Q: When is a title change NOT a title change? A: When it's a title change. (Unless it isn't) PART 2

One of the more frustrating aspects for those attempting to document professional wrestling history is the idea of “title histories”. A number of people have spent a great deal of time compiling a list of title changes over the years. It’s important to understand that in many cases, these title histories are not linear. As we all know, sometimes titles are created out of thin air (Pat Patterson winning the Intercontinental title in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro). Sometimes, title changes are repeated in various cities, with someone “losing” the title on Monday night in one town, then the next night in another town they’re billed as champions again only to “lose” the title once more. With many territories airing their television in different markets at different times, there are also occasions where someone loses the title at a television taping but continues to defend that title in some towns until the title change actually airs on local television, which may be several weeks after it was taped. Finally, there is significant evidence that the concept of titles being “held up” are often town-specific angles designed to build interest in a rematch. Bob Backlund and Greg Valentine had this scenario play out in Madison Square Garden, where a disputed finish led to the title being held up pending a rematch, but it was not acknowledged in any other market. I wrote an article documenting a similar scenario that played out in Little Rock in 1965-66 involving Danny Hodge and Lorenzo Parente. You can read it here: http://www.chartingtheterritories.com/2021/01/q-when-is-title-change-not-title-change.html

This brings us to June 1977 in the McGuirk/Watts territory. Jerry Oates & newly-turned-babyface Killer Karl Kox teamed up to feud with The Medics (Jim Starr & Tom Andrews, managed by Scandor Akbar). The Medics were the U.S. Tag Team champions at the onset of the feud.

Many title history sources list Oates & Kox as having won the titles on June 13th in Tulsa, with the Medics (incorrectly billed as the Interns on wrestlingdata) regaining them sometime on or before July 6th. Based on my thorough research of the territory, I don’t believe this was the case.

Firstly, let’s discuss why it is believed there was a title change in Tulsa. This is pretty straightforward, and I completely understand the reasoning behind it. The advertisement for 6/13 lists a title match between the two teams. It’s worth noting that the Tulsa ads never specified who the champs and challengers were, but it’s generally accepted that the Medics were the champs going in. The results in the newspaper the next day state “Karl Kox and Jerry Oates beat the Medics in the feature match of the pro wrestling card Monday”. While it doesn’t specify if that victory came by pinfall or other means, the Tulsa results often noted when matches had disqualifications (in fact, that same recap mentions that Dick Murdoch and Stan Hansen “were both disqualified” in another bout). So it is perfectly reasonable to assume this was a title change. However, there is no other evidence to support this fact.

My next step in trying to verify this title change was to see if I could find any mention of Oates & Kox being billed as champions in any of the house show advertisements throughout the territory. In Jackson, MS, the two teams faced one another for four straight weeks between June 22nd and July 13th; in the ads for all four of these cards, the Medics were billed as champions. In Little Rock on July 9th, the Medics were billed as champions. In Lafayette, LA on June 24th, the Medics were billed as champs for a defense against Kox & Vic Rossitani.

This brings us to Shreveport, where the two daily newspapers (The Times and The Shreveport Journal) often had detailed articles before the shows and detailed results after the shows. Perhaps looking closely at these articles will give us insight as to the status of the titles. And here’s where it gets interesting…

On June 8th, The Times reports that “Killer Karl Kox and Jerry Oates won the U.S. tag team title Tuesday night…”. So perhaps the title change actually occurred in Shreveport on June 7th. Or perhaps it happened in Shreveport and repeated itself the following week in Tulsa. Not so fast…

An article in The Times on June 12th, previewing the 6/14 house show, states “Kox and Oates took a disputed decision from the Medics in their battle for the championship last Tuesday night, but the title was held up because Killer Karl was accused of using his illegal brainbuster hold. This maneuver has been barred by the National Wrestling Alliance.” So now it appears that they did what would be referred to years later as a “Dusty finish”, where the fans leaving the show thought they witnessed a title change, but it was later announced (likely on the following weekend’s TV show) that the titles were held up because of some controversy during the “title change”. So now, we must consider whether what happened in Tulsa, where Kox & Oates were billed as having won the match, was actually the same scenario that played out in Shreveport?

Looking at other articles from Shreveport, things actually get a little more confusing. Results from the 6/14 show claim the Medics “retained” their titles after Oates & Kox won the first fall and then the match went the full time limit with no other falls being scored. A June 19th article bills Oates & Kox as champs, but just two days later the same newspaper bills the Medics as champs. Eventually, on June 28th, The Medics beat Oates & Kox by pinning Oates in the second fall and then Kox in the third fall. A rematch the following week saw Kox & Oates win by disqualification.

When you follow the progression of the matches in Shreveport and compare it to the progression in Tulsa, things line up pretty well. It’s entirely possible that they ran the same angles and finishes in each town, with Tulsa echoing what happened in Shreveport the week prior. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that the alleged title change on the 13th in Tulsa was actually a Dusty finish a la the week before in Shreveport.

Finally, I decided to look through my collection of McGuirk programs to see if there was any mention of Oates & Kox billed as champions. My collection is incomplete, but I do have a few programs from this time frame. There are no mentions of Oates & Kox winning the titles, and none of the programs I have show Oates & Kox with the title belts (each issue has a 2-page photo spread of the “Official National Wrestling Alliance World’s Champions and Regional Champions”).

In the program labeled issue #285, there is an article entitled “George – Oates – Kox … They all want The Medics”. This article basically serves to transition from the Oates & Kox vs Medics feud to two separate feuds, Kox vs Akbar and Oates & George vs The Medics. Here’s a direct quote from the article: “Oates and Kox, as a team have come very close to getting the title on several occasions. But Kox wants to get Akbar personally even more. As a result, George and Oates have reformed their team.” This seems to clearly state that Oates & Kox didn’t win the titles. And while the program doesn’t have an actual date on it, two other articles discuss things that didn’t happen until mid-to-late July (one about The Assassin having just returned to the area and one about Dick Murdoch having returned from a 30-day suspension). This is further evidence, and perhaps the most compelling evidence, that Oates & Kox did not “win” the titles outright in mid-June, or at any point thereafter (since the feud basically ended by mid-July).

(above article from McGuirk program #285 used with permission from Arcadian Vanguard)


Now, in the grand scheme of things, does this matter? If you place weight on title histories, then it might. And right here I do want to make clear that most title history sites and sources do a damn good job of correctly/accurately documenting title changes. The overwhelming majority of their listings are probably accurate. And at the time they compiled these histories, they were using all of the information available to them. But as more and more resources become available (such as the various online searchable newspaper archive subscription sites), we find new information come to light that may necessitate a change in what we had once believed to be true.

Based on all of the information I have presented here, I think it is reasonable to cast doubt on the claim that Oates & Kox ever truly had a run with the U.S. Tag Team titles in 1977. At best, they won the titles via a disputed finish in at least one town, with the titles then being held up pending a rematch (or rematches) where Oates & Kox failed to win outright.

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I am open to the idea that somebody somewhere may have some other form of documentation that I was unable to find that may change my mind. As always, I am willing to listen to anyone that disagrees, and if they have first-hand evidence to the contrary I would be happy to look at it. And if the evidence convinces me that Oates & Kox did indeed have a reign with the U.S. Tag Team titles in the McGuirk/Watts territory in the spring or summer of 1977, I will donate $200 to a food bank (or similar non-profit organization) near you.

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