Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Pro Wrestling vol. 30: Best of Mid-South Wrestling 1983-1987 (Ted DiBiase, Jim Duggan, Butch Reed)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,
Pro Wrestling Love vol. 30:
The Best of Mid-South Wrestling/Houston Wrestling 1983-1987

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This thirtieth volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the conclusion of the Top 12 countdown of the best matches to take place in Mid-South Wrestling between 1983-1987. The time period is set because this was the peak of the territorial era in regards to footage. Footage before 1983 in regards to American wrestling is a dicey proposition. There are some gaps after 1983, but for the most part from 1983 on we have everything. The countdown ends in 1987 when Jim Crockett buys out the Universal Wrestling Federation from Bill Watts and then ultimately shuts it down at Starrcade 1987. You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at You can check out the full version of these reviews in by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram &

Top Six Matches of Mid-South Wrestling 1983-1987

#6.  Mid-South North American Champion Dick Murdoch vs Butch Reed - 10/14/85

I watched this way back when with the September match, but never got around to writing a review for this. I remember liking this as much as the September match and I liked that a whole lot.

First 15 minutes: Reed's TV title is only on the line for the first 15 minutes. I don't know why Watts insisted or who insisted Reed work holds. He is not as good as everyone else at it. He would be great as a power wrestler. They trade side headlocks early with good struggle. A battle over a top wristlock leads to Reed grabbing an armbar. This would be the hold du jour. Reed's arm work is good, but not great like Murdoch's in the previous encounter. I did like this way better than the headlock Flair match. Murdoch's facial expressions and struggle make this a lot better. He is looking for the ropes and really sells the pain once it is released. He is trying to combat Reed with big elbows to the top of the head. Everytime they lock up, Reed punches the bad arm and Capn Redneck is getting pissed! 5 minute time call and Murdoch avoids the punch and grabs a small package. I love that spot. Reed grabs the arm and this all makes sense. Reed is trying to wait out the 15 minute time period while setting himself up to win the North American Title later. Really smart strategy. Murdoch finally makes in roads with elbows to the top of the head, but Reed sits out of the front facelock to grab a hammerlock. Murdoch backs Reed into the corner and reigns down heavy blows while selling the bad arm. Reed is discombobulated. Atomic drop. Only one minute remains! Murdoch cant get the pin, big punch in the side headlock. He is whacking Reed in the back of the head. Feigns brainbuster for another small package. They standoff and Murdoch resigns himself to not winning the TV Title. If the match ended here as a draw, I would say this was easily great. Reed dominated with arm work, Murdoch sold and fought back and they worked to a strong finish. The match does not end here. Murdoch has a bad wing and it is not just his title on the line.

Last 15 Minutes: Holy Shit! This was what I am talking about! World-Class Selling throughout. For limb psychology marks like myself, it does not get better than Murdoch working the leg in response to Reed working the arm. It is an absolute war of attrition. Before the dueling limb psychology there is a really fun tit for tat piece of psychology I got to point out. Murdoch had been really clobbering Reed and up until that point Reed had restrained himself. On a criss cross, Reed popped him one good. Murdoch's selling is I don't know I don't have words to describe it. Perfect. That what it is. It is perfect. Watch this match for that one moment. Mrudoch gets his receipt on the next criss cross and Reed sells great like a babyface should. Murdoch uses the bottom rope to stomp Reed before finally zeroing in on his target, Reed's leg to take away his power. Reed is incredible selling this. He is trying to fight back in the corner, but he looks helpless. Love this. Murdoch grabs a toehold and Reed starts to kick at the bad arm. Oh Fuck Yes! Reed starts yanking at the bad arm and Murdoch collapses in pain. Reed collapses with a knee on Murdoch's bad arm and then sells his own knee. Another time, he kneelifts Murdoch and Murdoch sells his face so well while Reed has to sell his knee. This is why I love pro wrestling! Reed attacking the arm and Murdoch is attacking the leg each trying their best to gain the advantage. Murdoch applies the figure-4 and I actually feel like this could be the finish because of the selling! Reed breaks it with raw power and uses the ropes to hold himself up to kick Murdoch away. Murdoch hits a knecrusher for two. Reed hoists him up for a powerslam, but bumps the ref. Murdoch gets an O'Connor Roll, but no ref, now Reed gets his own and wins the CHAMPIONSHIP! The crowd goes insane for this!!! Murdoch shows his respect for the new champ.

The last 15 minutes were wrestled at a ***** level. I thought finish was just slightly weak and the first 15 minutes while they set up last 15 minutes well just weren't there.  A definite must watch. Every aspiring wrestler NEEDS to watch the last 15 minutes of this.

