Begin Transmission: Dec. 28 2016

 

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Rolling back through Satellite Archives I happened upon an old match I hadnt seen in quite some time. My joy for wrestling in the good old days was large in part due to the Macho Man Randy Savage. I was so excited when he first captured the championship at WrestleMania 4…I was then horrified when he lost it at WrestleMania 5 back to Hulk Hogan. Depressed when he lost a retirement match years later to the Ultimate warrior at Wrestlemania 7. Then as the hands of fate would have it he would recapture the world title again in 1992…I remember loving it but always found it strange when he won it again. Little did I know HOW strange the circumstances were in which he was given the opportunity. Strap in heroes as we go behind the scenes of the WWF political landscape of 1992..

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The way it was meant to be…Randy and Elizabeth forever. Randy Savage was my all time favorite wrestler and I was never prouder of him when he became the WWF champion for the first time! However his second title reign would not be as glorious and joyous as this one when Randy and Liz ruled the world!

 

We are about to discuss the seemingly little know back story to this controversial title change that is virtually lost in the storage closet of  the WWE Video Library. This is the weird tale of the 2nd WWF title reign of Randy Macho Man Savage,  how it was never meant to be and was born out out of a weird series of events and would end in the same bizzare fashion it began.Those who think they know how booking in professional wrestling works really needs to think again and sit back and study this extraordinary series of events that changed the WWF Title picture forever.

For a bit of perspective we need to flash back months before said title match. Randy Savage had recently won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship April 5th 1992 at WrestleMania 8 from Ric Flair following a very well played out storyline which suggested that Ric Flair had photos of a previous relationship with Randy’s wife Elizabeth. Of course those who knew how protective Randy was of Liz in real life knew that despite this being a storyline persay it touched a very real nerve in Randy. This was a revenge match at the highest level and Randy came out on top..However suddenly only several months removed Savage would be booked to drop the belt on a episode of Prime Time Wrestling (WWF Superstars in Canada) Sept.1st of the same year! It seemed out of place..Something didn’t sit well with me, almost as if it was suddenly improvised. This match and the reason it played out like it did is one that may surprise even the most hardcore wrestling fan.Savage was never meant to win the title at WrestleMania 8 in the original booking plans.

The Savage vs Flair WrestleMania 8 match was not on the original card..In fact Randy Savage was not even scheduled to wrestle!?  The scheduled main event match was a  Champion vs Champion match, Ric Flair vs Hulk Hogan, the ultimate dream match for wrestling fans at the time. WWF had done a couple of dry runs at the time with Hogan vs Flair on the house show loop but the matches didn’t draw or receive the reaction the WWF was looking for in the proposed main event at Mania. So the course of matters changed. First Flair has arrived in the WWF complete with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship which eventually legally would be mixed forcing the WWF to video distort any visuals of the title on WWF TV.

On top of the WCW legal ramblings WWF would find themselves in they were also being subjected tothe beginnings of a steroid investigation and Hulk Hogan would also put the company in an undesirable light by shining a light on steroid abuse by lying on public TV (On The Arsenio Hall show in 1991)


Hogan lied about not taking steroids which spiraled into further investigations into steroid abuse within the WWF and led to a full on Steroid trial in 1993-1994. The company could not risk putting the title on Hogan in the interim as he was toying with the idea of stepping away from the limelight to pursue other opportunities while some speculated he was hoping to let the heat die down from the steroid fire.

Once the Hogan and Flair proposed match was aborted the Wrestlemania booking plans changed.The company decided to put the WWF strap on Ric Flair at the 1992 Royal Rumble while also setting up a feud between Hulk Hogan and the then face Sid Justice.


Now with Hogan paired with Sid..The company needed someone to pair with Flair.There were no clear contenders worthy of a WrestleMania main event as the WWF had just recently finished a series of matches with Ric Flair and Roddy Piper so they could not go back to that well easily. The call was made to Savage who toiled behind the announce table. He would easily fill the Co-Main event slot and be a contender that fans would buy into.

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So due to some internal politics and a Hulk Hogan steroid scandal brewing on the horizon the decision was made to not give Hogan the title back from Flair but to have a blow off match with Sid Justice and re-introduce the Ultimate Warrior back into the mix as the companies number one face.

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With that Savage vs. Flair was set for WrestleMania 8 with Randy walking away with the belt in one of the best WrestleMania matches especially of that era.


Savage was chosen to win the strap for a number of reasons outside of the Hogan vs Flair decision. The WWF had “retired” Randy Savage one year earlier at WrestleMania 7 and had placed him in an announcer position to keep him on-screen..A position that Savage was good at but he disliked not being an active wrestler and felt marginalized behind the mic.

Savage was beloved by the WWF and particularly by Vince McMahon. As a favor to Savages loyalty the decision was made to give Randy another run as a in ring wrestler and put the strap on him at the biggest show of the year in the “Co-Main Event

 

Things looked good for Savage after WrestleMania 8 as a wrestler ..He had officially returned to the ring and was once again the world champion. However in real life Savage’s legit marriage to his Manager and spouse Elizabeth was falling apart and WrestleMania would be their swan song. Amongst the roars of thousands of fans, and a full on fireworks celebration and his shiny new championship..Savages relationship with the love of his life was over...on live PPV this would be the last the fans would ever see of the couple in the WWF.

While Savage headed back to the road as a full time wrestler Elizabeth would not join him and this would lead eventually to a divorce for the long time beloved couple. Randy would never be the same. Reports of his demeanor and in ring professionalism changed. Randy struggled without his Liz..and it was apparent to everyone including Vince McMahon and the quick decision was quickly made to take the title away from Randy and put it temporarily back to Flair until a suitable suitor to the title could be found! (It would later be Flair dropping the title to Bret The Hitman Hart)

So the decision was made that Savage needed to get his personal life together before the company seriously used him in a reliable full time capacity. So it was set on Sept.1st 1992 on a taping for WWF Prime Time Wrestling that Ric Flair vs. Randy Macho Man Savage would be the main event for the WWF Heavyweight Championship.

Both Flair and Savage were informed of the title switch and were given their finish of where Savage would lose to Ric Flair’s figure 4 leg lock after interference by Razor Ramon and Mr. Perfect. Randy would “Pass out from the pain” as a way of protecting Randy even in a loss situation. This match only existed as a result of political jockeying, personal marital issues , and an impending company steroid scandal was about to be marred by yet another bombshell. Apparently as Vince McMahon watched the match play out backstage he ordered the wrestlers to the back and was quite upset about the quality of the match and ordered the wrestlers out to the ring to reshoot the match in front of a confused television audience who had just watched the same match play out. The audience was informed that as a result of the match finish the match would be restarted. It was the second match that would eventually air on Sept. 14th 1992 edition of Prime Time. This sequence of events would be very important to the business as it represented the changing of the guard as Flair would go on to drop the strap to a younger Bret Hart and the WWF would never be the same..

That’s your history lesson wrestling fans..thanks for reading. Strap in heroes 2017 has so much more in store for us…so to all my readers Happy Holidays and Happy New Year..thanks so much for your support all year. See ya Next Year!!

Hero Out.

End Transmission..

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High above our planet…our mighty Satellite Orbits the Earth stuck in a time-warp perpetually leaving us stranded in my childhood of the 1980s. As all of the Satellite Team have beamed home for the holidays I remain solo in the command deck of the Satellite overlooking our beautiful planet as we begin our annual Christmas celebration. The Good Will, the presents, the excitement is all around. In complete blissful silence I lean into to our mission recorder to share a tale of Christmas gone by and all the joy and laughter that comes with it. Its Christmas Time…Computer…start us off with some Christmas mood music to start the show!

Happy Holidays faithful readers! As is tradition here on the Satellite we present our year end tradition the ever popular Super-Hero Satellite Holiday Special!! This time around we have invited a few friends from the mighty Super-Blog Team Up to join us as we share Christmas related stories and other Holiday related antics!! So as is tradition…grab that glass of Egg Nog, fill up a bowl of Pretzels and before you watch some good old Holiday TV Specials give this old blog a read to get you primed for the season festivities to kick off!

Transmission Date: Dec 21st 2016

Its no secret that this writer loves the Holiday Season. So many great memories attached to Christmas morning and all the anticipation and everything that Christmas as a kid brings!! Growing up I always awaited the one morning a year when Santa and my parents would pack the Christmas tree full of amazing gifts many of which appeared in no coincidence from my Christmas list that I would draft yearly. I was very fortunate..my parents always made Christmas a big deal and spent way more money than they probably had to give my brother and I a great morning. Yes while it was true at times I would find that hiding spot in the guest bedroom…maybe behind a certain black storage chest…I may even have peeked at a few of my incoming treasures! It was a very exciting time growing up in 1980 something! Many Christmas mornings would bring such gifts that I still hold dear to this day like my Star Wars and G.I. Joe Collections, The Six Million Dollar Man , Kiss Dolls, you name it…I was blessed to be sure.

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One gift in particular I will always remember due to its curiosity factor.It was NOT one of my Top Ten favorite Xmas gifts..nor would it fall in my bottom ten. Nope this one had a weird place all to its own. As documented in other posts the annual Sears Wish Book was the primary way of getting cool stuff on Christmas Morning. This particular year in the late 80s at the height of my comic buying madness, I happened upon a novel item in Sears golden tome known as The Wish Book. It was the Sears Comic Collectors Box. It was the size of a regular Comics Short Box , black in color and claimed to feature 20 Valuable collectors item comics as well as some 1st issues.

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Okay Sears..you had me at hint of getting first issues. I bought anything with the number 1 on the cover, I just had to have them. It was the very symbol of value. Superman number 1 went for big bucks, as did Green Lantern and Batman number ones!! Surely this collectors box included at least one of these coveted books…right? Not quite, as it turned out.If the anticipation wasnt enough it was one of those gifts that seemed invisible in the house prior to Christmas. It was not discovered early on one of my Pre-Christmas scouting missions when Mom and Dad would leave the house..in fact I was convinced I was NOT getting this gift on Christmas Morning. My parents being my parents they came through…like they always did. They delivered this one Christmas morning bypassing my Big Brother like radar. So there it was…the Sears Comic Collectors Box!

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It was slightly bigger than a comics short box and did not contain the usual comic box lid…instead one of the sides came down to expose the inside of the box which contained three divider boxes to hold and stand your comics collection. Once you filled up your boxes you cold re-seal the side panel via its velcro tabs on each side of the door. The box was jet black and had in bold heroic lettering on the front panel reading “Comics Collector Box”! It was pretty damn great honestly! That was just the box!! By god this thing was about to reveal 20 Collectors Item Comics with 1st issues included!! I lifted the sealed bag of comics out of the box just waiting to reveal the books that would one day secure my future and put my kids through college!!

