wrestling / TV Reports

411’s Tales from The Territories Report (Episode 1): ‘Memphis: Where Wrestling Was Real’

October 4, 2022 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
Tales From The Territories Image Source: VICE TV

-New show time as Vice has partnered with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his Seven Bucks Productions company to bring us a show looking at the territory days of wrestling. This should be fun as I grew up on 80s WWE with a good bit of NWA and some AWA sprinkled in, but didn’t learn much about the other promotions until well into my 20s. Let’s get to it!

-We start with the roundtable that features Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Jarrett, Dutch Mantell, Jimmy Hart, and Jerry “The King” Lawler. I mean, that’s a strong table to discuss Memphis.

-The disembodied voice shows us a map of the promotion known as Memphis though it was officially called Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and was the territory for Tennessee and Kentucky. It was a large success in an era where a knife or gun would be pulled on a wrestler. The main thing in Memphis was wrestling was real.

-Jeff says that wrestling was viewed more as a sport in the territory days. Today it is more like Broadway and a performance. Lawler brings up that Jerry Jarrett had a sign in his office that read “Personal Issues Draw Money.” Heck yeah! Jerry Jarrett brings up that when Lawler pulled his strap down someone was going to get their butt whipped.

-They ran Memphis, Louisville, Evansville, etc on a loop week after week. It was 52 weeks on the same loop and they had to do something different each time to get the fans back the following week. Jeff brings up that what the fans saw on Saturday morning they believed it. The fans in the territory days were connected to their wrestlers.

-Wrestlers vs. Fans: They mention fans were called marks and if they got too rowdy or involved things would get handled backstage. Jimmy brings up a night where it was Lawler/Dundee/Valiant vs. Jimmy and his guys. Jimmy takes the fall obviously and he gets carried out of the ring by Dream Machine. Jimmy thought someone burned him with a cigarette and when he got to the back they found it was a needle from a blow dart gun. They pulled the needle out and it drew blood so he had to get a tetanus shot which took money out of his pay for the night.

-Lawler brings up how the police would bring the fans who hit a wrestler to the back and put them in a room for the wrestlers to beat the hell out of them. The Louisville Police would then ask the fan if he wanted to go to jail or go home after the ass kicking was finished. Jimmy brings up they caught the got who stuck him, but he was bigger than Jimmy so he wasn’t about to try to fight him.

-Another story from Jimmy about a match he had with Dundee. He was running around the ring and a fan kicked him with a cowboy boot. He went out later in the night with Lawler and the fan told Lawler he kicked Jimmy, so Lawler knocked him out with one punch. They bailed from there!

-Back to Lawler as he talks about leaving a show and a fan is waiting at his car with a brick. Lawler yelled “If you throw that brick at my car, I will run you over and kill your ass.” The fan threw the brick and shattered the back window, so Lawler floored it, but couldn’t go anywhere as all four of his tires had been slashed. Nice!

-Eye for an Eye: Next a story about Mario Galento (thanks Google for the spelling) and Nashville promoter, Roy Welch. Welch suspected Jerry Jarrett was going to try to steal his territory and sent Galento to threaten Jerry. Jerry Jarrett gives us the story and Dutch just says, “oh hell.” Galento was a Main Event wrestler on the tail end of his career. Lawler compares Galento to Ox Baker as they both had great bad guy faces. Roy was in the early stages of dementia and people got in his ear telling his Jarrett was stealing his business. They were at TV where Jerry and Lawler had a 30 minute match. Sam Bass was Lawler’s manager and Jarrett got blasted from behind and thought it was Sam. Instead it was Galento and Jarrett nearly shit is pants. He went to his shooter background and how he was told the hands in your bones are the weakest while the head is the hardest, so it is stupid to try to punch someone. Instead he was trained to go for the neck and bite on either side of the jugular vein so they can bleed to death. Also use your fingers to go for the eyes and feel a cord and pull as hard as you can. He jumped up and put his finger in Mario’s eye and he lost his eye, but then the story gets worse.


