1985: It Was a Very Good Year. Part Three.
Originally published at Canadian Bulldog's World
As we saw last time, 1985 was a phenomenal year for wrestling fans as access to other promotions became increasingly commonplace, inter-promotional shows brought in stars from various promotions, and home video expanded fans’ access to wrestling.
While the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) seemed to have the lion’s share of attention, their rival Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and the American Wrestling Association (AWA) were doing their best to stay in the game. JCP, which had shown the viability of wrestling pay-per-views (PPV’s) with its Starrcade shows, ran a summer spectacular known as The Great American Bash.
The Great American Bash was created by Dusty Rhodes as a stadium show to get a big payoff. With PPV’s still in their infancy, stadium shows were a good way to draw a bigger gate than a promoter could in a regular arena. However the added cost of running a show in stadium (as opposed to an arena) meant that a promoter had to make sure the card was good enough to draw the fans to fill the stadium. Here, Rhodes (who was JCP’s booker at the time) ran a world title match as the main event. However it wasn’t the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, it was the NWA World Television Title which was defended in a steel cage match by Tully Blanchard against his arch-rival Dusty Rhodes. As for the NWA World Heavyweight title, Flair defended it against rising Russian star Nikita Koloff right before Dusty’s match. TV announcer David Crockett (brother to JCP boss Jim Crockett Jr.) served as special referee, compensation for a prior incident where Koloff clotheslined him during a TV interview. The card drew 27,000 fans for a gate of $300,000. JCP also made extra money by selling the show on a VHS tape, Ringmasters: The Great American Bash 1985.
1985 was the year of the Road Warriors. Although Hawk and Animal had made an immediate splash when they debuted in Georgia Championship Wrestling, it seemed like they were everywhere in 1985. In addition to working in the AWA (where they held the tag team belts), they worked shows for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) including an appearance in Championship Wrestling from Florida’s Battle of the Belts (where they battled Harley Race and Stan Hansen to a double count-out), and the aforementioned Great American Bash where they scrapped with Ivan Koloff and Krusher Krushchev.
The Roadies’ work was not limited to North America. All-Japan Pro Wrestling brought them in where they received main event money (and an accompanying push). According to Dave Meltzer’s book Tributes II, the Road Warriors received $10,000 a week in Japan, a salary on par with legends like Andre the Giant and the Funk Brothers. While some wrestlers might have scoffed that the Road Warriors hadn’t paid their dues, they were a huge draw and commanded such a salary because of this and manager Paul Ellering’s shrewd negotiating skills (Ellering served not only as the Warriors’ kayfabe manager but also as their real-life business manager).