World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), was a popular regional professional wrestling promotion run out of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Originally owned by promoter Ed McLemore, by 1966 it was run by Southwest Sports, Inc., whose president was Jack Adkisson, better known as wrestler Fritz Von Erich. Beginning as a territory of the National Wrestling Alliance, it went independent in 1986 in a bid to become a major national promotion, but was unsuccessful in its attempts and eventually went out of business in 1990. Rights to the WCCW tape library currently belong to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
WCCW's syndicated show was usually taped at the Sportatorium beginning in 1981, with two hour-long shows being recorded every other Friday. These telecasts were, in the beginning, seen in only a few markets and were hosted at various times by Gene Goodson, Steve Harms, and Marc Lowrance; when the show was taken over in 1982 by Continental Productions (a subsidiary of local station KXTX) and went to international syndication, well-known north Texas journalist/sportscaster Bill Mercer (a former play-by-play announcer for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox along with other Texas-based teams) became the ringside announcer at the Sportatorium. After Mercer left in 1987 to join Ken Mantell's Wild West Wrestling promotion, Lowrance returned to the broadcast position, where he would remain until resigning to become a minister in July 1990. Lowrance would later be paired by former wrestler-turned-matchmaker Frank Dusek for one year, then later by "The Beauty" Terrance Garvin, a pro wrestler whom resembles Jimmy Garvin.
Lowrance left World Class/USWA in May 1990 to become a full-time Methodist minister, after nearly 10 years with the organization.
Craig Johnson (real name: Jon Horton) replaced Lowrance for the final two months of telecasts, as attempts to bring Bill Mercer back were unsuccessful. Percy Pringle III would replace Garvin, who returned to the wrestling ring. Horton eventually went on to host the USWA and GWF telecasts in later years, and Pringle went on to greater fame in the WWF/WWE as Paul Bearer, the manager of The Undertaker. Lowrance did return to the Sportatorium as ring announcer in September 1990 (as did Mercer, who filled in for Lowrance on a few cards), when World Class seceded from the USWA, and appeared occasionally during the 1990s in other Dallas-based promotions such as the Global Wrestling Federation. Lowrance is no longer in the business, but does appear at vintage pro wrestling conventions on occasion.
As his sons began to launch wrestling careers of their own in the mid-to-late 1970s, Fritz gradually cut back on his in-ring appearances and concentrated on promoting, finally retiring from the ring altogether after a 1982 NWA American Title win over King Kong Bundy at Texas Stadium in Irving. By then, the promotion had switched to the World Class name and was centered around Fritz's sons, Kevin, David and Kerry (and, later, Mike) Von Erich.
The opening sequence of World Class' syndicated broadcasts began with a NASA photo of Earth, taken during the Apollo 16 mission back in 1972. An animated satellite would beam down over Dallas, and as it moves east, the World Class logo would appear and move across to the upper left hand corner of the picture. Two more satellite beams aired two highlights from World Class: one involving a match between Kerry Von Erich and Michael Hayes, and another between David Von Erich and Jimmy Garvin. In late-1984, a different World Class logo was used and two different match sequences: one involving Skandor Akbar urging The Missing Link to head-butt Kerry Von Erich; while the other scene was with Kamala executing a suplex on another wrestler, with his handler Friday outside the ring moving his fist down as Kamala finished his suplex, with announcers Marc Lowrance and Ralph Pulley watching. This opening sequence would be used again in 1991 with Boston-based International World Class Championship Wrestling.
By 1987, the opening sequence changed; beginning with a dusk photo of Dallas, and other shots of the city, including the Dallas North Tollway, before the World Class logo would appear; then scenes of past wrestling events (mostly from the 1987 Texas Stadium event) would follow before the logo reappeared again.
A year later, Gordy would have his head slammed by the cage door from Fritz Von Erich, in retaliation.
The Freebird-Von Erich rivalry was one of the most violent feuds in modern-day wrestling history, and continued off-and-on for much of the decade; Parsons, Adams, "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin and members of Skandor Akbar's Devastation Inc. stable were also involved in the Freebird-Von Erich feud directly or indirectly during the course of the angle. The official last match between the Freebirds and the Von Erichs took place in April 1993 in Dallas.
Buddy Roberts was also involved in several conflicts in 1983 with "Iceman" King Parsons, including a match in which Roberts lost his hair in a hair vs hair match despite winning the match. Parsons, who lost the match, managed to grab the infamous Freebird Hair Cream (used as a plot device in earlier matches as a fictional hair remover) and rub the contents onto Roberts' head.
This prompted Roberts to wear a wig and headgear to cover his bald head, whose hair grew back in a time span of six months.
Prior to this, Adams was involved in a long angle against The Mongol, which was ranked the third top angle in the promotion behind Garvin vs. David and Freebirds vs Von Erichs.
