PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: Smoky Mountain Wrestling 4/30/94 & 5/7/94

As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, members of the PTBN Staff are choosing programs that coincide with this week in history and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!

Show: Smoky Mountain Wrestling – 4/30/94 & 5/7/94

Best Segment:

Dave Hall: As seen with both shows, it was clear that these pre-taped interviews were the best segments on the show. Both men had a charisma and polish that no one else on either show had, and they really sold the matches they were building up. Their interviews made me wish I could actually get a video of the May 20 event they were promoting; they were that good. I could not separate them.

Calum McDougall: There was a lot of segments in both of these shows, especially the second episode, but I have to say that the Jake Roberts promo in the April 30th show was great. I like it when guys don’t ignore past achievements in other companies, which is admittedly easier in smaller promotions like SMW, but it was a good promo hyping the big show.

Jacob Williams: I’m going with the campy Thrillseekers music video/montage, and not just for funny ironic reasons. I loved how earnest it was. Seeing a couple of Canadian boys pounding brewkis in Tennessee bars and Econo Lodges was entertaining stuff. It built them up as goofy party boys that were still legit athletes, and it was a nice contrast to all of the serious promos. It made me really want to root for the Seekers.

Brian Bayless: I’ll go with the Jake Roberts promo on the Dirty White Boy from the 5/7/94 show. Jake did a fine job of running him down, like saying he was right ten years ago when first meeting the DWB and thinking he’d never make it, and making fun of his eye injury to hype up their title match in a couple of weeks.

Michael Cook: I was originally going to go with the Jake interview, but after watching the second one, I could not get over that stupid little mic thing they had to hold, plus I think the second part ruined the first part of it for me. So, I will be going with what will be the common thread for me and say the Thrill seekers video mainly because of Jericho.

Steve Riddle: Jake Roberts’ promo was classic stuff and he looked like he seemed to be back on track after being out of the spotlight for a couple years.

Chad Campbell: Both of these episodes were really segment heavy and we had some strong promo work by especially heels but I am giving the nod to Jake Roberts’ promo on the 5/7/94 episode. Jake is at his old man pervert creepiness down to the windsuit and sneakers he is sporting. He delivers a very cerebral promo against Tony Anthony and shows no sympathy for his injured eye. Jake was a bit of a desperado in 1994 traveling from territory to territory and participating in big programs at each stop. With promos like this and the 4/29/94 one, it is easy to see why.

Best Match:

Dave Hall: Thrillseekers vs. Well Dunn was the only decent match on the two shows, and it was all thanks to Chris Jericho. Jericho bumped around like a madman for Well Dunn, and sold their offense really well before mounting his comeback. Lance Storm looked really green in the ring, but Jericho looked very polished for someone so young in his career. Well Dunn were a little sloppy at times, and one of them nearly dropped Jericho on his head when he performed the springboard moonsault, but in the end it was an acceptable television main event for the time.

Calum McDougall: In amongst all of the promos and pre-tapes there were actually some matches, but these were low in terms of quality. Out of them all I’ll go for Thrillseekers vs Well Dunn because it has Storm and Jericho and it was decent enough.

Jacob Williams:Not a very high bar on these two shows, as there really weren’t a ton of matches, and most were squashes. Thrillseekers vs Well Dunn was a solid, energetic tag match. Jericho had some nice selling as the face in peril, and Storm led a nice comeback. Even Well Dunn brought the energy and played their role well. The Seekers’ double roll up was a pretty slick finish, too, and though you could tell they were still rookies, you could also see what Cornette saw in Jericho and Storm.  

Brian Bayless: The Thrillseekers vs. Well Dunn match was the only thing close to decent on this show and it was still nothing special. Well Dunn looked slower here than they did several months prior when they made their WWF debut. Jericho sold well and Storm had good fire off of the hot tag. The finish was attack by Well Dunn afterwards sets up for a rematch too.

Michael Cook: If anyone else picks something different I will have 1000 questions. There really is only one match to pick, and to be honest I would say it is only by default: Thrillseekers vs. Well Dunn. Unlike most of my counterparts in PTBN I do not really notice little things like calling spots, botches, or other small things. However, with this match (and everything else on these two shows) you could not help to notice everything. The match was not really that good, but it was what it was. It furthered a story line, and on a positive note you could see a young Chris Jericho and see that he had it from the beginning. Also, I did like how the show ended with a cliff hanger so to speak. 

