. Wilson gives the game away on blading too, which Schultz denies ever doing (of course, he did). Wilson looks like he’s pretty scared of Schultz (wise man!). Eddie Mansfield gets dumped upon too, but they bleep his name out.

At Loudmouth No. 2 is a definite loudmouth, promoter Dennis Coralluzzo, who calls Wilson a jobber. Downey tries to talk up Schultz fighting Wilson. Coralluzzo says he’d promote it!

Everyone’s favourite cheque-bouncer, Paul E. Dangerously, joins the show by phone. He says the wrestling business is like the TV business – all about ratings and business, and Wilson couldn’t draw either.

Morton goes to a break saying we’ll see the world’s “strangest” man in a moment, although he actually meant to say strongest, and it’s Ted Arcidi coming next.

Back from the break with definitely a “strange” man, Thunderbolt Patterson, wearing a Justice for Janitors t-shirt, claiming the promoters held him back because he was black. Morton quotes how much money he made and says it doesn’t sound like he was hard done by, but Patterson disputes that and says the white guys got more. Schultz goes in on him from the stage and said while he was in the opening match Patterson was complaining about mistreatment as a main eventer and walking out if his money wasn’t right. Arcidi tries to get a word in but Schultz is yelling and T-Bolt is doing his routine. Arcidi says Schultz paid his dues while the other two argue who over got paid less in the early days.

Arcidi disputes prejudice against black wrestlers because of all the stars in the WWF who were black. Patterson says Arcidi is all muscles and doesn’t know how to wrestle, which is rich coming from him. Tony Altomare prances up and says that Patterson acted like a big shot when he worked with him in Greenville one time and that he didn’t care less about his colour. That goes nowhere, so they cut to a break.

Back from break, we’ve got Captain Lou Albano, on the outs with the WWF at the time and talking up the NWA and other promotions. He says there might be some showmanship but wrestlers are still the greatest athletes in the world. He says he knew a lot of black stars that made lots of money, which Patterson turns around and says they didn’t. The Capper talks about how his wife would divorce him too if he bladed. Some independent wrestlers in the front row, who look like total goofs, applaud him.

Wilson, Patterson’s old buddy and fellow complainer, is welcomed to reply. He tries to produce some documentation about how the promoters make all the money and give the wrestlers peanuts, prompting Dr. D to ask him if he was looking for handouts. Lou is asked if he was ever told who was going to win and who was going to lose and answers that as far as he was concerned, if he ever lost a match it was to the better man, which isn’t a bad roundabout answer. He also talks about how he couldn’t draw himself as a wrestler, so didn’t deserve a big spot, but was a big deal as a manager, where he did make his money.

Lou’s wife, who’s really attractive, comes up to the podium to speak about him. She talks about all the injuries Lou has had, including the Captain being able to bend his nose sideways with how broken it is, so it’s not fake to her.

Back to Wilson, he quotes Vince McMahon as saying it is fake. He confirms again that he was told every night whether he was going to win or lose (“Ha!”, goes Lou). Lou says the quote was taken out of context, which doesn’t really work.

After a break, Larry Sharpe, head of the Monster Factory, has joined us in his bad suit. Jim says all he and T-Bolt ever wanted to do was make things better for wrestlers. Lou said a union wouldn’t be a bad thing, and has his own suggestions, but says Wilson and Patterson could never make it work the way they were going about it.

The Doctor then flings himself into a spirited rant, saying he was on top everywhere he went and then got kicked out while at the very top because of what he did (hitting John Stossel), but he never complained about it or asked for handouts because he made his own money and continues to. He then picks up a cup of water and throws it in Wilson’s face. Wilson sits there and takes it. Captain Lou, the voice of reason, tries to calm him down with “Alright, Doctor. Alright, Doctor”.

Back to Sharpe, who gets talked up for training wrestlers. Schultz is still having a go at Wilson. Sharpe says if there was a real union in wrestling where you had to prove you could wrestle then Wilson and Patterson wouldn’t be in it. He also recalls training Tony Atlas and making half as much wrestling him in his first week because Tony was an attraction with being a black bodybuilder. Sharpe says as a trainer he only gets a small percentage of black guys coming in to try out, hence their smaller place in wrestling. Downey asks if it’s the chicken and the egg, with them not trying out because of inherent racism in wrestling. Sharpe says they’d get as fair a shake as anyone. Schultz says that when it’s the other way, with black athletes dominating basketball, you don’t hear white guys crying about it, although I think that’s a flawed premise. Downey’s onto Patterson as making it a racial thing too.

Wrapping up with questions from the audience, a guy asks why Las Vegas doesn’t take bets on wrestling if it’s real. Lou says it’s because they “overmatch”, which he is willing to admit to. The guy says that the “exhibition” billing is a bit fishy.

After another break, Wilson holds up a picture of President Carter headlocking Mr. Wrestling II. He says it represents him and Patterson unmasking the politics of wrestling, which everyone groans at.

In the final minute, Schultz argues against being prejudiced because he’s a bounty hunter now because he got cast out of wrestling and will take down anyone who’s in the wrong regardless of their colour. Morton lets him ramble while giving his final thoughts.

The Bottom Line: A lot to untangle here, so I’ll go person by person as far as the big names go.

Wilson – Came across as mild-mannered, may or may not have had a case, but was never going to win because he was too reserved. He told the truth on some things while others swore the opposite. His case was going nowhere, so he was obviously up to be a whipping boy.

Patterson – Came across as disingenuous, possibly because of his eccentric behaviour. Wilson was never ready to back him up even though they were buddies and partners in crime. He was very smart in that respect.

Schultz – Out of the business, not getting back into it, so nothing to keep sacred, but still did. Came across as impassioned and by rights should’ve still been in the business and later times would probably have allowed him to come back. He was there to be the explosive element in the show.

Albano – A rare occasion of him being the sensible one, he picked his words very smartly while trying to maintain the “integrity” of the business.

So, you get a weird situation of the person telling the truth being called a liar and the people keeping up the con swearing they were telling the truth. A bit of a mess, but an entertaining one. Downey knew what he had cooked up here and did it for the shock value, but at least was decent enough to keep kayfabe to a degree, as strange as that sounds.