The angle reached new heights on October 21 when Adams disguised himself as The Masked Avenger and faced Garvin. Playing possum, Adams surprised Garvin with some wrestling moves, and then as he threw Garvin to the ropes, Chris superkicked him, which stunned the Sportatorium crowd and announcer Bill Mercer whose famously uttered "a thrust kick...HEY that looks like...here it is; 1, 2, 3; a superkick". Afterwards, he unmasked to reveal himself as Chris Adams, which proved to be a turning point in Adams' tenure in World Class; elevating him from mid-card to main-event status. Sunshine, who previously was Garvin's valet, joined Adams' side two weeks later, and with Sunshine in his corner, Adams defeated Garvin for the American title on November 24 at Reunion Arena; the first of five NWA American/World Class heavyweight title reigns for the British star.
Adams and Garvin traded the American title on numerous occasions, and engaged in mixed tag team matches involving Sunshine and Precious.
It was said to be among the first mixed tag-team matches in modern wrestling history, and would pave the way for future mixed tag team matches, including one Adams promoted himself six years later involving two of his ex-wives (Jeanie Clark and Toni Adams) and his protege Steve Austin.
His death prompted a few changes in upcoming events. The February 10 non-televised card at the Dallas Sportatorium was to have Kamala, The Missing Link and Jimmy Garvin face Chris Adams and Kevin and Kerry Von Erich in the main event. Instead, Brian Adias and King Parsons took Kevin and Kerry's places, and the trio of Adams, Parsons and Adias defeated Kamala, Link and Garvin in an emotional match for all involved. The February 13 card, featured Marc Lowrance and David Manning in the ring alongside Sunshine, Adams, Parsons, Adias, Junkyard Dog, Chief Jules Strongbow, Jimmy Phillips, Bronko Lubich and Johnny Mantell as a ten-bell salute to honor David Von Erich was carried out.
A February 18, 1984 telecast of World Class Championship Wrestling was dedicated exclusively to the life of David Von Erich, with wrestlers Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, Harley Race, Chris Adams and Ric Flair paying tribute to the fallen hero. Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant also provided footage of David's earlier times as a high school basketball standout and had an interview with Fritz, Kevin and Kerry during the broadcast. The Von Erichs, who took David's death extremely hard, did not compete again until February 27, when they teamed with Adams to defeat Butch Reed, Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy.
David had been seen by many in the NWA as potential World Championship material. According to Ric Flair, David had indeed been chosen by the NWA to become the World Heavyweight Champion and Flair also stated in his autobiography To Be The Man that had David lived, he would have had the potential to be a long-term NWA Champion.
On May 6, 1984, as a tribute to his late brother, Kerry Von Erich finally defeated Ric Flair after a hard-fought 14-minute battle to win the title at the first annual David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions supercard held at Texas Stadium in Irving. However, because Kerry already had a reputation within the industry for being unreliable due to substance abuse, the NWA only allowed him a brief title reign; he lost the belt back to Flair in Yokosuka, Japan on May 24 (May 23 in the U.S.) in another hard-fought match.
The match, which did not air on television initially, allowed World Class to use an angle in which Flair cheated in the match, and claimed the referee was a sumo official who did not understand the rules of pro wrestling. The match in fact was officiated by veteran All Japan Pro Wrestling referee Joe Higuchi, who found David Von Erich's body the previous February, and was also the one who alerted David Manning of his death.
Afterwards, the Freebirds left World Class in the summer of 1984, and, except for a few appearances, did not return until December 1985. Jimmy Garvin and Precious also departed WCCW during this time to join the AWA.
Gary Hart, who left World Class in early-1983 due to a dispute with Fritz Von Erich over the booking of the Freebirds-Von Erich feud, returned to World Class in August to scout the babyface talent, including Adams, Iceman King Parsons, Brian Adias and others. Towards the end of the month, Adams, who had returned from his tenure in Los Angeles during the Summer Olympics, announced his alliance with Hart, which resulted in some friction between Adams and the babyfaces.
On September 28, 1984; Adams was paired with Kevin Von Erich against Jake Roberts and Gino Hernandez, with Gary Hart and Stella Mae French in Adams and Von Erich's corner. As the match wound down, Hernandez had Adams in a high vertical suplex, with French tripping Hernandez, causing Adams to land on Gino; however he rolled over on top of Chris and pinned him. After the match, an enraged Adams began arguing with French, with Hart and Kevin coming in as peacemakers. Hart later abused Stella Mae, prompting Kevin to shove him to the corner of the heels' side of the ring. Out of nowhere, Adams blasted Kevin with a superkick, then walked away as Roberts and Hernandez engaged in a two-on-one gangup, with French being thrown out of the ring by Hart.
Oddly, two days after that incident, Chris teamed with brother Kerry and defeated Killer Khan and the Missing Link in San Antonio. Neither Kerry or Adams showed animosity towards each other to stay on kayfabe terms since Adams' heel turn would not be seen on television for at least another week.