-I will note this is similar to Dark Side of the Ring as they have re-enactments of the stories with look-a-likes covered by lighting. It’s good stuff. So Mario’s eye is on the mat and the Jerrys are beating the crap out of him. Lawler soon realized in the eyes of the fans he looks like he is helping Jarrett, so he cuts a promo saying only he gets to beat Jarrett’s ass. Mario finds a nightstick and comes back, but he makes the mistake of going through the ropes and Lawler starts wailing on him with the club. He was so scared that he felt he was going to have to kill him. Jarrett saw Welch in the crowd and wanted to go after him, but was pulled back by the boys. Galento ended up with 200 stitches in his head and we get a photo of the damage and man, is it is awful. The eye is gone and the other eye is nearly closed and there are gashes on his head along with a ton of bruising and swelling.

-Lawler says that Galento got the stitches taken out and jumped him from behind when he was wrestling a match against some young kid. Galento brought a straight razor into the ring and had his wife standing behind him. Lawler threw a chair in the ring and bailed to the back. He was screaming about Galento having a razor, so Jimmy Valiant pulled out a gun like Dirty Harry would carry and put it in Galento’s face. This was in Mississippi where the Sheriff was sitting front row and they all ended up arrested. Jarrett says he never saw Welch or Galento again after that. Jeff asks if Galento ever got his eye back and Jerry Jarrett says as far as he knew he died with only one eye in his head.


-The best way to set up a big match is with a great angle and that leads to our next story and this one I have seen. Lawler tells the story of his feud with Eddie Gilbert where Eddie ran him over with a car in the parking lot. That bump Lawler took was insane. He says Eddie was coming way too fast and the grill off the car caught his legs and he banged off the windshield and then hit the concrete. Insane!

-Crossing The Line: Jos LeDuc, was a French Canadian wrestler, who also worked in Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. Jos would hold cars back with his legs while he was backed against a wall and he would wins a tug of war against 10 people from the crowd. Lawler wanted Jos to throw him out of the ring through a table and Jos told him, I can definitely throw you. We have video and Lawler blames himself as he grabbed the top rope to be safe, which made him come up short and he landed on the edge of the table where he split a muscle in two. Someone ran out from the back and told him to sell it as it looked too good and he promised them he couldn’t get up if he wanted. Ha!

-Lawler says LeDuc was awesome and was a lumberjack so he carried an ax with him. Jos is cutting a promo at TV with Lance and he talks about how they scar their body to have a reminder of something they need to do. So Jos starts sawing on his arm with the ax and again we have video and again, it’s insane. The camera cut away quick as blood was pouring out of his arm. Lawler says they got a ton of angry calls and he told TV they had no clue what Jos was going to do.

-Our next story is from Jimmy Hart as he is managing The Iron Sheik and they are cutting a promo on TV. He mentions 7 out of 10 TVs in the territory were watching CWA. Sheik was cutting a promo putting over Iran and Jerry Jarrett felt it was a good idea to run footage from a few months earlier of a US Helicopter going down in Iran. Well, one of the men who was on the copter where sitting at home with his dad watch the show. Sheik is going on while Jimmy is waving The Iranian Flag. The two guys called the office and told them they were bringing guns down to shoot Jimmy and Sheik. Dottie, who handled the crazy stuff for CWA, called the police. They hid Sheik and Jimmy in a room while the police calmed down the situation. The kid followed Jimmy week after week to try to beat him up and they threw out the idea of a match in The Coliseum just to get the kid away from Jimmy and while he bought the idea, it was never going to happen.


-Dutch was viewed by Jerry Jarrett as his steadiest hand and often got put in the toughest spots. They had a shot in a Maximum Security Prison in Kentucky and the police searched Dutch found his bullwhip. They let him take it in and Dutch tells us that in prison, they love the heels. Dutch was stunned that they were no guards on the floor and instead they were positioned in towers.