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Upon inspection of the first few titles..I was hopeful!! ROM #1 started proceedings!!I still love this book to this day! Stunning cover based on an awesome toy property…it was a first issue…it looked like a first issue ..smelled like one and all! This was a good start. I loved ROM and his robot bad self! I thumbed though the book…it was mint condition and not a crack to be seen! Sears did not let me down out of the gate..This book masterfully crafted by Marvel Scribe Bill Mantlo was based on a toy property in the 70s called Rom Space Knight from board game guru’s Parker Brothers. While the toy was a small scale misfire, the comic book took this bare bones Robot toy gave it a universe and a back story based in the Marvel Universe. It was penciled by Marvel legend Sal Buscema in the classic Marvel house style!!

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Next up was something called Captain Victory and The Galactic Rangers. This was an independent selection from Pacific comics! I had never purchased anything from Pacific nor did I ever read anything Captain Victory related. That said, it was a NUMBER 1 so in my teenage mind it would be valuable at some point!As I thumbed through the pages I was surprised to see the art work of one Jack “King” Kirby! At this point I was still not sold on Kirby’s fit as an artist in the 1980s world of comics and actually was not a fan of his work. Yes…that’s a crime…I get it. I did eventually wake up and appreciate Kirby’s work and contribution to the business but at the time he was “That artist who screwed up the Super Powers Mini Series” What did I know. Nothing apparently. I did go on to buy all issues of Captain Victory down the line and gain a high appreciation of the Kirbyverse.

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Another classic followed with the John Buscema cover art on the 1st issue of The Savage She-Hulk. This was the best find in the lot. I loved the Incredible Hulk series in the 1980s and was a huge fan of the television series…so She-Hulk was just up my alley!! I my mind I was 3 for 3…only 17 more books to go….but sadly that’s where it stopped. If you looked up the book value of all three books at the very time my Collectors box arrived it added up to an astronomical …$9.35! Yes…LESS than ten bucks!! How could that be…all these NUMBER ONE’S!!?? Well…what would follow would be 17 other titles that may or may not have been used to light fires, line bird cages, clean up spills and…well you get the point.

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The picture above is not the actual comics that were presented in the set…from what I recall remaining titles included The Marvel Index, an issue of Jon Sable, an issue of ALF from STAR Comics, a random issue of Superman, a funny animal comic that I had never heard of…and drum roll please…an amazing issue of Meet Misty….yes…Misty.

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This will be the ONLY time I swear to Jesus that “Meet Misty” will ever appear in this blog but the point of all this is that calling some of these titles in this Comic Collectors Box “Collectors Items” may have been a stretch!! So as it stood, I gained three comics that still remain in my collection to this day and a great memory on Christmas morning! As I get older I finally realized the true value of Christmas. I now have 4 kids of my own and on Christmas day it doesnt matter if there is anything under the tree with my name written on the tag I try to give them the same sense of wonder and excitement Christmas brought me.This year is a special one for me and its all about family. This blog has always been about sharing my memories of growing up and all the things that I enjoyed as a kid.

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All these memories were made possible by my parents who worked their hands to the bone to make sure no matter what that us kids had everything we ever wanted for Christmas above all else…the same values my wife and I share to this day…so I dedicate this post to my Mother and Father who will celebrate Christmas with us for the first time in 8 years and I am so thankful. You only get one family…make the most out of it…be thankful for the time you have. So this one goes out to you guys..thank you for making growing up awesome and for your unrelenting support over the years…this blog has been and always was a tribute to my childhood, the one my family gave me! I just humbly say Thank You…I can never repay that..but Ill try!

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To my Super-Blog brethren I am thankful as well that this team keeps me motivated and excited to write this little blog and with their support I have not waivered! To each of them I wish everyone of my friends a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best in the New Year where hopefully we can do this all over again!! Thank-you for your friendship and excellent work you all do. To all a good night..

Visit my Colleagues in arms as we continue to share the Comics Christmas Spirit!! Click their links below to continue the festivities!!

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1. Chris Is On Infinite Earth’s: Christmas With The Super-Heroes #1

2. Between The Pages Blog: The Ghost Supergirl Past

3.Crapbox Son Of Cthulhu: Impact Winter Special

4. The Retroist Blog via Vic Sage: Christmas Knight

5. Super-Hero Satellite: 4Th Annual Christmas Special: Sears Comic Collectors Box 

6.The Unspoken Decade: The 1991 Marvel Holiday Special

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“We have a new character in the works for Strange Adventures, just a five-page filler named Dr. Strange. Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a Black Magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him! Twas Steve’s idea..!”         Stan Lee- Comics Reader Interview 1963

“When like minded bloggers come together to write on a singular topic on a singular day the blogosphere bends at their mercy….they are called Super-Blog Team Up. Their mission is to provide a “Magical”blogging experience to our readers and share the words from the edges of the blogging universe under one banner. Welcome to the mighty SBTU…for our older fans…welcome back!!”

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From the moment I saw David Copperfield make the statue of liberty disappear I knew I loved Magic. I was always the “How did they do that?” Kid. The secrets however most times were better as secrets as sometimes the belief in the trick is what makes it fun. When it came to “Magic” in comics most of what I had read came from DC in the very early 80s. Whether it was the Golden helmet of DC’s own wizard of the Supernatural Dr. Fate or the Top Hat and Fishnets of Zatanna. If I really wanted more  I also had the likes of The Phantom Stranger and Deadman.The DC is where I lived as a kid!
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While I was an ardent DC fan none of those characters ever struck a real emotional chord with me. There are stories of the infamous Marvel bullpen and all the creative inspirations that resulted from the recreational activities of Stan Lee and company. During the 60s and 70s Marvel were banging out plenty of new concepts and titles. Lee met with Spider-Man power artist Steve Ditko and proposed a new concept that played into his strengths as an artist…one that Stan Lee would actually NOT take credit for!
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Steve Ditko’s tale of a self-centered , materialistic Surgeon who is involved in a career ending car accident and reflects on a life takes to the Mountains of India to find himself. What he finds is the Ancient One who opens his eyes to the world the Mystic Arts making him into the eternal Earths defender from the evils of Black Magic!! Hence is born Dr. Strange! Strange was a classic product of the Marvel Method of making their Heroes “real” like normal people who happen to be living super heroic lives…The Doctor was no exception.

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What made Strange different was that could exist in other world dimensions. Ditko was a master of developing unique settings for his characters. His creator set Steven Strange in a bizarre geometric weirdo worlds beyond description. Ditko took simple circles, triangles and squares, mix them with moons, smoke and floating eyeballs and you have the multiple mystic dimensions in the mind of Steve Ditko and it was like nothing ever seen on the printed page before.

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Personally the character has always been a struggle for me. I loved the youthful energy in books like Spider-Man or the swagger of Millionaire Bruce Wayne and his many gadgets as Batman. Strange was always ..well..Strange to me. The middle-aged, moustached man in pajamas who was able to harness magic. He was not the Super Heroic looking enough for my 9-year-old mind. I always wondered what it would be like I drew a new Dr. Strange and what he would look like? I would do away with the pajamas and sash and by god he would be cool. Well others felt the same way I did. The Doctors title was in serious jeopardy of cancellation and the new creative team headed by master horror artist Gene Colon decided the good Doctor needed an update!

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In Doctor Strange #177 Doc’s classic costume was replaced with a flashy skin-tight unitard some slick new boots and gloves! The most glaring change was that he was also masked!!?? Roy Thomas the famous Marvel scribe penned a reason for the change where Strange’s nemesis  Asmodeushad literally taken the place of Steven Strange’s identity on Earth, while trapping  the real Doctor in another dimension.  The only escape, the Doctor needed to transform himself to free himself from his dimensional trap!

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Colon did his best to make this work and actually did a fine job of switching the character out of his geometric Ditkonian dimensions to a more realistic looking alternate universe.though as with every major costume change it would eventually revert to his original garb in issue #183. I realized after reading these issues many years later that some characters are not cut from the typical mold and intended to stay that way!! So as much as I hated the baggy panted middle-aged magician look it is one of those iconic looks that simply defies age. So if you have never picked up a comic book in your life..or just a fan of the supernatural genre pick up some classic  Strange books in the quarter bin and check out the big screen debut on Nov.4 2016!

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SBTU Continuess Below…be sure to check em all out!!

LongBox Graveyard: Doctor Strange vs. Dracula

Between The Pages: The Wondrous Worlds of Doctor Strange

DC In The 80sMagic edition: examining The Immortal Doctor Fate v1 (1985)

The Unspoken Decade:Nighttime Sunburn: Rise Of The Midnight Sons

Crapbox Son Of Chuthulu: The Makings of a Sorcerer Supreme: Optimism and Sacrifice

Chris Is On Infinite Earths Blog:Batman Visits the Sanctum Sanctorum

Coffee and Comics Blog:Review: Doctor Strange #84

The Daily Rios: Amalgam Dr Fate / Dr Strange

The Retroist: The OTHER Dr. Strange Film

The Super-Hero Satellite: You are here already!!

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Trading comics as a kid was an art form. In a sense it was the earliest form of childhood poker, you had to know when to hold em and know when to fold em. In my own mind I felt I was a pretty good shark in this game.I was one of a few of my friends that had a coveted Overstreet Price Guide which allowed me a savants wisdom when giving the true value of my comics and of that of the individuals of which I was about to trade with.My trading selection was my usual fare of 80s DC titles but in the opposite corner my cousin who I was trading with had an unusual treasure on his side of the bed which doubled as our trading stand. It was an issue of The Fly a title I had never heard of! The publisher was Archie of all things but how could this be, this was a Superhero Title!! I glanced over the cover trying not to look directly at the book or even look interested in it but it was screaming to me..I had to have this book! So as the trades went on the regular fare was exchanging hands I swapped some Batman for some Firestorm, and Blue Devil but I still wanted that Fly issue. Not wanting to show my hand I asked him was there any other title in my pile he was interested in and fortunately there was. So I went for the kill…his selection was valued at meager 5 bucks in the Overstreet bible so I told him I would trade it for a Green Lantern Book …and throw in that Fly book just to even out the dollar amount!

