Mid-South Wrestling: Week of 10/25-10/31 1982

Our coverage of 1982 continues with a look at the week ending October 31st: a MAJOR angle is run at this week's TV tapings in Shreveport, a look at how Watts altered the house show schedule to turn the limitations of TV distribution into an asset & more!

Here's a look at the talent roster along with their SPOT ratings for the week.

Columns: TW=This week's SPOT rating; LW=Last week's SPOT rating; ME%=Percentage of main events. Babyfaces are in blue on the left-hand side, heels in orange on the right. They are listed in descending order; wrestlers at the top were mostly in main events while wrestlers at the bottom were mostly in preliminary matches.

I have data for the following house shows this week:
Tuesday - Baton Rouge, LA
Thursday - Hattiesburg, MS
Sunday - Monroe, LA

Notes/Analysis: This week's TV taping in Shreveport (on Wednesday October 27th) featured one of the bigger angles in Mid-South history, the JYD & Olympia vs DiBiase & Duggan/Borne match where the loser of the fall had to leave the territory. This week we're going to take a detailed look at "the who/what/when/where/how" of television in the territorial era, looking at how the limitations of the distribution process affected the way in which promoters ran angles, and then looking at how changes that Bill Watts made to his house show schedule turned those limitations into an asset.

I don't normally cover the TV tapings for a few reasons:
1) There are already some good online sources for reviews/recaps of the TV tapings. Mike Mills and Brian Last have a great weekly podcast at http://midsouthpod.com that covers the weekly TV shows. If you prefer written reviews, Scott Keith's Blog of Doom at https://blogofdoom.com has many episodes of Mid-South reviewed.
2) Because the TV took several weeks to cycle its' way through the territory (I go into further details about this below), the angles that happen on a TV taping aren't reflected in house show lineups right away.
3) The focus of this blog and the data I present is based solely on the house show lineups; the TV tapings don't play a factor in it.

This is an overview of how many territories used television in the 60s and early/mid 70s. It varies from territory to territory and also may have changed at various points in time, but for a broad overview, it generally went like this:

-A television show was taped weekly, often broadcast live in one city and then "bicycled" around to other towns. The live broadcast typically aired in a city that had a weekly house show either the same night that the television aired, or within a couple of days. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the Saturday morning Memphis TV wrestling show that aired live and built up the weekly Monday night house shows in Memphis. In the Jarrett era, the tape was then edited down from 90 minutes to 60 and sent to the other towns in the territory (Louisville, Nashville, Evansville, etc), where it was aired the following weekend and built up house shows that took place later that week. In addition to shortening the show to 60 minutes, local promos were inserted into the tape, and these were different for every city the TV aired in. Whereas the promos on the live Memphis airing would have a wrestler say "Monday night at the Mid-South Coliseum, I'm going to get my revenge for what you just did", they'd insert new promos for the other towns: "xxxxx night at the xxxxxx, I'm going to get my revenge for what you just did"

-Many territories ran multiple tapings weekly in different towns. Going back to Memphis, in the Gulas era they also had separate TV tapings in Chattanooga and Birmingham (and likely other cities) at various points in time. The Chattanooga show was broadcast live late Saturday afternoon to promote that evening's house show. In Birmingham, the show aired live Saturday evenings to promote the Monday night house show. In the McGuirk territory, there was a period of time where he didn't have an actual TV show airing in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Instead, there was a live 5-10 minute segment on the local Wednesday evening news broadcast where they would run down the card and do live promos from the wrestlers that were on the show that night.

-Because different cities had different television shows (which often featured a subset of the entire roster instead of the entire crew) and other cities aired the television on a delay of one or more weeks, running angles on the television show to build to the local house show was sometimes tricky. Remember most territories were running more than one show a night between five and seven nights a week. And the house shows generally featured a different mix of wrestlers every night. It would be very easy to lose track of what angle was run in what town during what week.

