The SmarK Rant for Tales from the Territories S1E1: “Memphis: Where Wrestling Was Real”
Man, this show is getting almost ZERO attention. Probably because it’s not hot button stuff like Dark Side was. So let’s give it a look and maybe show it some love! Plus, you know, MEMPHIS.
For those keeping track, we don’t get Vice in Canada, so this airs on Crave TV, which is basically the Canadian low rent HBO Max.
Hosted by a roundtable of Memphis legends.
Jeff Jarrett introduces the idea of the territory days, when wrestling was more of a sport. And Jerry Jarrett had a sign in his office that said “Personal Issues Draw Money”. Well Tony Khan is certainly trying to pay attention to that.
So the actual promotion was the Continental Wrestling Association, but the entire Kentucky/Tennessee territory was just known as Memphis. We get some cool shots of baby Scott Hall and baby Undertaker from the 80s there.
“Wrestlers v. Fans”
Next up, a discussion of “marks” who get too involved in the show. Jimmy Hart tells the story of Jerry Lawler’s aunt watching over them, and Jimmy doing a job in a six-man match, only to be shot in the ass by a fan’s blow dart while being hauled to the back by Dream Machine. So Lawler’s aunt takes him to the hospital for a tetanus shot, which he didn’t want because of the cost, and then he swore never to leave the ring over someone’s shoulder again.
Jerry Lawler talks about fans doing run-ins in Louisville, and how they’d take the guy to the back and beat the hell out of him until the police got there. And then they’d get to go home. Jimmy relates a story about getting kicked by a guy’s cowboy boot at ringside during a match, and then meeting the guy in the backstage area afterwards. The guy bragged about doing the deed, so Lawler punched him out and they ran for the car.
Next up, Lawler relates the story of meeting a guy in the parking lot who was just standing there with a brick, and he told the guy “Swear to god if you throw that brick at my car I will run you over dead”, and then the guy threw the brick! So Lawler hit the gas, but the guy had already cut his tires. Smart dude.
“Eye For An Eye”
Jerry Jarrett relates the story of dealing with Mario Galento, who tried to take over the territory from Roy Welch by going behind Jarrett’s back with stories about Jerry betraying Roy. So Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler are having a match in the Mid-South Coliseum and Jarrett gets knocked out by what he thinks is a foreign object from manager Sam Bass, but he goes down for real and realizes that it’s Galento who’s now in the ring and apparently shooting on him. Apparently the plan was to humiliate Jarrett by beating him on TV and ruining his drawing power. So Jarrett goes all Kill Bill (Volume 2) on him and apparently PULLS OUT HIS EYEBALL?!? And then Lawler helps Jarrett to fight off the crazed Galento, who is now blinded, and the two of them steal a nightstick of some kind from Galento and beat on him with that. On live TV! And then Galento got taken to the hospital with 200 stitches in his head, and we get a shot of what his face looked like afterwards. Then a few weeks later, Lawler is working a TV squash in Mississippi with a nobody, at which point Mario Galento comes into the ring with a razor and threatens Lawler, so Jerry throws a chair at him and runs back to the dressing room. Jimmy Valiant was waiting, with a gun, and the sheriff of the town was sitting front row and arrested all three guys.
Come on, that story is so crazy it can’t possibly be true.
Anyway, let’s talk Eddie Gilbert and the parking lot. The guys talk about how you need a good angle to draw money, and we get the famous footage of Eddie running Jerry Lawler over with his car. But then there’s Jos LeDuc….
“Crossing the Line”
Lawler introduces LeDuc and we get footage of him doing the big feats of strength like Ken Patera and Mark Henry used to do. Lawler then tells a story about working with LeDuc and offering to get thrown onto a table at ringside, but then we get footage of him grabbing the top rope in a panic mid-move, as he lands on the side of the table and ruptures a muscle in his leg. And then Jerry Jarrett comes out and tells him to stay down because the bump looked too good. Lawler: “No problem.”