On October 27, Adams and Von Erich squared off at the Cotton Bowl, with Kevin winning the match, amid controversy when Adams lifted his shoulder at the count of one, but referee David Manning counted to three with Adams lifting his shoulder, believing he was at the count of two. Afterwards, Kevin made a deal with Chris: leave Gary Hart and go on his own and all would be forgiven. Adams responded by attacking Kevin with a chair. Unintentionally, Adams hit Kevin in the head hard enough for the chair to break in half, causing Kevin some bleeding from the head and resulting in his hospitalization for a few days. The Adams-Von Erich feud had been set up in this way because Fritz Von Erich felt that too many fans were siding with Adams, and after the Cotton Bowl incident, Adams still heard cheers from some of the fans. A month later, Kevin returned the favor by smashing a chair into Adams' head after losing to him, and that resulted in Chris being helped out of the arena with a minor concussion and nearly losing his left eye when a piece of the wooden chair lodged onto his nose after the chair shot, very dangerously close to his eye. The wooden chair angle was quickly scrapped at Kevin and Chris' requests due to the legitimate injuries both wrestlers sustained.
Adams eventually became World Class' biggest heel; yet at the same time, as the feud with the Von Erichs progressed, he began facing other heels, such as Ric Flair and members of Skandor Akbar's army.
By 1985, Adams began tagging with Hernandez, forming the second and most successful version of The Dynamic Duo (Tully Blanchard and Hernandez formed the original version). Towards the end of the year, Adams and Hernandez used scissors (a gimmick that Brutus Beefcake would use later on in the WWF) to cut hair off opponents after each of their matches, and this resulted in a Cotton Bowl showdown in October 1985, in which Kevin and Kerry Von Erich defeated Adams and Hernandez in a losers-lose-hair match. Adams and Hernandez eventually broke up and began feuding, and faced each other in a January 1986 match where the loser would have his hair removed with Freebird Hair Cream (a gimmick previously used in a June 1983 match between Iceman Parsons and Freebird Buddy Roberts). Adams had the match won, but picked Hernandez up twice to dish out more punishment, and while he was arguing with referee Rick Hazzard, Hernandez grabbed the hair cream and threw the contents in Adams' face, thus "blinding" him. Adams won the match by DQ as a result. However, by the time this angle aired on television a few days later, Hernandez was dead; his death, which was revealed by an autopsy to be the result of a cocaine overdose, ended any prospects of a hot feud between the former partners. The Scotland Yard questioned Adams regarding Hernandez's death, but no charges were ever filed against him.
The original plan for the Adams-Hernandez feud was for Chris to return to face Hernandez at the Texas Stadium card, and stretch the feud out through much of 1986 with possibly Missy Hyatt and Sunshine getting involved later on.
Among the main participants on the Israel tour included Kevin and Mike Von Erich, Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, Iceman King Parsons, Freebird Buddy Roberts, Scott Casey, Brian Adias, Rip Oliver, Kelly Kiniski and Johnny Mantell.
The One Man Gang, Mark Lewin, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, Rip Oliver, John Tatum, Steve Casey, Tommy Montana, and DJ Peterson also competed in World Class during 1985.
As a result of the NWA withdrawal, the WCWA also introduced a title-change rule in which a champion could lose the belt on a disqualification or a countout, much to the dismay of heel wrestlers, who opt to DQ themselves to keep the championship (most notably Ric Flair). That rule had previously been in place during the 1984 NWA World Heavyweight Championship match between Flair and Kerry Von Erich, and had been used sporadically before World Class seceded from the NWA.
The Freebirds-Von Erich war reignited in late-1985, with Hayes, Gordy and Roberts against Kevin, Kerry and Lance Von Erich; reborn following a surprise gang-up on Kevin and Kerry during a match in Fort Worth, with announcer Marc Lowrance exclaiming that The Devil has emerged when returning from the commercial break. John Tatum and Missy Hyatt entered the promotion, and started a feud with The Fantastics and Sunshine. Chris Adams returned in April to do two house shows, and in May received a huge ovation from the crowd at Texas Stadium in his first televised match since the "blinding" angle. Chris did begin an angle with Rick Rude; but not before becoming a full-fledged face. However, when the WCWA was formed Fritz von Erich refused to book his shows outside of Dallas. This move led to a disputes with Fritz von Erich and the company's head booker Ken Mantell, who soon left the WCWA to become the head booker for the newly formed Universal Wrestling Federation(UWF); Referee David Manning took Mantell's place. After Mantell's depature in May of 1986, attendance for WCWA shows began to drop greatly; along with Mantell, the new UWF was able to lure away more WCWA talent as well.
