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Mid-South Wrestling - An Introduction



 - Sean Rowland

I always considered myself somewhat privileged that I was lucky enough to grow up in the heart of Mid-South country. New Orleans had the Superdome, and that venue was the Crown Jewel of Mid-South auditoriums. Every few months we had a Superdome spectacular card and they were just that…spectacular. But, then everything about the Mid-South area was a cut above the rest.

Mid-South wrestling grew out of the old Tri-State wrestling that Leroy McGuirk promoted. McGuirk had been a junior-heavyweight wrestler in the 1940's, but he was blinded in a car accident and turned to promoting instead. McGuirk was based in Oklahoma and promoted there and in the Louisiana and Mississippi areas. His star attraction in the early Seventies was one Cowboy Bill Watts. Watts was a big raw-boned powerful guy who had played football at Oklahoma University and had headlined cards in New York, working as a heel against Bruno Sammartino. In the Tri-State area, though, Watts was the top face. Watts and McGuirk never completely saw eye to eye and Watts pulled out on McGuirk in 1973, and took the top area belt, the North American title, with him.

Watts went to Florida where he studied how to promote wrestling under a true master in Eddie Graham. Watts defended the North American strap in Florida and Georgia, and gained a lot of valuable experience from Graham. Meanwhile, McGuirk continued promoting in his area by crowning Tank Morgan as the New North American champ. Then, in 1975, Watts returned to his home territory, unified the title by defeating Killer Karl Kox, and resumed his role as top babyface. From this point on, Watts was instrumental in booking and running the area. In 1979, Watts finally managed to get control of the territory from McGuirk when Leroy sold out to him.

It was at this point that Mid-South Wrestling was born, and boy did Watts hit the ground running. One of the first things Mid-South did was pull out of membership in the NWA. This seems like it would have made a big impact, but other than not having World's Title matches for a few years, it really didn't seem to matter. Watts also started to push new talent. Ted DiBiase moved into the limelight. Paul Orndorff became a major player. Watts brought in a couple of trash-talking, wild-eyed southern boys by the names of Hayes and Gordy, better known as the Fabulous Freebirds. Jake Roberts was brought back from Calgary where he had gone for some seasoning. Jim Garvin, who had been in the area back in the mid-1970's as a heel manager for his brother Terry and Duke Meyers came in from Florida as a babyface who did pretty well. The Super Destroyer, the Grappler, and Killer Kahn all came in. Oh, and a young man by the name of Sylvester Ritter, who had gone to Calgary with Jake Roberts, came back under a different name. He was now known as the Junkyard Dog and he was on the verge of big time stardom.

Mid-South quickly became a hot bed of wrestling action. The angles were sensational. And all of the talent worked hard. Watts and company created some of the most memorable characters and angles in the history of wrestling. And, you can trace many of the ideas and angles used today, especially in the WWF and ECW promotions to the Mid-South area. And all this for a promotion that lasted a total of about seven years as the Mid-South and UWF areas. That's pretty impressive.

Well, there's a little background on the Mid-South area. In future articles, I'll be examining some of the classic angles, feuds, and personalities that made Mid-South wrestling so much fun. I also hope to give you folks a run down on the Mid-South history of both the North American and Mid-South tag-team titles. I hope you enjoy reading about this stuff as much as I enjoyed seeing it first hand.


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