Steve Riddle: There wasn’t much to choose from since each show was only an hour and each one had just three matches which was pretty normal for the time, but the easy choice for me would be the Thrillseekers and Well Dunn. Even at this point in 1994, you could see that Jericho and Storm were going to be something special whether as a team or as singles stars, and despite the fact they were booked like bums, Well Dunn were a solid team and worked well together. It was clear this match was just to really begin a feud between the teams as they barely get six minutes and the Thrillseekers get the clean win, but Well Dunn attack them afterward which means they were being set up for a rematch down the line and you hoped they would get some solid time to put on a really good match.

Chad Campbell:  Real slim pickings for this honor as all but two matches were squashes. I am going to give the nod to Tracy Smothers vs Bruiser Bedlam as I thought it did a decent job of pushing Bedlam as a monster. He kicked out of Smothers’ finisher with the back elbow and was getting a monster push and needing credibility. Smothers was an established stalwart in the promotion that didn’t take many easy loses so him losing here on tv in eight minutes was a shock.

Most Cringeworthy Moment:

Dave Hall: I know that hindsight is 20/20, but I really struggled with Tony Anthony’s racist comments regarding Kendo the Samurai. I was very surprised that WWE network kept such comments in the show, and also surprised they did not have their disclaimer before the telecast.

Calum McDougall: The obvious answer to this one is Dirty White Boy’s pretty damn racist promo against Kendo the Samurai, however I’d like to give a mention to Kendo’s, ahem, “Martial Arts”. That was awful for different reasons.

Jacob Williams: A dude named Dirty White Boy (who is the face here) throwing a bunch of racist names at a samurai wrestler takes this by a pretty big wide margin.  

Brian Bayless: Even considering the era and where the promotion was based from it was still in extremely poor taste having babyface champion Dirty White Boy use the type of racial slurs he did against Kendo the Samurai.

Michael Cook:This happened early on, it was when Anthony Michaels came off the top rope against Well Dunn and the way his head hit that mat, I am shocked that he ever got up, then to add insult the finish was concussion worthy.

Steve Riddle: Lance Storm may be one of the best wrestlers in the world even in 1994, but he clearly needed work on promos as he nearly called SMW “Rocky Mountain Wrestling”.

Chad Campbell: Different time and place and all that, but Dirty White Boy calling Kendo a “slant eyed, sock wearing Jap” was jarring and the cringe that Bob Caudle gives should have been the response of any sensible person back in 1994.

Funniest Line/Moment:

Dave Hall: Once again Chris Jericho showed that he was ahead of the rest of the talent despite his young age. During their “Personality Profile” with Les Thatcher, after they were interrupted by Well Dunn, Jericho turned to Well Dunn and asked them “which one is Beavis and which one is Butthead. Seeming as this was at a time when there were no scriptwriters, I thought it was a very good one liner from one of the best talkers ever in the business.

Calum McDougall: I found Daryl Van Horne’s line about how Kendo the Samurai has “the speed of a cat” unintentionally funny since it had followed a match where he was going so slow that time may actually have stood still.

Jacob Williams: In the scene of him working out, Bruiser Bedlam, after  showing off his amazing strength, gave this gem: “What is this? Girl weight?!”  

Brian Bayless: The Thrillseekers music video was amusing enough with Jericho as the partier of the group while Storm was the straight-laced guy as part of a heartthrob gimmick team.

Michael Cook: Nothing funny about anything in these episodes in the traditional sense. I did find it funny how bad it was. But if I must go with a moment, I guess I would say the music video, had one or two funny parts, and that really is stretching it. 

Steve Riddle: We got the usual taste of mid-90s causal racism as Dirty White Boy calls Kendo the Samurai everything in the book while also calling Daryl Van Horn a “closet queen”. An honorable mention is Daryl Van Horn calling Dirty White Boy “Dolly Parton without her wig on”.

Chad Campbell: Probably a bit of this was unintentional comedy but the Thrillseekers video was pretty hilarious just from the cheesy vibe that it gives off. Jericho is certainly hamming it up and enjoying the role and Lance knows his role as the curmudgeon.

Highlights:

Dave Hall: There was very little highlights in these two shows. Apart from the Thrillseekers vs Well Dunn match, the only other good stuff were the interviews by Jake the Snake and Macho Man, and any comments made by Jim Cornette.

Calum McDougall: Despite me feeling quite negative about these shows I do have some highlights. Firstly, Mark Curtis’s outfit complete with braces/suspenders is a look that really needs to come back. I did like the surprise of seeing THE YETAY Lite in one of the many promo videos and the Dark Secret’s hometown of Anyone’s Guess is amazing – the inventive hometown also needs to come back.

