Everyone writing about wrestling online seems focused on either recapping the Attitude Era, making Puro GIFs or typing about how under-rated Jinder Mahal is. Then there’s me, eagerly tape trading a set of the notorious wrestling company UWF because no-one else has dared (or couldn’t be fucked) to try to watch all of them. No, this isn’t Bill Watts’ influential Universal Wrestling Federation, it’s the other one. The one that shares the same name because Watts’ didn’t trademark it and they figured ”well, if it ain’t nailed down.” The history of the name is a preview of what type of guy promoter Herb Abrams was but if you wanted more background, here’s a summary of Scott Keith recaps of Dave Meltzer’s reports of the events leading up to the first set of tapings:
The IWA promotion is getting dumped from Sports Channel in September, being replaced by …
…wait for it…
…wait for it…
…Herb Abrams’ new Universal Wrestling Federation. Herb is claiming to have contracts with Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat and John Studd, all of whom have already denied everything. Herb is supposedly bringing Dan Spivey and Brian Blair to his first press conference, but both of those guys deny they’re going to be there. In fact, Spivey wants back into the NWA again. And Herb hasn’t even produced so much as a demo tape for the TV station to see. But, Dave notes, that’s wrestling for ya.
Details should be emerging soon about the new promotions about to hit the US, with Herb Abrams launching the new UWF with a press conference on Saturday, and Joe Pedicino about to announce his new group that’s financed by Nigerian investors. (That doesn’t sound shady at all.)
Herb Abrams held his press conference for the new UWF, and Dan Spivey indeed did show up to do an angle with Brian Blair while Abrams did a third-rate Mean Gene impression. Herb is claiming that Blackjack Mulligan will be the booker (you know, once he’s out of jail) and that he’s got Williams & Gordy signed to three year contracts and that Mike Rotunda and Sid will be coming in shortly. Although Dave would love more competition in wrestling, he’s kind of skeptical about this one. (Oh, he’d get more skeptical) Abrams is making all kinds of claims about touring and doing PPV, but Dave thinks that it’s only going to burn Sports Channel America on wrestling in general and the next time some money mark comes to them with a show idea, they’ll just tell them to get lost.
The new and improved UWF does the first TV taping on 9/13 with a host of talent who may or may not appear.
The UWF was supposed to have their debut show in Anaheim last week, and it never happened. Basically the owner of the building decided that he didn’t want a TV show taped in his theater, let alone a wrestling show, and pulled the plug on them. Both Herb and Bruno Sammartino were blaming Vince McMahon for this twist, but Dave doesn’t feel like Vince would give enough shits to even bother. They announced a rescheduled date of the next night, and then that show didn’t happen, either. The next date appears to be 09/25 in Reseda, so we’ll see if that happens. Herb was claiming an advance of 1000 tickets, but only about 30 people actually showed up the night of the taping. On the bright side, all the guys who were booked actually did show up. They have a second taping announced for 10/4, but they haven’t announced where it’s actually taking place. Despite the fiasco, all the wrestlers were paid. (So they’re still one up on TNA.)
OK, so the mystery of the UWF taping that wasn’t continues! As a reminder, the show was mysteriously cancelled an hour before the alleged showtime, with the whole crew of wrestlers there ready to perform. Current conspiracy theories about the cancellation:
1. The building manager booked the date for the UWF, but the actual owner of the theater didn’t want wrestling in his building and refused to allow it.
B. Due to a zoning technicality, namely that the building is zoned for entertainment and not sports, they couldn’t get a permit from Anaheim.
3. Herb Abrams failed to get the proper permit to hold a TV taping in the building.
So someone from the local newspapers actually asked the building manager about theory #1, and he had no idea why the show was cancelled and had never heard anything from the owner about it. Then the district attorney for the city was interviewed and he also had never heard about issues with permits or zoning, and in fact it turns out that Herb Abrams himself cancelled the show at the last minute with no pressure from anyone outside. (Amazingly, this group started in the basement and kept finding lower levels on the elevator.)
Despite Meltzer’s (well-founded) cynicism, UWF managed to put on a set of tapings on September 24th, so let’s see what they managed for their TV debut.
Herb Abrams’ UWF Fury Hour #1
October 1st, 1990
Taped September 24th, 1990
Reseda Country Club
Commentators: Herb Abrams & Bruno Sammartino
OK the production values are cheap and colourful, reminding me of the great Big Bill Hell promo video. Then when get a wonderful green-screen of Herb Abrams and The Living Legend Bruno Sammartino. If you’re reading that name and thinking ”wow, they’ve got Bruno!”, cool your jets. He’s one of the greatest of all time in the ring but one of the worst of all time behind a desk.
Montage of the wrestlers we’ll be seeing including Steve Williams, Cactus Jack, David Sammartino, Billy Jack Haynes, Colonel DeBeers, Paul Orndorff and B. Brian Blair, Dan Spivey and Lou Albano. Doesn’t look bad when they put the good ones together.
