wrestling / Hall of Fame

411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2008: The Fabulous Freebirds

January 22, 2008 | Posted by Sam Caplan

The 1980’s are often referred to as the golden age of tag team wrestling, and one of the most famous teams of the decade was the Fabulous Freebirds: Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts. However, the Freebirds were more than just a great tag team that had success everywhere they went. Not only were they main event players in any territory they worked in, but also they were perhaps among the most innovative groups in wrestling history. For starters, the Freebirds are credited with being the first wrestlers of the modern era to have entrance music, first with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic Freebird, and then later Badstreet USA, a song which Michael Hayes wrote and performed himself. They were also unusual in that they were a three-man tag team, and would use their numbers to their advantage often throughout their run in various ways.

The group originally formed in Mid South with original members Hayes and Gordy, and soon after they moved on to Georgia, where Hayes and Gordy won the Georgia Tag Team Title their first night in the territory. Buddy Roberts came on soon after, and with his addition came the Freebird Rule, which meant that all three men were recognized as champions, and any two of them could defend the title on a given night, so opponents weren’t ever sure of which combination to prepare for. This was a great advantage for the Freebirds, but they did eventually lose the title and split up when Gordy turned on Hayes. Roberts disappeared from the group after the split as Hayes and Gordy violently feuded for a year before reuniting and briefly regaining the title. After losing the title for the second time, the Freebirds left Georgia and moved on to World Class Championship Wrestling, where they would get the biggest push of their lives.

Upon arriving in Dallas in 1982, Michael Hayes was booked as a guest referee for a cage match wherein Kevin Von Erich would challenge Ric Flair for the NWA World Title. During the match, Hayes knocked Flair out and tried to get Von Erich to cover Flair and win the title, but Von Erich refused and a vindictive Hayes instead turned on Von Erich for refusing his help, allowing Flair to win the match and retain. This led to a huge feud between the Von Erichs and the reunited Freebirds (all three members) which raged on for several years. This is often considered to be the most famous feud in Texas wrestling history, and for years the two sides would trade wins and titles until the Freebirds departed Dallas in 1985.

They ended up landing back where it all began in Mid South, which had by this time been renamed the UWF, and again tasted success as Buddy Roberts won the UWF TV Title and Gordy became the first UWF World Champion. The run didn’t last too long before the Freebirds returned to Dallas and the feud with the Von Erichs flared up again, but the magic was gone and couldn’t quite recreate what they had during the first half of the decade. Hayes & Gordy split again, and this time Hayes became an ally of the Von Erichs as they continued to feud with Gordy and Roberts. Roberts retired from in-ring competition around this time, and began managing the Samoan Swat Team, who would trade the World Class Tag Team Title with Hayes and new partner Steve Cox several times in 1988.

As 1989 began, Hayes made his way to the NWA as a solo babyface act and was a solid fan favorite for several months. However, it wasn’t long at all before Hayes was back to his heel ways, turning on US Champion Lex Luger in a tag team match and challenging him for the title. Hayes had always made his name as a tag team wrestler, and his singles qualifications were questionable at best and he was not considered a serious threat to Luger. However, he ended up pulling the upset of the year when, with a little help from a returning Terry Gordy, he pinned Luger at Music City Showdown to win the United States Title. Luger won the title back mere weeks later, but the Freebirds were back in town, and this time they were going national in the NWA.

The first thing they needed to do was fill the third spot on the team which had previously been occupied by Buddy Roberts, and the spot was filled by longtime Freebird associate Jimmy Garvin. From the beginning, they were teasing dissension between Garvin and Gordy, who was looking at Garvin as an outsider, but before there could be another breakup, Gordy faded out of the picture and went off to Japan, leaving Hayes and Garvin by themselves. Even with just the two of them, the Freebirds won the NWA World Tag Team Title in a tournament, and then won it back about a year or so later.

Unfortunately, while the 80s belonged to the Freebirds, the team had lost a lot of steam as the 90s began. Buddy Roberts was retired, Terry Gordy was off doing his own thing in Japan and, later, teaming with Steve Williams, and Hayes and Garvin had been reduced to little more than a comedy act and, despite teasing a reunion early in 1994, the team finally disbanded for good after Garvin’s loss to Johnny B Badd at Superbrawl IV…or did it? Hayes retired from in-ring competition and went to become an announcer for the WWF, but the Freebirds made one final appearance in mid to late 1994 as the unlikely duo of Garvin and Gordy patched up their differences and reunited in Texas to win the GWF Tag Team Title. However, by this point the GWF was in serious financial trouble, and ended up going under with Gordy and Garvin as the last champions. It is somehow appropriate that not only did the Dallas territory finally come to its end with the Freebirds holding the title, but that the Freebirds themselves came to an end in the territory which made them.

Today Terry Gordy is dead and Hayes, Garvin, and Roberts are all long since retired, but the impact the Fabulous Freebirds had on professional wrestling and Texas in particular is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon. They were innovators and were the #1 team wherever they went, and had championship gold around their waists more often than not. Because of their success and impact on the business, we are proud to induct Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, and Jimmy Garvin into the 411 Wrestling Hall Of Fame.

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Sam Caplan

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