Jacob Williams: The entire presentation was very reminiscent of old NWA shows, along with some shockingly high video quality for the main bits of the show. I always enjoy Cornette’s promo delivery. He talks a mile-a-minute so naturally, and it never seems like he has to stop and think about what to say next. I loved him and his tracksuit in the Bruiser Bedlam package. Jake Roberts cutting his usual great menacing promo in what looked like a funeral home was only amplified by the grainy footage. Bullet Bob threw some pretty sick punches. Despite a few rough spots, The Thrillseekers came off as a nice young team , especially Jericho, who showed a few hints at his star quality in and out of the ring. Tracy Smothers seemed to really fit the entire feel of SMW well and shined as a workhorse guy against Bedlam. It was a little surreal (in a good way) to see Macho Man cutting promos here, and you are quickly reminded of much of a pro he was when juxtaposed against some of the more indie aspects of SMW.

Brian Bayless: There was some good promo work on this show, primarily by the managers. Daryl Van Horne (the future James Mitchell) did some good mic work on the behalf of Kendo the Samurai as did Tammy Sytch during the clips we saw from the Tag Team Title switch. I also liked Tracy Smothers passionate promo after he saved Bob Armstrong from Bruiser Bedlam’s deadly stomach claw in which he talked about Bob being like a second father and how he teamed with his son Steve. And Jericho’s charisma was noticeable and had the ability to connect with the crowd.

Michael Cook: Chris Jericho. It was nice to see Savage, but it was just a canned local interview, nothing we haven’t seen every Superstar or Challenge. Also, Anyone’s Guess for a hometown for Dark Secret was the best hometown since Sid’s Anywhere He Damn Well Pleases. 

Steve Riddle:It was clear they were setting up a potential feud between the Thrillseekers and Well Dunn; The Dirty White Boy was actually a pretty solid promo guy and he was definitely one of the most over guys in the company; Before he was the Sinister Minister and James Vandenberg, he was Daryl Van Horn with a weird hat, though let’s make it clear that he is a fairly underrated manager in the history of wrestling; In one of the great ironic twists, Jericho blasts Well Dunn over their list though he would end up making “The List” a part of his gimmick nearly 22 years later; Really cool seeing Randy Savage make appearances with SMW since he was not wrestling as much and doing commentary with the WWF; The Cornette/Armstrong feud was fairly underrated and pretty much carried SMW for most of its run; Give credit to them because even though they were past their prime, the Rock and Roll Express were still very over with the crowd; Armstrong still looks pretty good despite being older and he was clearly still over with the Southern crowds; Interesting spot in that they announced that the Suicide Blondes won the tag titles from the Express at a house show, but it made the house show feel special even though the house show took place on 4/23 and it wasn’t announced until the 5/7 TV show; Really cool seeing Tammy Fytch in her pre-Sunny days and she was a great manager as she goaded the Express into defending the titles; It was always interesting when certain moves were banned which in this case was the piledriver though it made it seem more devastating when it was used; The Thrillseekers’ music video was about as mid-90s as you could get; It’s amazing that even in 1994, you could immediately tell that Jericho was going to be something special as he had great charisma and screen presence; They clearly saw something in Bruiser Bedlam if they were going so far as to bring Randy Savage into SMW to work with him; Jim Cornette is still one of the greatest managers of all time as he can make anyone seem credible and he goes all out in promos and being at ringside; It would be interesting to see a list at some point of everyone that applied for the SMW wrestling school and who would end up making it in the business; It is pretty cool hearing the announcers talk about the rankings and how everyone needs to step up if they want to move up and eventually challenge for titles.

Chad Campbell: The Jim Cornette Bruiser Bedlam training video in the second episode was strong in showing off the strengths of Bedlam in his brute power and hiding the weaknesses in his shaky charisma and microphone work. Cornette was a great mouthpiece for him and helped him out as much as he could. The second episode also shows the tag title change and Tammy Fytch was doing some great work getting involved, taking an unsolicited kiss from Ricky Morton and then cheering her charges on to victory. I also really enjoyed seeing Randy Savage in the SMW universe and him being cornered by Bob Armstrong feels like two wrestling personalities with a lot of history individually but not much with each other besides this instance.