“Dr. Death” Steve Williams vs. Davey Meltzer
Dr. Death was in the middle of being the first gajin to work for both AJPW and NJPW at the same time. Herb wasn’t happy with the negative press Meltzer was giving him so here’s the debut of DAVEY MELTZER, the chubbiest mullet-ist wrestler you ever did see. He offers a handshake but Dr. Death destroys him with chops and clotheslines. Despite his beefiness, Williams is able to press slam him. Williams gets told off by the referee for over-abusing Dave but Bruno’s like ”ah that’s just his way of doing things.” No wonder JBL loved him. Williams knocks him down with some shoulder-charges as Bruno laughs at his torture. Williams finishes with an Oklahoma Stampede.
Winner: Dr. Death Steve Williams (Complete squash so Dr. Death could show off and Herb could vent. The jobber’s name was nowhere near as funny as Herb thinking Meltzer was out of shape.)
Post-match Dr. Death shoves a sheet into Davey’s mouth before pouring dirt over him. I’m sure there’s some hidden meaning here.
Cactus Jack vs. David Sammartino
This was before Cactus signed to WCW so he’s still a jobber with a buzz at this point thanks to his series with Eddie Gilbert for Tri-State Wrestling. Herb is over-hyping everything like a shit Don West, so when he shouts ”IT’S YOUR SON, DAVID!” and Bruno flatly replies ”yes it is” it’s fucking hilarious. Bruno’s so subdued on commentary I wonder if Herb was checking his pulse in between going to the bathroom to powder his nose. We get split-screen promos from both men as the match starts, which sucks and you can barely see the match as a result. Should have played them before the match so we could enjoy Cactus telling us ”I’d rather love a man than hurt a woman.” David charges Cactus who turns it into a roll-up. David chops him down and Cactus tells him not to do it again so David chops him all over the ring. That would have been great if David had anything resembling charisma. Instead of that he has a dozen exciting ways to apply an armbar. After five minutes of those, Cactus misses another charge in the corner and strikes the turnbuckle, causing Bruno’s voice to break before David locks in another armbar to cool his nerves. Cactus escapes by biting David on the stomach as the ref does nothing. Cactus argues with the ref (for doing nothing, I guess) before hurling David outside and chinning him on the guard-rail as we go to break.
During the break, David gets a promo ranting about how this program treats wrestling SERIOUSLY. He says this in front of a bright pink background.
Steve Williams brags about beating people up in bars. He seems energetic.
Back from break, Cactus takes a suplex into the ring. Bruno is asked what he thinks about his son and he replies he sees him not as a son, but as a wrestler. Well that’s better than how most saw him. Cactus puts David in a chinlock for a while until David summons the strength to pick him up and drop him. Cactus immediately spinebusters him because Cactus is through selling for damned Bruno Junior. Cactus Clothesline sends them both outside and David suplexes Cactus on the concrete.
David throws a lot of bad-looking punches and Cactus counters a backdrop attempt with a swinging neckbreaker. Herb’s shocked Cactus can wrestle. David collapses from getting thrown into the turnbuckle, selling a neckbreaker more than Cactus is selling a concrete suplex. They exchange more blows and Cactus gets pissed with the ref and head-butts him out of the ring for the DQ.
Winner via DQ: David Sammartino (Cactus was trying out a lot of things here, some of which would stay with him for years. Match could have been something if David had any spark to him, Cactus could have had that match with the bit of his ear that fell off.)
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Spitball Patterson
Billy Jack was crazy even back in 1990 before all those shoot interviews accusing Vince McMahon of fathering Benoit’s kid or whatever the fuck it was he said. After some lengthy holds, Billy Jack gets suckerpunched by the jobbber whose name is supposed to be a pun on Thunderbolt Patterson, I guess. BJ German Suplexes him and jumps off the top rope to run his face into the mat. Knee-drop sets up the dreaded Full Nelson for the submission win.
Winner: Billy Jack Haynes (I give this match two insane conspiracy theories out of five.)
Highlights of the UWF debut press conference, with B. Brian Blair coming to blows with Dan Spivey after he said he hadn’t seen him do much without Sid Vicious. Spivey retaliates with ”well at least I haven’t er been er working behind a er desk or something” before throwing water on Blair and destroying the set.
Capt. Lou’s Corner with B. Brian Blair
Brian is an energetic babyface but explains all he was doing was being a nice guy and Spivey had to attack him to make a name for himself. Mate, you were being a dick. Blair isn’t scared of Spivey, ”he puts his legs in his pants one at a time like me.” Lou was his usual rambling self, trying to talk louder than his shirt.
Billy Jack shouts about being tough and having a dreaded Full Nelson.
Colonel DeBeers gets promo time, oh boy this should be good. DeBeers played a pro-Apartheid South African and despite not taking the time to pronounce his ”a” as ”e”, he was good for a Fuck Me Did He Just Fucking Say That moment or two. He says America is blind to his talent and nothing else. Bah. Give him time.