#5. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich - 4/28/85

This match is just lean and mean. Flair is at his best when he goes long so he can flesh out his narrative. There are plenty of times even at 20-25 minutes where he feels rushed. However, that is not the case here. Here his spot calling was pitch perfect. This is stripped down Ric Flair at its finest.

How stripped down are talking? At the five minute mark, Flair is already getting heat and there was barely any shine (Flair Flop off a Discus Punch, glorious). It is on! Ref hooks Kerry's arm and Flair hits his short knee. He throws Kerry to the outside. Kerry is such a great Flair opponent, combining the power of Luger, likeability of Sting and selling of Steamboat (on this night he was that damn good). If he had Windham's offense, Good Lord that just would have not been fair. Flair rips into him on the floor, Kerry's selling is Godly and then plays a little King of the Mountain. Love Kerry trying to pull himself up on ropes, missing the desperation dropkick and then selling the ribs. The Flair sleeper complete with arm drop is the climax of this segment before Kerry falls into turnbuckles ramming Flair's head. Love Flair grabbing his jaw after this.

I love how lean Kerry's comeback is at this point. Discus punch->Comeback started. Press Slam->Highspot. Stomach claw->False finish. You just ride such a high during that segment.

Kerry has Flair down, but cant get cover. He gives up to hit a splash, but eats knees to injured midsection. AWESOME! Flair tosses him out to get a breather. Now we get the sunset flip and backslide fun, which is a rush. Flair Flip to the outside. Flair looks discombobulated, but he grabs Kerry's ankle and wrenches it across the apron. He goes up top and I thought this would be the best set up ever for the press slam, but he actually hits a axehandle!!! Flair misses knee drop and it is into the figure-4! Great setup. They have done a great job generating excitement with neither man really in control, but everything feeling organic. Kerry is clearly coming from underneath, but is getting big time false finishes.

Flair makes the ropes and Kerry stays on the leg. Kerry goes to elbow the leg, but Flair moves and he hurts his mid-section. WOW! Flair punches to midsection. BIG BOY CHOPS! Flair selling the leg, before an elbow drop for two. Butterfly suplex, love that move for two. Two great Flair heat segments, love it. Flair hits rapid fire punches in the corner and Kerry collapses in the corner. Knee to the injured midsection. It is the press slam off the top that is the transition to the comeback (Flair did take a long time). Flair Flip runs across apron off the top into IRON CLAW~! FUCKING AWESOME! I POPPED LIKE A MADMAN FOR THAT!

Flair hiptosses Kerry outside the ring and that's a pretty big bump as Flair brings him in the hardway with a vertical suplex. Flair is in full desperation, don't fuck around mode and applies the figure-4. Kerry sells like a million bucks. Kerry powers out because he is ALL MAN! Flair big chop and it is a slugfest! Lots of movement leads to a Kerry sleeper. They stick with the sleeper and it is a pretty convincing finish with the armdrops, but Flair gets his foot on ropes. Kerry is incensed punching Flair on the ropes throwing the ref away. Flair using the ropes to hold him up throws a big chop. Flair sends Kerry into the ref, here we go. Kerry gets a cross body and sleeper, but no ref and Flair drops him balls first on the top rope. Kerry get his foot on the rope to protect him (very Mid-South Flair finish), but a very strong 80s finish.

Call me a Flair mark. Call me a Kerry mark. I don't care the fact this was only #49 on Mid-South Set means Im calling YOU CRAZY!!! This was FANTASTIC! Ric Flair at his absolute best. Flair is pretty restrained in this by his standards. He works more on top than usual. Kerry killed it in the selling department. The spot calling was incredible. Just everything flowed perfectly. Flair ripped into Kerry when necessary. Kerry worked so well from underneath. When he was making his comeback, everything felt tenuous, but at the same time credible. Those claw attempts/figure-4 were home runs shots, but he didn't have enough to really chip into Flair's lead, he needed to a big bomb to close this out because his midsection was giving out on him. You see Flair really feel in control here when he usually does not. It is only a brief part in the middle does he feel frantic and the end when it does look like Kerry has him beat. I really liked that finish. Just did not feel like ***** when I was watching it, cant put my finger on it, but this is a classic right up there with Hawaii & Texas 8/82 matches.

