The number one way to make money in pro wrestling is with a great feud. Nothing draws bigger at the box office than a rivalry pitting good vs. evil. Today I spotlight one of professional pro wrestling’s greatest feuds.
The Freebirds vs. Von Erichs
The date was Christmas night 1982, the company was World Class Championship Wrestling, and the location was Dallas, Texas. Reunion Arena, the site of many legendary battles would host one of the most anticipated matches in the history of WCCW. The match would pit NWA World Heavyweight Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair defending the title against the golden boy of Texas, “Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich inside of a steel cage.
The odds would be against Flair. Going into the match, Flair was already battling the hometown advantage that Kerry would have. Additionally, the match was held inside of a steel cage to prevent outside interference. Finally, the fans were allowed to pick a special guest referee who would act as an enforcer along with referee David Manning. This referee would ensure that Flair could not take advantage of doing things behind Manning’s back or bullying Manning. The fans would choose the leader of the Fabulous Freebirds, Michael “P.S.” Hayes.
Hayes, along with Freebird Terry Gordy would also make their World Class wrestling debut on this night. Gordy and Hayes would team with Kerry’s brother, David Von Erich on this very same night to win the WCCW Six-Man tag team titles. All seemed good on the Von Erich-Freebird front, at least for another hour or so.
The Von Erichs were the Gods of Texas. They were treated like rock stars and were ingrained into Texas sports and popular culture. The arena sold out with fans feeling as if they were guaranteed to see their hero prevail and win the NWA world championship. Michael Hayes also promised the fans that the Freebirds would have a “surprise present” for the Von Erichs. The fans assumed that the present would be the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, they would be wrong.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]The entire one hour WCCW television show reached a new audience thanks to WWE Classics and later WWE DVD releases. The whole World Class Championship Wrestling television show revolved around the build up, the pre-match interviews, the entire match, and the aftermath. Some have called this greatest hour of television in pro wrestling history.
The atmosphere that Christmas night was incredible. The whole arena was crazy in anticipation and the electricity continued throughout the entire match. Listening to the crowd react to various moments of the match was like listening to a roller coaster ride of emotion.
In a surprising move, Hayes brought fellow Freebird, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy with him to the ring. This would be the “present” to the Dallas fans. How would Ric Flair escape Texas battling not only Kerry Von Erich but Michael Hayes inside of the ring, and Terry Gordy outside? Gordy remained at ringside, outside of the cage throughout the match guarding the door.
The Kerry Von Erich vs. Ric Flair match was fantastic. It is amazing to say, but the match still holds up to today’s standards. The match was bloody, brutal, and action packed. The tension between Flair and Hayes is immediate as Hayes would become very physical throughout the match. If Flair and Von Erich needed to be broken up, Hayes would physically throw one or the other off of their opponent. The win seemed like a sure thing for Kerry and Texas.
The match would conclude as both men were bloodied and battered. The official referee, David Manning was knocked out and Michael Hayes took over. Hayes and Flair had words and Hayes decked Flair. Hayes yelled at Kerry to cover Flair for the pin. Kerry refused, not wanting to win the world title in that fashion. Hayes proceeded to throw Kerry on top of Flair, start to count, and Kerry rolled himself off of Flair. If Kerry Von Erich was going to win the NWA world title it would be with honor, not due to the interference of Michael Hayes. Something he would do a few years later at the first annual David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions show in 1985.
In one of the most historic moments in pro wrestling, Hayes started yelling at Kerry who could barely stand up. As Kerry made his way towards the door, Gordy slammed the cage door against Kerry’s head. Manning finally recovered and banished the Freebirds to the locker room. Unfortunately the damage was done and Manning deemed that Kerry couldn’t continue due to blood loss. Flair beat the odds and escaped with the title once again. The crowd was stunned, many in tears.
The big news wasn’t that Ric Flair beat Kerry Von Erich. The news and the tragedy to Texas fans was that Kerry Von Erich was moments away from winning the world title and the Freebirds had ruined their dreams by costing Kerry the title. On the very same night the Freebirds went from winning a title with a Von Erich, they would later cost one arguably the biggest one in wrestling at the time. The drama of a feud doesn’t get any better than that.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]This was the start of one of the hottest and most successful wrestling feuds in wrestling history. For the next decade off and on and in various forms, the Von Erichs would battle the Freebirds in Texas. It would be the year which followed the Von Erich-Flair cage match that would be the most successful for the feud. The two teams would sell arenas out weekly trying to settle their grudge in various singles and tag team matches. To put that in perspective to today’s wrestling, the WWE may visit the same arena 1-3 times a year. The Von Erichs and the Freebirds were selling out the same arenas on a weekly basis for over a year.
You Tube has some various Von Erich-Freebird matches up on their site. Click here to view a list historic battles between the two teams.
There have been many successful feuds and angles in pro wrestling, some drawing more money and more attention than the other. Very few will match the intensity of a screaming Texas crowd witnessing their hometown heroes battling their arch nemesis. Imagine the hometown crowd of a great college football rivalry, just as nuts every week. There will never be another Von Erich vs. Freebirds feud in my wrestling lifetime. For that reason, this is one of wrestling’s greatest feuds.
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