----Report from Larry Goodman.
I attended the Nick Gulas Memorial hoping for the best and fearing the worst. It turned out to be a great deal of the latter and not much of the former.
The event, co-promoted by Gulas Old School Wrestling, Showtime All-Star Wrestling and Havoc Wrestling Association, drew an SRO crowd of 340 to the HWA building in LaVergne, TN to honor the 20th anniversary of Nick’s passing.
The attendance was the great news, as was a tour de force performance by 80 year old Jackie Fargo. Also on the plus side, was a women’s dog collar match that delivered something unique and memorable.
Any wrestling event that calls for coordination and cooperation among three promotions is fraught with peril, and when one of the three is a late addition, it’s just asking for trouble. SAW had to move their TV taping out of Columbia, TN when RTW decided not to renew their sponsorship agreement. Since SAW was already planning to work with George Gulas and GOSW, they hitched their TV taping onto the Memorial. In theory, the move figured to improve the show by significantly boosting the talent level. In practice, it was a disaster. The show ran over 5 hours, ending after 1am local time. There were 19 matches. The SAW TV Taping with the top talent went on last and didn’t start until after 11. The incredible packed house atmosphere of the first hour was long gone. The crowd dwindled to less than 100 before it was over. The net result was a good percentage of the fans missed the best matches featuring the big league talent, and SAW got a TV taping with a crowd that went from decent to dead, and was nothing like what it would have been had it gone on early in the evening.
So through some really fine promotion including a great article in the Thursday edition of the Nashville Tennessean, Gulas and company succeeded in producing a great atmosphere and getting a lot of new eyeballs to view their product, then failed to deliver anything close to the best possible product. The show had 10 matches before the SAW TV Taping was added. There were a number of changes made to the card that was originally advertised, and it was my understanding that it had been tweaked to get the total down to 12 or 13. Why that didn’t happen is an unanswered question. Why the SAW TV taping didn’t go on first is another one. And for that matter, how could a Nick Gulas Memorial take place anywhere except the Nashville Fairgrounds Sports Arena, the building the city of Nashville constructed specifically for Nick’s wrestling shows?
The event got off on the right foot with a smoothly run legends meet and greet. Jackie and Don Fargo, Gypsy Joe, Bobby Eaton Tony Falk and Gulas had a steady line of fans for 90 minutes. Scott Teal was selling classic photos – 5 for $5 - that the fans were getting the legends to autograph. Jackie was a bundle of energy throughout the evening. He appeared to be in great mental and physical shape. He and Don were obviously having a great time being together. The legends sat together at ringside kibitzing during the first half of the show, all except Falk, who had a show to run at the Stadium Inn. Michael St. John was on hand to handle a portion of the announcing duties along with Gordon and the HWA announcer.
(1) Johnny Demento (with Crazy Ray) beat Chad Williams (with Blackie West). At one point, Fargo came over with some words of advice for Ray. Demento pinned Chad after a screw up in which West hit Williams. West has limited ability, but it was good to see him at ringside after the serious medical issues he’s had.
(2) “Boogie Woogie Boy” Gary Valiant (with Yukon Jack) beat Sharp Dressed Man Lawrence (with Blackie West) in 10:13. Boogie’s popularity hasn’t dropped of any. The crowd ate up his all-through-the-crowd entrance. In my mind, “Sharp Dressed Man” will forever be associated with the heyday of Jimmy Garvin and Precious, and there’s just something so wrong about anybody else using that music. It was the typical Valiant match where he sells long and big before the comeback, pinning Lawrence with the Boogie Blaster. Afterward, Valiant tried to get Fargo to join him the ring. Fargo wasn’t down with that but Boogie was able to cajole him into a moment of Boogie Woogie schtick at ringside.
(3) “King of the Hill from Knoxville” Shane Williams pinned “King of Kingsport” Beau James in 9:10. No entrance music for Shane. I started going to pro wrestling shows when there was no such thing, and it did my heart good to see a heel get heat with sheer attitude walking to the ring. The crowd didn’t know what to make of Beau as a babyface, being that he looks like the love child of Jerry Blackwell and Frenchy Riviera, but they told the story well. Shane pinned James after punching him with a chain-wrapped fist.
(4) Dominique defeated Mickie Knuckles and Jessie Belle and Miss Rachel and Misty James to become The Queen of Gulas Old School Wrestling in 4:47. Not much to it. They paired off heels vs. faces. Knuckles and Belle battled to the back. James and Rachel went down on a collision of clotheslines. At that point, Dominique ran out and covered James and the made a three count. Jeff Daniels came out and celebrated with Dominique. Gordon announced The First Lady of the NWA” Dominique as the winner. Misty maintained her credibility by giving the ref holy hell for allowing it.