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I tossed his requested book to his side of the bed and collected The Green Lantern issue and reached to get the issue of The Fly only to be shut down..His hand stopped cold over the top of the issue blocking my collecting hand from making it officially mine. My cousin told me a story of his recent vacation in Maine to which he picked up this “Rare” book and that book was not going up for trade! I internally panicked…then it dawned on me I could use the Overstreet Guide to show that the trade was a good value. As I thumbed through the pages I found the Fly #1 and it was worth $1 …Cover Price!! Practically worthless in 1984! Surely he would bend knowing that this book was a lump of coal in his collection but to me it secretly was a diamond! He didnt budge…he was on to me. This book was from the U.S.A.!! This wasnt available in small town Clarenville Newfoundland..this was from the United States Of America which carried a great deal of cache back in the day! I came out on the losing end of the trade that day as I gave up one of my coveted Blue Devil issues and god knows what else to claim this issue of the Fly..I know I had been duped but in the end I came away with what I wanted so it was short term pain.

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The glorious Steranko cover art and beautiful interiors this issue of The Fly was a revelation! My god there existed life outside of Marvel and DC!! Now I felt relatively in sync with the comics industry and bought many publishers like Charlton, Harvey, and Archie I thought I knew it all there was to know. How did I miss the existence of  The Red Circle imprint Aka The Archie Adventure Series I began sifting through the ads inside and my Overstreet Price Guide to find out what titles existed and there were a ton of them. I eventually discovered that these characters were around since the Golden Age!! This was prior to the era of the internet kids..it was not as simple as a google search!!

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The characters were pure Golden Age! Names like The Shield, The Fly, The Comet, The Black Hood, The Jaguar, and The Web were fascinating to me! Not only was this my first introduction to them but they seemed like an elusive mystery to me and the fact that their recent (80s!!) adventures could not be purchased on the comic spinner racks in my home town only heightened my interest! In fact the characters were so steeped in comics lore that their first appearances dated back as far as 1940!

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In the pages of Pep Comics #1 exploded a very familiar looking character The Shield!! This United States patriotic character was one of the first of his kind and pre-dated our generations super patriot Captain America! Created by Irv Novick (Artist) and Harry Shorten (Writer) The Shield was born of the times and World War 2 fascination. Amazingly this would also be the first appearance of another one of the soon to be Mighty Crusaders The Comet in a single issue!!

Around the same time in Oct 1940 also debuted The Black Hood in Top Notch Comics #9. The Black Hood was an interesting character. The character would be played by a number of individuals who would take up the notion of vigilante justice after each previous Hood would either die.. or pass on the mantel of the hood to the next individual. The Hood itself would be “cursed” as nearly all its wearers would die passing it like a proverbial torch to another bearer. The “hood ” itself went from a stereotypical heroic cowl style of mask to a full on executioners hood. The Hood was the one character in the Crusaders who would “Cross The Line” into killing his opponents in the name of justice. Interestingly when the Red Circle brand resurfaced in the early 80s the Black Hood would be the character that would regress the most costume wise while other Crusaders sported updated flashy modern costumes. The Black Hood would debut on a Motorcycle in biker leathers and a tight leather “Mugger” mask.

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Later that year in 1940 creators Joe Simon and Jack “King” Kirby famously created a character strikingly similar to The Shield, the one and only Captain America. Fortunately  this was not the era of expensive lawsuits so Cap would go on to mega fame unscathed by class action lawsuits! Clearly they had an eye on what MLJ was doing as they went on to create a Crusader themselves.. The Fly!! He 1st appeared in the late 50s making his full debut in Adventures Of The Fly #1 in 1959.

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The Fly had a very appealing design that in no coincidence looked very much like Blue Beetle in design. The individual that would wear the Fly suit was  Capital Cities crack lawyer Tommy Troy. Tommy  was able to fly, communicate with insects via his telepathic abilities, use size manipulation among others. By night Tommy became the Fly, fighting the criminal underbelly of Capital City!  He also frequently had his own female counterpart like many in the day.. Fly-Girl! He was also a hero similar to the Blue Beetle (Charlton’s Steve Ditko version of Beetle… Ted Kord) in that he has sizable Eye bubbles and they share a gun which many heroes did not during the 70’s and 80’s especially. The Archie run of the Fly is one of the best MLJ hero books they pubished as Ditko took the reigns in the titles last half (Issues 5-8) of publication for Archie and made The Fly a damaged defamed  Hero on the run! Great stuff kids you need to track down the 9 issue run which was a lot of fun under Archie’s Red Circle imprint!!

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They were then joined by The Web in 1942 created by John Cassone for MLJ. This college criminology professor turned superhero turned his investigative skills into a crime fighting career. Using his College smarts he was able to profile and defeat criminals for the sheer enjoyment of one upping the criminal element. The Web was a character  whose creators gave the unusual spin of being one of the first comic characters who essentially was a domesticated superhero that was for all intents and purposes was  “Whipped”. The key trait to this and following versions would be his married life impacting the way he performed as a hero. Upon discovering that her husband was running around stopping crime in spandex John finally succumbs to the marital pressures and retires leaving a life of crime fighting to deal with the battles of home life!

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The next incarnation of The Web is the one I am most familiar with as the original webs son John Raymond Jr. returned to comics in Fly-Man #36 under most famously Superman’s Co-Creator Jerry Siegel. Humourously the concept of the steroetypical “Nagging Wife” would return but went a step further. As John took on the criminal underbelly as the Web his wife would unbeknownst to him would don a super suit as Pow-Girl and join him on his exploits without revealing her identity to him!! Fortunately this version of the Web would drop all the silver age silliness and this Web would re-debut in the 80s under Archie’s Red Circle banner and would become my favorite of all the Mighty Crusaders!

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The Shield, The Web, The Fly, Fly Girl , The Comet, The Jaguar, and The Black Hood and many others during various incarnations of the group would all Unite under one collective Super Powered group known as The Mighty Crusaders! Archie seemed to have nailed the Superhero concept or at least had great clay to work from with the MLJ Characters!  I loved every issue I uncovered. It didnt matter the condition wether they were torn, stained, or even coverless I just wanted my Red Circle comics!!

Mighty Crusaders Cover Gallery?? Okay..we got you covered!! Computer…load Archie Adventure Series Red Circle Mighty Crusaders!!

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Its no secret that I was a fan of action figures as is well  documented on this blog..when my old nemesis Remco would adapt the Crusaders into Action figure form. Check out my previous article on DC’s Warlord figures also notoriously by Remco. The company did not have a history of making “Quality” toys instead they relied on working from established concepts popular at the time and doing something “Similar”. Yes if He-man was popular Remco created the line of “Conan” or “Warlord” figures which were not coincidentally clones of the He-Man toyline. LJN Struck gold with their WWF license to create Professional Wrestling figures and Remco went with AWA Mat Mania figures. This time Mego was red hot with this Worlds Greatest Heroes SuperHero figure line and low and behold… Remco grabbed the semi obscure Mighty Crusaders action figures!

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Remco created eight figures in total and had an equal roster of good guys and bad guys..4 on each side to be exact! the line up were as below!

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  • The Comet. Prior to Marvels X-Man, Cyclops there was the Comet..that visor is something multiple characters would come to rip off!!

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  • The Fox. A cool design and character. The Fox was always one of the coolest heroes from the Archie Adventure line and was their answer to Black Panther / Batman..but not as interesting as either.

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  • The Shield. Its Captain Ameri…no wait..its the Shield. Even though this character may have influenced multiple American based heroes later in comics history he is still the single greatest design of the Crusaders!

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  • The Web. Always loved the Web!! Loved the color scheme and Web cape! I gurantee you , One year soon on Halloween you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be the Web..

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  • The Brain Emperor. The bad guys were very uninspired as is the case with the poorly designed Brain Emperor. Alan Moore himself would not have been able to save this Mort and his goons!

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  • The Buzzard. Every universe has their “Bird” villain..they also managed to snatch all the cool bird names. With The Falcon and The Vulture we get the sinister Buzzard!! Doesnt work at all does it??

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  • The Eraser. Despite the very cool double bandolier, the only thing the Eraser “erased” were several plates of cheeseburgers..That said.. he is the happiest villain I have ever seen!

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  • The Sting. By god Remco loved their skull faced villains!! In the era of Masters Of The Universe and the patriarch of the Skull Face.. Skeletor…is the reason why we allow jabronies like Sting to exist. That said..as a kid, Skull faces ruled and chances are this would have been my first bad-guy if I had a choice If I know “kid me” well enough!

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The comic ads got me so excited to get my hands on these great looking toys. Remco to their defense always got some of the best artists to design their comic book ads as well as their packaging! With Remco’s Sgt. Rock for example Remco scored the legendary Joe Kubert to draft their in comic ads as well as figure packaging!!

SGt Remco

They would score again with the great Steve Ditko taking the reigns with the Crusaders!! Ditko drew the wonderful ads that baited me originally and scored the packaging on the toys as well!! The problem however was the product that was delivered. The figures themselves had a certain charm but upon further inspection they were woefully impractical. There was something very weird about their hip structure. Their legs appeared shorter, almost baby like on some figures giving them a very odd look visually. As well, Remco..stealing a page out of Marvels Secret Wars toys, each toy came with a shield? I am still wondering what the fascination with the shield as a accessory was in the day?? That said with all their quirks and 80s weirdness The Crusaders were a win for this Hero!!

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The Heroes themselves were pretty well designed. I would kill for a Web figure! The Shield looked great with vibrant colors and I even gave his shield a pass.I had no idea who the Fox was but the figure was excellent. The Comet however was a comedy of errors. Not only did he come with a Shield but he also came with a bandolier and gun!!? This Comet was packin heat folks!! These toys were amazingly rare in my hometown. The odd figure would appear in a toy box or two in my travels to friends houses but no one I knew had the “set” or even a significant amount enough to say the collected them.

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The amount of Mighty Crusaders merchandise on the market though small by today’s standards, was surprising for a franchise many people today outside of retro fanatics (Like myself and many of the folks reading this post!) whom may never had heard of the property. One of the coolest items was the rare Mighty Crusaders Board Game! It sported a very heroic box art! The fun didnt stop there as the Crusaders were splashed all over the typical fare of the era such as water guns, disc saucer guns, walkie talkies, things that today would be considered dollar store toys! *Merchandise photos are all compliments of our friends at one of my all time favorite Retro sites  Plaid Stallions visit them and enjoy their absolute wealth of nostalgic riches!!

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I was however disappointed to find that there was no Mighty Crusaders Doctor Kit which was a trope in the dollar toy industry that every franchise took advantage of. Missed opportunity? However not to be disappointed we did get  very cool Crusader stunt cycles and parachute figures!