#4. Mid-South North American Champion Dick Murdoch vs Butch Reed - 9/22/85

I would conjecture that this was to give Reed more practice in the classic NWA World Championship style as he already had one match against Flair and would have a couple more. It would establish Reed as the lead championship material babyface whereas Duggan was the brawling, blue collar babyface. Reed is able to convey not only brute strength in this match, but a great amount of technique, stamina and also some great verbal selling. On the flip side, there is always talk that Murdoch would have been NWA World Championship if it had not been his propensity for comedy and lightheartedness in his match. This series with Reed gives us an inkling of what it would have been like if Captain Redneck was The Man.What a great reign it would have been! I had watched a good amount of Murdoch before this and liked him, but this match totally sold me on him. He is an absolute torture master. Then when it comes to selling he is just so spot on. I don't know how to explain it, but it is exactly what I think you should do. It is the perfect blend of entertainment and conveying pain.

This is nominally face vs face at the beginning, but Murdoch will be playing de facto heel. They do tit for tat armdrags to establish face vs face. We get the long Reed side headlock, which is custom for Reed in his matches with Flair. Murdoch is right there with Ole & Arn for best at working the arm just incredible at making everything look painful (wristlock while stomping on head and ribs) and takes his time. Reed uses power tries for pin and then goes right back to the headlock. We get that sequence for a bit and it is very logical and very entertaining. I think it was great to have Reed creating the movement. The match is getting more and more heated with them both working hard. It crescendos to both men cocking their fists and the ref intervening to stop this classical match from getting out of hand. Perfect tease. Reed takes a powder from all the arm work and he psyches himself up, which is a really cool spot. The ref tries to cool him down. I love we get a collar and elbow tie up this late into the match. It is a nice reset without forgetting the past. He levels Murdoch with a forearm and classic Murdoch face down selling. Perfect. Murdoch elbows the top of head to get to a hammerlock bearhug with nasty punches to the ribs. Murdoch throws out classical wrestling and just starts throwing nasty strikes to Reed that causes him to slump into the ring. In a criss cross sequence, Reed finally clock Murdoch and Capn Redneck is reeling. Murdoch drags him to the outside and slams him on the concrete. They tease the countout finish. Piledriver, knee drop, Murdoch is pouring it on, but only gets two after each. The selling in this match is amazing. With each men selling this war of attrition and trying to fight through the pain. Reed was great at selling the face, being doubled over and then fighting through all that finally kicks some ass in a great comeback. Murdoch does his great job selling with his weak windmill punches. Murdoch tries to fight from his ass, awesome! Reed just starts to choke him. It is breaking loose in Tulsa! I hope it is Tulsa! They start trading punches and atomic drops and Reed's final atomic drop was a DOUBLE HOT nearfall! Dicky Murdoch rolls to the outside. Reed is exhausted and they both collapse from all this fighting! Reed applies the figure-4, hey now you cant say Flair made him do that spot! :D

Murdoch is in the ropes and Reed is relentless and the ref is trying to get Butch to back off. Of course, this causes Reed to eat a boot. Now Reed is fighting from his back and punching the bad knee. Wow! Murdoch tries a bodyslam, but his knee is so fucked they both topple over the top rope. Double countout. Badass classical American title match. Reed shoves ref as he is trying to give Murdoch the belt. I smell rematch. :) He punches Murdoch and throws him into the belt. He decks ref. It gets scrappy and they finally break it up. Butch promo and this becomes a wicked brawl. I loved this match. Awesome selling, really built well to Reed's comeback and Murdoch is excellent at all facets of wrestling. 

#3. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer - 11/11/85

"Kiss my fucking ass!" - Hacksaw Jim Duggan to Buzz Sawyer in the post-match fracas from Hell.

Hacksaw Duggan is for real! His run in Mid-South should go down as one of the best "everyman" brawler types in the history of Mid-South. The DiBiase matches are exceptional, but you can point to them being propped up by the angle the matches with Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer are just unadulterated violence. At this time, Dicky Slater & Buzz Sawyer were the lead heels in the Mid-South territory soon to be Universal Wrestling Federation and Duggan and Butch Reed were among the lead faces. While Slater & Reed were feuding over the North American title, Duggan was left to face Dicky's gatekeeper, the crazed Mad Dog.

