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1980's TV Wrestling Greats
1980s TV Wrestling :
Part One: Ric Flair
Part Two: Dusty Rhodes & Tully Blanchard
Part Three: Jim Cornette & Baby Doll
Part Fou: Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes
Part Five: Betrayal!
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1980's TV Wrestling Greats
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In the mid-1940s, when television was brand-new technology, producers began exploring ways to attract an audience with exciting visual content.
Radio was still the dominant medium for home entertainment; television was just beginning to define its identity and needed to create programming that radio couldn't replicate.
Professional (read: theatrical) wrestling was the first sport to become popular on the tube because it was inexpensive to stage and relatively easy to shoot.
With those old heavy-duty TV cameras tied to inch-thick cables, broadcasters needed a tightly confined spectacle. Wrestling and boxing were naturals.
By the '50s, local stations filled several hours each week with matches featuring famous old-school wrestlers like the Baron and Gorgeous George battling alongside popular local bruisers.
In the '80s wrestling went mainstream with national superstars like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant raking in millions from pay-per-view matches, books, movies, videos, and dolls.
Pro-wrestling is more than just sport, it's blue collar ballet, a soap opera for guys. To set up a good match, you have to weave a compelling story with characters people care about.
No one did that better than the syndicated NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling programs from the '70s and '80s, produced by Crockett Promotions out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
As I write this, one of Crockett's biggest stars, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, is at the top of his game, just as he was back in 1985 during NWA's golden age.
Flair trained in the AWA in Minneapolis, moving to Charlotte in 1974. He survived a horrendous plane crash on October 4, 1975, a tragedy that ended the career of the legendary Johnny Valentine.
Six months later, Ric Flair made his comeback and did it with a vengeance; he is considered to be the greatest wrestler of all time.
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A rivalry had been building between Ricky Morton and World Heavyweight Champion Flair for some time - ever since Morton crushed Flair's sunglasses on national television (in an apparent sign of disrespect), bitchslapped him, then kicked his ass in an impromptu match.
A short time later, in an elimination match, Morton easily pinned 'Nature Boy' within seconds, leaving a stunned Ric Flair looking confused and foolish in the ring.
Losing didn't sit well with Ric Flair that evening (it never did). He and the rest of the Four Horsemen 'Pearl Harbored' the rockers in the dressing rooms afterward. Ricky Morton's bloody face was smeared across the concrete floor by Flair in an attempt to erase his pretty-boy looks forever.
But an ill
wind was blowing for Ric Flair - a hurricane of hatred they called Dusty!
Needless to say, he and his teammates "the Four Horsemen" (Ole and Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) were responsible for more than their share of dirty tricks against unsuspecting opponents as well.
Some of Flair's toughest televised battles were against foes like Ivan and Nikita Koloff, Wahoo McDaniel, and Magnum TA. He and Dusty "The American Dream" Rhodes in particular were long-time rivals, carrying on one of the most famous feuds in Mid-Atlantic history.
These mice and rats and such small deer had been Nature Boy's food for ten long years. During one brutal, fenced-in match in 1985, the Russian Nikita Koloff had Flair on the ropes and badly injured when Dusty surprised everyone by bravely entering the ring to stop the slaughter.
He quickly vanquished the Russians, giving Ric Flair time to recuperate. In a shocking display of Reagan-era gratitude, Flair's teamates rushed the ring, blindsiding Dusty just as Nature Boy padlocked the cage door and gleefully joined in the ruthless beating.
Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend!
For the next few minutes, the Four Horsemen did as much damage as they could to the nearly unconscious Rhodes. Dusty's buddies looked on helplessly, unable to breech the cage as he was pummelled mercilessly by four opponents at once.
Dusty was carried out on a stretcher that night, the bones in his leg shattered.
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