I recently discovered a YouTube channel with good quality episodes of mid-1980’s Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) out of Tampa. The channel is called 106 N. Albany, the address of the tiny studio where CWF was filmed.
Barry Windham was the heroic young Baby-Face in the CWF and I’ve always been into his energetic cowboy gimmick, so I’m really enjoying these old shows. We didn’t get to watch CWF where I lived up north and any CWF videos I’ve acquired have been foggy and faded, so these very watchable uploads are a real treat.
Speaking of treats, when the stars and moon aligned just right, or when the bookers were feeling generous to fans like us, they’d match up two of the handsome young Faces in the company who normally wouldn’t tangle with each other.
Such is the case in this video from 1984 recently uploaded to the 106 N. Albany channel. Barry is testing his mettle against another fit young man named Mike Davis. What begins as a clean scientific bout breaks down into a bizarre and confusing shit-show — the sort of sleazy, gritty, and inexplicable violence that tended to happen on wrestling programs from the Dirty South, which made them seem scary, inappropriate, and endlessly exciting.
As the plucky young men grapple in their trunks, sleazy Kevin Sullivan wanders out to the ringside area for a closer look at the young lions in the ring. He is working his crazy, perverted Cult Leader gimmick.
Many of these same wrestlers would later appear on Ted Turner’s Superstation, WTBS in Atlanta — which I was able to watch up north thanks to cable TV. However, it seemed as if Ted Turner forced these hill-billies to comb their hair, spit out the tobacco juice, and act with at least some class and decorum when they appeared on his network. Not so in the CWF where they could act as lewd as they wanted to be.
So in my fantasies, the CWF was a mysterious, dangerous, and forbidden pleasure dome — an exotic fantasyland from which I’d catch rumors or read magazine articles describing cruel acts of violence by evil monsters, riots by outraged minorities, biting and whipping, tar and feathering, and foreign objects used on good guys I barely knew but I liked their Baby-ish names: Jessie Barr, Chris Champion, Mark Youngblood, Billy Robinson (they all sounded so hot, making me want to run off to Tampa to find 104 N. Albany Street).
Sullivan’s presence gives the scene a creepy stalker vibe as the weirdo gazes at the young wrestlers’ exposed flesh and snug spandex trunks. The lads in the ring keep rasslin, but occasionally pause and glance at Sullivan as if to ask, WTF does this freak want?!
At first, the commentators fail to even mention Sullivan, making me think his surprise visit was unplanned. But once he shows off his snake, they will no longer be able to ignore his existence.
Slater is playing the homo-phobic Toxic Heel, calling the young men in the ring “sissies.” He tells us several times that Barry Windham is “sissified.”
His ranting against our young hero is meant to make us hate Slater as the Heel, but it also adds sexual tension as we wonder if he doth protest too strong. So what if Windham and Davis are “sissies” — why would that bother and anger Slater so much? Is he, perhaps, a bit sissified himself and can’t handle the gay panic, or perhaps jealous he is not in the ring with one or both of these “pretty-boys” as he calls them?
A snake in the mouth is a very phallic image — apparently Sullivan is orally fixated (and perhaps a bit sissified in his own right.) It all comes off as very grimy and deviant, and therefore would seem thrilling to a curious ‘tween- or teen-ager at the time who never saw bizarre and kinky acts like this out in the ‘burbs.
So Windham shows him how it’s done, answering with a very effective Sleeper of his own. When they tangle in the ropes, the ref orders Windham to release the Sleeper (after the ref and Windham grope Davis’s chest).
Davis never recovers from the effects of Barry’s Sleeper, stumbling around the ring in a daze “for some inexplicable reason” as Solie describes it. We really can’t tell, and it’s never explained, whether Davis is so weakened because:
- Davis truly has vertigo from the tight Sleeper, like in real life;
- Windham is such a bad-ass cowboy stud, his Sleepers are being sold as effective even after he released them; or
- Somehow the presence of the devil, Kevin Sullivan, is mystifying or weakening Davis, like kryptonite in the vicinity of Superman.
Meanwhile, Dick Slater is still on the microphone, all turnt up (or turned on) and shouting at the “sissy” that he wants to get in the ring with him. Windham wisely exits the arena and gets away from the ranting red-neck.
Either he is so disgusted by this “sissy” that he feels compelled to hurt the kid (which is a hyper-masculine interpretation, that sissies ought to be stomped), or he was excited and eager to get in the ring with Davis after watching him tussling with Windham and couldn’t control his urge (ie, the queer reading, that his appetite is ravenous.)
The rough post-match beating on Davis is remarkably cruel, just what we’d expect from greasy Southern-fried rasslin.
Slater hoists Davis into Suplex position, then drops/spikes the sissy on the top of his head, which Solie identifies as a Brain Buster. Our take-away is that a man must never exhibit “sissified” actions or behaviors, or show any vulnerability, or an Alpha Male like Dick Slater will punish us for it (or fulfill his twisted desires by taking advantage of us in our moment of weakness.)
Our other take-away is that rasslin’ in the Deep South back then was sure unpredictable, deliciously weird, inappropriate, and violent — in other words, everything that makes pro wrestling arousing.