During a May 26, 1986 six-man tag match in Fort Worth, Texas, Adams was paired with Lance and Kevin Von Erich against Rick Rude, Kabuki and the One Man Gang. It was the first time since September 30, 1984 that Adams was partnered with a Von Erich in any tag team match, and there was still some tension between Kevin and Chris in the early-going, but that eventually changed as the match progressed. As the match wound down, the One Man Gang was about to launch a major assault on Kevin with a chain. As Kabuki and Rude was distracting referee Bronco Lubich, Adams entered the ring and superkicked OMG, then rolled Kevin on top of him and alerted Lubich that a pin was occurring in the ring. Lubich made the three-count and Chris, Kevin and Lance won the match. After several minutes with Chris and Kevin standing in the center of the ring, Kevin extended his hand, and Chris shook it and the two embraced in the center of the ring, signaling the end of World Class Championship Wrestling's most storied feud. Adams also feuded with Tatum and Hyatt, with Sunshine once again managing Chris.
Chris evidently continued wrestling against Rude on several occasions, and in one match after a Rude Awakening neckbreaker, Chris "regained his eyesight." With the patch gone, Chris became the number one contender to Rude's World Class heavyweight title, and on July 4, 1986, he won it after a hard-fought and bloody battle at Reunion Arena in Dallas. Adams won with a small package when interference from Rude's manager Percy Pringle backfired.
Over the course of the next three months, Chris defended the title almost every week, against challengers like Rude, Kabuki, One Man Gang, Blackjack Mulligan and others. In a non-title match at the Dallas Sportatorium, he lost to the Ultimate Warrior, who was then known as the Dingo Warrior. In that match, Adams used a piledriver on the Warrior, and somehow the force of the piledriver hit Adams' throat; which had been hit earlier due to interference by manager Percy Pringle during a pre-match altercation. Unable to continue, Adams allowed the Warrior to pin him following a flying elbow. Chris gave the Warrior a title shot, and narrowly defeated him. Adams also faced Abdullah the Butcher in some matches, all of which ended either in a countout or a DQ against Abdullah. Abdullah, Mulligan and Bruiser Brody were involved in a three-way feud during that time; while South African Steve Simpson joined World Class as an ally of Adams and the Von Erichs.
Between July and September 1986, many of the top stars of World Class, including Adams, Parsons, Hyatt, John Tatum, and the Freebirds, defected to the Universal Wrestling Federation, following longtime WCCW booker Ken Mantell, who had resigned and joined the UWF after a falling-out with Fritz.
World Class heavyweight champion Chris Adams was forced to relinquish his championship on September 17, 1986; one day after being convicted of misdemeanor assault from an incident on June 30, 1986 inflight between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Dallas. According to testimony and accounts from the Dallas Morning News, Adams, who was under the influence, verbally assaulted a stewardess when he became belligerent when it was announced that liquor sales would no longer be available in flight. He later then head-butted an American Airlines co-pilot before Kevin Von Erich, who was also on the flight, restrained Adams. He left World Class shortly thereafter and joined Ken Mantell in the UWF, when it was told that Adams would lose the belt to Black Bart on September 19 at the Dallas Sportatorium, a decision that enraged Adams, then-booker Gary Hart and several other wrestlers. Adams was sentenced on October 25 to 90 days in jail and fined $500. He began his sentence on November 1.
Kevin Von Erich later defeated Black Bart for the World Class heavyweight title at the Cotton Bowl, and hold that belt for nearly a year.
It was also at this point that Kerry Von Erich was involved in a motorcycle accident (June 4, 1986) and suffered injuries that later worsened when he attempted to return to the ring too soon (an attempt said by some observers to have taken place under heavy pressure from Fritz) and would finally necessitate the amputation of his right foot. As a result of this accident, the organization's attendance dropped greatly. WCCW's fortunes declined further in 1986-87 with the Texas oil businesses entering a recession and Mike Von Erich's health and substance abuse problems and eventual suicide. As a result of these multiple catastrophes, attendance in both Dallas and Fort Worth plummeted; according to some former WCCW wrestlers, many fans became disillusioned with the Von Erichs as the supposedly "clean-living" brothers' drug use became harder to cover up, and they frequently no-showed cards the promotion booked in smaller towns. Sportatorium cards, which at the beginning of the year before drew well over 4,000 had dropped to less than 1,000 within a time span of six months.
In an attempt to keep World Class hot, by means of running long-term angles, Brian Adias, who was billed as the childhood friend of the Von Erichs (which is legitimate, since Brian grew up with the Adkissons in Denton and also went to high school with Kerry), began a storyline with them by turning heel against Mike Von Erich during a match, then eventually began feuding with Kevin Von Erich later on. This angle, similar to the one used with Chris Adams in 1984, proved to be unsuccessful, and pairing Adias with Alberto Madril to form a newer version of The Dynamic Duo (and even going so far as using Adams and Hernandez's "Bad to the Bone" as their ring entrance music) made matters worse. Adias lacked the charisma and talent that Adams had during his feud with the Von Erichs, and Kevin and Mike dominated this feud from start to finish. There was one high mark in that feud, when Kevin passed out from concussion complications during an eight-man tag team match. That incident was worked into an angle in which Adias tried to end Von Erich's career by applying the Oriental Spike, a finisher made famous by Terry Gordy. Madril often drew the ire of the crowd by shouting in Spanish, sometimes using obscene language. The Los Angeles native eventually turned babyface and began feuding with Adias by 1987.