THIS IS A BLOODBATH! Duggan jumpstarts the match with fists of fury that sends Buzz packing. I love the Duggan Superman pose juxtaposed with his goofy ass face. Duggan obliterates Sawyer's face into the guardrail and busts him WIDE open. Buzz does his best Chris Webber is asking for a timeout, but there are NO TIMEOUTS in wrestling, you fool! Hacksaw continues the onslaught of punches to the head. The ref takes pity of the pathetic bloody heap that is Buzz Sawyer and tries to hold Hacksaw back. Ruh roh! Buzz tries to claw Duggan;s eye out and then kicks him in the balls. Hacksaw takes an equally wicked bump into the barricade and now he is busted WIDE open too. Buzz slams a table on him! I love this raucous mayhem. There is no real story other than two guys kicking the absolute shit out of one another. Hacksaw is trying to mount a comeback, but does not have much in the tank. When Hacksaw stops Sawyer from slamming his head into the turnbuckles, this feels like the most important thing in the world given the amount of effort both men are putting in. Hacksaw wins out and hits a back elbow. WEDGEBUSTER~! The Mad Dog heads for the hills and the crowd is on his case. Buzz ain't yellah; he races back into the ring and blasts Duggan. The ref throws this chaos out. Buzz wants to maim the hero of Mid-South with a piledriver , but Hacksaw reverses and kicks ass. The wrestlers come to break it up, but they are just getting started. Duggan breaks free and jumps Buzz in a crazy moment! Crowd is chanting bullshit. This is incredible! We see Buzz get dragged back to with his friends and he is moaning and groaning. Then Hacksaw is coming to the back and Buzz breaks free again. Holy shit an absolutely nuts brawl breaks out again! Hacksaw is screaming kiss my fucking ass as Buzz Sawyer is left wailing. The whole shebang is the epitome of pro wrestling. All the stars in the world for this! Hacksaw Duggan is my hero! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! 

#2. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Terry Taylor - 6/1/85

My recollection is that this a contender for one of the best matches of the 1980s and is one of my all-time favorite Flair matches lets see how it holds up.

First Twenty Minutes: Fuck yeah, this holds up. Incredible opening twenty minutes. I love how Flair always starts off clean against Taylor before working himself up into a lather. I think he underestimates Taylor and thinks he can take him by conventional means only to realize he is in for one helluva fight. I love Taylor's body language in this. He is confident and you believe in him to become the world champion. Taylor grabs a couple headscissors early out of a Flair headlock. Flair is bit annoyed, but he goes back to his strategy of taking it to the mat. Taylor rides a hammerlock. There a ton of little details to watch for in this match. Flair is selling the arm and pulls the ropes to try to loosen it up. Watch closely you will watch Taylor try to pick up that arm, but cant quite find an opening until Flair forces his hand by coming in with a collar elbow tie up trying a suplex attempt, but Taylor blocks twice before Flair gives up. Flair takes him down twice with drop toeholds, but both times cant hold Taylor. Taylor/Flair now work a side headlock sequence that blows the Reed one outta the water. Tons of interesting stuff. Taylor cranking to stop Flair from getting a knee crusher. Flair tries movement to gain an advantage, but on the second attempt Taylor does not even humor him and drops down into a headlock when Flair drops down. Smart, conservative wrestling. Taylor wrenches the front facelock and I love how Flair goes for a suplex and Taylor wrenches hard and the way Flair hollers and then falls it is just so perfect. These are the things that make him better than everyone else. Flair drives Taylor into the corner three times and finally forces a break. Now tempers flare and a fire fight breaks out. Taylor to his credit does not back down. He goes blow for blow with the heavy-handed Flair in just a great sequence. I love Flair feigning with the left only drop low into the midsection with the right. Just a great spot. He throws Taylor out and he rushes back in the ring. Vero's Hero is here to fight, muthafucka! They fire off into the corner, love how Flair bullies him in the crowd only for Taylor to rifle back. The ref interferes and hooks Taylor's arm and Flair nails that short knee to the family jewels of Vero's Hero. With that the twenty minute mark is reached and the Nature Boy is finally in control. I loved, loved how they built into this fight. You see Flair goads him into this. He knows that in the chaos there will be opportunities to sneak in a cheapshot. He got Taylor off his smart, conservative gameplan and he is reaping the benefits. I am so excited for the next twenty minutes!

