Friday, January 8, 2010

The Tupelo Concession Stand Brawls

Memphis Rasslin' has often been linked to the emergence of "hardcore wrestling" with all the two-fisted bloody brawls that it became famous (or infamous) for in the 1970s and 1980s.  Perhaps none was more notable than the Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl, the first of which took place in 1979.

The first came after the Blonde Bombers (Larry Latham and Wayne Ferris) were awarded the Southern Tag belts and Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee take exception to the decision.  After battling in the ring post-match with the belts as prominent weapons, they go to the floor as the TV show ends.

In the unedited version, Lance Russell urges the production crew to find this fight, which was now wild and woolly in the concession stand.  The idea of flung mustard and popcorn in a legendary match seems wacky, but those elements are secondary to the bloodbath going on.  Lawler and Dundee are two of the best punchers in pro-wrestling history and that really takes this fight to a level of greatness that a modern streetfight-type match simply lacks.

The actual sequel came the following year with the Bombers (now with Sgt. Danny Davis) taking on the Gibson brothers.  Rick, who has been lost in history, was a tremendous talent as a babyface.  While he might not have been Ricky Morton, one can see that Robert learned his role early on by teaming with his brother.  This is not so much a TCSB as a three-man ass-whippin' on Rick Gibson.

The following years involved great but all new talents.  Eddie Gilbert and Ricky Morton are the babyface here, they're great brawlers and would go on to legendary careers.  Their opponents are Tojo Yamamoto's charges Onita and Fuchi.  Onita would go on to bring aspects of this style to Japan years later and innovate pro-wrestling with his brand of garbage/hardcore/extreme wrestling.  Fuchi would return to All Japan and be a stalwart for years to come and gained perhaps his biggest fame when he and Toshiaki Kawada were the only Japanese workers who stayed with All Japan after a mass exodus in 2000.  Despite the great talent here, this is just not what the first one was.  However, this one introduced mustard as a central prop, which became the hallmark of this style of match.

Two of the original players returned for the fourth and final (well-known) version of this match, which actually took place in Kennet, Missouri (3.5 hours Northwest of Tupelo).  Jerry Lawler interjected himself in a 2-on-1 butt-whoopin' by the Moondogs on Jeff Jarrett.  The Moondogs, Rex and Spot, were prominent heels in the region and became a fixture for the region for years to come.  Spot, although he looked remarkably different, was actually Latham.  The brawl quickly spills out of the ring as trash cans, broom sticks, steel chairs and all manner of garbage are used.  This is decidedly safe, but Jarrett's back gets torn up by something (broken glass?).

This legendary gimmick "match" was actually revisited at WCW first Uncensored show (held in Tupelo in `95) by the Nasty Boys and Harlem Heat.  The match was full of mustard and wackiness, but it was not so much a heated brawl as it was a silly gimmick match.

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