With a property that seemed so viable with several comics series, and plenty of merchandise to go with it how is it that the majority of the  World do not remember the MLJ characters? How is it that these characters are not household names? Well as fond of memories as I have for these characters , comics and merchandise the fact is that the line did not get over with the masses. The direct market format for Archie’s Adventure line went against the mass media publication market like they did with their digests and floppys sold at anywhere magazines were sold to a more niche distribution which hurt the line. Would we be telling a different story had the Archie Adventure Line been as readily available as Archie’s Digest series on every Supermarket Shelf? I feel they would have. The same goes for the toyline. Remco was a decent toymaker that sadly did not have the deep international penetration of Kenner or Mattel as a result many never even knew The Crusaders ever existed on a toy shelf. So both the comics and the toys suffered from limits on distribution but still manged to deliver a competitive product certainly comparable with the toyfare of the time.

The Archie Adventure Series came out of the gate roaring. Many forget that Archie Comics lured some of the industries most acclaimed artists in the business including Jack “King” Kirby, Steve Ditko , Jim Steranko just to name a few to work on these books!Would it be enough with the comics industry on the verge of the big comics boom of the 1990s?? Archie brought multiple titles to comics shelves and the world opened their doors once again to the classic MLJ hero universe!!

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My personal favorite of the lot was The All New Adventures Of The Mighty Crusaders that lasted 13 issues. See The Cover Gallery above kids for this one! This title came second place for the longest run of issues in the line and was probably the most action packed of all the titles as it featured all Crusaders and even some new ones in a full on team book.

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Blue Ribbon Comics 1-14 This one was a rehash of the old MLJ series from 1939 of the same name which was essentially a anthology series which told new stories from alternating characters in the universe. This edition from the Archie Adventure series was the longest lasting title in the line! It alternated stories of the Mighty Crusaders individual exploits. Mostly it featured The Fly and The Black Hood. The Art was probably the best of all series in the line and featured purposely an alternating roster of creative talent including Kirby, Ditko, Buckler, to name a few!

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The Fly 1-9 My favorite of the solo books! The Fly featured beautiful Steranko Covers as featured above as well as interior art from one of comics masters Steve Ditko for the last issues of the series. The adventures of the fly were very standard comics fare with one and done villain of the week stories that were wrapped up in a neat bow by the end of twenty something pages just how I loved it as a kid!

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Lancelot Strong: The Shield. This book had an identity crisis. It began as Lancelot Strong the Shield for issues 1-2 , Then changed into The Shield Steel Sterling for issue 3 before switching altogether into just simply Steel Sterling for its final 4 issues of its existence beginning with issue 5. It also had the dubious distinction of sharing two brands as well. It began under the imprint Red Circle before switching out to just the Archie Adventure Series on the 5th issue that also marked the final title change.Steel Sterling was a basic solo Adventure series which served a a bridge between the old MLJ universe and the new Archiverse.

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Steel Sterling (Previously Lancelot Strong for issues 1-3) Switches to Steel Sterling with issues 4-7.This title was the ugly step-child of the group in that it was the one title that seemed to change every issue and lacked direction and consistency. As individual issues this title was okay ..as a collected work Steel Sterling was a tough road to hoe!

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The Original Shield was another short lived title that ran 4 issues that served as the origin story of the Original Shield. This title mirrored closest early era Captain America as The Shield battled Nazi’s all the while being a super patriot.Ironically he did NOT have a shield when it counted!! The title was much better than the newer incarnation of the Shield as well had so great Dick Ayres artwork. Worth a look!

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As it would come to pass.. The Archie Adventure line was a failure and all things Mighty Crusaders disappeared from comic spinner racks, and toy shelves. By 1985 the MLJ Heroes were resigned to long boxes in the quarter bins of the 80s basement dwelling comics shops and the bottoms of toy-boxes…and that was the final breathe for this classic group of heroes…UNTIL..

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In 1991…The Archie Adventure Series Heroes were all re-imagined under comics super power DC Comics to form their brand new imprint IMPACT!

But THAT friends..is a story for another day…TO BE CONTINUED…

Transmission Ended..

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Welcome Back Heroes! I have all the corp together today in a hidden part of the Satellite…. the gaming simulation deck. We are orbiting over the desert planet of Tatooine, home of the notorious Hutts that we are familiar with as fans of the Star Wars franchise. I am about to take us all to the Star Wars version of the Bermuda triangle..the notorious Sarlacc Pit! Its a place even the bravest of souls fear. As this is a simulation..we are going straight into the mouth of The Mighty Sarlacc! Strap in tight crew..this could go bad at any point!

Transmission Date Oct. 5 2016

Birthdays as a kid always were an exciting time. It meant sometimes a party, friends, cake, and of course getting stuff! Unlike Christmas, Birthdays were the only times you didnt have to go by the “Giving is better than receiving” mantra. It was 1983 and I was turning 9 and as you all know I was a huge Star Wars toy collector! I had not yet seen the third chapter of the Star Wars series Return of the Jedi as we did not have a theater in our community at that point…however I did see the merchandise and felt despite not having seen the movie I had a good grasp on this thing.

The commericals for the toys told me all  the backstory I needed while I waited to hit a theater to see the movie. My Marvel Comics Adaptation spoiled the hell of the movie so I was an expert before I saw it on the big screen ruining it for any of my friends who dared go to the movie before me. 

Merchandise for the first two movies were pretty extensive. There were a plethora of action figures and multiple playsets and vehicles available for The original movie and its sequel Empire. Things changed with Jedi however..we saw plenty of figures and vehicles..however Playsets took a significant hit. With so many key scenes in the movie some of the toys were recycled from the empire collections but among the vast collection there were few playsets to encompass the great sets of Jedi! No Jabbas palace and or Skiff Barge? No new Death Star? They did have an amazing Ewok treehouse set that almost makes me forgive them for dialing back on the big sets.

One glaring ommission was the Sarlacc Pit! If there was ever a playset waiting to be made it was that. A key part of Return Of The Jedi was when Jabba The Hutt ordered the rebel Heroes Han, Luke and Chewbacca be thrown to their death into a large pit containing The Sarlacc Monster that swallowed living things whole..including humans! The heroes were delivered over the top of the Sarlacc via a wicked floating skiff barge and sports the biggest action scene in the movie! Yet…no Sarlacc Pit toy was made in that time. The toy commerical had kids playing with a bucket and sand to simulate the infamous scene! 

Vintage Star Wars Commercials! CLICK HERE TO WATCH!

For all intents and purposes Star wars kids better have an active imagination to recreate this part of the movie! Then it happened..Parker Brothers the leading board game company at the time released the closest thing to a Great Pit Of Carkoon playset as we would get..The Battle At Sarlacc’s Pit board game! It was a multiplayer boardgame which featured a cardboard 3D Sarlacc Pitt complete with hole in the mouth area to swallow game pieces! It also boasted an excellent cardboard skiff! Finally…I had myself a small skiff and Sarlacc! Ill be honest..I may have played the game twice then it simply became a playset for my figures!! It was probably a little less cool than I am describing but I have strong memories of unwrapping and playing with this thing!!

Was the game itself anygood? The answer is simple….NO. To understand how this is possible Ill fill you padawans into why the game aspect of the toy sucked. First lets start with more positive…not only did we get cool 3D versions of a Skiff and The Mighty Sarlacc pit we also got 16 StarWars plactic molded mini figures. I hated them at the time as they were non posable..poorly painted and very small. We got a very horrible Jabba figure which was very stumpy, poorly painted and small? They didnt even try with Jabba clearly…

 We also got a decent Nikto figure (What no Weequay??) and 9 Gammorean Guard figures! We also got a Boba Fett pawn which would normally excite any Star Wars fan..but sadly he too was poorly rendered and painted. 

The 4 Player pawns of course were Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Princess Leia. Leia was surprisingly NOT in her slave girl costume from the actual scene in the movie but rather she was clad in her Endor forest garb?? Not sure if the powers that be assumed the slave gear was not kid friendly but eitherway having Leia in her Endor moon attire in the miserable desert heat is an interesting quirk! 

The game play was very simple. The skiff itself was the game board and featured a number of tiles from one side to the other of which the player pawns moved about. Most of the spots on the board where taken up by Jabbas cronies. On the very opposite of the board rested the vile Hutt himself Jabba! 

The objective of the game was to cross the skiff successfully to the other side while dispatching Jabbas goons into the waiting Sarlacc and avoiding getting eliminated yourself to finally send Jabba packing and become the winner! 

Sounds fun right!! It sure did..however the ackward board setup did not give a ton of surface space to actually play so you were constantly sweeping extra undeserving badguys into the pit and sometimes your fellow players! As frustrating as the falling pawns situation was the card system sucked too. As you knocked badguys into the pit you collected points cards and of course whoever collected the most card points won the game..the trick is though usually the first player always had the advantage..ugghh.

After exactly two days the cards and plastic game pawns were discarded into the closet and the Cardboard Skiff and Sarlacc Pit became the best Sarlacc Pit Playset available for Return Of The Jedi at the time!!

In summary..despite the poor game play and horrendous figurine collection this game is an amazing playset..so I would encourage collectors to not pass over this rare piece of Star Wars history!

So much for this post being a Flash Transmission as we went slightly into overtime but it was well worth it! 

Hope you have enjoyed your stay aboard The SuperHero Satellite much more to come in the coming weeks…stay tuned!!

Transmission Ended..

 

 

Final Days of The AWA

Welcome Back Heroes! The Satellite archives have initialized and a we are on course into a Black Hole to furthest reaches of the inter-webs where no wrestling site has dared cover. The viewing deck of the Satellite has completed scanning the vintage files and today our journey takes us to the year 1986. During our time here we will witness a once dominant wrestling company on the brink of annihilation from a relentless competitor. Their glory days  are heralded…their final hours stand largely undocumented. Today we will review  the final days of The American Wrestling Association.

Begin Transmission: 07/08/2016

Anyone who knows me knows I am “That guy who likes wrestling”. To some that may be a good thing, to others they may not admit to knowing me at times but I digress. I have watched Pro Wrestling passionately since 1986. I was a huge WWF (World Wrestling Federation aka WWE for todays fan..did I just do that?) mark, but as my wrestling passion grew I took a strong liking to the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance aka WCW in case you didn’t know!) Hell I watched everything I could at the time which was not much with our weak cable lineup. I managed to get WWF, which had two shows a week and if we were real lucky we got a Saturday Nights Main Event every now and then! With NWA you managed to get it sporadically when ever one of the cable networks got a local clearance. Usually it aired late night Saturday Night well into the witching hour! I also absorbed a brief run of UWF (Universal Wrestling Federation ran by Bill Watts!) Sunday afternoons for a short period just prior to its NWA acquisition. Living in Canada I was treated to Stampede Wrestling Saturday Mornings for 2 hours! On top of all this I caught up with all the other promotions on a Wrestling Highlights show called Pro Wrestling Plus hosted by Stampede Announcer Ed Whalen! One show however caught my imagination and despite it being in its final years as a viable promotion The American Wrestling Association was a favorite of mine every Wednesday evening on TSN!

