International Championship Wrestling from the IWA

When I became a fan of wrestling while growing up in the nineties, it wasn’t uncommon after the explosion of the WWF in the UK to see smaller video companies releasing wrestling shows on tape to cash in on the popularity. One line of tapes was releases of the IWA wrestling programme International Championship Wrestling. The main promoter was Pedro Martinez, but the money man was Eddie Einhorn, and there was a legitimate attempt to challenge the WWWF with the quality of stars they had, as you’ll see in this funky roll call:

What I love about that video, as mentioned elsewhere, is how Tex McKenzie comes in like a man possessed, then all the life drains out of him in a second.

This episode has just been uploaded to YouTube, so I thought I’d give it a look.

Hosts as always are Jack Reynolds and Tex McKenzie. Tex looks like a giant cowboy version of Marty Feldman and can’t keep his hands off Reynolds (but not in that way). Ron Martinez, Pedro’s son, is the ring announcer and looks like he’s got a shotgun pulled on him from behind the camera, hence why I guess he wore shades later. The legendary Tommy Young is the referee. Reynolds and McKenzie preview a tag team main event of Ernie Ladd siding with Cowboy Bob Ellis against tag champs the Mongols.

Joe Turco and Frenchy Martin vs. Argentina Apollo and Luis Martinez

Luis is not another Martinez relative, but I think his claim was that he was the first wrestler to shout “Arriba!” before Tito Santana. The Frenchy Martin in this match is not the future manager of Dino Bravo, but is a Canadian wrestler with bizarre metallic blue tights. Martin and Turco are basically heel jobbers. Apollo confuses the heels with gymnastics and lame spinning back kicks, which look like a ballet move, then almost plants Martin’s head in the mat with a rear waistlock takedown to the horror of the announcers. Martinez is probably in his fifties and does a bunch of comedy match techniques. The heels take advantage of Apollo in their corner, but Martinez tags back in and gets an airplane spin followed by a Mexican roll (jackknife pin) while Apollo blocks Turco with an Argentine backbreaker (torture rack), just to solidify what an Antonino Rocca ripoff he is. Match was fine, just a quick opening match to get things started.

Joe Richards vs. Dick “The Bulldog” Brower

Brower is the heel North American champion, so pretty much the top heel in the company. Said to be a KKK member, he was a chubby guy with black trunks and boots who brawled a lot and did the twitching, wild-eyed facial expressions and yelling. Richards is a jobber from Texas and his white tights and boots are so bright they’re burning the camera. Brower attacks early with punches and sends Richards to the outside for a chair shot, which horse collars him. He looks to finish with a backbreaker, but picks up Richards on two and puts him out with the Cobra clutch instead. Did the job! Brower incoherent yells into the mic about wanting Mil Mascaras’ title. Brower is required to wake up Richards, so pulls him outside and drops a knee on him. That’ll work!

Mil Mascaras vs. Bobby Garcia

And now the top face, IWA world heavyweight champion Mil Mascaras, who has eschewed any capes tonight for a Western jacket and neckerchief. Not hard to see why Mil was a star, even if he was an arsehole, with his great gear and physique and tan. Bow and arrow crossed with a surfboard to start, transitioned into pulling the arms back with a foot in the middle of the back. Then to a test of strength, while Reynolds and McKenzie give him the verbal BJ about how he’s a big movie star who’s single and drives a Mercedes, all at the same time as Mil flips a ground-based double knucklelock over so that it looks like he’s humping Garcia. Garcia tries some weak punches, which Mil doesn’t even bother to register before finishing with two flying chops (“A Mexican surfboard!”, says Tex, as he’s said for about half a dozen moves so far) and a reverse cross bodyblock off the top. No yob for Mil, although given the weak competition for him here who can blame him? Quick showcase for Mil as the champ. He raises Garcia to his feet and then fucks him off out of his camera shot.

