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CIRCA
Championship Wrestling
from Florida, 1986
January 27, 2005

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

This week, in recognition of the mounds of snow and bone-chilling temperatures in the Northern U.S., we're going back to the Sunshine State.
 
Specifically, we're going to join broadcasting icon Gordon Solie and his colorman (and wrestling legend in his own right), Buddy Colt, for a weekly episode of Championship Wrestling from Florida. The year is 1986. The stars are an odd assortment of established veterans and future icons.

 
Let's have a look at FCW from the days when it was one of the last few major territories, right before the pro wrestling hierarchy changed to WCW and the WWF on top, and various "independents" scattered throughout the world.

-- Modern-day introductions on the DVD version of this are by "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.

-- Your commentators, of course, are Solie and Colt.

-- We start off with the traditional Florida Championship Wrestling theme song and graphics, over a backdrop of Lex Luger vs. Southern Heavyweight Champion Jesse Barr, joined in progress near the end. This is the match where Luger won back the title, shortly before Jesse Barr went to the WWF to play the role of Jimmy Jack Funk.

-- At the broadcast desk, Gordon Solie and Buddy Colt hype us up for this week's action, which will kick off shortly with the FCW TV debut of The Ninja - who was played by Keiji Muto, best known on these shores as The Great Muta. SOlie and Colt welcome Ron Slinker to the desk to offer some "expertise" on martial arts, I guess to prepare us for what we're about to see with The Ninja. Slinker seems confused himself, saying he's been all over the world.... where? He doesn't know. But he's got a contract and he's gonna start competing... when? He doesn't know. But he does offer some background for the viewers about the "Ninja": he was trained at an unknown location, and he's probably got lots of endurance. For an "expert," Ron Slinker probably left more viewers scratching their heads in confusion than he educated about martial arts.

Good ol' Gordon Solie is right there to call it like he sees it, too. Solie tells viewers that if they're confused by what Slinker said, that's OK, because so is Gordon. That's what made Solie so awesome... he would shill when necessary, and he'd call the match to the best of his ability, but he would never bullshit the audience. Ron Slinker made no sense, and Solie called him on it, right on camera. Classic.

THE NINJA vs. PRINCE IAUKEA

Muta was a spry young lad in 1986, dressed in a black ninja costume and mask, which he removed before the match. Newer fans: This Prince Iaukea is NOT the same guy you remember from WCW Nitro and Thunder. This was the actual son of King Curtis Iaukea (who appears on this episode as "The Chairman of the Board," a strange spiritual leader for Kevin Sullivan and his Dark Army). The "Prince Iaukea" in WCW in the late '90s-early '00s was no relation to these gentlemen.

For his part, Iaukea seemed very fundamentally sound as a wrestler. He wasn't the most exciting guy in the world, but held up against others on this show, he compares very favorably. As you might imagine, Muta's style has the crowd increasingly digging the match for the novelty of it all. Iaukea caught Muta's foot at one point, and Muta escaped with a reverse spin kick. In 1986 in the U.S., the catch-the-foot spot invariably resulted in the catcher spinning the guy around by his own leg and following with a punch or clothesline. The spinkick escape was so far out of the ordinary for that time, the crowd erupted like they'd never seen anything so cool before. As if that weren't enough, Muta then uses his soon-to-be-classic handspring elbow on Iaukea. A minute later, Muta dumps Iaukea out of the ring and follows up with a basic plancha to the arena floor. Again, standard fare for today's fan, but the FCW crowd loves every second of it.

They do some give-and-take with armbars and chicken wings, and eventually Muta (er, Ninja) floors Iaukea long enough to nail a moonsault for the pinfall. The crowd gives Muta a strong ovation after the match.

HECTOR GUERRERO vs. LEX LUGER

Luger was very green, and it showed. He had an amazing physique, but then again, he always did. Guerrero was close to starting his legendary run of WrestleCrap gimmicks, starting with Lazer Tron in JCP and following up with a stunningly bizarre stint as the Gobbledy Gooker at the WWF Survivor Series. Of all the Guerreros, Hector resembles his brother Eddie the closest. Wrestles like him at times, too.

Luger is making a very pointed effort to pose for the crowd at every opportunity. When it comes to trade holds with Guerrero, Hector tries to carry Luger, but sometimes he's too much to carry. Such as when Hector goes for a basic armdrag and Luger messes up the rollthrough. Poor Hector gets the short end of the stick here, as he usually does, and jobs to Luger. Lex gets the pin with a handful of tights after rolling through a bodypress attempt.

-- Here's the Chairman of the Board, King Curtis Iaukea, sitting on the floor of the locker room and cutting a slow-but-incredibly-loud promo about the master Abudadein, and the young man who is destined to join Kevin Sullivan's Dark Army, and all of the lunacy that goes with the territory of the Dark Army faction. Basically, Sullivan's devil worshipping gimmick evolved into the Dark Army, where Sullivan turned old-timers like Bob Roop and Mark Lewin into oddball heel characters, supposedly under his "spell." The Chairman reveals that the youngster destined to cross over to the dark side is Lex Luger.