Next up, an angle where LeDuc goes on TV and cuts his own arm with his axe (complete with footage!) in order to show how tough he was, which drew some calls from fans.
Jimmy Hart talks about how they’d draw a 70 share in Memphis on TV, and one week he was managing Iron Sheik a week after an American helicopter went down in Iran. So they’re doing a promo and Jerry Jarrett decides to run that news footage on the screen behind the Sheik while Jimmy is waving an Iranian flag to be a heel. So that prompts a couple of reasonably minded fans to call the cops and warn them that they’re coming to the studio with their guns to take care of them. Luckily the police got there first and stopped them, but one of the guys then stalked Jimmy and went to the matches every week, threatening to kill him every time he came out.
Dutch Mantell relates the story of working a show at a prison in Kentucky, where he tried to bring his bullwhip in and had some pushback from the guards over taking it with him. So they set up the ring in the yard, where there are no guards to protect them. But at least he had the whip.
“Symphony of Destruction”
Dutch then talks about doing a match against Jeff Jarrett with the assistance of the Memphis orchestra, who would then play along with the ebb and flow of the match while fancy city folk watched in confusion. Thankfully we get footage of this nonsense. They did a simple match called by Dutch, leading to a nutty finish where Dutch stole a drum from one of the band and beat on Jarrett to the beat, but then Jarrett got the win with a sunset flip and they got over. So the match ended up in the Smithsonian Institute, apparently the only one to ever be archived there.
“Master of Ribs”
The guys introduce Jackie Fargo, who loved tormenting young wrestlers to amuse themselves on long trips. Lawler tells the story of Tojo Yamamoto putting on Tiger Balm, and Jerry Jarrett decides to get revenge on Fargo by putting the balm in Jackie’s underwear. But Lawler was Jackie’s protégé and stooged out Jarrett to his mentor, and Jackie found the balm and put it all over Jerry and Tojo’s clothes and gear. So then Fargo acts like there’s something in his underwear when they come back to the dressing room while Jarrett and Tojo are laughing at him. But then on the drive home, Tojo and Jarrett realize there’s something very wrong with their clothing, and they have to pull over and strip off their clothes and change back into their gear before driving off again so they can murder Jackie Fargo when they find him.
Dutch tells a story about Lawler driving behind Kamala and putting a fake police light on his dashboard to pull him over outside Nashville after their match. So Lawler uses a bullhorn to get him out of the car and makes him do the perp walk back to his car, at which point Kamala realizes he’s been had.
“Waffle House Knife Fight”
OH YEAH. We meet Randy Savage next, as he was a bit of a hothead in his younger years and he went to a waffle house in Memphis one week after the show. So some guy comes into the restaurant announcing his engagement and everyone is congratulating him, but Randy is all pissed off at having his breakfast interrupted and starts some shit with the guy. So the guy pulls out a knife and Savage grabs a butter knife from the table to defend himself, at which point the police get there and Savage is going nuts and can’t be calmed down. So they release the dog on him, and Savage gets bitten in the ass and that finally calms him down. And then he went to the papers and tried to get ahead of the story by noting that everything rumored about the incident were lies.
And we wrap up talking about the end of the territory and the legacy of “Memphis Style” in wrestling. And Jarrett notes that the shows were always 90 minutes long, because an hour is too short and two hours is too long, so you leave them wanting more and don’t burn them out. And it was basically the first form of “sports entertainment” before Vince was doing it.
Man, talking about leaving them wanting more, I LOVED this show and wanted more! Dark Side got so depressing and grim most of the time, and this was so much fun, just old wrestlers sitting around and telling what were probably bullshit stories with people doing goofy re-enactments ala Dark Side. I can see why it doesn’t have the kind of buzz that Dark Side got, but I had a ball watching it and I hope they keep making them. Like holy crap, that story about Galento was NUTS.
Next time: Andy Kaufman!