wrestling / Columns

Evolution Schematic 05.09.07: Tully Blanchard

May 9, 2007 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina

Writer’s Notes

If you’re wondering where the Payload is, it’s being looked over by 411’s Crack Legal Team to see if comments I have made will cause more problems then they are worth. And when I saw Crack Legal Team, I mean I paid Prag’s old Stenographer with some crack to look it over and for, uh, ‘Services Rendered’.

Hey, since In Defense Of… stopped, she’s fallen on hard times, what with Wrestling News Experience Senior Pay Per View Correspondent Stephen Randle leaving her with the baby and all. Who are you to judge?


More than anyone else, really, Tully Blanchard was the personification of what the Four Horsemen were all about. Sure, Flair and Arn are the guys everyone remembers and talks about, they were the Horsemen, and in many ways they were.

But in many ways, they were not.

You see, as good as some of the later versions of the Horsemen were (any edition involving Benoit, Windham’s time), pretty much the best was the original. A debatable point, but it was certainly the benchmark. And while, yes, one day the Horsemen will be analyzed in this column, today we look at one man, perhaps despite all of Flair’s words, THE man in the Horsemen.

Because while Flair was the cocky, constantly in your face champ, and was certainly the leader, he always tended to put himself, every so gently, above the group. The group was there to serve him, not the other way round. Ole Anderson was perhaps the most brutal in the ring, but he certainly did not look that nice in a suit. Arn became the man, but at first, he was the rookie, the young gun, the inexperienced one. Anyone who claims JJ Dillon was the main guy needs their head examined.

But Tully…Tully was everything. Tully was the ass-kicking technical genius. He was the low down backstabbing bastard. He was the guy willing to take a shot for the betterment of the group. He was the guy who could win and hold gold better than anyone else. He was a fine looking man in a suit. He got the girl, the gold, the wins, Tully Blanchard WAS the Four Horsemen.

Of course, he, like anyone, had to learn the trade to get there. And unfortunately being a Horseman cost him, since he ended up losing everything due to partying. Today, he’s a preacher and has sadly lost part of his passion for the business, it would seem. But let us look back, now, at when he had it, and had it in droves.

Origins- Raised In The Ring (TM, C, R, Not Yours, Mine, Charlie)

(In-Joke. Don’t ask.)

Tully Blanchard was born into the Wrestling Industry, his father a former wrestler and at the time Tully came around wrestling promoter/owner, “Joltin'” Joe Blanchard. Hence like most second generation superstars, Tully was around the business all the time. By 10 years, he was selling programs and working as a refreshment seller.

Debut- Tully Blanchard…The Law?

Again like most second generation superstars, Jeff Jarrett springing to mind, Tully’s first time in the ring was in fact wearing the striped shirt, as a referee for his dad’s company while attending West Texas State University (home of the famed West Texas Rednecks Football team. Go Cousins!

Yes, I’m joking.). But after graduating, a few years of football playing and doubtlessly scoring many a girl I mean touchdown, Tully trained and soon debuted in his father’s company, Southwest Championship Wrestling.

Phase 2- If Daddy owns the company, your stock naturally rises.

There is a marked trend that if someone is the son (or indeed daughter) of an owner or person of high regard in a wrestling company, they tend to do well. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious why they do well (see McMahon, Shane & Stephanie; Flair, David). But other times, it seems more co-incidental (see Rhodes, Dustin; Watts, Erik; Jarrett, Jeff.) Why is this so?

Well, many reasons. Some are naturally good, it’s only logical that if Daddy (or possibly Mommy, although someone being second generation via their mother has yet to happen on a major scale, outside of arguably the Hart family although in that case the fathers are also wrestlers) was/is good, your genetics would indicate you too would be good. Other times, Daddy is blatant in helping you out, David Flair’s US Title reign a perfect example of that.

But there’s also a third, more insidious possibility. That people go easy on you. Think about it, do you honestly think it’s a good idea to break the leg of the boss’ son? Do you want to be the man to humiliate the owner’s kid? How long do you expect your job will last if you beat the guy who writes your paycheck’s pride and joy in 35 seconds? So, while no-one would stoop so low as to throw a match deliberately… perhaps they just take it easy. Don’t try as hard.