In April, World Class suffered another death when Mike Von Erich-who now was diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome- was found dead near Lake Lewisville, having committed suicide by overdosing on Placidyl. The upcoming Parade of Champions card held in May was renamed in honor of both David and Mike Von Erich. This event, which drew over 10,000 fans the previous three years, drew less that amount for the 1987 event, which featured Kevin Von Erich defending the World Class title against Nord The Barbarian, who in actuality was a protege of Bruiser Brody's. To make matters worse, the WWF had also reached the pinnacle of its success at WrestleMania III, and began to gain more national exposure. The Dallas Sportatorium received a facelift with a new ring and red, yellow and blue ring ropes with a World Class banner placed at Section D of the arena, with the American flag moved to Section C. By now, attendance for WCCW shows was nearly dead.
Gary Hart (who along with Brody were now World Class' main go-to people) formed a new stable alongside wrestler/manager Phil Apollo (who was then known as Vince Apollo) which included Brian Adias, Al Madril, and Al Perez, who would eventually win the World Class heavyweight title by August. Eric Embry, Frankie Lancaster, The Rock & Roll RPMs (Mike Davis and Tommy Lane), and Jason Sterling (the son of The Missing Link) also competed for a time in World Class.
In mid-1987, after the buyout of the UWF by Jim Crockett Promotions, Ken Mantell launched his own Wild West Wrestling promotion with the popular Fort Worth nightspot Billy Bob's Texas as its homebase. Headlining for Mantell's group were such former World Class stars as Fabulous Lance (formerly Lance Von Erich, who by then had walked out on Fritz in a dispute over money), Wild Bill Irwin, The Missing Link, Buddy Roberts, Brian Adias, Jack Victory, Tatum and Parsons. Bill Mercer left World Class to become the ring announcer for Wild West Wrestling. After only a few months, Mantell agreed to return to WCCW as co-promoter with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, following Fritz's decision to sell out his interest in the promotion; Wild West was absorbed into WCCW, and most of its talent — with the notable exception of Fabulous Lance, who was now considered persona non grata by the Adkissons after his abrupt departure earlier in the year — returned along with Mantell. Wild West Wrestling continued programming by presenting highlights of Championship Sports through 1989.
Chris Adams, who stayed with the NWA following their buyout with the UWF, abruptly left the NWA over a money dispute, and returned to World Class soon thereafter. Upon returning, Adams worked an angle with Al Perez and manager Gary Hart, engaging in several matches — including one in which he supposedly won the World Class title following a victory over Perez. The decision was reversed by referee John Keaton who was pushed into Adams's superkick by Perez (backup ref Bronco Lubich made the three-count when Adams surprised Perez with a sunset flip), thus Keaton DQed Adams and Perez retained the championship, a match which fans felt was a Dusty Finish. Adams also engaged in a brief feud with Brian Adias, mostly out of the rights to use the ring entrance music Bad to the Bone, which Adias used, much to the objection of Adams, who was best known for this ring entrance music with Gino Hernandez.
Kerry Von Erich also returned to World Class, wrestling with a prosthetic foot, and during a November card at the Sportatorium, he interfered in a match between his brother Kevin and Brian Adias. Adias, who taunted Kerry to enter the ring, was discus-punched out of the ring by Kerry, and then later Kerry and Kevin Von Erich drop-kicked manager Percy Pringle out of the ring, which brought the Sportatorium patrons to their feet. Kerry even bodyslammed Ted Arcidi during the post-match brawl.
Upon Ken Mantell's return, WCCW held its final Christmas Day Star Wars show, during which one of the most infamous incidents in Texas wrestling history — known to wrestling purists as the "Christmas Day Massacre" — occurred. WCWA champion Al Perez and Kerry Von Erich were scheduled to face each other in a steel cage main event for the title, with Gary Hart handcuffed to Fritz to prevent interference. However, before the match began, Terry Gordy ran in and made disparaging remarks about Kerry and his motorcycle accident, which started a fight. Buddy Roberts, Iceman King Parsons and the late Angel of Death stormed the ring and handcuffed Fritz to the cage, delivering a furious beating while Kerry was cold-cocked by Perez. Eventually Kevin stormed the ring to save both Kerry and Fritz. After the attack, Fritz — who was normally seen walking away from vicious attacks under his own power — was assisted out of the ring by Kerry and Kevin. Upon leaving the ring, Fritz staged a seizure by self-collapsing onto the floor of Reunion Arena, and was supposedly rushed to a hospital; local news media reported this as a top story, not realizing until later that the entire incident had been a work. Kerry, after an hour or so, returned to the ring to face Perez but lost the match due to outside interference from Hart. The next day on Championship Sports, announcer Marc Lowrance recapped the incident throughout the course of the two-hour program.