Final Twenty Minutes: They don't relent for one second in this match. Flair punches Taylor right in the face and I love Taylor grabs his face and sells it. Flair is incensed and is choking Taylor. He grabs an arm and they work a good armabr sequence. Flair uses the ropes and hair to control Taylor. Flair goes for chops in the corner, but loses control and is sent flying into the opposite the turnbuckle. Flair tries to get a suplex quickly, but Taylor drops down the back and it is a sleeper. Taylor actually gets a suplex in before eating knees. Taylor don't quit. He is up and rocking Flair with rights until the Flair Flop. This portion feels like an up and down the court basketball game as they start throwing out nearfalls until Flair thumbs him in the eye to finally stymie Taylor. Flair, who clearly realizes he is starting to get in over his head, applies the Figure-4 hoping to end the match. Taylor reverses the pressure. Flair is still nominally in control as Taylor is selling the leg, but misses the kneedrop and he ends up in the figure-4. Flair pushes Taylor off on the second attempt. He thinks now is the time, it is the time to fly. RUH ROH! He sure does go flying. Taylor is on fire with the punches and general intensity. Taylor rattles off nearfalls again, crossbody, backslide. Flair grabs a sleeper on a criss cross, but cant hold Taylor who drops down and kicks him off into the ref. So when Taylor gets another backslide there is no ref. Flair rakes the eyes and throws Taylor over the ropes. He needs to get the ref to count him out! Doesn't work out. Flair suplexes him back in and a big elbow to Taylor he is trying to get up only gets two. Taylor slugs it out with Flair just throwing bomb after bomb. Flair flops on his face. Taylor just needs that one big move. O'Connor Roll will this be it...Flair reverses he has the tights...1, 2, 3!

Incredible match. I think what I like the most about is the intensity of both combatants. You really believed that this match was the most important thing in the world. The sense of urgency was very high throughout the match and never relented. Taylor was really awesome in this. He was firing off some great shots. The back half once Taylor made his initial comeback was Flair cheating like a muthafucka to win the match. Eye thumb sets up the first figure-4, but Taylor persevered through that. Then the rake of the eyes and throwing him over the top rope. Taylor survived and overcame. However, you could tell he just did not have much left in the tank and Flair yanked the tights to win. It was a war of attrition and they fought like hell. It is matches like this that are the reasons I love pro wrestling.

#1. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs Ted DiBiase - 3/22/85
Tuxedo, Coal Miner's Glove, Loser Leaves Town Steel Cage Match 
Mid-South Match of the Year, 1985

Believe the hype! This is one of the best matches of 80s and a perfect culmination of their intense, bloody feud. Clearly, the cage was needed to keep DiBiase's running buddies out and so DiBiase would have nowhere to run. After all the blood that was spilled, Mid-South was just not big enough for the two of them thus loser leaves town. DiBiase was famous for his loaded glove so they upped the ante with a coal miner's glove hanging from a pole in the corner this would actually be DiBiase's downfall. The one odd stipulation is the fact they wrestled this match in tuxedos. Definitely seek out the video package they play before this match to get you up to speed and see how the Best Dressed in Mid-South becomes an essential part in this feud.

It is hard to come by definitive, feel-good blowoffs in the 80s and in wrestling in general, but on this night you not only get a great match you get a great ending to a historic rivalry. DiBiase really elevated his game in this match by upping the chickenshit factor and also getting even nastier. Duggan was wrestling at already high level, but now DiBiase was meeting him there and they were making magic together. DiBiase stalling at the beginning then trying a sneak attack only get caught by Duggan jabs and then the horror of realizing he was trapped inside the cage with this lunatic. I thought going into this that I was going to have trouble taking Duggan seriously as a number one face, but au contaire I am disappointed Duggan did not last longer in a lead face role because he is an excellent, bleeding, asskicking babyface brawler from Hell. DiBiase manages to pull Duggan into the cage head first and bust him open. Duggan's blood flowing like a bloody Niagara Falls (thanks Steel Panther) on his pristine white tuxedo. This is where we see DiBiase strategy go awry. He is constantly angling for the Coal Miner's Glove, which puts his back to his opponent thus he is in a prone position for Duggan to yank him down. The first couple times DiBiase is able to work the cut and claw away to stymie Duggan. Duggan gains a head of steam and DiBiase is in tatters being slammed into the cage. Duggan retrieves the glove! DiBiase has one last trick and it is powder. DiBiase wins possession of the glove, but try as he might, he just can't hit Duggan with it. Duggan is able to slam DiBiase's hand into the post, gains possession of glove and SMOKES DIBIASE RIGHT IN THE HEAD! 1-2-3

Awesome, awesome brawl! The fact it had such a great finish puts it over matches like Flair/Kerry and Bock/Martel #2. It is tighter than Savage/Garvin. The only that comes close is Duggan/Sawyer, which is another bitchin' Mid-South brawl, but that lacks a finish. As of right now, this is the best match of the 80s, I have watched so far. Both wrestlers delivered all time great performances in their respective roles and have great chemistry with each other. Like I said earlier, in wrestling it is hard to come by awesome blowoffs and so when you see one it is extra special.

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