In Tully’s case, it might be a mixture of all three. He began his career as an ally of his dad, teaming up to challenge Terry and Dory Jr. Funk, the Blanchard/Funk wars the main focus of the company, practically from Tully’s debut in 1975 until Tully turned his back on the fans.

Phase 3- Still rising.

He joined forces with Gino Hernandez, forming ‘The Dynamic Duo’. As successful as Tully was prior to this time (holding the SCW TV title which became the SCW Heavyweight title on numerous occasions), he was even more successful in it, from 1981 to 83, holding both the tag titles and the Heavyweight title multiple times. From Gino Tully learned about the high life, Gino being one heck of a party animal, thus sending Tully not only on the path to being a Horseman, but also the path that took him out of the business as a real force.

But in early 1984, that was not known to him. Tully and Gino broke up, as Gino headed to WCCW, to form another version of the Dynamic Duo with Chris Adams. Tully on the other hand, headed to the NWA’s Mid-Atlantic promotion.

Phase 4- Tully Blanchard, All Man. Just ask Baby Doll.

Tully’s career in Mid-Atlantic was relatively successful, although it wasn’t until late 1984 that Tully got his first taste of gold, winning the NWA TV title off Ricky Steamboat at 84’s Starrcade. Prior to this, he had feuding with Wahoo McDaniels. After winning the title, he had to fend off Dusty Rhodes, the two men fighting and trading victories through the first half of 1985, the belt and Baby Doll changing hands (unwillingly) multiple times.

However, a couple of weeks after losing Baby Doll’s services for a month as well as the TV title, things went up for Tully, as he won the NWA US title off Magnum TA thanks to ‘a mysterious blonde female cop’, a.k.a Baby Doll, helping him. Tully would hold the title for several months, avoiding Magnum like the plague until he was trapped, forced into an I Quit cage match at Starrcade 85. And in a violent classic, Tully eventually said the magic words as Magnum drove a wooden spike made from a chair Baby Doll threw in into Tully’s face, the blood literally pouring down.

To most people, this would be a major set back. However, as 86 started, Tully gained a new manager, James J Dillon. But more importantly…

Phase 5- “Only once had so much damage been caused by so few, and to find that source you need to go all the way back to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!”

One night, Sam Houston, thorn in Flair’s side, was set to have a match against Tully Blanchard. The Minnesota Wrecking crew, Ole and Arn Anderson, Flair’s cousins and helpers, came out to watch. Then got involved. And beat up Sam with Tully’s help. Then Flair came out, and all 5 men celebrated their success.

And then Arn grabbed the mic. And after he said a few well chosen words, the Four Horsemen were named, and formed.

Tully happily let JJ manage everyone, as he and his new buddies ran roughshod over the NWA and partied all night, every night. After a short time out with injury, Tully came back and feuded with Ronnie Garvin for most of 86, eventually winning 6-5 in their series of taped fist matches.

He then helped he Horsemen beat down and destroy Dusty Rhodes (again), leading to Starrcade when he fought Dusty in a first blood match for Dusty’s TV title. Eventually everyone bleed, even JJ, but Tully got the win since JJ covered up Tully’s bleeding (with a towel and Vaseline) long enough for Tully to bust Dusty open.

This, shockingly, pissed Dusty off. More so. Given he had been writing ‘Tully’ on the side of his head to send a message of how Tully was always on his mind and he was pissed off beforehand, this was not good for Tully. Tully ran from Dusty through most of 87, taking DQ and CO losses and even winning a couple of CO wins himself.