THE DARK ARMY (KEVIN SULLIVAN, MAYA SINGH & THE PURPLE HAZE) vs. TONY D'AMATA, JIM BACKLUND & MIKE ALLEN

This was a real quick six-man tag squash match. Maya Singh was Bob Roop with his head partially shaved and his face painted. The Purple Haze was Mark Lewin. Accompanying the Dark Army to the ring are the Chairman and a young Luna Vachon, looking every bit as freakish as she did in later years.

The only jobber of note is Jimmy Backlund, who later gained fame as half of the Heavenly Bodies in Smokey Mountain with Dr. Tom Pritchard (as "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray). Backlund takes the pinfall here, jobbing to Singh after a lariat. The Dark Army heads over to Solie and Colt at the announce position and intimidates them with an impromptu promo.

KENDALL WINDHAM vs. MARK BENEDICT

This appears to be another jobber squash match, but Benedict is either very nervous or unprepared. Windham was well-received due to the popularity of his father Blackjack Mulligan, who was working as a top babyface in FCW at the time, and older brother Barry Windham, who was one of the NWA's most popular young babyfaces at the time, working main events against Ric Flair and the like.

Windham doesn't look very polished, which does not bode well for the match, considering that Benedict clearly needs someone to carry him and Windham ain't the guy. They fumble through some sequences, even somehow screwing up a running of the ropes. The crowd isn't as entertained as they've been for the previous matches, but you can still hear the occasional supportive comment from the audience. It's funny to hear fans coach Windham along, yelling instructions to him as though they were watching their own kid compete in a pee wee wrestling tournament or something. That would never happen today, because fans today don't have a vested interest in any one guy winning the match. Back then, the fans shouting support for Windham may very well have believed they were watching a real competition in the ring, and thought they were helping Windham win with comments like "Spin out, Kendall! Turn around! Duck!" Ah, kayfabe...

Windham wins with a running bodypress and pinfall. Not a great match, even by TV jobber match standards.

-- Buddy Colt goes to ringside to interview Blackjack Mulligan, but first, we go to a pre-recorded Dark Army interview.

-- The Dark Army is in the locker room talking about how "Superstar" Billy Graham (then in his martial arts gimmick) strayed from the pack and was "lost in the desert." Basically, Graham dared to stray from the Dark Army, and Sullivan says Graham will return... but when he comes back, he'll be slit from his neck to his gut, because the Dark Army is going to feast on his innards. Alrighty then...

-- Mulligan jaws about the Dark Army a bit, and then we get a pre-recorded interview with Billy Graham. The interview is audio-only, over a still shot of Graham tied down on the desert floor. Graham promises the day of reckoning is here for the Dark Army. Not too long after this, both Mulligan and Graham returned to the WWF... Graham returning to his old tie-dye gimmick as an inspirational former world champion, and Mulligan returning as "Big Machine" of the Machines (and later working as Blackjack Mulligan after that gimmick ended).

-- Gordon Solie says it is his sad duty to inform us that FCW referee and former wrestler Bubba Douglas passed away last weekend, collapsing and dying after reffing a show in Lakeland, Fla. He will be missed, Solie says.

RIC FLAIR vs. BARRY WINDHAM (VERY clipped)

-- What we have here is not part of the formal TV taping, but a clip of the final couple of minutes of Barry vs. the Nature Boy from a different arena. Solie does commentary over the match, which ends in a double countout. It's not the full match (in fact it's probably not even one fifth of the match, knowing Flair and Windham), but it's still cool to catch any extra footage of Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham from that period in both guys' careers. Good stuff.

BLACKJACK MULLIGAN vs. LA AMENAZA ROJA & THE MARAUDER

A two-on-one squash match to end the show. Mulligan's opponents are both masked. "La Amenaza Roja" means "The Red Menace," loosely translated. Mulligan finishes with a terrible-looking back elbow and a pin.

-- And that's the show. Considering this was an average weekly wrestling show from the 1980s - thus meaning squash matches are to be expected - I was still quite entertained for the most part. Very cool to see the Flair vs. Windham clip, and a young Great Muta wowing the crowd. It's also cool to see guys like Luger and Muta before they were superstars, mixing it up on the same show as established vets in the twilights of their careers, like Mulligan, Bob Roop, and Mark Lewin.

Also, any time you can hear Gordon Solie on commentary, you've got at least one thing to look forward to. I'd recommend this one... not so much for any great matches as for a really intriguing look at where these performers were at this point in their careers, and especially if you've never seen Florida Championship Wrestling.

This episode of Championship Wrestling from Florida featuring The Great Muta, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, Barry Windham and more   is available in its entirety on the DVD titled Takedown Masters: Turnbuckle Memories, Vol. 1. The DVD can be purchased for $8.99.

 
E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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