-Symphony of Destruction: Dutch says this is opposite from a prison as he was going to have a match at a Louisville Symphony. The idea was the orchestra was going to provide a soundtrack to what was happening in the ring. The ring was in a pit and raised up like the ring from Rocky IV. THIS IS AWESOME! The match was between Dutch and Jeff and the fans were doctors and lawyers who had no clue what they watching, but by the midway point they started getting into it. This is just fantastic and awesome in ways I can’t explain. Dutch, ever the heel, broke a drum over someone’s head and Jeff ends up getting the win with a sunset flip. They close with credits on the screen of who was in the orchestra and Dutch tells us this match is actually in The Smithsonian and he and Jeff are the only two wrestlers in there.


-The worst part of the job is obviously the travel. They discuss Jackie Fargo who mentored Lawler. He told Lawler the only way to get through the road is to always watch your back. Jackie and Tojo Yamamoto were the big stars of the day while Lawler was just getting started. Lawler was the opening match and came back while Jackie was heading out for his match. Tojo was putting on Atomic or Tiger Balm which is the hottest ointment you can use and they prank Jackie by putting the stuff in his underwear. Lawler spilled the beans though as Jackie was his mentor. Oh man! So Jackie puts the stuff on Jarrett’s and Tojo’s shirt, pants, and anything else they would wear. Jackie fakes like he is feeling something which gets Tojo and Jarrett laughing. They thought it was the greatest joke ever, but then they shower and put on their clothes. They have a 300 mile drive to the next town and it starts kicking in. It dawns on them that Lawler stooged them out. They pull over on the side of the road and rip off their clothes and put their wrestling tights and boots back on. They head to the bar where they know Jackie would be, but find out he was already gone.

-Our next story is about Kamala, who was known as Sugar Bear Harris. Lawler and Harris are racing each other down the roads. They had just wrestled the night before as Kamala had bloodied The King. Lawler had a CB like the police an pulls Kamala over on the side of the road. He starts laughing so hard he opens up the wound on his head. Harris walks backwards with his hands behind his back and yells “Oh Jerry,” in his deep voice when he realized what was happening. That’s great!


-Next week we continue with Memphis and get into Andy Kaufman.

-Waffle House Knife Fight: This involves The Poffos and Randy Poffo, who would become “Macho Man” Randy Savage. They were at a Waffle House and Randy was a little high strung. Someone comes in and yells that he is getting married and it was one of the employees, who wasn’t working, letting his friends know. The waitress working Randy’s table leaves to hug the guy and Savage yells, “who gives a shit?” Oh boy! They get into a shouting match that turns into a fight right in Waffle House. The guy pulls out a knife, so Savage jumps over a table and gets a butter knife. HA! They are fencing on top of the tables as the police sirens sound. The guy takes off and the police know Savage from TV and are trying to calm him down, but that wasn’t happening. They tried to cuff Randy and even turned a dog loose on him. Randy got a kick in, but it only pissed the dog off. He got a bite on Randy’s ass and apparently it was rather nasty. Savage didn’t want for the papers to come to him, so he went to the papers and gave his own story. He then held a grudge about the dog. We see the story in the paper and that’s cool!

-The USWA and CWA merge as we neared the 90s. The stars of the territory became Superstars and helped usher in the Memphis Style to a larger audience. Jeff puts over how their show was 90 minutes long which was the perfect time as it left the fans wanting more. Dutch goes back to the point they had to work something new each week because it was the same fans each week. Jeff feels Memphis was Sport Entertainment before it was ever called that and Lawler agrees as we close.

-This was great and exactly what I wanted from this show. We don’t need 10-15 talking heads. Just give me this format with 4-6 key figures, turn the camera on, and let them go. Splice in the recreated footage and footage from the video library and it’s gold. Definitely check this one out and after the dark depths things got with Dark Side this show provides a little more levity with some of the stories. Thanks for reading!