AWA main

AWA began as a Minnesota based wrestling territory in 1960 bleeding off the National Wrestling Alliance banner in the South. The AWA under the guidance of owner Verne Gagne and Wally Karbo. The AWA for those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of watching it boasted a massive roster of stars and future stars that would one day transform wrestling as we knew it in the 80s. Names like Hulk Hogan, Jesse The Body Ventura, The Road Warriors, Rick Martel, Stan Hansen, The Freebird’s, Mean Gene Okerland, Bobby The Brain Heenan and a ton more would hit the big time after departing the company for greener pastures in the WWF and NWA and become the biggest stars in the industry. Sustaining losses of this magnitude left the AWA scrambling to keep its spot among the top of the best wrestling promotions in North America. It was the birthplace of Hulkamania long before the WWF turned him into a household name. How did a promotion who had the biggest available roster of talent as well as the single biggest young star just breaking in the business simply implode upon itself? The answers are not as clear as you would think!

 

The Gagne Problem:

Verne Gagne who booked the promotion was certain to protect his business. The cartoon circus atmosphere of the WWF was the exact opposite of what he thought wrestling should be, however that’s what the audience of the mid 80s were clamoring for. The Rock and Wrestling Era was born and Verne’s ideals were being left behind in the dust. Despite people talking in his ear, Gagne wanted to present straight wrestling. He didn’t value the musical entrances, the flashy costumes and the over the top cartoon gimmicks. Verne maintained a firm belief that HIS idea about pro wrestling was strictly wrestling in the squared circle. The Gagne’s were in essence cementing their companies grave. The territory system of wrestling had a defined set of rules were promoters all around the United States followed the age-old handshake agreement not to interfere with the business of another territorial promotion. Championship reigns were discussed and the local scene was highly regulated…until the World Wrestling Federation broke all the rules of engagement. Gagnes old school mentality was about to be shattered. Agreements and unspoken rules were ignored and broken as a result the grim reaper was looming and its next victim would be the AWA. The AWA would not go quickly to its grave however it survived from late 1986 to its last hour in the early 90s. A  company set in its ways  was about to get a lesson in “Changing With The Times”a battle in which Verne Gagne would be dragged kicking and screaming  until it was too late.

 

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Many would argue that the glory years of the promotion were over midway through the 80s and the remaining years are rarely mentioned in discussions on the AWA. I had quite a fondness for this era as a kid and like everything I watched back then. I was hopelessly hooked! Sadly the Hulk Hogan’s were replaced with Curt Hennig, The Road Warriors and The Freebirds were replaced by The Midnight Rockers and Playboy Buddy Rose and Doug Summers. Mean Gene was now replaced by Larry Nelson,Lee Marshall, and a young brash Eric Bischoff. Yes..times changed but little did we know that despite the apparent diminished roster (Not in this writers opinion!!) we were also witnessing the birth of a whole New Generation of wrestling stars.

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The first televised AWA TV show that was stuck in my memory featured one of my faves Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (Pre-Murder Charges)  feuding with Col. Debeer’s a wrestler with a  racist South African Militant gimmick. Snuka was pushed off the top rope to the concrete floor and that was followed up with a series of piledriver’s to the  concrete floor busting Superfly horrificaly wide open . This was NOT Saturday Morning WWF Superstars Of Wrestling..this was dead serious wrestling. It was a train wreck I couldnt look away from. Tuning in week after week I was introduced to a whole new world of talent ….and others not so talented.

The Last Act.

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Any discussion in this era cannot begin without discussing one of the AWAs hottest exports The Midnight Rockers. A team obviously “Inspired” by the success of NWA’s Rock N Roll Express. Shawn Micheal’s and Marty Jannetty were a level of excitement that was hard to explain. To my childhood eyes The Rockers were “cool” and I mean really cool. They were built better that the Express, they dressed better and wore great sunglasses. Plus even in those days you could tell that Shawn and Marty were more than a little special. They drop kicked higher, and were over like no one else on that show. Bottom line the Midnight Rockers were electric! With a depleted tag scene the Rockers came at just the right time! Their long-term opponents were the make shift team of Playboy Buddy Rose and Pretty Boy Doug Summers who were managed by Sherri Martel. Rose and Summers at the time were the AWA Tag Team Champions and in my 11-year-old mind I never understood why. Rose was seriously out of shape and Somers was a shade above jobber status and not in shape either but they could bump and magically played well off of their popular polar opposites The Midnight Rockers.

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It would be a lesson in psychology as it was the first time I got to digest “The Chase” as The Rockers could not take the belts away from these heels and often came up short-handed. It was not until months later the Rockers finally won a title shot in a very bloody Steel Cage match in December of 1986! The Rockers would win the tag straps just a month later and I was super excited. This in my opinion, was the best wrestling outside of the WWF or at least comparable! I had not experienced the glory days so I had no idea that this was the worst product the AWA had produced for years. Then something happened that would be repeated time and time again for AWA’s final years…the WWF came knocking for Shawn and Marty. This would play out with the AWA champions time and time again as you will soon see and as a result winning a title was basically your ticket OUT of the AWA and for viewers..that sucked.Then came the Russians..

AWA Russians

As a fan, I did not get to enjoy The Midnight Rockers as Tag Team champions as they dropped the straps abruptly to a less than stellar Russian tag team of Soldat Ustinov and Boris Zhukov. I could really tell that this Russian team were not top calibre performers. Soldat Ustinov didnt look anymore Russian than I was and paled in comparison to a “Real” Russian that I watched every week on WWF TV, Nikolai Volkoff! The other half of the AWAs Russians was Boris Zhukov a very strange looking wrestler with a giant head however Boris managed to look “Russian” enough to pull off the act. These guys had no business beating The Rockers and even as a kid I felt something was up but I was still too young to figure out what politics were transpiring behind the scenes in the wrestling world.

The “Cool” Curt Hennig Era

 While the Tag Team situation was very cloudy The Heavyweight singles division was about to experience its final bright period.  Nick Bockwinkle was multiple times the AWA’s champion and it was evident that change was coming to fight the rushing tide of the WWF. Bockwinkle as good as he was represented the old guard and the company had to freshen things up at the top of the card. Bockwinkle to me seeemed older but surprised me how good he was on the mic and with bumping in the ring! Bockwinkle rarely defended on televisionwith one fatal exception…The Nick Bockwinkle vs.Verne Gagne retirement match! I knew this as his match inside and out as it was shown over and over ad nauseam. In this much ballyhooed match Gagne defeated Bockwinkle to win the strap..only to give it back to him later by default as Gagne officially retired.I always felt this not only devalued the AWA title but also Bockwinkle to simply accept a belt after LOSING!!? As we will learn AWA straps in this era would hold very little value. The title switched back and forth between Slick Nick, Otto Wanz, Jumbo Tsuruta, Rick Martel, and Stan Hansen just to name a few but always came back to the warm hands of Bockwinkle who booker Verne Gagne trusted with the prestigious championship.The only problem was that on two occasions Nick was simply “Handed” the title without winning any match? This would only be the start of the issues with the official lineage of the AWA title!

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Nick Bockwinkle’s character had transformed in this period from a distinguished intellectual heel who used big words on ever occasion to smooth confident face champion. Bockwinkle, who was famously paired with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan in a dynamic heel duo, was now solo as Heenan had been swept to the greener pastures of the WWF . Gagne was watching the early stages of his companies fall from grace. Nick was a great technician and one of the most aired matches of the AWA TSN show was a match against a young upstart named Curt Henning.

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Hennig was very good at this time. He was no rookie and had tenure in the ring in AWA and WWF and was also  fresh off a tag team run with Big Scott Hall...(yes that Scott Hall) who had also left the AWA for the NWA.  Nick would accept Hennig’s challenge on AWA TV only to go to a time limit draw which I bought hook line and sinker. Hennig had come so far and with this match and had “proven” with his time in the ring he was “ready’ Curt was given a rematch at AWA’s Superclash 87. This was a pivotal match for the company as it was not only  Bockwinkle’s unofficial exit from the company but also began a serious heel turn for Hennig. Curt Hennig won the AWA World title with some controversial help from long time AWA heel Larry Zybysko and an infamous “Roll Of Dimes”. Curt went on to be a great heel and a real stand out for the AWA! Hennig’s earnest baby face promos were replaced by a new “Cool” Curt persona and as the weeks went by Hennig began showing the seeds of his future role in the WWF as Mr. Perfect. It is fair to say Curt “Perfected” his  future role in the AWA!

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Finally the AWA’s woman’s division was also barely alive at this time but as with everything else in the company it too was reeling from the effects of the WWF’s national expansion. Not even the ladies were safe from Vince McMahon’s deep WWF pocket book. Longtime AWA female competitor and champion Sherri Martel, was a big part of the AWA’s fabric. Not only was she AWA women’s champion but she was also manager to Somers and Rose and Mr.Magnificent Kevin Kelly just to name a few. Martel was a very gifted wrestler and a great manager. Sherri brought the best out of everyone she shared the spotlight with. She was a legitimately tough lady who was a weird mix of leather tough and unusually sexy. She was the center piece to their makeshift women’s division and a big part of the men’s scene as well. The WWF loomed over this division as well stealing the very talented Martel for  own women’s division. Thankfully the AWA was given a present…as Martel exited another talent emerged in the form of Madusa Miceli! Madusa was a very raw wrestler who seemed to have not only the look of a champion but carried herself like a bona-fide star in the ring. Miceli was the key to keeping the women’s division on life support as well as filling the role as Martel’s impromptu replacement with talent. Madusa formally took over Martel’s role as valet for Kevin Kelly. Martel would leave the AWA without dropping the women’s title thus leaving the title vacant. (Title Vacancies Haunted The AWA during this period) After a title tournament Micelli defeated longtime division stalwart, Candi Devine to win the AWA Women’s title. Madusa would throw herself into the main event scene managing the newly minted heel champion Curt Hennig.