-Because of this, each town was often treated as its own entity, and angles were run at the house shows themselves to build to next week's card. So the local promos were often a form of "last week right here in (town name), you did this to me, so this week I'm coming back to (town name) and we're going to settle the score". As a result of this, if a particular matchup drew well in one town, they could run an angle to build to a rematch. Perhaps the same match didn't draw well in another town; in that case, they could just have a clean finish in that match and try something different the following week. A good example of this is the WWWF in the Sammartino (and Backlund, and to a lesser extent early Hogan) era. The TV shows built up several formidable heels capable of being a challenger for the babyface champ. When Bruno faced a new opponent at Madison Square Garden, the attendance was often a factor in the finish of the match. If the house was strong, they'd do a non-finish to build to a rematch. If the house was weak, Bruno would go over clean and one of the other formidable heels would get the title shot on the next show. And each town might be different, Bruno might wrestle a certain heel three times in the Garden, but only once or twice in Philly or Boston or Baltimore. This also helps explain why Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee wrestled each other for 11 straight weeks in Memphis in 1977. Even when they thought the angle had run its' course and did the hair vs hair match with Bill getting his head shaved, the angle was still hot enough that they went back to it, and convinced Bill's wife to get HER head shaved (actually, it was just trimmed).

-Bringing this around to Bill Watts and Mid-South, by 1982 this territory was very large geographically. When Watts first split from McGuirk in 1979, he was running weekly shows in towns in Mississippi and Louisiana. When McGuirk went out of business in early 1982, Watts added Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas to the territory. When Bill ran the larger cities, all the top stars were on each card (perhaps a couple were given the occasional night off). In smaller towns, he still ran split crews. And on weekends, he often brought in guys from Georgia or Texas to run split crews with strong lineups in the larger cities. Watts also moved many of his towns to a lesser schedule, running once every 2-4 weeks.

His house show schedule generally looked like this in the fall of 1982:
Mondays New Orleans house show
Tuesdays Baton Rouge house show
Wednesdays alternated between Shreveport TV taping and Jackson MS house show
Thursdays Biloxi MS approximately once a month, spot shows or other monthly cities the other weeks
Fridays usually two shows in towns such as Shreveport, Houston and Greenwood MS (the Houston shows featured talent from both Mid-South and Southwest)
Saturdays & Sundays he ran as many shows as possible, often including afternoon and evening shows on Sundays, in town such as Alexandria, Lake Charles, Loranger and Monroe in Louisiana, plus Little Rock, Tulsa and Oklahoma

Traditionally, promoters had run multiple shows on weeknights in the larger cities. The weekends were reserved for shows in smaller towns. Watts changed this drastically, running one show a night during the week and multiple shows on the weekends. While some of the larger cities were still run on weeknights, many of them were moved to weekends, and run less frequently than in the past.

There were two main reasons Watts ran so many shows on the weekends. First, fans were more likely to go out on a Friday or Saturday night (or Sunday afternoon); they wouldn't need to be up early the next morning for work or to take the kids to school. Second, he realized that if he ran his big angles at the TV tapings, he could work it out so that the TV show would air THE DAY OF (or in some cases, the day before) the local house show, presenting an immediate call to action. If you saw a huge angle on TV Saturday morning but the house show wasn't until the following Thursday or Friday, you might forget about it. But if it ran Sunday morning and the house show was later that same day, it's fresh in your mind and you almost HAVE to go to the show to see the payoff.

Instead of running multiple TV tapings in multiple cities, or having different angles play out in those cities, he lined everything up to play off of the TV, allowing him to shoot his major angles at the tapings. These angles carried more weight than ones that took place at the house shows. The average TV viewer only HEARD about "house show angles" during the local promos; doing it this way, they could SEE the angle play out on the television show, and it would be referenced throughout the remainder of the program and in the local promos. All Watts had to do was keep track of when the TV aired in each town to know what main events to run and when to run them.