Afterwards, World Class promoted the renewed Freebird-Von Erich rivalry, but without Michael Hayes, who would eventually return to World Class, as a face, wrestling alongside the Von Erichs, starting a civil war between Hayes, Roberts and Gordy. Gordy would eventually join Hayes and the Von Erichs later on, but this occurred only weeks before the angle ran its course.
One high mark in this renewed rivalry was a February 1988 country-whipping match between Kevin and Kerry against Gordy and Roberts. Iceman King Parsons and Chris Adams got involved in the match, and eventually turned into a six-man brawl. David Sheldon, aka The Angel of Death, also got involved, and orchestrated a four-on-two gangup on both Kerry and Adams with Kevin handcuffed to the ring rope. Kevin managed to escape and chase Sheldon, Roberts, Gordy and Parsons away.
This led to a February 1988 angle at the Sportatorium in which Taylor was to have faced Al Perez for the WCWA World title. Adams came in wondering what Taylor was doing in World Class, and then later went on a tirade against Perez, demanding a title shot. Terry Gordy later came in and began fighting with Adams, with Kerry Von Erich running in to help Adams. With Gordy and Von Erich outside the ring, Taylor sucker-punched Adams, then piledrived Adams twice in the ring with the second one legitimately breaking Adams left hand. Chris was attempting to block the second piledriver, and injured his hand in the process. The Taylor-Perez match never took place, and was ruled a no-contest. Adams missed at least six weeks of action as a result of his injury.
In another strange angle, Adams wrestled Taylor while wearing a catcher's mask, in order to protect Chris from legit injuries he sustained during an earlier match in Missouri. Adams lost that match by DQ when he hit Taylor with the mask.
Meanwhile, Kerry Von Erich won the World Class title from Perez; and lost it to Iceman Parsons following an infamous incident in which the lights at the Sportatorium went out during the match, and when the lights returned, Kerry was down on the mat, with Parsons pinning him. Michael Hayes, who was fighting outside the ring with Buddy Roberts, was also down outside the ring. Many wrestlers believed at one time that Kevin Vaughn, formerly Lance Von Erich, was responsible for the lights being turned off which resulted in the unknown attack on both Hayes and Kerry. Kerry regained the championship the following May at the final Texas Stadium Parade of Champions card.
In the summer of 1988, the major storyline pitted Michael Hayes and Steve Cox against the Samoan Swat Team, managed by Buddy Roberts. Chris Adams, Terry Gordy and Terry Taylor all left World Class at that time (Adams would eventually return towards the end of the year, as a wrestler, promoter and trainer). Gary Hart also left World Class during this time, and would not return to Dallas again until 1991 under the Global Wrestling Federation banner. Hart's decision to stay away from World Class (other than being under contract with the NWA) was mostly due to his concern about the federation that he, Mercer and Grant help build in a time span of eight years, go out of business two years after leaving the federation, as he mentioned in the Heroes of World Class DVD documentary, as well as not liking the idea of Ken Mantell buying a portion of the company, which he also revealed on the Triumph and Tragedy of WCCW DVD.
For a time, the USWA Dallas promotion continued under the World Class banner to build up a storyline in which Eric Embry, who was now the group's booker and lead babyface, was feuding with Skandor Akbar and his Devastation Inc. stable (which at this time included a young Mick Foley, billed as Cactus Jack Manson) for control of the organization. Besides Foley, Mark Calaway began his career as The Punisher before his Undertaker days, and a young Steve Austin also began his career during the Jarrett era.
Another angle involved the late referee Harold Harris. Harris, who was using a British accent to make people believe he was from England, drew controversy for favoring the heels, and on a few occasions, like the WWE's Danny Davis and the NWA's Teddy Long, Harris would execute fast three-counts on the heels and slow three-counts on the babyfaces. Harris was fired by matchmaker Frank Dusek following a controversial Texas heavyweight title match in which Gary Yong, dressed as The Super Zodiac, defeated Eric Embry for the title, due to interference by Skandor Akbar.
Shortly afterwards, during an interview segment, Harris, Iceman King Parsons, Brickhouse Brown and Skandor Akbar orchestrated a four-on-one gangup on Dusek, with Harris smashing a wooden chair over Dusek's head. Marc Lowrance exclaimed the incident as being absolutely sickening, then later said that he was told not to use those words. Lowrance, outraged by the incident, later told Akbar to kiss my ass as the tag team match between Kerry Von Erich and Jeff Jarrett vs. Mick Foley and Gary Young was about to begin; and even walked away from the broadcast table while Akbar was conducting a tirade of his own. Foley and Young won the match, again due to interference by Akbar.