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Despite the massive losses incurred, the AWA had its own new generation of stars with Hennig, The Rockers and Madusa at the top of the card. As a new fan I loved this version of the AWA. I connected with all these new stars. Maybe..just maybe, the AWA could survive the onslaught of Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. and his national expansion talent purchases. Many of the wrestlers who got WWF contracts went on to big money contracts and national exposure that would keep them employed years after their performing years were over. The WWF took care of their performers financially like no other company had before and as a result when Vinnie Mac called..you went!  McMahon was a visionary at that time, and looked at wrestling through a new lens. He adopted popular mediums at the time such as music and entertainment and carefully weaved it into a wrestling tapestry. What Vince was doing was creating the future of the industry while others like Verne Gagne and many inside the AWA battled hard to keep away from their company. A costly error in hindsight.  Sadly this would be the last hope the AWA had to stay relevant and the seams of the company would come undone near the end of 1987 at the height of the WWF.

 

The next year things would begin to sink in. The Midnight Rockers left the AWA for a very brief stint in the WWF re-minting themselves as “The Rockers” in effect desolating the AWA Tag Team scene. As Verne Gagne was looking at life after the Rockers, a partnership with Jerry Lawler and The CWA (Championship Wrestling ) in mid 1989 looked to cross promote events and utilize new talent on both promotions TV. The idea was sound but the execution showed pure desperation. To make matters even worse the talent raids had spilled into the latter end of the undercard too as WWF took the AWA Tag team champions again just months after taking their previous tag champions. It seemed like every time a champion was crowned the WWF was there waiting to scoop them up! This time however they came for one half of the Russians Boris Zhukov leaving Soldat Ustinov alone. The decision was made to place him with Doug Somers who as well lost his partner Buddy Rose to the WWF as well.

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The cracks were widening and maybe the CWA partnership could slow the bleeding. I was a huge wrestling magazine fan as well a fan of Pro Wrestling Plus so I was aware of the Memphis Territory and had seen a small dose of their product which was very good. I had read all about The King Jerry Lawler and when Bill Dundee and The King won the tag team straps in October of 1987 I was excited again see him finally on my TV screen! ! Lawler was magnetic on the mic and his promos were very well done..and I had something to celebrate. So with zero storyline background on screen, Lawler and Dundee appeared on AWA TV with belts in hand!

Lawler Dundee Champs

Trying to stay relevant, the AWA always tried to appear unharmed in the face of extensive roster losses so CWA manager Paul E Dangerously made his AWA debut touting his new team The Midnight Express!! I was shocked. One of my favorite tag teams of the day was the NWA’s Midnight Express consisted of Beautiful Bobby Eaton and Sweet Stan Lane!! Instead the AWA produced “The Original” Midnight Express Loverboy Dennis Condrey (Who could lay claim to being a Midnighter in my eyes as he was in the first version of The Express that I had watched prior to the Eaton/ Lane pairing.) and Ravishing Randy Rose.

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Both Condrey and Rose were well past their prime by the time they debuted in the AWA but were held up by Dangerously and his exceptional promos skills. Only little over two weeks of being on AWA TV as the tag team champions The Midnight Express defeated champs  Lawler and Dundee for the AWA straps and the Memphis legends returned to their promotion. Even as a young fan I felt the instability.

The Age Problem

Vern interview

Meanwhile on The Heavyweight Front, AWA Champion Curt Hennig was tearing it up! Hennig was now partnered with Madusa Micelli and was well into his cocky heel persona. The Heavyweight scene was littered with a sprinkling of wrestlers well past their prime and thus some of the match pairings did not add up to quality matches. The likes of Baron Von Rashke, Col. DeBeers, Wahoo McDaniel, Sgt. Slaughter, and Crusher Jerry Blackwell filled time on AWAs TV show and it was apparent that things were quickly falling. Jerry Blackwell at the time was almost immobile and slowly drifted from TV after a feud with Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey and his cronies Debeers and The Iron Sheik!.

Vern interview

Wahoo McDaniel was still very much over with AWA TV audiences embroiled himself with younger talent at the time against Curt Hennig for the belt as well later with Larry Zybysko always chasing the title but never capturing it! Wahoo’s strap matches aired often on AWA’s tv show and he remained a beloved character on the show! His matches were still at that time workable. Wahoo was smart enough to pair himself with up and coming heels like Hennig and The Destruction Crew in the ring and as a result gave them a rub while masking the age factor.

Baronawa

Baron Von Rashke was one of the worst examples of the “Age Problem”. In 88 he had become unreliable in the ring and unable to bump or able to piece together a sensible match like he did in his heyday! In the NWA years prior or even as short a time as 4 years back when he was the AWA Tag Team Champion with The Crusher, The Baron was a solid competitor but the ship had long sailed on his days as an active competitor. He still did his bizarre promos but looked very visibly aged in the ring and was a shining example of the AWA’s unfortunate pruning by Vince and his growing national powerhouse the WWF.

SlaughterAWA

Sgt. Slaughter was another story. Slaughter, whom had a great run early in his run with the AWA in the mid 80s, returned in 88 for another run. He was heavily pushed with his G.I.Joe “Americas Hero” gimmick. He was heavily financially sponsored by Hasbro the toy company riding high off the success of The G.I. Joe toy line and cartoon!. He was an immediate hit battling Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey cronies The Iron Sheik (Who he feuded with extensively in the past) and Col. Debeers.Slaughter had gained some weight and was older but was very much still serviceable in the ring. He would end up riding out his AWA meal ticket almost to their final days and being a viable main event star for the remainder.

Create A Star

The unfortunate reality at the time was that the AWA’s roster was heavy with aging wrestlers who were nearing the end of their careers as in ring performers. The AWA’s main event roster was aged out and it seemed whom ever the AWA would build into a viable star, the WWF was fast to sign them. Verne Gagne who was resistant to change and slow to adapt to the changing landscape of wrestling that the WWF was now in control of shaping. Finally listening to reason the AWA broke down and began giving new acts a chance.Results were varied.

Leonwhitecanvas

Leon “Bull Power” White. The man who would be Vader made a brief appearance in the AWA as the Baby Bull (Later Bull Power) after his career in football ended. White was literally a baby faced rookie who was extremely green in the ring. Leon used a very basic moves set but had an unusual look that made him unique. White did not connect with the fans during this run and his value as an in ring performer was in question. His time was short-lived in the promotion but in 87 with his one career highlight was fighting Stan Hansen for the AWA title. It would be Hansen who stormed out of the AWA Belt in hand for Japna who also gave White the connection to move to Japan and find fame as Big Van Vader! Nuff said!

SnowNSteveO

Jammin Mitch Snow and Steve O. Two white bread baby faces who were Gagne’s attempt to bring in some good-looking high-flying talent and he rolled the dice with Mitch Snow or Steve O. The earnest Mitch Snow seemed to always be on TV and in the middle of doing something special then pulled back before he hit any kind of stride in the win department. Most of his matches, no matter who they were with, were time limit draws in a weird sort of twist. His early pairings were against Madusa’s charges Kevin Kelly and Nick Kiniski! However Snow never caught on with the crowd who were clearly exhausted with the lackluster product and it was obviously not fertile ground to grow new stars. Eventually he teamed up with AWA midcard job guy turned marginal midcarder Steve Olsonoski or Steve O for short. If they weren’t fighting each other they were on the losing side of a tag team match most notably The Nasty Boys. With very few wins and limited TV time, both men when back into wrestling purgatory.Both men were decently talented and did their duty getting acts over.

KevinKellyAWA

Mr. Magnificient Kevin Kelly was a 6 foot 5 inch tall Minnesota native and was the definition of jacked in his time with the AWA. Mr. Magnificent was managed originally by Sherry Martel, and his one stand out moment in the AWA would be his feud with a newly arrived Wildfire Tommy Rich. One of his most famous angles was his Arm Wrestling Challenge for 10’000 dollars that was answered by Tommy Rich which catapulted their feud. In fact, a large stretch of his tenure late in his AWA career was dedicated to his feud with Tommy Rich.Kelly was stiff as a board in the ring, he bumped awkwardly and his offense looked very light. It would be years later in the WWF as Nailz that he would finally get a break in wrestling.With bear hugs, sleepers and chokes, Kelly was not going to be their answer to staying alive despite a strong feud with the popular Rich.

The Cast Offs

Then there were the cast offs.Many names who’s usefulness expired in the big two of the NWA and the powerhouse WWF, landed for brief stops in the AWA and were given instant pushes despite having little AWA credibility. Desperate for star power the AWA took several “Names” and hoped it would lead to a turn around or a reverse exodus away from the WWF which was becoming the wrestling equivalent to a vacuum.

TommyRich AWA

The aforementioned former NWA wrestler the popular Tommy Rich had fallen out of favor with the NWA after winning their world title only to lose it as quickly. Rich had gotten more out of shape and his name value had plummeted but he managed to make a feud out of Kevin Kelly something no one else on the roster managed to accomplish.

AdrianAdonisAWA

One of the saddest cast off was Adrian Adonis who had a falling out with WWF after Wrestlemania 3 due to his ever-increasing waistline. By the time he surfaced in the AWA Adonis looked nothing like the Adonis who teamed with Jesse Ventura to make the East West connection in the companies prime years. Adrian was still an effective heel. He was managed by Paul E Dangerously and the two were a very effective combo. Adrian got into a short series of matches with Tommy Rich and showcased that despite his enormous size he could still bump incredibly well. Adrian even advanced to the finals of a TV title tournament the AWA put together only to come up short against Greg Gagne. Adonis AWA career came to an end after an unfortunate ankle injury took him out of his job.

 

GarvinAWA

Ronnie Garvin also surfaced in the AWA for a brief time with a very unusual heel persona but lasted mere weeks on TV before he mysteriously vanished.Garvin got into a feud with the Promoters son and long time AWA Vet Greg Gagne. The two battled over the TV title. WWF was still picking the scraps of the AWA and signed Garvin out from in under the Gagne’s and as a result Garvin’s belt was “Held Up” and had to be decided on the big Super Clash 3 show!! Garvin seeing the lure of WWF paychecks would not lose clean which allowed Gagne to win the Title back via count out further killing the legitimacy of the AWA.

IronShiekAWA

The Iron Sheik, after bouncing from The WWF to The NWA after his Drug Suspension found his way as mentioned previously in a very short deal with Al-Kassie to feud with Slaughter.The pairing was successful ad Sheik fit with the cast of heels however like many others the NWA and the WWF came back to collect the Iron one leaving a gaping hole in Al Kassie’s camp.

OlympiansAWA

 

Ken Patera also showed up for another AWA run with another Olympian Brad Rheingans and went on to form the championship team The Olympians!! The Olympians were a great fill in the blanks team that filled TV time while

The Rise of the Young Lions.

