Tri-State Wrestling August 1978 - Episode on WWE Network

With the surprise addition last week of a McGuirk TV show from August 1978 to the (award-winning) WWE Network, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the territory during the time frame of the episode.

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Let's start with the date. The WWE Network lists the date of the episode as August 12th, 1978. This would have been a Saturday. It's unclear if they are referring to the date the episode was taped or when it aired. And if it was the air date, what city it aired in would be important information. At the time, McGuirk's TV was on a "bicycle"; it aired in different cities at different times, sometimes several weeks apart.

According to user JonBek2 of the Kayfabe Memories message forum, this episode was taped at KTBS TV Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana. He says that the TV tapings in Shreveport at this time were done either Wednesday nights or Saturday mornings. Looking at my records, the weekly Shreveport house shows were on Tuesday nights for the first several months of 1978, but switched to Friday nights in August, with the first Friday night show being on August 4th.  When the house show was on Tuesday, it would make sense for the TV to be taped on Wednesday. But with the switch to Fridays, I think it is very likely that the tapings would be switched to Saturday mornings. This way, talent working the Shreveport house show could just stay in town for the night and work the TV the following morning. The other Friday night house show was in Lafayette, Louisiana, which would have been at least a three-hour drive (perhaps more given interstate and travel conditions forty years ago as compared to today). So it's feasible that one carload of wrestlers works Lafayette and then heads north to Shreveport overnight, with the bulk of the crew working TV already being in town.

Looking at who is featured on this episode, looking at my records of house show ads for the time period, and paying attention to several things said during the episode, I believe that this episode was taped on August 19th.

The first clues are the talent featured in the episode. In particular, Cowboy Bob Ellis and the four midget wrestlers. The first house show date I have for Ellis this time around is Tuesday, August 15th in Alexandria, LA. The first date I have for the midgets is also the 15th, in Oklahoma City. Most of the time, newcomers started on Mondays, so I think it is very likely these five wrestlers were already in the territory on the day of this taping. While it's certainly possible that their start date was a Saturday morning, that typically wasn't how things were done back then. That would likely rule out August 12th. The midget wrestlers stayed through the end of the following week, so they would have been in the territory on August 26th. However, it is made clear that Bob Ellis is making his first appearance (of this particular run; he had been in the territory before) on this episode, so to me that makes it much more likely that the episode was taped on August 19th.

But the biggest piece of evidence that convinced me that it was taped on the 19th occurs during the Rock Hunter interview with Siegfried Stanke. Hunter notes that he is the manager of not only Stanke, but also Kurt Von Hess. He then says that Von Hess is wrestling in Detroit "today". Von Hess did wrestle in Detroit on August 19th (and Cincinnati the night before), which seems to be the only time he wrestled in Detroit in all of 1978. He is booked on the regular Saturday night McGuirk town of Loranger, LA on August 12th and August 26th. So August 19th is the only day that Von Hess would have actually been in Detroit. And since it's such a specific mention of the town, this also leads me to believe that the episode was indeed taped on Saturday morning as opposed to the Wednesday prior.

I can't attest to when the episode aired (I am not sure if the Saturday morning tapings were broadcast live on Shreveport TV, though that would be likely), but I am reasonably confident that it was taped on the 19th.

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Now, let's move on to the crew. McGuirk was running 2 shows per night based on the size of the crew and the number of wrestlers used per house show. I have lineups for 41 house shows over a five-week period between July 31st and September 3rd. The towns I have lineups for include:

Monday - Jackson MS and Tulsa OK
Tuesday - Alexandria LA and Oklahoma City OK
Wednesday OR Sunday - Baton Rouge LA
Thursday - Little Rock AR
Friday - Lafayette LA and Shreveport LA
Saturday - Loranger LA

I calculated SPOT (Statistical Position Over Time) ratings for the 25 wrestlers who appeared regularly in the territory the week of August 14th through August 20th. For these wrestlers, I calculated their SPOT ratings over a 5-week period (the same 7/31 to 9/3 time period referenced above).

I did not include the four midget wrestlers (Cowboy Lang, Butch Cassidy, Tokyo Joe and Lord Littlebrook), nor did I include the following wrestlers who made one-off appearances: Buck Robley, David & Kevin Von Erich, Karl Von Krupp, Gino Hernandez & Superstar Billy Graham. Technically, Robley was not a one-off, as he came in for a couple of weeks in mid-to-late August, but I don't consider that a long enough run to be a "regular". Graham and Krupp were each brought in to work Orndorff. Gino wrestled Bill Irwin on August 15th in Oklahoma City; on the same card, Kevin & David Von Erich wrestled Ron Bass & The Mongol.

The wrestlers are ranked by their SPOT ratings below. Remember, SPOT ratings are a number between .000 and 1.000 representing a wrestler's average spot on the cards; a 1.000 would mean they were always in the main event.