Tojo Yamamoto was then introduced as the President of World Class, who drew the ire of the fans due to his lack of action for the Dusek incident, then later getting involved in several altercations with various wrestlers, including a vicious attack against Dusek in an empty Sporatorium.
Lowrance was also physically restrained by P.Y. Chu-Hi (Phil Hickerson) as manager Tojo Yamamoto berated Lowrance. Embry came out to save Lowrance from any further harm. Prior to that, Lowrance was involved in heated confrontations against Yamamoto, including one instance in which he called Yamamoto "a disgrace to wrestling and to himself." At the end of that interview, an unusually angry Lowrance said "go to black", signaling for a commercial message.
With all of these aforementioned occurrences, everything came down to a battle for control of World Class on August 4, 1989 at the Dallas Sportatorium. Embry wrestled Hickerson in a steel cage match, with the winner gaining control of World Class (Embry representing the USWA, and Hickerson representing WCCW). During the match, Yamamoto shouted instructions at Hickerson, with Lowrance grabbing the mike out of his hands on several occasions. Finally, after a 16-minute battle, Embry managed to small-package Hickerson and pin him to win, thus officially changing World Class into the USWA. This was necessary in reality due to the fact that the Adkissons owned the World Class name, and would no longer allow Jerry Jarrett to continue using the name any further after this event.
After the match, Embry and manager Percy Pringle walked to the D section of the Sportatorium and tore the World Class Championship Wrestling banner off of the wall (in the same spot where the American flag once was displayed). Various wrestlers such as Matt Borne then stomped and spit on it. Lowrance and Chris Adams, who celebrated Embry's victory, did not partake in the post-match festivities, showing respect to the Adkissons and the World Class name, and neither Kevin or Kerry were on hand during the celebration.
Other World Class banners, all owned by the Adkisson family, above the Sportatorium were later removed, replaced with various World flags. The red World Class ring aprons were removed months before the August 4th card, all owned by the Adkissons.
Its syndicated programs, World Class Championship Wrestling and Wild West Wrestling was later renamed USWA Challenge and USWA Main Event respectively. The latter program featured a main event of its Saturday Championship Sports program, with the remainder of the program featuring past World Class cards dating as far back as late-1987. These two programs aired in this format until 1991.
Among the hot feuds that was promoted included Chris Adams & Toni Adams vs. Phil Hickerson & Tojo Yamamoto; Kerry Von Erich vs. Tarras Bulba (with Kerry doing a stretcher job against Bulba, pinned by Bulba's iron claw); and Eric Embry vs. Billy Travis. Travis later feuded with Chris Adams, Jeff Jarrett and Kevin Von Erich. Kerry later wrestled against Mark Calaway, who was known as The Punisher at that time, while Embry was involved in a blinding angle (similar to the angle used with Chris Adams nearly four years before) involving a white bottle (which may have been Freebird Hair Cream) which Travis used against Embry to blind him.
In fact, Billy Travis became the Sportatorium's biggest heel wrestler who would often sing a line of various songs during ringside interviews, heckle the crowd (a la Gino Hernandez), and on several occasions smash a wooden guitar over the head of several wrestlers. One notable such incident occurred in October 1989 when he cold-cocked Percy Pringle with a guitar during an interview, then claimed that the guitar was given to him by Mick Jagger.
During one incident, Travis spanked Toni Adams in the center of the ring at the Sportatorium (a la Sunshine six years before at the Dallas Fair Park Auditorium), with Chris handcuffed on the ring rope; and in another infamous incident, Travis cold-cocked Adams with a coke bottle over his head, prompting announcer Marc Lowrance to announce that Adams may be dead. Chris only received a minor cut on his scalp and returned to wrestle the following day, even disguising himself as another wrestler to gain revenge against Travis.
In December 1989, Adams and Embry began feuding. This was brought about during a tag team match in which Embry began arguing with Toni Adams, who then shoved Toni to the floor of the arena, prompting Adams to attack him. The angle, developed by Embry and Adams, had two of the most popular wrestlers in the promotion paired as a tag team, and arguments would ensue following two significant losses; including a tag team tournament match against Gary Young and Billy Travis. The angle brought mixed reaction to the fans, and a grudge match was signed between the two babyfaces. Most of the Sportatorium crowd sided with Adams during the match, which ended in a double-disqualification. Afterwards, Embry, left the promotion for a few months. He returned to wrestle several matches in 1990, but disappeared again when the Adkissons began to take more control towards the promotion. When Embry returned in 1991 (after the demise of World Class), he reverted to his heel status.