Despite its diminishing roster depth and annihilated event attendance, the AWA seemed to go for one last shot at going toe to toe with the WWF at their own game and began building a new foundation.

Rockers Return

The Midnight Rockers Return…and leave again. Shawn and Marty’s first run with the WWF was very brief as the duo made a horrible reputation for themselves with their wild partying ways and came crawling back to the AWA who to their defense didn’t put them right back on TV right away..they actually sent them to Lawler and the CWA before they earned their spot back on the main roster. The Rockers were never favorites of Verne Gagne so while it looked like it was creative restraint there was more at play than simply disciplining talent. When they were given the green light The Midnight Rockers returned to the AWA as returning heroes and defeated the Original Midnight Express. Their time on TV would be very short as they figured their time in the WWF had increased their worth. The Gagne’s didnt bend and forced their hand and that left Shawn and Marty out of a job with the AWA permanently. Their swan song was losing the belts they had just won to a brand new tag team in the AWA ..Badd Company.

Badd Company

Badd Company were cool. The team of Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond were originally part of the CWA/AWA cross partnership but the AWA adopted Badd Company permanently and paired them with a Rookie manager. DDP was just breaking into the business and where ever  Diamond Dallas Page was, he was always flanked by the Diamond Dolls. Badd Company wore Flamboyant multi-colored almost dress jackets and tights and with Page as their mouth piece this team really came across as something special.

DDPBaddCompanyAWA

Pat Tanaka was exceptional in the ring. What he lacked in size he more than made up for in speed, high-flying , and an exceptional bumping ability. Diamond was his perfect counter point as he had a serviceable mat game and had the size and strength to compete with larger opponents. Of course there was Page who seemed bigger than both guys and charismatic as the day is long.

 

In their first few appearance on AWA TV Badd Company defeated the Midnight Rockers for the Tag Team titles and began a year-long run with the belts! The energy that came from Badd Company from the time they entered the ring to the strains of “Bad Company”by the band Bad Company you knew that AWA found something they could finally be proud of. Feuding with The Rockers, The Guerreros, The Olympians and Badd Company delivered in the ring which at the time was not happening in the AWA. Badd Company would drop the straps to the Olympians ( Brad Rheingans and Ken Patera). Badd Company would later split and feud sending Diamond on a face singles run with the company as Tanaka would be swooned by the WWF to join another AWA alum Akio Sato to form the Orient Express. It would be months later that Diamond would be called up the WWF to replace Konnan as Max Moon which would be short-lived but he had a second more successful run as well when he replaced Sato in the Orient Express as Diamond took on the masked personal as Kato being billed from Japan under the tutelage of the devious Mr. Fuji. Badd Companies time in the AWA was memorable but they were another victim of the WWFs grand purge of the company!

TomZenkAWA

Tom Zenk a former AWA wrestler in the early 80s returned to the fold after a brief appearance in the warm lights of the WWF. The loose cannon member of the very popular Can-Am Connection with Rick Martel walked out of the WWF out of the blue leaving everyone to wonder what happened to Zenk! Tom Zenk resurfaced in the AWA and was able to make an impact. With a sculpted physique and good baby face looks, the AWA had a star who looked very credible in the ring. Zenk had recently left a high paying gig with the WWF to jump to the AWA after a financial disagreement and was able to score big points with the AWA fans! Zenk exploded with an out of the gate feud with Kevin Kelly, and then his former friend Curt Hennig who was still champion at the time! Zenk would always just come close to winning the strap but always put on a good effort leading fans to think he was the top dog to be the next AWA Champion. Zenk’s flashy style consisting of drop kicks, head scissors and arm drags were fun to watch in a company of mostly grounded retirees.When Henning dropped the strap to Lawler, Zenk  set his sights on winning the strap in a Battle Royal as a result of World title controversy but coming up short yet again. Zenk never claimed the AWA strap but stayed until the dying days of the company and the fans enjoyed his chase for the gold.

NastyBoysAWA

Some talent benefited from the mass exodus brought on by the WWF. Now new talent got more air time and made careers for themselves they would otherwise not have had the opportunity previously. One of those acts were the Nasty Boys. Jerry Sagg’s and Brian Knobb’s were TV enhancement talent who were paired together originally as a jobber team. The Nasties first run as a team was in  Memphis as a foil to The Rockers. By the time they debuted in the AWA they stood out from the moment they walked through the curtain. With a punk rock look complete with Mullets and spiked hair , long black trench coats and one hell of a bad attitude The Nastie’s were a real treat to watch. On the mic the Nastie’s were rude, crude and abrasive. When the Nasty Boys spoke..you listened. In the ring they were straight on brawler’s. Nothing was safe, tables, chairs, guard rails and even announce tables, the Nasties used them! Their sloppiness in the ring was hidden under the sheer onslaught of their ring game. It almost made their act more realistic and hardcore before hardcore was cool. The Nasty Boys were one of the biggest breakout acts born of the AWA during their down period and went on to accomplish multiple championship runs in a number of companies most notably WWF and WCW but seeing their roots in the AWA was a big deal to this writer!

LumberjacksAWA

Then there were the Lumberjacks. Yukon John Nord and Flapjack Norton comprised the team of the Lumber Jacks. Nord a former World Class wrestler re-debuted in the AWA with a full on Bruiser Brody gimmick complete with fur boots! Nord came to the ring to “Bad Moon Rising” from CCR and I was actually a fan! He was a bombastic interview and seemed like a true powerhouse in the ring however Nord never seemed to find his niche as a singles competitor. Nord found common ground with another competitor who was on the AWA treadmill a young Scott “Flash” Norton. Norton on the other side was a former arm wrestler who managed to barely piece together a match with a few clotheslines and a bear hug. He was very green in ring and to hide his weaknesses AWA paired him with Nord to develop him as a competitor. Hence was born The Lumberjacks. Dressed in flannel and jean shorts and with axe handle in hand, Nord and Norton gained ground as a fan favorite team! They had a short-lived feud with The Texas Hangmen. Both Members of the team went on to good futures with Nord becoming The Berserker in the WWF and Scott Norton establishing himself in Japan and WCW partnered with Buff Bagwell in the NWO.

TexasHangmenAWA

Their arch nemesis, The Texas Hangmen (aka the Disorderly Conduct WCW) Were two journeymen who with the help of a mask and a bullrope noose became Texas baddest team..or at least the AWAs. Killer and Psycho were a serviceable team and took bumps very well for heavyweights. Rick Gantner and Mike Moran, two enhancement talent for the AWA were suddenly a competitive force to be reckoned with! The Hangmen were short-lived and even wrestled singles matches near the end of the AWA but Killer and Psycho left their mark in the short time in the AWA rings. As good as they were their future would not be as bright s our next young lion…

TrooperAWA

Next came The Trooper. Del Wilke’s, the man who would become known as The Patriot in Global, WWF and WCW was first a green as the grass Football star turned pro wrestler known as the Trooper. The gimmick itself was AWA’s attempt to cash in on WWF’s “Occupational” gimmicks that were all the rage in the late 80s. So Del Wilke’s became a State Trooper style character who passed out police badges to kids at ringside and wrote citations to his opponents after he defeated them. Sounds stupid right? Well it WAS however Wilkes earnest personality and demeanor on camera got you invested in him and he seemed to grow on fans with every appearance in ring. He went from clunky headlocks, clotheslines and football tackles to a nice mat based style with a splash of high-flying. Wilkes developed an outstanding drop kick and flying clothesline. The Trooper is mostly recognized as the final World Tag Team Champion ever to hold an AWA Tag Strap (Along with Journeyman DJ Peterson) on the final AWA Televised show. Wilke’s would go on to great success in Global as their Heavyweight Champion but now under a mask and calling himself The Patriot. He also had a brief but memorable run in the WWF under the same gimmick but more so the WCW with multiple Tag Team championships with Marcus Alexander Bagwell!

DestructionCrewAWA

The Destruction Crew. AWA job guys Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos were paired up with a “Construction Worker” gimmick complete with orange work vests, matching constructon orange tights and sledge hammers to became the Destruction Crew. What looked like a bad idea turned out to be a pretty good concept as Bloom and Enos gelled as a team and were quickly in Tag Title Contention. With Ken Patera and Brad Rheingans as the Tag Team Champions “The Olympians”, The Crew then storyline injured  Patera in a Car lifting competition which resulted in the Olympians being stripped of the Tag Team titles. The Destruction Crew went on to capture the vacated world tag team championships in a tournament final over Greg Gagne and Paul Diamond. Bloom and Eno’s individually were sound in the ring together they worked very snug together. From their entrance with sledgehammers, to the raucous chords of Queens “We Will Rock You”, to their awesome Destruction Ball (Doomsday Device ala LOD!) finisher the Crew were stars on the rise. Both men were very effective heels with Wayne Bloom a very effective promo and Mike Enos his Igor to Blooms Doctor Frankenstein. The Bloom /Enos Dynamic was interesting as Bloom was the dominant voice in the group always putting Enos in his place and doing the talking with the classic “I got this one Mike” to which Enos would bow down and let Bloom do the talking. They would also be the final wrestlers to wrestle on AWA TV in a note a little later!

The King Takes The Throne..

Lawler AWA Champ

One of the high spots that made me very happy as a wrestling fan was the night of May 8th 1988 when Jerry The King Lawler upset Curt Hennig to win the AWA Heavyweight Championship in his hometown of Memphis with his long time idol Jackie Fargo as the referee that night!

AWACWA

 

The aforementioned partnership between The AWA and The CWA came into play as Verne Gagne put his trust in Jerry Lawler to hold the crown in Hennig’s place as the WWF came calling for their future Mr Perfect. Lawler would indeed bring a degree of prestige to the AWA belt! Now wrestling magazines and televised shows featured Lawler in their pages and on their screens giving the AWA some additional exposure that had slipped away in recent years. As Hennig departed the King ran with the title all over Memphis TV but ironically not much on AWA TV.