Lowlights:

Dave Hall: Pretty well everything else, especially anything involving Bruiser Bedlam. The jobber matches were terrible, but Bruiser Bedlam took it to another level. He was uncoordinated and dangerous. He mucked multiple moves in each match, and I was surprised he did not hurt either of his opponents. His training segment was horribly long, and only Cornette made it interesting. Bob Armstrong was boring, Tracey Smothers just wanted to see “The South rise again”, and Kendo the Samurai was the worst excuse for a martial arts wrestler ever.

Calum McDougall: The one big lowlight for me was how promo heavy the second episode was, if found it became a drag watching them because I had just seen them. It obviously wasn’t like that originally, people obviously had a week between them but it became a bit too much for me as it went on.

Jacob Williams:Obviously the majority of the actual wrestling was lackluster, which is sort of expected on this type of show. The bigger issue was that many of the guys that would being pushed as featured guys (Well Dunn, Dirty White Boy, Bruiser Bedlam) fell mostly flat for me. Well Dunn had a lot of energy, but didn’t show much personality outside of shrieking a lot. Bruiser had a cool strongman heel character, but didn’t really back it up in the ring. I wanted him to really look impressive and brutal in his squashes. As much I enjoyed The Thrillseekers, Storm was pretty awkward, and at one point had a Hogan moment, calling the promotion Rocky Mountain Wrestling.

Brian Bayless: The in-ring action was really bad for these shows. Kendo the Samurai (who was Tim Horner under a mask) had a terrible squash match win over Brian Logan with an awful finisher to boot. And Storm’s promo work on the 4/30/94 show was just dreadful and at one point had to correct himself from calling the promotion “Rocky Mountain Wrestling.” And Dirty White Boy as the babyface champion did not seem to work at all based off of these two shows.

Michael Cook: Can I say everything else? The matches were bad, the interviews just as bad. And WTF is up with the giant shoe tongues? First with Jake then with Lance Storm during the music video. The other question is WTF was Dirty White Boy wrestling when they showed how is eye got hurt? Was Kevin Sullivan watching when he got his idea for the YETI? And people say WWE characters are bad, but a mummy really Anyone else think TL Hopper every time DWB came on screen? And lastly, his interview does not age well, with the typical 70s stereotypes, but this was 1994. 

Steve Riddle: Cheesy 80s opening in the mid-90s, I wonder if Bob Armstrong had his entire promo written down on that notepad since he was looking at it every other word; As good as the promo was, Jake’s choice of outfit was not real flattering; Kendo the Samurai looks like a cheap knockoff of the Great Sasuke; So according to Caudle and Thatcher, every interesting kick done by Kendo is a martial arts move even if it’s never used in martial arts; Interesting that Bruiser Bedlam was a champion, but he didn’t have a belt and this wasn’t even mentioned by the announcers unless he was defending that title; I was thinking that Bruiser could’ve been someone big since he had a decent look only to see him basically slip off the top rope when attempting a move, so I stand corrected on that one; In a weird booking move, they had Bruiser kick out of Smothers’ finisher only to have Cornette assist him in the end instead of him beating Smothers clean; Dark Secret was billed from “Anyone’s Guess”, so I assume “Parts Unknown” was overfilled and he needed to be from another place; Apparently Mark Curtis was the only referee in SMW at the time and it is weird seeing a referee wearing suspenders and a bowtie; Chris Hamrick looks like a cheap Ricky Morton knockoff with the long blond hair and the ugly tights; The outfits in 1994 were pretty ugly as Cornette has a bizarre black and yellow track suit while Bedlam has some terrible shorts on, which is not the best workout attire.

Chad Campbell: SMW was going through a lot of transition in this month after the Heavenly Bodies were forced to leave after a lengthy feud with the Rock N Roll Express that carried the promotion since its inception. They also were relying on outside talent coming in for one off programs like Jake and Savage here. With the Bodies gone, the void of heels were weak and we see that with the big pushes for Well Done, Kendo the Samurai and especially Brusier Bedlam. None of these guys panned out and it started to lead to some of the financial hardships that were rapidly approaching the promotion overall. Lance Storm was really wooden and uncomfortable during the Personality Profile interview and corrects himself from saying the Rocky Mountains at one point.

Wild Card Baby!

Dave Hall: Won’t be on MTV anytime soon: Chris Jericho and Lance Storm’s music video was so bad it was funny.  It was a true tribute to the 90s in hindsight. Their outfits were so dated, the “story” of the video was lame, and I sat there wondering if they were even old enough to be in a pub. But I couldn’t look away.

Calum McDougall: Worst Medical Team: In my office, I need to go and seek medical advice if I get a paper cut or my coffee is too hot for me to pick up, and yet SMW let Dirty White Boy wrestle whilst blind in one eye?! How did that get past the State Athletic Commission?!

