Championship Wrestling from Florida – Eddie Graham Memorial Show (5.9.87) review
May 9, 1987
We’re in St Petersburg, Florida at the Bayfront Center. Hosts are Gordon Solie, Steve Keirn and Sir Oliver Humperdink. I have, in the past, suggested that CWF was dead in the water long before 1987. I watched stuff from there in the 1985 run and it was a struggling territory. It was struggling so much that promoter Eddie Graham shot himself to death in January 1985. He could see his business and his way of doing business were disappearing forever.
This tape is JIP, which means we miss out on Jimmy Valiant vs. Colt Steel. Also, there are no screenshots from this because VQ is too low.
Jerry Grey, Kendall Windham & Ron Simmons vs. Shaska Whatley & the Mulkey Brothers
JIP with Jerry Grey struggling against the evil trio of Shaska and the Mulkeys. Grey felt like he was going places and wrestled a lot for NJPW in 1988 and then just retired. I can only assume it was an injury. Ron Simmons. Now there’s a hot tag. He’s a beast. He flattens one of the Mulkeys with a flying shoulderblock. Game over.
Bob & Brad Armstrong vs. MOD Squad
So, we finally get tape on the MOD Squad. Basher and Spike. Two large gentlemen who were big in Florida. They were brothers; Mac and Jim Jeffers. They had a motorcycle cop gimmick, loosely based on the 1970s TV show of the same name. They’re a perfectly fine heel team. They cut the ring off and work heat on Bullet Bob. Steve Keirn spends his PBP time berating the MOD Squad’s lack of conditioning. Brad gets a hot tag, finishes with a high crossbody and that’s that! The match was all heat and quite dull.
Jimmy Garvin vs. Teijo Khan
Garvin is dressed like a magician and comes out to ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”. Khan is green and Garvin isn’t known for carrying lesser workers. He has a go though, to be fair to him. Garvin catches a roll up for the win in short order.
Mike Graham vs. Dory Funk Jr
Mike is way too small to be wrestling a star like Dory. Mike was definitely a cruiserweight and it looks pretty silly having him in there with Dory. They mostly stick to technical wrestling and Dory is way superior but he’s generous too and let’s Mike have his moments. Dory’s forearm uppercuts are beautiful. Dory is 46 years old at this point and looks great still. Well, he looks like an old man, but he wrestles like he’s very much in his prime. Dory doesn’t need to cheat but he chooses to cheat, because he knows he’s playing a role and that role is to make Mike Graham look good. And you can’t do that without cheating. The referee here is Bill Alphonso and he does a good job with his positioning and whatnot. He’s also recipient of a ref bump. Oliver Humperdink jumps in there and gets put in a Figure Four. Teijo Khan jumps in there too and they beat the shit out of Mike Graham. Steve Keirn jumps in and takes a bullet from a Tahitian Prince Superfly splash. This was good until the lack of finish, but I get Mike probably didn’t want to job on his dad’s tribute show. ***
Dory Funk Jr & Prince Samu vs. Barry Windham & Ed Gantner
This was supposed to be Samu & Humperdink but Sir Oliver, claiming he’s sustained a knee injury, has joined commentary to replace the now injured Steve Keirn. Samu, also dubbed the Tahitian Prince on this show, is announced for this match as Prince Samu. So that’s what we’re calling him. He’s also had a failed run in the WWF at this point as “Samula”. The fascinating guy for me is Ed Gantner. Never heard of Ed Gantner? There’s a reason.
Gantner was a huge guy. 6’ 4”, 285lbs, jacked to the gills. He looked like money. He was a dedicated weightlifter and basically spent his whole life getting into shape to distract from home troubles. He was a college football star and went on to play in the USFL. When that didn’t pan out, he turned to pro-wrestling. Debuting in 1985 he was in a tag team with Kareem Muhammed (Ray Candy) called Shock Troops. He spent a long time feuding with Lex Luger in Florida before Lex moved to Crockett’s NWA. He became a central cog in CWF’s booking plans until he retired out of nowhere in July 1987. His health began failing and his years of steroid abuse resulted in kidney failure. He had a kidney transplant, from his sister, in 1989, which looked to have saved his life. After a year of shaky mental health, Gantner was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He was released for Christmas 1990, where he went to live with his parents and shot himself to death on New Year’s Eve 1990. He was 31.
Gantner had the looks, size and charisma to make it in pro-wrestling. His untimely demise is yet another footnote lesson in wrestling history about the horrors of the business and what it can do to you. Gantner plays second fiddle to the very talented Windham here but doesn’t look out of place. Dory, for the second match in a row, demonstrates tremendous technical skill. His gator roll to prevent a hot tag is a delight. Windham ends up taking this with a sunset flip on Samu. This was another good little match, aided by Dory’s technical work and two fiery babyface performances from Windham and Gantner. **¾.
NWA Florida Championship
Mike Rotunda (c) vs. Kevin Sullivan
Rotunda left WWF and won this belt off Ed Gantner almost straight away. Rotunda will hold it until the end of 1988, when he left to sign for WCW and the territories were officially dead. Rotunda as an exciting babyface singles guy is not something I’m used to! Sullivan, despite being “Mike Graham small” was always able to carry himself like a threat. When you’re the personification of evilness, you can get away with being 5’8”. Sullivan, being from Florida, is able to call himself the Prince of Darkness.
“Florida Man, calling himself “the Prince of Darkness” appeared in court today”
Rotunda, having worked under Hulk Hogan, has decided he’s going to channel the no selling. Rotundamania is runnin’ wild brother! Dory Jr runs in. He’s had a busy night. He blindsides Rotunda and Sullivan gets the pin! Earl Hebner runs down to reverse the decision. Rotunda tries to get a roll up but no one will count it! Haha. Ed Gantner runs in for the save and Rotunda is still the champion. “What a miscarriage of justice” yells Humperdink on comms. This was fun. It was a wild ride. **½
NWA World Tag Team Championship
Manny Fernandez & Rick Rude (c) vs. Road Warriors
The Roadies come out to Black Sabbath. They kick some ass. Animal really struggles to press slam Manny, while Hawk has Rude up the whole time. It’s a complete shellacking. The champs are beaten from pillar to post. It wouldn’t have been a terrible idea to have the Road Warriors just win the belts here. It isn’t like Manny and Rude were setting the world on fire as tag champs. They’d lose the belts to the RNR’s before the month was over anyway. Animal has it won with a powerslam, but Paul Jones jumps in the ring and we go to DQs as Paul Ellering pounds Paul Jones’ face in. This was a good match, but the total lack of finish was insulting.
We get an interview segment with Oliver Humperdink, where he chats to Kevin Sullivan about the Florida title.
Ric Flair (c) vs. Dusty Rhodes
VQ drops off a cliff here, but we’ve only got 5 minutes left on the show. Basically, they miscalculated TV time, and it ran out during the main event. Having seen Flair vs. Rhodes a bunch of times, I doubt we miss much. It sounded like the crowd were very into the match, but it is the NWA title. Spoiler: Flair retains.
The inability to actually show the entire card in their TV timeslot is hard to forgive. It’s indicative of CWF’s bad production at the time. A lot of stuff on this show was good fun. A lot of it thanks to Dory Funk Jr, who was having “a day”. Graham-Funk, Windham & Gantner vs. Funk & Samu, Rotunda-Sullivan and the tag titles were all decent matches. I’m glad I saw this. It makes a nice change of scene from the other promotions I’ve seen far more from. It’s always nice to hear Gordon Solie too, although he only called the first half of this show.