One From the (Video) Vaults:
The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling
Jay Shannon draws from his extensive collection of wrestling videos, DVDs and Blu-Rays to find a gem from the past to evaluate and enjoy.
So, the Christmas presents are open. My feet are now nice and comfy warm from the new slippers that Mom sent. Breakfast is cooking and the house smells incredible. The boys have monopolized the living room tv to watch football, so I’ve retreated to my little cave (my office). I’m feeling the slightest little twinge of homesickness so I went to my “Go To” video to help with the situation. It’s a two-disc look, by WWE, at the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling.
This bitter sweet collection gave a pretty open viewing of the World Class area. It had interviews with Bill Mercer, Kevin Von Erich, Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts. Gery Hart, Bill Irwin, Skandor Akbar and several others.
It opens with a great history lesson about “Texas Rasslin’”. Dory Funk, Jr. talked about how the small wrestling shows were often the only outside entertainment that some places would get. Fritz Von Erich was profiled by friends, family and others. Fritz would have been an Olympian but married people couldn’t be sponsored, back when he was eligible to go. Fritz started wrestling under his real name, Jack Adkissson. It wasn’t until Jack went North that he was given the German sympathizer gimmick, Fritz Von Erich. He was partnered with Waldo Von Erich. My first wife, Linda, often talked about the dastardly duo that frightened her as a child (well, Fritz did). Kevin Von Erich said the death of the oldest son, Jack, Jr., changed Fritz. Jack was ready to quit wrestling until he stopped by the Sportatorium, on his way to Corpus Christi. Fritz/Jack decided to give wrestling one final shot.
The tape then switched to talking about Fritz taking over Dallas from Paul Boesch. Fritz got the territory, completely, when his business partner died. Gary Hart said Fritz was better as a wrestler than as a prometer. Jerry Lawler talked about self-preservation as it relates to being a promoter. Jimmy Garvin discussed being “screwed over” when it came to pay. Kevin was very defensive of his dad.
The tape then talked about Fritz’s kids. It looked at the boys’ sports background and how they moved over into being wrestlers. Everyone agreed that David was the best wrestler of the bunch. Kerry would have been in the Olynpics but Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1976 games.
Next topic was Fritz’s Retirement Match. He faced King Kong Bundy for the American Heavyweight Championship. It was a nasty match. It was wild to see Bundy with hair. Fritz won the title, that night. Gary Hart mentioned how many wrestlers resented the Von Erich boys getting pushed. Kevin talked about how the Von Erich gimmick was “no gimmicks”.
The documentary then talked about the expansion of World Class. Kevin mentioned the pirate tapes that went all over the world. World Class was one of the first truly world-wide syndicated shows. Fritz held back World Class because he was “Old School” and didn’t tread on other territories. Various people talked about the unique profiling that World Class did. They showed clips of Jimmy Garvin and Sunshine at David Von Erich’s ranch. That is still, to this day, my favorite vignette…ever.
Then they talked about The Sportatorium. Everyone talked about what a crappy place it was. It was a rat hole but we loved it. The building was torn down after a fire. During the discussion of the Sportatorium, there is a scene with a 13-year old kid in glasses waving a Texas flag. That was me!
Next up was a look at The Freebirds in Texas. The played Badstreet, USA. I know Jimmy Papa, who was in the Fantasia Band. Haven’t seen him in years, though. Hayes had some seriously good local musicians on his album. Kevin talked about how The Freebirds truly launched Rock and Wrestling. The Freebirds were initially fan favorites but they turned on Kerry, which was a permanent banishment to heeldom. Christmas Night, 1982 saw Hayes as the ref as Kerry went after Ric Flair’s World title. The ending of that match launched a years-long feud. The Von Erichs vs Freebird feud was highly profiled. Gary Hart talked about quitting over a money issue.
Michael Hayes talked about Ken Mantell. That led to a look at the young talent that World Class used. There was another extended section about Michael Hayes and the Freebirds.
The mood darkened as the death of David Von Erich was profiled. David died, in Japan, in February of 1984. There were several versions of what caused the death. David was about to become the NWA World Champion, when he died. The show then talked about the David Von Erich Memorial Card, later in 1984. I was there, at Texas Stadium, for that event. The electricity in that arena was beyond words. Kerry’s reign would only last 18 days. He would drop the belt back to Ric Flair, in Japan.
The show focused, next, on the Chris Adams Heel Turn.