The Kerry Von Erich-Matt Borne feud began in May 1990 when Borne turned heel by attacking Chris Von Erich during an interview segment at the Sportatorium. A week or so later, Borne and Von Erich battled in a pinfall counts anywhere in the building match, which eventually continued outside the Sportatorium. During the outside confrontation (in a thunderstorm, among other things), Von Erich slammed Borne onto the hood of a parked vehicle and also attempted to attack him with a piece of two-by-four. Minor damage occurred with the vehicles, and the ensuing fight continued until Chris Adams, Jeff Jarrett, and others broke up the brawl.
Promoter Max Andrews suspended Kerry for his actions, but no time frame was given as to how long he was suspended. This drew the ire of Borne, who demanded the USWA forefit Kerry's Texas heavyweight belt. Instead, Kerry was reinstated days later as the two battled for the belt, which Borne won thanks to interference by Percy Pringle.
Pringle joined Borne in his feud with Kerry, until June 1990, when Von Erich left for the WWF. Percy later joined Austin and Clark in their feud with Chris and Toni Adams, with Chris Von Erich and at times Kevin Von Erich getting involved.
Another feud that drew headlines was between "Hollywood" John Tatum and Bill Dundee, with valet Tessa in the middle of the feud. Originally brought in by Tatum, Tessa, like Sunshine years before, turned face and joined Dundee's side. During a match against Tatum, Kevin Von Erich, who beat Tatum, swept Tessa off her feet and carried her into the dressing room much to the dismay of Tatum.
During a July 1990 match, Tatum knocked Tessa unconscious following a superkick to the head, resulting in Tessa being carried out on a stretcher. In that same event, Toni Adams was carried out on a stretcher following a flying splash from the top rope onto Toni on the concrete floor by Steve Austin, while Toni was on top of her husband Chris, who was piledrived on the concrete floor by Austin earlier, to protect him. These two incidents resulted in a few stations cancelling its USWA broadcasts due to its violent nature.
Under Jarrett, World Class/USWA Dallas was finally able to turn itself around financially, and became modestly profitable during the 1989-1990 period. However, because of a revenue dispute with the Adkissons (who still owned 40 percent of the Dallas promotion), Jarrett ultimately pulled the promotion out of Dallas in September 1990. Shortly before Jarrett's departure, KTVT dropped its long-running Saturday night wrestling telecasts; according to some reports, the cancellation was the result of frequent on-air profanity (mostly used by Eric Embry), despite multiple warnings from station management, as well as the controversial superkick incident between Tatum and Tessa.
Kevin Von Erich, without the benefit of television (as the result of KTVT's cancellation of Saturday Night's Championship Sports), the absence of his brother Kerry (who was in the WWF as The Texas Tornado), and longtime World Class guru Gary Hart (who was under contract with WCW at the time), began promoting Sportatorium wrestling himself, bringing back the World Class Championship Wrestling name. Longtime World Class mainstays Chris Adams, King Parsons, Kevin's brother Chris Von Erich, Percy Pringle, John Tatum, David Sheldon, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jeanie Clark and Toni Adams remained, while wrestlers associated with the Memphis end of the USWA left. Steve Simpson and Brian Adias also returned to the promotion, with a few appearances by former WCCW referee David Manning. Initially, the return of World Class proved to be a modest success (which included the return of ring announcer Marc Lowrance and a few appearances by Bill Mercer), but financial sources ran out quickly and attendance at the Sportatorium dropped considerably to as many as less than 500. As a result, on November 23, 1990, Von Erich held its last World Class Championship Wrestling card at the Sportatorium, which featured Kevin winning the Texas heavyweight championship from David Sheldon (The Angel of Death) in the card's final match. After that match, referee Bronko Lubich announced his retirement from the sport. Lubich would return a few times as a special referee afterwards in the Global Wrestling Federation, with his last appearance in 1994. Lubich died in 2007.
A month later, the USWA returned to the Sportatorium, but only for a limited basis, as promoters Max Andrews, Joe Pedicino, Grey Pierson and Boni Blackstone were getting their Global Wrestling Federation promotion ready to go for the summer of 1991. WCCW veterans went on to compete in other promotions, including Gary Hart's Texas All-Pro Wrestling group in North Dallas.
Kevin Von Erich released a compilation DVD of classic Von Erichs matches in 2004. Rumors of an impending WWE buyout of the WCCW video library began to spread on internet message boards the following year, and on June 5, 2006, the company issued a press release announcing that the purchase had been finalized. WWE released a DVD entitled The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling on December 11 2007. A documentary by Chicago filmmaker Brian Harrison on WCCW and the Von Erichs, Heroes of World Class, was released on DVD on June 15, 2006, to rave reviews from fans and critics alike. An updated "Director's Cut" DVD of Heroes of World Class, 30 minutes longer than the original, was released in December 2006. The documentary featured interviews from several of the key figures in World Class, including Kevin, Mercer, Grant, Hart, Adams, Skandor Akbar, Marc Lowrance, David Manning and Johnny Mantell.