Marshall Lewis vs. Kurt Von Hess

Lewis sounds like he should be some tough Texan, but he’s actually a short Italian from New York. Von Hess is a bald German along the lines of Baron von Raschke and Killer Karl Krupp. More interesting is his manager, former Fabulous Kangaroo and technical wizard Al Costello. Really lame heel stuff to start, pulling the tights to hide that he’s choking Lewis on the other side. Lewis sweeps Von Hess’ legs to annoy him, so he quickly finishes with a hangman (hooking Hart Attack clothesline) for the three. Really bad stuff here, with poor or no transitions from move to move. At least it was short.

The Love Brothers vs. Del Starr and Jim Wilson

The Love Brothers are a heel tag team from Canada (and not actually brothers, I’m sure you’re shocked to hear), Rotten Reginald and Horrible Hartford. They’re a pair of hippies with goatees, wearing flares in the ring. Jim Wilson was of course the ex-footballer who was on the Morton Downey Jr. Show that I reviewed recently. Wilson’s body language is just terrible, way over the top for the mildest of moves to make him look like a big loser, even though he dwarfs the opponents. Del Starr gets tagged in and the announcers give so little of a s--- about him that they call him Marshall Lewis until they eventually correct themselves. The Loves go for a move that looks like a double gutbuster, but without any bothering to put their knees out. “That’s called… well… I don’t know… it bewilders me…”, adds Tex, with more insightful commentary. I guess it could’ve been a Mexican surfboard, I don’t know. Starr gets thrown outside, and does the crappy bump where he almost stops as he approaches the ropes and gently steps out and drops to the floor. Manager Al Costello sneaks around and jabs Del with the boomerang for the move that’s got the most heat out of the match so far. Back in, the Love Brothers finish with a double clothesline onto the top rope. The Loves were pretty decent heels that I’m half surprised didn’t get a bigger push elsewhere, but it might have been a size and look thing.

Quick interview with Bob Ellis, with Bob starting to make a point about how he and Tex have been cowpokes together and might start a tag team, before Tex cuts him off and laments Ernie Ladd turning against him like he’s about to cry. But Tex is gonna ride shotgun with him and they’re going to beat all the tag teams, making up a list of teams they’ve already beaten in places and countries they’ve probably never visited and couldn’t even spell.

Cowboy Bob Ellis and The Big Cat Ernie Ladd vs. The Mongols

And now we’re showing them together in tag team action during better days? What a schizophrenic show! The Mongols are Bolo and Geto, managed by rotund former wrestler George “Crybaby” Cannon, the tag team champions. Bolo is an unrecognisable young Bill Eadie. Geto is his trainer, Newton Tattrie. Ellis has a wide torso but incredibly skinny arms and legs, plus a wig that looks ready to spin off. He gets trapped in bearhugs by the Mongols to start. Ladd tags in and gets some kicks and punches in before the Mongols get him in their corner. He muscles Geto back over and tags Ellis back in, but misses a wild punch and catches Ellis on the jaw. Ellis gives him a patronising pat on the cheek to say it’s OK, mistakes happen. What a dick. Ernie comes back in after a tag and Ellis almost accidentally punches him, but pulls it at the last second, which Ladd is less cool about. It’s actually not a bad story of a team wanting to win so desperately that they make mistakes and blow it. “It’s a match of men”, says helpful Tex. The Mongols then swarm Ernie and Cannon pulls down Ellis and hits him with the army helmet on the floor, so that the’s not there for the eventual tag. Ladd eventually gets back and decks Ellis himself before putting the boots to him. Ellis lays there and occasionally flails his arms to “sell” the pain. It’s a no contest and a heel turn from the Big Cat. Well, who wants a peak Ernie Ladd as a good guy?

Reynolds and McKenzie sign off unable to answer what has happened there. Well, knock me over with a feather(!).

The Bottom Line: Call it a victim of being so old, but it’s an episode with a notable angle at the end that’s spoiled before it happens! An OK showcase of the stars, and proving what they had to challenge the WWWF, with not dissimilar action in the ring, but hardly likely to wow anybody now. Plus there was no appearance from Dino Bravo, who was named in the intro, so maybe I’m just smarting.