Then, after Ole stopped pulling his weight, Tully, along with the rest of the Horsemen, dumped him and took on new wunderkind Lex Luger in officially, Tully and Lex entering the Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament while Arn teamed with Kevin Sullivan. In the 2 day event, Tully & Lex defeated The MOD Squad in the opening round, got past Bob & Brad Armstrong in the Quarters (the team that knocked out Arn and Sullivan), defeated Giant Baba & Isao Takagi in the semis, only to lose to the Super Powers, Dusty Rhodes & Nikita Koloff in the finals, thanks in part to Magnum TA’s first appearance post-car accident and more with Dusty crossbodying Tully as he tried to piledrive Nikita, both burly men on top of Tully too much for him to kick out of.

Tully then managed to swindle $100K out of Dusty (although it was moistly Magnum’s money) as he demanded it in exchange for a TV Title shot for Dusty. Dusty scraped it up, hit Tully’s own Slingshot Suplex, got the pin, JJ put Tully’s foot on the rope, there was confusion, JJ grabbed the money and ran, Dusty gave chase, Dusty got counted out, Tully still had his belt and $100K to buy… well, Horsemen stuff with.

This all came to a head in the Great American Bash 87 tour, when Dusty’s group (Dusty, Nikita and the Road Warriors with Paul Ellering) and the Horsemen kept interfering and costing each other matches. And so, Wargames was created to let the two teams beat the holy hell out of each other. And while Tully never gave up, the Horsemen did lose.

Tully was then forced yet again to fight Dusty once more, this time in a ladder match for the $100K, with a ladder wrapped in barbed wire. Unfortunately for Tully, Dusty managed to dropkick the ladder at the last second, Tully went flying, and Dusty got back the money, if not the TV title.

Alas, the TV title would go soon after, as in a routine defense against Nikita Koloff, who was still feuding with Luger over the US title, JJ brought in a foreign object, but before Tully could use it, the ref got knocked out, fellow Horseman hater Barry Windham ran in, there was mass confusion, and then Nikita decked Tully with the object, winning the TV title off him.

A few weeks later, fate smiled on the Horsemen, as Tully and Arn were set to get a shot at the World Tag titles, held by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. However, they got attacked and beat down the Midnight Express, and then as they asked for a few minutes to recover, the Horsemen called them names, goading injured but still standing Robert Gibson into the ring, all alone as Ricky Morton was injured and lying motionless. A few moments later, Tully held another belt.

A belt he and Arn would retain, against seemingly all odds, at Starrcade 87, when in Chicago, against Chicago’s own Road Warriors, they won by DQ when the challengers tossed Arn over the top rope before hitting the Doomsday Device. Arn and Tully then were forced to dump Lex after he refused the quite reasonable request to eliminate himself from the final four of a 25 man over the top battle royal to let JJ win. Arn and Tully, the other 2, were happy to eliminate themselves for all of JJ’s hard work and guidance, but Lex…well, he was an idiot. And upset about how JJ cost him the US title at Starrcade.

While Flair dealt with a new threat called Sting in 88, Tully, along with the rest of the Horsemen, tried to bring Barry Windham into the fold, but he chose to side with Luger, Dusty and Ole Anderson against the Horsemen. This led to Luger and Barry winning the Tag Team titles at the first Clash Of The Champions event. This led to Tully throwing a tantrum, attacking Magnum TA (by now a color commentator) and then getting destroyed by Dusty in a rage, although Dusty also took out owner Jim Crockett.

A month later, in a defense of the tag belts against Arn and Tully, the Horsemen managed to set up a situation where Lex was injured on the floor as Barry looked for a tag, as the Horsemen taunted Barry. This finally got into his head, and Barry turned on Lex, giving the belts back to Tully and Arn and then, a week later, Barry was officially a Horseman, and Tully helped him win the vacated US title tourney (set up after Dusty’s mad attack on everyone caused by Tully), for while Tully lost to Nikita Koloff in the semis, afterwards he injured the Russian’s ribs, an injury Barry would exploit to win the US title. Although it wasn’t all plain sailing, Arn and Tully missing out again on the Crockett Cup, this time losing to Sting and Lex Luger in the finals.