George presented each of the legends with a certificate. George talked about teaming with Eaton as the Jet Set vs. Joe & Tojo Yamamoto. Joe teased doing something physical to which George responded, “I know you’ve got flashbacks but no way.” George called the Fargos the biggest Nashville legend of all time at the Hippodrome and the Fairgrounds and said they made more money for his father than anyone else. George said Roughhouse Fargo died in 2008 and had gone to the big ring where it was 2 out of 3 falls with an everlasting time limit. Don made a brief thank you speech. As Jackie started to speak, he was interrupted by the appearance of King Shane. He made the rounds and the legends were less than thrilled with his hugs and handshakes. Jackie told Shane to get his ass out of there. “It’s me!” Shane said, his Jerry Lawler delusion in full effect. Jackie dropped Shane with a short right hand. Shane bounced to the outside. “You don’t want none of this action,” Jackie said. Jackie gave a simple heartfelt thank you speech, then he and Don did one last tandem Fargo strut. Jackie wasn’t done though. He danced in the ring with the blonde HWA security girl. Cue up “I Don’t Need No Rocking Chair.”
It was all downhill from there. The legends left during the intermission.
(5) Matt Madison & Jamine J beat KDS Legend & Violent T (with ?) in 6:30. Madison was the bright light in this HWA affair. He’s very small but he has skills, which is more than I can say for the rest of the guys in this match. Madison pinned Legend with a sick burning hammer.
(6) Chris Michaels beat Ryan Genesis in 5:45. Athletically and aesthetically speaking, this was several notches up from what had gone before. Michaels escaped from the Death Valley Driver and rolled Genesis up using the tights and the ropes.
(7) Chaos won an 8 man battle royal to become the number one contender for the HWA Hardcore Title. With six guys in the ring, the announcer asked if there were any more participants – a reasonable question after what happened with Dominique. Seven out of the eight combatants were in all black. The match dissolved into an indistinguishable mass of backyard level ugliness. The best thing about it was the bump Demento took for his elimination. Chaos and Torch Hudson managed to dump Karnage, who is hated heel here. Chaos pulled the ropes down on a charging Hudson for the win.
(8) Mickie Knuckles beat Jessie Belle in a Dog Collar Match in 9:22. The women brought the brutality. Belle is a terrific heel. Her personality is way more developed than her wrestling ability. Fortunately, Knuckles was there to hold up that end of the deal. Belle mostly choked Knuckles with the chain. Knuckles threw Belle out of the ring and rudely hauled her back inside. Knuckles then scored near falls with a basement dropkick, a gutwrench suplex, a spinning uranage. They traded near falls and it was a bit of a struggle. Belle used the chain to clothesline Knuckles over the top, then wrapped the chain around the turnbuckles in an attempt to hang Knuckles, who appeared to be in dire straits. Ref Jess Fields had to get physical with Belle. Knuckles recuperated sufficiently to hit a slingshot sunset flip for the pin. I liked this match a lot. Knuckles was on her game.
(9) GQ & Lee Condrey & White Trash beat Kevin “Thug” Jones & Deshawn Hoodrich & Brian Swift in 13:50. Hoodrich and GQ carried the action. Hoodrich now has a great look, the type that separated him from the pack in this match. He has added significant muscle weight since the last time I saw him. The aptly named Trash pinned Hoodrich with trailer park version of Sliced Bread #2. Way, way too long.
(10) Hammerjack & Shane Morton & Steve O & Diamond Steel defeated Jeff Daniels & Road Hogg & Derrick King Enterprises (Derrick King & Drew Haskins with Sista O’Feelyah) at 12:20 in an eight man elimination match. Steel is a pint-sized Van Hammer with a full blown electrified Guitar Hero intro. Daniels and Hammerjack did a believable brawl to the back for the best action of the night thus far. Personal highlight was a properly applied abdominal stretch by Haskins. It came down to Steel & O vs. DKE. King accidentally superkicked Haskins to the floor. O hit a cool full nelson face plant on King and Steel pinned him with a leaping legdrop, so I guess O and Steel split the $600 (cough) purse.
It was after 11pm when the SAW TV Taping finally got underway.
(11) Shane Williams beat Ryan Mitchell via DQ in 8:30 when Arrick Andrews attacked Williams.
(12) Jess Emerson (with Rick Santel & Roxy) beat Ryan Genesis in 8:50. Genesis hit the ceiling when he elevated on his top rope elbow drop. Kind of messed up his trajectory. Emerson kicked out of it. While Roxy provided the distraction, Santel threw a stinging liquid into Genesis’ eyes.