Jacob Williams: The Landy Award: If it exists, we really need to get ahold of footage of the Macho Man vs Bruiser Bedlam match that was hyped. Make it happen, Landy!

Brian Bayless: Best Tidbit: In his shoot interview with RF Video, Lance Storm said he was told by Tracy Smothers that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express tried to “hold them down” as Cornette wanted the Thrillseekers to use a double missile dropkick finisher, which was flashier than the plain double dropkick the RnR’s had been using for over a decade. Storm also added that the Thrillseekers wrestled in the opening matches during their SMW run.

Michael Cook:Most 80s: Lance Storm’s rat tail. I guess since he showed a personality, maybe he should have had it when he came to the WWE.

Steve Riddle: The Fashion Statement of 1994: The track suits of Jake Roberts and Jim Cornette.

Chad Campbell: Unheralded Worker: I hope to spotlight a worker here on each show that I think history has forgotten too much. Tracy Smothers is my pick for these two episodes. Tracy certainly had a regional act that usually included him waving the stars and bars on his way to ringside, but he prove during this run that he could be at the very least a gatekeeper for the upper mid card and he deserved better than his Freddie Joe Floyd run entails.

Final Thoughts:

Dave Hall: These two shows combined were horrible. I score 1 point for Chris Jericho and 1 point for the interviews with Jake and Macho Man. I had never seen any Smokey Mountain Wrestling before and I was really keen for this watch, but after seeing the episodes I hope I never have to watch one of these shows again. I would never recommend what I saw to anyone, unless you restrict your watching to Chris Jericho only. 2/10

Calum McDougall: These shows weren’t offensively bad unlike the British Bulldogs Coliseum Home Video we watched, but I just found it boring of the most part. There were some bright spots and it was interesting to see some guys before they were famous. As much as it wasn’t my favourite thing we’ve done so far, I could be tempted to watch more Smoky Mountain and I cannot in good conscious rate it less than the Bulldogs tape. 4/10

Jacob Williams: This was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There wasn’t a lot of good wrestling on either show, and I didn’t particularly like many of the wrestlers, but still thought the shows were fine watches, if not great or even above average. In the same way that directors like Tarantino make movies as a homage to certain genres, I came away feeling like SMW was Jim Cornette’s homage to classic southern wrestling television, and I appreciated the total package enough to overcome some of the shortcomings. 5/10

Brian Bayless: The real problem here was the lack of star power. Sure, Jake Roberts was a star but he was not a regular guy here and using taped promos to hype up a title match. Pushing Bruiser Bedlam (former 1980’s WWF enhancement talent Johnny K-9) as a monster heel and the dated Kendo the Samurai act showed a glaring lack of depth on the heel side.
Plus, the lack of quality wrestling on these shows too was tough to ignore. However, the feuds and programs were easy enough to follow and at the heels at least had managers that could talk for them while the faces were doing the heavy lifting in the ring but this promotion was struggling at the time with decreasing attendance and its not tough to see why. 4/10

Michael Cook: Going into this I did not want to shit all over it, and I do realize that it was towards the end of the promotion, but this was not good.  Even Jake and Randy could not save it. Jericho was the only redeeming thing on these shows. I hope that if I get a chance to watch earlier shows I will be able to understand how people enjoyed. And yes, I know I will be in the minority but give me three hour Raws that I can fast forward through any day of the week. 1.5/10

Steve Riddle: Overall, I thought that these two episodes of Smoky Mountain Wrestling were pretty decent shows for TV standards. I haven’t seen a lot of Smoky Mountain Wrestling aside from random matches here and there, so it was pretty cool to actually watch two full episodes and get a glance of what it was like. SMW was in an interesting position in 1994 as the territory system was pretty much done aside from them and ECW, but they were still in a good position has they had the partnership with the WWF going still. The matches on the shows weren’t much as it was more about building towards Volunteer Slam with a bunch of solid promos, and I’m sure having Randy Savage appear was helping draw in more eyes. In the end, these were solid shows for me on my maiden voyage here on the Adventure and I look forward to what we have in store going forward. 4.5/10

Chad Campbell: Some challenging episodes to rate as they both were breezy and featured some good promo work even by Daryl Van Horn which I haven’t mentioned, but the in ring product was really lackluster. Also, even with big stars like Macho and Jake coming in, the transitional nature of this time in SMW was prevalent. 4.5/10


Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.