Tully and Arn continued their tag reign, retaining their belts against such powerhouse teams as Sting and Koloff at the Great American Bash thanks to a time limit draw. And then, on September 10th, 1988, all hell broke loose. See, Horsemen allies the Midnight Express, as led by Jim Cornette, had been good allies until Dillon and Cornette had personal ego issues, and thus Dillon had Tully and Arn attack the Express to prove a point. This led to the natural match, on September 10th. Unfortunately, the Express beat Tully and Arn to win the belts. This led to Arn and Tully finally snapping.

Sure, the partying was great, the girls top-notch, the money good…but they liked the Midnight Express, and JJ having them attack them for some petty feud with their MANAGER, just didn’t sit right. As JJ tried to calm them down, Arn and Tully had enough, and walked out.

Right into the arms of Bobby Heenan.

Phase 6- The Brain Busters? Whatever.

Arn and Tully showed up in WWF a month or so later, going by the name of the Brain Busters, as managed by Bobby Heenan. Their WWF careers were slow starting, although they were successful, they did have to climb the ladder all over again. They both entered the 89 Rumble, drawing 16 and 17, Arn first, both men being eliminated by Hulk Hogan. Tully’s sole Wrestlemania was the next major high point, as they defeated Strike Force as Rick Martel turned on long time partner Tito Santana after his long absence due to injury. This major win got them a match against the champs Demolition at the May Saturday Night Man Event, where the Busters won by DQ. This got them a 2 out of 3 falls title match at the July SNME (things moving slower back then), which the Busters won, giving Tully a WWF Tag title. The duo held the belts for several months, beating the Hart Foundation at Summerslam in a non-title match until they eventually lost the belts back to Demolition on October 2nd. This led to the Brain Busters and Heenan falling out, and their relationship was rocky.

Phase 7- It all goes to hell.

Until Tully’s years of parties caught up with him, and he failed a drug test. He got fired from both the Heenan family and the WWF, Arn leaving shortly after, and once the NWA got wind of this, they refused to even consider giving Tully another chance.

Tully found himself without a job, trapped from the business he loved and that he was damm good at. And so, like many people in that position, he found God.

Phase 8- Preaching…with the occasional match.

Into the 90’s, Blanchard focused mostly on his preaching and religious work, making the occasional appearance for AWA, various small companies, a match at 94’s WCW Slamboree against Terry Funk on a night saluting legends, which ended with a double count out, an infamous short run with ECW against new Extreme Championship Wrestling’s Champion, Shane Douglas (infamous for all the wrong reasons), and other minor events, up until a 2005 match against then NWA Champ Jeff Jarrett in which Tully was in great shape.

So, naturally, the WWE hired him as an agent.

Phase 9- Hello-

A week later he quit.

Phase 10- Goodbye.

Tully realised he didn’t truly love the business as much as he did, and hence couldn’t really do the job WWE and he himself expected.

Today- Whenever you need a comment, he’s there.

Today Tully focuses on his work with prisoners, preaching to the convicted, while still under a Legends contract with WWE and hence can be seen on several outstanding DVDs the company has put out. While in his mid 50’s, oddly, he isn’t quite out of fighting range, given that wrestlers seem to be going for longer these days, but he’s almost certainly not going to step foot in any major ring ever again. Alas.


Tully’s career is relatively short and arguably uneventful. Sure, he held a few belts for long periods of time, but never the big one. Sure, he was a Horseman, but so was Paul Roma. Sure, he banged Baby Doll and Dark Journey, but did he ever get Trish or Lita? Sure, he beat Dusty Rhodes, but that’s not seen as that big a deal any more. Why should we care? He doesn’t care anymore, why should we?

Because Tully is, or perhaps was, Professional Wrestling. Tully went out there and WRESTLED. He worked his ass off, taking short cuts sure, but never skimping. He partied like a wrestler should, as a larger than life guy. And above all, Tully was hated. And people paid good money to see him get beat up.

Tully Blanchard was the soul of the Horsemen. And thus, he was the personification of Professional Wrestling. Tully Blanchard is what pro wrestling is all about. That’s why we should care. My words don’t really do his career justice, but dammit, his career is something every fan should know, and respect.

And besides, the Slingshot Suplex rocks.


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Mathew Sforcina

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