.923 Steven Little Bear (Steve Kovac/Kovacs)
.904 Ernie Ladd
.899 The Assassin (Jody Hamilton)
.849 Paul Orndorff
.834 Ray Candy
.787 Jerry Brown
.786 The Brute (Bugsy McGraw)
.786 Eric the Red
.749 Mike George
.742 Bobby Jaggers
.730 Jose Lothario
.681 Siegfried Stanke
.668 Kurt Von Hess
.658 Ron Bass
.508 Cowboy Bob Ellis
.467 The Avenger (Reggie Parks)
.358 Ricky Fields
.343 Terry Latham
.333 The Mongol (Phil Mercado)
.325 Larry Booker (Larry Latham AKA Moondog Spot)
.315 Ali Bey/The Turk
.260 Carl Fergie
.251 Igor Putski (Ricky Ferrara/Igor Bonnett)
.243 Randy Brewer
.211 Bill Irwin

To make it a little easier to read, I have also listed them below grouped into categories

Main Eventers
Faces: Steven Little Bear, Paul Orndorff, Ray Candy
Heels: Ernie Ladd, The Assassin

Upper Mid-Carders
Faces: Eric the Red, Mike George, Jose Lothario
Heels: Jerry Brown, The Brute, Bobby Jaggers

Mid-Carders
Faces: Cowboy Bob Ellis, The Avenger
Heels: Siegfried Stanke, Kurt Von Hess, Ron Bass

Lower Card
Faces: Ricky Fields, Terry Latham, Igor Putski, Randy Brewer
Heels: The Mongol, Larry Booker, Ali Bey, Carl Fergie, Bill Irwin

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Not all of the wrestlers in the territory at the time were seen on the taping.

Paul Orndorff, Jose Lothario, The Brute, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Ron Bass, Randy Brewer, The Mongol, Ali Bey and Bill Irwin (plus the four midget wrestlers) wrestled on the taping.

Siegfried Stanke did a promo (though his manager Rock Hunter did all the talking). The Assassin interfered during the Lothario-Brute match.

Ray Candy and Ernie Ladd were shown in matches taped for Georgia Championship Wrestling (I believe those matches occurred July 25th at WTBS in Atlanta).

Wrestlers mentioned at one point or another during the show were Steven Little Bear, Eric the Red, Mike George, Jerry Brown, Bobby Jaggers & Kurt Von Hess.

Not seen or mentioned at all were The Avenger and lower card wrestlers Ricky Fields, Terry Latham, Igor Putski, Larry Booker and Carl Fergie.

So you can see that virtually all the main eventers and mid-carders are either on the show in some form or mentioned (Avenger being the sole exception), but not all of the lower card wrestlers are.

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There are a few other interesting things said during the episode that are worth mentioning.

One storyline mentioned on the TV is that Paul Orndorff was stripped of the North American title and it was returned to Ernie Ladd. This happened on the episode two weeks prior to this one. It should be noted that Orndorff is listed as champion in many of the ads during this time period; again, with the lag between taping date and air date in many cities, it may have been a situation where Orndorff was recognized as champ in some cities and Ladd in others as the TV tape made its' way around the territory.

They mention Leroy McGuirk having attended the annual NWA meeting/convention a few weeks prior. This was usually held in early August, though I don't have the exact dates of the 1978 meeting. While discussing this, they also mention that Nelson Royal was reinstated as World Junior Heavyweight champion when Al Madril (who beat Royal for the title on June 25th in Houston) contracted hepatitis and was unable to give Royal a rematch within 30 days. It should be noted that Madril wrestled regularly through July 24th, then seems to be gone for about a month and a half. Royal was wrestling in Stampede the week after the title switch, and was billed as champion. He was also billed as champion a couple of weeks later when he had several matches against Bill Dundee for Jerry Jarrett. Royal then wrestled Kevin Von Erich on July 28th in Houston. It is possible that this was the date for the Madril-Royal rematch, and Von Erich subbed for Madril. But a) that doesn't explain why Royal was defending the title in other territories prior to July 28th, and b) July 28th is more than 30 days after June 25th so even if Madril had wrestled Royal on that show it would have been after the "30 day" time period mentioned earlier. Wrestling y'all.

Bill Watts is introduced as "associate and partner" of McGuirk. He had been wrestling much less often since 1976, so one could surmise that is when he took on significantly more duties behind the scenes. I can only find record of one match for him in all of 1978, and that was in Georgia. Watts is most known for growing the towns in Louisiana and Mississippi, and with the Culkins running Mississippi on their own (except for Jackson, where the Culkins & McGuirk were running head to head) at this point in time, Louisiana was likely the primary focus for Watts in 1978. The promotion had just run their second Superdome show of the year on July 22nd, with both that show and the previous one in April each drawing over 20,000 fans and $100,000 gates. He did wrestle a little more frequently in 1979, but most of those matches occurred after he split from McGuirk, so he probably put himself back into the ring to pop the "new" territory.

Cowboy Bob Ellis mentions that he has come to the area to get his hands on Ron Bass. He says he & Bass had teamed up in California, where they beat all the competition, until after one match Bass and some of his "comancheros" decided to attack Ellis and cut off his hair. This story appears to be completely fictitious. Bass WAS wrestling in Southern California in the first half of the year, but Ellis does not appear to have been there at all, and he definitely was not teaming with Bass. Ellis' whereabouts between mid-March and early July are unknown. I took a quick look at the roster for Southern California for the first six months of the year, and didn't see any wrestler listed that could conceivably have been Ellis under a different gimmick. But it's a cool story.

Also interesting to note that Bill Irwin wrestles twice on this episode: once against Orndorff in the KTBS studio, and once against Ernie Ladd from WTBS Atlanta. Ray Candy's opponent from the WTBS tape was The Challenger, who I believe was Len "Grappler" Denton.

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