THE SPECIALISTS Nostalgia Review: SMW Night of the Legends; Chris Candido, Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Terry Gordy, Jim Cornette and many more
Aug 11, 2008 - 1:41:28 PM
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By: Brian Hoops, Nostalgia Specialist
This week’s look back at wrestling nostalgia takes us back to one of my all time favorite regional promotions, Smoky Mountain Wrestling. SMW ran wrestling cards in the Appalachian States of the U.S. from October 1991 through December 1995. The company had limited finances, TV exposure and top name stars; however excellent booking and using fresh, unknown talented wrestlers combined with strong veteran wrestlers, made this independent regional promotion a favorite of wrestling fans. Jim Cornette ran the promotion and the theme of the promotion was “wrestling the way it used to be.” On August 5, 1994; SMW promoted a supercard in Knoxville, Tennessee called The Night of the Legends. The attendance was announced as a sellout crowd of 5,000. This was a record large crowd for SMW at the time. The attendance figure is even more impressive considering this was an independent promotion that had limited TV exposure and the 5,000 was better than the WWF or WCW was doing on many nights in 1994.
The announce team was Jim Ross on play by play and Les Thatcher doing color commentary.
1. Doug Furnas pinned Killer Kyle with a Frankensteiner in 8:46. Furnas was the hometown favorite as he played college ball at the University of Tennessee. Furnas would go on to wrestle in the WWF, All Japan and ECW organizations. It was an average opening match.
2. Dick Slater and Bob Orton wrestled to double disqualification with the Mongolian Stomper and Ronnie Garvin in 11:55. All four of these men were wrestling veterans whose best wrestling years were behind them, but were an integral part of the booking scheme as they brought a sense of wrestling nostalgia to fans and helped to regenerate interest among fans who had drifted away from the product. This was a decent old school match with a lot of psychology used.
Next segment was a “Ross Report” which had Jim Ross in the middle of the ring interviewing the “Gangstas” of New Jack and Mustafa Said. Yes, SMW was the birthplace of the Gangstas, who became even more infamous in a later ECW run. This segment went way too long. It was to establish the Gangstas as heels but it could have been done in half the time.
3. Smoky Mountain Tag Team Champions, Brian Lee and Chris Candido, with Tammy Sytch were defeated by the Rock & Roll Express in 12:57. With the win, the Rock & Roll Express won their 8th Smoky Mountain Tag Team Championship. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were tag team legends as the R & R Express, while Chris Candido and Brian Lee were young wrestlers learning the wrestling business in SMW. Brian Lee wrestled for SMW from 1992-1995, twice becoming Smoky Mountain Heavyweight Champion but is probably best remembered for his later run as Chainz in the WWF and a short run in ECW. Lee also wrestled for the WWF in 1994 as the “Underfaker”, who had a blowoff feud with the Undertaker at SummerSlam 1994. Candido started in Eastern Championship Wrestling, later renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling and was a tag team champion. He joined SMW and became an instant star along with his manager Tammy Sytch. After leaving SMW, Candido and Sytch would go to the WWF where Candido became Skip of the Bodydonnas and Sytch became Sunny. After leaving WWF, Candido would return to ECW and team with Lance Storm to win the ECW World Tag Team Titles. The match followed almost every other R & R Express match I have ever seen. All R & R Express early, Candido and Lee work over Morton, till Morton makes the babyface comeback and hot tags Gibson. Finish came when Gibson pushed Candido off the top rope and Morton pinned him to become champions. A good match that Candido stood out in for his bumping ability.
In the next segment, Les Thatcher did a great job narrating the history of professional wrestling in the Knoxville area. SMW followed this with the Knoxville Hall of Fame awards. The history of Knoxville wrestling was awesome, but the Hall of Fame segment dragged on too long.
4. Lance Storm and Chris Jericho defeated Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Pritchard in 16:15. This match was another great example of what made Smoky Mountain Wrestling so great. The young, green team of Lance Storm and Chris Jericho, called the Thrillseekers took on the experienced, already over team of The Heavenly Bodies managed by Jim Cornette. The Heavenly Bodies were SMW mainstays of Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Pritchard and were working with young Storm and Jericho, providing them with valuable wrestling experience as well as making them stars in the fans eyes by feuding with the established tag team. Storm and Jericho trained together at the Hart Dungeon in Calgary and this was their first major U.S. promotion they worked for after working overseas. Jericho would go onto become a world champion in WWF and WCW while Storm would also become a star in ECW, WWF and WCW. This is the match that Jericho referred to in his book where he wrestled with the broken arm. Jericho broke it that day trying to do a Shooting Star Press. Ross said that Jericho broke it in a motorcycle accident. Thrillseekers got the early advantage until the Bodies took control working on Storm. Storm made the hot tag to Jericho who cleaned house until Pritchard rammed Jericho’s head into the steel guard rail at ringside. Jericho bled a gusher. If you watch very closely, you can pick up Jericho passing the blade to ref Mark Curtis after he was thrown back in the ring. Curtis called for the bell and awarded the match to the Bodies due to excessive blood loss by Jericho. Jericho begged for the match to continue and Ross sold the heart and courage of Jericho big time. Seconds after restarting the match, Jericho rolled up Del Ray for the pinfall victory. A really good match that told a simple but effective story.
5. The Dirty White Boy (Tony Anthony) defeated Terry Gordy by dq in 10:31 to retain the Smoky Mountain Heavyweight Title. Anthony was on his third title reign after recapturing the belt from Jake Roberts in July of 1994. Gordy was probably best remembered as a member of the Freebirds as well as a short run as WCW World Tag Team Champions along with Steve Williams. Gordy wrestled regularly in Japan for several years for All Japan Wrestling and was slowing his career and working more in the U.S. The pace was slow and methodical and their offensive moves consisted of mostly punches and kicks, with very little selling by either man. The match only went 10:31 and ended in a disqualification win for The Dirty White Boy when Chris Walker interfered in the match.
6. In a “coward waves the flag” match, Bob Armstrong, Tracey Smothers and Road Warrior Hawk defeated Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr. and Bruiser Bedlam in 9:31. This match was built around the long running feud of Bob Armstrong and his family vs. Jim Cornette. They showed a very long video highlight package, documenting the history of the rivalry. The rules of the match was basically an anything goes street fight, with the only way for the match to end was for a white flag to be waved, signaling submission. The team of Armstrong, Smothers and Hawk chose Knoxville wrestling legend Ron Wright to be the man to wave their flag while the Funks and Bedlam chose Jim Cornette. Since Smothers was the only one of the face team that could work and sell effectively, the Funks and Bedlam worked over him for the majority of the match until Smothers was able to make the hot tag to Hawk. Finish came when Cornette threw powder in Wright's eyes and Wright then went after Cornette. Cornette tried to fight Wright off by waving the flag. The ref saw it and called for the bell. Decent action.
Summary: If you like old style regional wrestling, this is a great event to watch. Good matches with common sense booking, made this promotion survive in a very difficult financial period for wrestling for several years, and this event is one of the better special cards put on by SMW.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out my blog site at www.midwestmarketsolutions.com/blog.
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