Col. DeBeers vs. Michael Allen
DeBeers rough-houses his opponent the whole match, sticking to punches and chokes. The scruffy jobber counters a sidewalk slam to a headscissors in a shock move. DeBeers recovers by riding Allen like a skateboard off the top rope then finishing with a DDT.
Winner: Col. DeBeers (It was a good job Col. talked the talk because he walked like an old man in the ring.)
“Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff vs. Riki Ataki
Orndorff was freelance at this point. I guess all wrestlers are in a way, but Mr. Wonderful would bounce around UWF, NWA and others after leaving WWF in 1988. Paul wastes no time beating up Riki, punching him out of the ring and flying with a dropkick. Bruno comments Paul’s lost ten pounds since he last saw him but is polite enough not to mention it’s from his arm. Bruno’s surprised at his aggressiveness but the crowd loves it. After a top-rope elbow, Paul milks the crowd and finishes with a Piledriver. ”No pun intended but I think he Pearl Harboured him.” Er thanks Herb.
Winner: Paul Orndorff (I think Paul’s post-WWF career is under-rated and he fired up here.)
Dr. Death shows up to talk shit to Paul and they tease going at it but Dr. Death pusses out and leaves ”But he’s the one who came into the ring!” Tell ’em Bruno.
“The Killer Bee” B. Brian Blair vs “Dangerous” Dan Spivey
Spivey was last in WCW with Sid Vicious as the Skyscrapers, I think he’s here while Sid’s injured. Could be wrong, but he ended up back in WCW soon after this, teaming up with Sid before trying a singles run. I’ve no clue if Brian Blair is good as a singles guy because he’s still sticking with his Killer Bee schtick like he’s Marty Jannetty still dressing as a Rocker. This is the only match with a backstory behind it and Spivey dwarfs Blair. Big boot starts things off before some choking and a Bear Hug. Blair uses the power of the crowd to escape and immediately takes a clothesline. ”I know Blair is going to come back! I can feel it in my bones!” says Abrams, trying his best but just doesn’t have the voice or knowledge for commentary. Blair counters a gutwrench suplex into a backdrop but Spivey locks in an Abdominal Stretch. Rude Awakening style neckbreaker only gets two. Spivey chokes some more as Herb discusses Billy Jack Haynes answering Col. DeBeers’ challenge next week. Wait, those two were supposed to be promoing against each other? Did they film generic promos then have Herb say ”welp, they’re fighting!” Blair gets his foot up on a charge and is able to land a Facebuster. Herb nearly forgets Blair’s name as Spivey hurls Blair outside. Spivey gets thrown into the ring post but declines to sell it because he’s Dan fucking Spivey and the two men brawl until they’re counted out.
Winner: No-One (Average action as it looks they’re going long-term with this main event feud over spilled water.)
Overall: I was expecting a lot worse, but it wasn’t great either. Mostly squash matches with mediocre commentary and production. Bruno did his best but sounded like Groucho Marx on the Tonight Show so you tended to zone out and forget he’s talking. Herb sloppily pronounced names and moves and had to switch to his SHOUTING AND HYPING voice with no warning. At least Williams, Orndorff and Cactus looked good.
Here’s big Dave’s thoughts:
The debut tapings for the UWF finally did take place in Reseda on 9/24 drawing 425 people (I hear it’s a long day, livin’ in Reseda…also might be a freeway running through your yard!) They taped a bunch of squashes for a Sports Channel America show, plus some “competitive matches” that didn’t actually have finishes, like Orndorff doing a double countout with Steve Williams, Dan Spivey going to a double DQ with booker Brian Blair, and Billy Jack Hayes doing a double countout with Col. DeBeers. Once again, everyone was paid so the guys are gonna stick around as long as the money keeps flowing. The big story of the show was Abrams using a jobber who was dubbed Davey “The Observer” Meltzer, who got beat up by Williams and then had a piece of paper and a bottle of dirt dumped on him. (“Dirt sheet”, GET IT?) The jobber also did squash losses to Cactus Jack and then to another jobber. Background of this HILARIOUS prank is that Abrams went to get the smallest, dumpiest jobber he could find (one who was having his first match, no less!) and give him the gimmick. Bruno thought it was hilarious, apparently. The program lists a multitude of people that the promotion is “negotiating” with, although Dave talked to some of them and none of them are actually in contact with Herb. One of them did quip that they’d be interested if they could work with Bruiser Brody. (Man, with an attitude like that, no wonder Herb is naming jobbers after him. Background on that Brody joke, by the way: Herb had done an interview at the infamous Arezzi wrestling convention where he declared that Bruiser Brody was in fact not dead and was merely on vacation, and he was currently in negotiations to wrestle for the UWF. Yes, this was a real thing that happened.)
That was episode 1, join us next week to see if Brody shows up or not.