Historical Perspective: The WWC Universal Title 1982-1992
Welcome to this, the first in a long series of articles that break down the title histories of WWC and IWA: Puerto Rico. My intention with this articles is to enlighten wrestling fans on the rich history of puerto rican wrestling by breaking down the title changes with as much info as I can gather. Take into consideration that I was born in 1985, so anything earlier and until at least 1989 comes from second hand people and articles trough the internet. Some periods, like 1995 due to the awful slump worldwide wrestling was in (did you think it was only the WWF?) are almost a blank to me since I didn’t pay much attention to wrestling that year. But like I said, I am trying to dig deep into my memory and the internet to come with as much information as possible and be as accurate as humanly possible. If you find mistakes, please feel free to correct me and you will get a special mention in the next article. The same applies for any additional information you might find on any subject I talk about in this column.
To begin our series of articles, I will look at the big prize: The WWC Universal Title. This IS the belt in Puerto Rico, in spite of IWA having a world title that has had many good champions in it’s short history, nothing will top the 25 years of history and memorable feuds that this title has been a part off. Part one will cover from it’s first decade of existence, from 1982 to 1992.
It all started on July 21 1982 when Abdullah the Butcher, a man who was already a proven draw in Puerto Rico was introduced as the “WWC World Heavyweight Champion” after winning a “tournament” in Japan. The tournament never really happened and it was just a way to introduce a returning worker to the company, since Abby had been working for All Japan prior to this. By this point the Colon-Abdullah feud had been underway for some time(this guys feud seemed to last forever…I mean, almost 30 of the 32 years of the promotion’s existence!) and only three days later after the belt’s official introduction, Carlos Colon defeated Abdullah at the ballpark in San Juan, Puerto Rico to win his first of 26 Universal Titles!
This first few years created the formula for the main event scene in Puerto Rico. Colon would defend the belt against anyone and then some big dude would come in and take it from him, usually by cheating, setting up a big rematch. That is the only possible explanation for Ox Baker, a big dude made famous in Canada(where Colon used to work a lot) with a goofy mustache being the first man to take down Colon on the night of April 23 1983 at the ballpark in San Juan. Baker was kinda intimidating when I was a kid, but he was never a good worker and WWC had so many contacts worldwide that a better champion could have been found. But remember, he was really big(for Puerto Rican standards) and that is what mattered. This title change had little significance and Colon won the belt back on May 14 of that same year at the same location in another crappy match.
The belt was still known as the WWC World Heavyweight Title. So, how was it renamed? The term “universal” actually had a significance, it was not simply a name thrown at the belt plate to make it seem more important. There was actually a big buildup and a big match to lead up to the change. In one corner you had Carlos Colon, the biggest name in Puerto Rico and the current WWC World Heavyweight Champion. On the other side, The “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, current NWA World Champion and maybe the biggest name at the time(this was prior to Hulkamania). Flair was coming to the island and from a series of vignettes taped in Florida(My guess from the background colors), he started to insult Colon and the foundation of WWC’s version of the World Title, claiming that the NWA was the only REAL world title and that he was the real world champion. He actually challenged Colon to a match, not for the world, but for the Universe! It was decided that in the night of December 18 1983 at the ballpark in Bayamon, Carlos Colon and Ric Flair would face in a match to determine, not the true world champion, but the undisputed champion of the Universe. Later on, fearing Flair’s illegal tactics and that he might try to run from the match, another stipulation was added: a steel cage! There was no way out, nowhere to run and a winner would be crowned. I guess this was a guarantee to attract more fans, taking into consideration that whenever the NWA World Champion worked in the island, from Harley Race to Ric Flair on previous appearances, they NEVER lost. Matches ended usually on time limit draws.
The match finally happened and it was indeed historical: for the first time, the NWA Champion lost in Puerto Rico, although his title was not on the line, and Carlos Colon became the “champion of the Universe” and that is how the new belt, the Universal Title, came to pass.
Once again Colon would go undefeated for a while. It was a former NWA World Champion, Dory Funk Jr, who also had a rich history as a heel in Puerto Rico, who would become the next heel champion. On February 27 1985 in Bangor, Maine, Funk defeated Colon for the title. This was the first time that the title changed hands outside of the island. The match was shown on local TV and buildup for the rematch, in Puerto Rico of course, began inmediatly.
The first encounter, on May 18, ended in a referee decision draw, with both men out of control. The championship committee decided to strip Funk Jr of the title, declaring it “frozen” or “held up”. The rematch to crown a new champion was held on June 15, with no disqualification, no time limit and the always famous “there must be a winner” stipulation. Colon, of course, won the title again to continue his legacy as the top star. This was the first time the belt was held up, but not the last. I am one who hates the way WWC exploited this. Titles seemed to be held up all the time and that does nothing for anyone. The heel did not defeat the face, which means he is not going to get over by that. The face did not loose the belt, so he is not putting anyone over. At the end of it, the face looks unbeatable, since they can draw with him, but not beat him. This thing might work for a heel, but not a face, since the fans won’t pay to see him loose the belt, unlike when the champ is a heel and everyone wants to buy a ticket to see the evil man go down.