(13) Picture Perfect (Jon Michael Worthington & Christian Jacobs) beat Derrick King Enterprises (Derrick King & Drew Haskins with Sista O’Feelyah) to win the SAW Tag Team Championship.in 12:30. Worthington started the match alone. Jacobs came limping down to ringside to take the hot tag. Johnny Bandana came out and promptly missed catching King. Jacobs did the Hernandez suicide dive onto DKE. Worthington followed with a twisting dive off the top and was lucky not to kill himself. He couldn’t get his footing because the top rope was loose. Finish saw Bandanna screw up with a hotshot stunner on King, and Jacobs speared King for the pin.
A brief intermission for ring repairs was required, the last thing they needed.
(14) Tommy Mercer beat Chase Stevens via DQ in around 20 minutes. These guys have nothing but solid, intense matches. Heavy duty brawling to start. Stevens knocked Mercer off the apron with a springboard kick and delivered a snap suplex on the floor. Mercer had a Stevens in a cravate submission for a very long time. Mercer hit a massive double underhook suplex for a near fall. Mercer used a donkey kick to the yambags to cut off a comeback and hit a Russian legsweep but couldn’t put Stevens away. Stevens came back with the scissors kick for a near fall. At that point, Stevens lost his mind. He tossed ref Joe Williams out of the ring before hitting his finisher, so of course there was no ref to count. Fields ran down and Stevens threw him over the top rope. Fields caught the rope on his way down or it could have been really nasty. Mercer capitalized on the diversion, attacking Stevens’ knee with a chair. The geek squad ran out to break it up. Both refs sold huge and Stevens needed major help getting to the back.
(15) David Young (with Paul Adams & Jess Emerson & Rick Santel) beat Vordell Walker in 4:07. Young was wearing the superhero suit. He was in deep trouble despite all the outside help. Adams ran distraction and Emerson hit the Alabama Slam on Walker to hand Young the win on a silver platter.
(16) Hammerjack beat Jeff Daniels by DQ in 4:38. Daniels went for the coathanger. Hammer cut him off and was about to turn the table on him when Dominque bopped him in the head with a hammer. Daniels choked Hammer out with the coathanger again. Would have been great with the fired up crowd of the first hour.
(17) Cody Melton beat Johnny Bandanna (with Sista O’Feelyah) in 6:33. Some really crisp action. Nobody cared. Melton got out from under Bandanna’s moonsault attempt and rolled him up.
(18) Sigmon beat Terry Ray via submission in 30 seconds.
(19) Arrick Andrews pinned Will the Thrill in 30 seconds with Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am. The few people remaining for some reason gave Will a lot of grief. It was amazing to me that found it within them to spew venom after 5 hours.
NOTES: Footage taped for broadcast by SAW included the legends ceremony, exclusive interviews with Fargo and Eaton, and all the matches from Shane Williams vs Ryan Mitchell on except for Mercer/Stevens, which will appear on a DVD version along with several other matches. In total, the taping will provide three weeks worth of TV…The next SAW TV taping will be 2/12 in Nashville at the Stadium Inn, the promotion’s first Saturday night taping at that venue. The upcoming event for the HWA Arena reads as follows: HWA on 1/22, 1/29 and 2/12. GOSW on 2/5 and 2/19…The most professional aspect of HWA is their security. I didn’t catch her name, but the blonde that danced with Jackie Fargo was a total pro…Former occasional SAW TV announcer Jack Johnson, Nashville wrestling pundit The Bro (www.broknowswrestling.blogspot.com), and noted Nashville wrestling photographer Embra were in the house…Beau James will be our special guest on “Phoning It In” Monday night at 8pm ET. We’ll also talk get an update on the 1/29 Fairgrounds show featuring Lawler/Dundee for the last time in Nashville. Check it out at www.blogtalkradio.com/psp. The promotion behind the Fairgrounds event is Southern All-Star Wrestling, not to be confused with Showtime. Not only do both promotions go by SAW, but at one point they were one and the same as Southern All-Star. The Reno Riggins/Paul Adams TV product changed its name after consultation with Jerry Jarrett, who came on board to assist in securing international syndication. TJ Weatherby, the promoter of the of the original SAW Mill building in Millersville, has continued to run weekly Friday night shows as Southern All-Star…Haskins worked on torn ligaments in his left knee. The good news is the doc said he won’t need knee surgery, which was the initial prognosis…Riggins was at the building but did not appear in front of the crowd.