While the exact schedule for the TV show airing throughout the different towns may have varied over the years, Jim Cornette outlined the schedule on Episode 92 of Jim Cornette's Drive-Thru podcast as such:
Week 1 New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles
Week 2 Houston, Beaumont, Alexandria
Week 3 Jackson, Little Rock
Week 4 Tulsa, Oklahoma City
While he presented this rather off-the-cuff, his memory is such that it's probably a very accurate (if not quite complete) representation of the schedule from his time there between late 1983 and early 1985. The house show data I have from Tulsa and Oklahoma City does partially corroborate this: the two towns were both generally run on Sundays, one in the afternoon and one at night, and the shows had almost identical lineups, indicating that they had been built up from the same episode of TV.

Watts is generally regarded as one of the first promoters to run big angles during his TV tapings on a regular basis. Hopefully this detailed look at the changes he made to the touring schedule helps us understand WHY and HOW he was able to do so. It's one thing to just hotshot angles week after week; in this case, it looks to have been one part of a calculated business plan to maximize attendance in each town while still running as many shows as possible every week.

Going back to the angle taped this week, Junkyard Dog being pinned in the tag team match (after much shenanigans from the heel team, including Hacksaw Duggan interfering in a gorilla suit), the question I asked myself is this: can we use the house show lineups to determine when the angle aired in each town? The second week of TV taped this week in Shreveport was the "debut" of Stagger Lee, who of course was JYD under a hood. So in theory if we can see when Junkyard Dog's last appearance in each town was, and when Stagger Lee's first appearance was, I could get an idea of when the TV made it to each town.

In theory, it sounded like a great idea. In execution however, the fact that Watts didn't run each town every week makes it hard to pinpoint the precise week the angle aired in each town. Another factor to consider was how strongly Watts adhered to kayfabe. Even if he thought he could "get away" with JYD appearing as himself in a town where the TV had yet to air, the mere fact that it already aired somewhere else, and word might have gotten out, made him a little more cautious as to how he booked the towns. So in many cases, JYD was simply not booked in towns where the angle hadn't yet aired. JYD's last appearances as himself were the week of November 8th through the 14th. He worked in Biloxi and Lake Charles that week. On that week's house shows in Baton Rouge, Greenwood, Alexandria and Monroe, JYD was not on the card at all. For the next two weeks, Stagger Lee makes his first appearances in some towns while in others he again was kept off the shows. By the week starting November 29th, he is booked as Stagger Lee on most every show. Cornette mentions a similar adherence to kayfabe on the Drive-Thru podcast episode referenced above. When Jim Neidhart turned babyface (Jan '84), in towns where the turn hadn't yet aired or been acknowledged, Neidhart would dress separately from the heels AND the babyfaces.

Not counting the TV taping, this week was relatively stagnant. No new full-timers came in, and nobody left the territory either. Terry Gordy did come in for a couple of shows this week, working as a babyface in Hattiesburg against Kamala and as a heel in Monroe against Buck Robley. JYD took on "Super Star" in Hattiesburg, which I'm guessing was Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie) coming in from Georgia for the show. Monroe had a mask vs mask match between Mr Wrestling II and The Grappler with the ad stating there "must be a winner". Results for that show are not available, but if they did a clean finish, II had to have gone over. Grappler (Lynn Denton) is only in the territory for a couple more weeks and is not on the next show in Monroe (November 14th, though many sources have it erroneously listed as November 1st), so he may very well have taken the fall and unmasked.

Frequent matches:
Grappler vs Mr Wrestling II
Junkyard Dog vs Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase vs Tony Atlas
Dick Murdoch vs Hacksaw Duggan
Iron Mike Sharpe vs Kamala

Frequent tag team combinations:
Grappler & Grappler II
Mr Olympia & Mr Wrestling II

Popular posts from this blog

A Dog and a King: Looking at The Junkyard Dog's experiences in the wake of desegregation and assassination

The McGuirk/Watts Wrestling Almanac - Chapter 2 (Q1 1960)