Mike Von Erich’s Toxic Shock Syndrome was touched upon. Mike was never supposed to survive the infection but he did. The infection did do some major damage, including brain damage. Everyone talked about how MIke was never the same after the infection.
The whole Lance Von Erich thing was discussed. Lance was pushed as Waldo Von Erich’s kid. Gary Hart said the lie about Lance being a Von Erich was the first nail in the coffin for World Class. Fritz broke kayfabe to announce that Lance was not a Von Erich.
The life and death of Gino Hernandez was looked at. Gary Hart actually cried as he discussed Gino. Hart mentioned he couldn’t have a photo of Gino because it was just too painful.
The split between World Class and the NWA, in 1986, was the next chapter. Gary Hart said World Class pulled out because Fritz didn’t think Kerry would be allowed to be the NWA World Champ, again. Hart said putting the World title on Black Bart was the biggest mistake of that era. Then Kerry had his motorcycle accident. Kerry lost part of his foot but it was covered up by World Class. Everyone agreed that the wreck changed Kerry, forever.
The drug problem in World Class was exposed. The spiral of Mike Von Erich was also discussed. Mike’s suicide was another huge blow to World Class. Fritz’s fake heart attack was another lie that drove away the fans. I remember that whole thing. All my friends, who watched wrestling, were ticked at the phoniness.
Almost everyone talked about how destructive Ken Mantell was for World Class.
Superclash was next up for discussion. Jerry Lawler vs Kerry Von Erich was spotlighted. The match was stopped because Kerry was bleeding. Another nail in the coffin. Kerry’s drug problem was highlighted. Jerry Jarrett then bought out World Class. Kevin didn’t want Jarrett involved. The name was changed to USWA. Kerry went to the WWF. His demons would cost him his spot. He did beat Curt Hennig for the Intercontinental title, but lost it quickly.
Kevin talked about losing his brothers and how it just quit being fun. Chris wanted to be a wrestler but he was just too small and fragile. Chris took his life because he wasn’t able to follow in his father’s and brothers’ footsteps. Kevin found his baby brother. Soon after Chris died, Kerry also took his own life. Kerry was in legal trouble and may have been headed to jail. Kevin felt Kerry killed himself to protect the family. Kevin begged those watching never to commit suicide because of what it does to those left behind. Kevin said the deaths became way too painful for the fans to deal with. The Curse was touched upon. Most everyone dismissed it.
The reasons that World Class died was discussed. Some felt it was the deaths of the Von Erichs. Others felt it was a changing market. I’m not sure, personally, but I do miss it. I’ve been involved with numerous groups, in the past few years. I have respect for Rivalry, PWD, RWF, Big Time Wrestling (California), ECPW, UCW and others. I can’t help but compare each and every one to what I felt was the greatest group of all time…World Class Championship Wrestling. RIP.
Tea With “Gentleman” Chris Adams
A promo with “Iceman” King Parsons
Gino Hernandez Promo
Valet for the Day (Greatest Vignette Ever!)
Duke Keomuka vs Ricky Starr (unknown year)
Fritz Von Erich vs King Kong Bundy
Retirement Match for the American title — 1982
Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich
Steel Cage Match for World title — 1982
“Iceman” KIng Parsons, Kevin Von Erich and David Von Erich vs Fabulous Freebirds
Six Man Tag Match — 1983
“Iceman” King Parsons vs Buddy Roberts
Hair vs Hair Match — 1983
Fritz, Kevin and Mike Von Erich vs Fabulous Freebirds
Six Man Match (David Von Erich Memorial) — 1984
Chris Adams and Sunshine vs Jimmy Garvin and Precious
Mixed Tag Match (David Von Erich Memorial) — 1984
Great Kabuki vs Kamala
David Von Erich Memorial — 1984
Fantastics vs Midnight Express
American Tag Team Title Match (David Von Erich Memorial II) — 1985
Chris Adams vs Kevin Von Erich
Bruiser Brody and Missing LInk vs One Man Gang and Rick Rude
Bruiser Brody vs Abdullah the Butcher
Steel Cage Matcch (Cotton Bowl Extravaganza III) — 1986
This was a DVD that brought smiles and tears to me and so many others that have seen it. I still have that Texas flag, framed and up on my office wall. I still have an autographed copy of the Michael Hayes album. The Sportatorium is gone. So many great people from World Class have died. Thankfully, my memories are still as fresh as if the fun times happened, just last week. Thank you to the WWE for giving those of us who were part of World Class this look back. I also want to thank them for sharing this part of history with those not fortunate enough to be around the Dallas area in the 70s and 80s.