Case in point, the next time the belt “almost” changes hands was in another “held up” situation after Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher wrestled an out of control brawl on September 21 of that year at the San Juan Ballpark. The match to crown a new champion came to pass on October 19 and once again Colon came on top.
Colon would once again go on an undefeated steak, until he was “injured” by Terry Funk on April 30 of 1986 and the title was vacated since the champ could not compete. What a way NOT to loose the title, huh Carlos? To injured to compete, but of course he was healthy enough to compete in the tournament to crown a new champion.
In the first round on September 19 , Carlos Colon defeated Boris Zhukov, a typical russian character in the cold war days, who would go on and team with Nikolai Volkoff as The Bolshevicks. Abdullah the Butcher defeated Giant Baba, Rick Martel went over somebody(no history as of who) and Terry Funk defeated Barry Windham. It was pretty obvious who the final two where going to be. Colon defeated Abdullah by DQ in the semis, while Funk went over Martell. In the finals, Colon once again topped the heel and won the Universal Title for the 5th time. If you are sensing a pattern, then I congratulate you on discovering America. Colon dominated Puerto Rico as much as Lawler dominated Memphis.
But for the next change, Colon actually decided to put someone over. His good friend Hercules Ayala. Ayala was way over as a babyface, always the second best behind Colon, and he got tired of that. Like all jealous babyfaces do, he turned on Colon and with this turn began perhaps the second most memorable feud in the history of this island, behind Colon-Abby.
It was a hot night on July 18 1987 when Colon lost CLEANLY to Ayala, passing out in the bear hug. This was huge at the time, since Colon rarely lost, and less so cleanly. The feud would spark a gazillion matches, with Colon winning back the belt on September 20 1987 in a Barbed Wire Match, losing it on February 13 1988, winning it back on April 9 and finally dropping it back to Ayala on July 23..
Ayala’s championship run and WWC career would end when he attacked Carlos Colon’s wife during a banquet on August 24 and was stripped off the title, setting up a Fire Match between the two on September 10 that Colon won. The title was not on the line and a new tournament came to pass, culminating with Ronnie Garvin, fresh of his short and lame NWA World Title run, defeating Carlos Colon in the finals in a much hyped match that did not lived to anyone’s expectations. But it was Ronnie Garvin, what do you expect? And he cheated to win, setting up the eventual rematch. I am sorry for not posting full tournament results, but I could not find any.
And what is the law of eventual rematches in Puerto Rico? That Colon always wins and this was not the exception as Colon won the Universal Title again on December 12 1988.
The next title change was one of the feuds I fondly remember. Not for quality, since I was a kid, but for the sheer fear it created on me. The man was Steve Strong. “Sadistic” Steve Strong to be correct. He was big and strong and playing a devil worshiper a la Kevin Sullivan. I legitimately feared the man! But I was four back then, so cut me some slack, would you? It was one of those clean loses, as Strong won the Universal Title on May 27 1989, leaving Colon in a pile of blood and many scared kids screaming for mommy(not that I was one of them!).
The feud worked on a lot of levels. For the first time, a heel had a decent sized run. Colon was chasing and chasing, but failed to win, thanks to Strong pulling out a miracle move, or brutalizing Colon with an object. Finally Colon won the title on October 7, but the feud was far from over. On October 28, Colon and Strong had another match that went to a double disqualification and the title was held up. Once again the law of eventual rematches had Colon putting an end to the feud on November 23 and winning his 10th Universal Title in the process.
But perhaps because they wanted to shock the fans or perhaps because Colon wanted a break, they decided to make a quick change that nobody expected. On December 17 in Mayaguez, Leo Burke won the title from Colon. Burke was fairly over as a heel, but working a midcard feud with TNT(Savio Vega when he was cool and a good worker). Many “experts” figured the belt would go to TNT, since he was over, was a good worker and was CARRYING every match he was on. He had IT! But this is probably the reason Savio Vega holds a grudge with Carlos Colon up to this day.
He had his run, mind you. On February 9 of 1990, TNT won the Universal Title for the only time in his career in a match that had a ton of crowd response. Colon was over forty at this point and many figured TNT to be the man to carry the company in the new decade. Not with Colon of course. After Leo Burke was put to rest, Abdullah the Butcher came in, all unbeatable and stuff. Just over a month into his run, on March 24, Abdullah won the Universal Title from TNT. And that ended TNT’s run at the top, given no chance to succeed.
What happened next? To make TNT look even weaker, Colon defeated Abdullah cleanly, seven days later on March 31 of 1990. He also held the title for the rest of the year, beating all comers cleanly. TNT’s year? He turned heel and battled Colon to a 60 minute Time Limit Draw at the Anniversary Show. That was all he was given.
Colon would wrestle another of his many “held up” matches with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine on December 15 and won the eventual rematch on February the 2nd of 1991. This was the year of the held ups, as the title was held up on October 5 in a match between Colon and Dino Bravo, with Colon winning the belt back on November 2.