 

The Highlight of the Lawler’s Championship reign was AWAs final major Supercard, SuperClash 3 on December 13, 1988. The AWA partnered with Lawler and his wealth of connections to create this multi company Supershow. With an already strong partnership with CWA  the show would also include POW (Powerful Women Of Wrestling) and the former World Class promotion WCCW now The WCWA. The main event would feature AWA World Champion Jerry “The King” Lawler vs.WCWA Heavyweight Champion Kerry Von Erich. The AWA made sure to build this on their shows even though Lawler was not wrestling much per say for them as the champion on their TV but they built the match as a big deal complete with an official contract signing.As a kid in the 80s..this looked and felt like a happening you could not miss. For a few moments I felt the AWA had legs that were steady. The match itself was not up to expectations with Von Erich not “Present” mentally in the match due to some alleged recreational concerns as well as getting injured before the match began accidentally with a blade he had smuggled into his wrestling gear to draw blood late in the finish of the match. Instead Kerry sliced the inside of his arm accidentally and brutally much to the horror of booker’s who saw their show dying in front of them. Kerry pulled through enough to have a passable match which ended ironically by design with a blood stoppage with Von Erich appearing to have beaten Lawler with the Claw only to have the officials stop the match to declare Lawler the Undisputed Champion! It was controversial and the AWA fans turned sour very quickly on a now heel Lawler.

Superclash 3

In what looked on paper as a great financial partnership, the Lawler / AWA relationship would fall apart. Lawler had a falling out with Verne Gagne who at this point was very frustrated with his company’s fate and the financial disaster that was SuperClash 3. As with far too many times before the AWA World title was further tarnished when yet another champion vacated the title and the AWAs main title belt was held up yet again. The writing was on the wall for the company…and it wasnt good. Who could keep the boat above water for the Gagnes? Who could they trust? Everyone they had put in position to represent their company inevitably was swallowed by the WWF and the NWA during the national expansion boom. Verne and Greg turned to family

 Welcome To Larryland..

LarryLandAWA

Larry Zybysko, a long time WWWF (Not a spelling error!) and AWA competitor most famous for his feud with the Legendary Bruno Sammartino. Larry had frequented the rings of the AWA over the years and after losing Lawler as their champion Verne Gagne had serious trust issues with his talent who seemed to be abandoning him at every turn. Zybysko was a part of the Gagne family by marriage and was one of the very few that the Gagnes felt comfortable giving the belt to so on Feb. 7th, 1989 Zybysko won a Battle Royal, last eliminating a popular Tom Zenk, to capture the AWA world title. Zybysko was a great heel. I always loved his interviews. Zybysko created Larryland a fictional amusement park that in the vein of Ric Flairs Space Mountain. Zybysko had an ego the size of a mountain and could speak very well on the mic. His interactions with Larry Nelson, Lee Nelson and Eric Bischoff were hilarious. Not since Hulk Hogan and Mean Gene has an act had so much chemistry.

80s AWA Announcers

Zybysko was also decent in the ring. The self-proclaimed “Martial Artist” often wore Karate apparel and even had his own Ninja present at times! Despite being the king of a broken kingdom, Larry played the role of champion like he was the WWF champion. He was that good at his role. Everything else around him was falling apart but Larry basked in his role as The Champ! Zybysko would often appear to “Drop The Belt” only to snatch it back on a legality.His matches against Sgt. Slaughter were controversial in that Slaughter appeared to win the belt only to have the decision over turned. Mr. Saito, a Japanese star the AWA co-Opted frequently, actually won the strap on a rare tour of Japan only to very quickly lose it again stateside as to make it appear that Larry didn’t lose at all. The win was acknowledged so it was counted as a title change. As mired in shame as the AWA titles were the AWA looked for the next big concept to pull them back to the safety of the shore before they drowned.

Eric BischoffAWA

 The Team Challenge Series

 That concept was dubbed the infamous Team Challenge Series! In what maybe the poorest executed concept in wrestling history The Gagnes, mainly Greg had become frustrated with the decline of the family company. For the sake of a better idea he literally handed over the creative reigns to an individual who would define wrestling in the late 90s Eric Bischoff. Bischoff at the time was a third string announcer for the company but fiercely loyal and aggressive and full of creative ideas..this wasnt one of his good ones. The concept would  divide the roster into three teams..each one Captained by a Legendary wrestler. We had Sarges Snipers Captained by Sgt. Slaughter himself. Barons Blitzers also made their entry into the series headed up by Baron Von Rashke.Finally Larry Legends was the champs team in the fray!

TeamChallengeAWA

 

The overall concept involved Team Challenge Series matches on every show where the winner of the match collected points for his or her said team. Matches were NOT all standard wrestling matches..instead they were gimmicked sports competitions like The Great Turkey Hunt (Turkey On A pole Match), a Football Clash, a Beauty and the Beast match, a Knock Down match where the object was to simply knock you opponent down!!?? There was a great Hands Tied Behind Your Back Match, a Meat Grinder match and a Behind the 8-Ball match. Of course there was a sprinkling of standard matches and Battle Royals that added up for more points.The Series was such a low point that by the time the Series was under way attendance had slipped so much some matches were filmed in an empty building with a camera crew.

A pure humiliation for a once proud wrestling organization.The Series came to a merciful hault with a  Million Dollar Battle Royal won by Larry’s Legends team member and long time AWA Jobber but fan favorite Jake “The Milkman” Millman.  I can still picture the scene as Jake Millman, full of pure joy celebrated like he had won the Super Bowl shouting to the dismay of Larry and the rest of the team “We won the million dollars ..We Won the Million Dollars! Millman must have used his riches wisely as I didnt see or hear of him after this victory! The Team Challenge Series was over and much of the talent was gone…so was all hope for the mighty AWA.

JakeMillman

Larry Zybysko stood tall amongst the ruins after he survived matches against Greg Gagne,Tom Zenk and Wahoo McDaniel and many more and held on to that strap until he parted ways with the company as was the legacy of the AWA strap.Larry would be the last official champion on record in the history of the AWA. Zybysko committed the last crime against the AWA when he arived in WCW while still the AWA Heavyweight Champion. By that time the jig was up. There would not be another Tournament or Battle Royal to crown a new champion. The reaper had arrived for The American Wrestling Association..it had one final hour left in the tank.

The Final Episode

DJ Peterson

The final match on the final show of the AWA was ironically a Tag Team Title match between The Destruction Crew versus The Trooper and DJ Peterson. The Destruction Crew were very elusive and held tightly on to the tag team titles and the makeshift team of Trooper and Peterson didn’t figure into being new champs. Ironically the last images of the AWA onscreen were a great moment as the challengers pulled off an upset win to capture the AWA tag team championship!! I remember popping huge at the win and could not wait for the next week to see the follow-up! Yes despite the monumental losses of talent and a seriously depleted roster I was still an AWA fan who loved wrestling and little did I know this would be the last new material that would ever air on AWA TV.

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Many remember what their favorite era of wrestling was and when it comes to the AWA  these were my favorite years and shamefully this period is rarely talked about. It is for this reason why I needed to put this out there as a tribute to the men and women who stayed until the lights went out. Fortunately most on the roster in the dying years went on to bigger and better opportunities in  the WWF, NWA and Japan.Seeing the final hours of the AWA allowed me to see the last days of some aging vets as well as a host of future talent. It depends on perspective I guess..you love what you grew up with and that’s really what this little blog is all about. People can like what they like, but what really matters is remembering what put a smile on your face as a kid!

Thanks for reading Heroes, the Archives are now closing. everyone return to their seats and strap in…I have a feeling the next coordinates we punch could be very entertaining!

Transmission Ended..

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 Superhero Satellite does not claim to own the rights to any content including names, likenesses, photos or video shared in this blog post and is strictly intended for entertainment purposes only and not for profit in anyway. The rights belong to the rights holders namely the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and is used in accordance with the fair use act. Please visit their website for more wrestling action found at WWE.COM

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Sitting in the dining hall of the Satellite we have access to retrieving artifacts from the 80s. Seeing that this Satellite has decided to stall in the 80s I figured just for fun I would sent one of our crew on the hunt for a childhood favorite treat of mine…Lowneys ChocoLoto Bars! Lock in coordinates to 1982 computer…Initiate!

Begin Transmission: 05/18/2016

In 1982, not to sound like an old curmudgeon, but money went a long way on trips to the corner store. If you were fortunate enough to land 2 bucks you were a champ! On visits to my Grandmothers in a desolate rural town called Harcourt that may as well have been my childhood Tatooine, I managed to get the best visits to the corner stores. The town was about a 40 minute drive from the thriving metropolis that I lived in. To be clear any town you lived in, if you didn’t travel much, was always the biggest cause it was the center of your universe as was Clarenville to me..but I digress.

the-grocery-store

During numerous sleep overs at my Grandparents house I was always spoiled in the sense that I would always be given money almost any time I needed then jump on my bike and drive a very short ways to Holloway’s Grocery which was literally two doors away. I was always treated well by the lady who worked there (Shout Out to Audrey!!) and they always called you by name, which I appreciated as a kid! Being a little bit off the beaten track this store seemed to have older treasures still on the shelves  in 1982 but that was a great thing for me as you would always find that one treat in there that you didn’t expect to find that in hindsight may have been sitting on their shelves from opening day. It was here I gained a great coloring book collection as dictated in a previous article. I loved that store though as I always came away with something great like a Buck Rogers coloring book or the item in question in this article..the Chocoloto Bar!

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For those of you who do not remember it was a Bar with a bright green wrapper which featured a mint bar inside that one would liken in today’s world to a Laura Secord Mint Chocolate Bar but its key feature was that inside the wrapper if you peeled it carefully without destroying it you could win prizes! Inside the wrapper you could be alerted to a free giveaway like a T-Shirt..One of the very rare images of that T-Shirts thankfully still exists as per below..

Shirt

The other prize was MONEY!! Well money wasnt simply placed in the bar wrapper but it was printed on the inside of the wrapper in coins. If I recall you could win 5, 10, and 25 Cents within these wrappers. This was pretty sweet as the bar its self was usually only 30 cents to purchase! You could save them up as well depending on how many bars you would buy you could come off with a good amount of money from these things depending on that appetite..I had little will power and always cashed in my money for candy and other confectionary goodness! One tragedy was he fact that I never won one of the shirts. I do remember loving the taste…the mint chocolate wasnt the norm back. In that time things like Laura Secord was something that the high rollers who lived in the big city would have but for this kid in small town Harcourt NL it was perfection.

Holloways

Stop by and say hi to Audrey and the gang at Holloways Grocery one of my favorite stores ever as a kid!

Playing outside on my bike with a few kids from the area with your Drink, foil bag Hostess Potato Chips and me with my Chocoloto Bar life was all I needed it to be! So if you ever visit Harcourt and you head to Holloway’s Grocery, ask for a Chocoloto Bar..they wont have any but maybe they will remember old Hero here cleaning them out with my Grandparents coins!! Life is short gang…remember to smell the roses and hold on to the good memories!

Transmission Ended…Time to eat some Chocoloto!

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