The Four Horsemen Ride – Episode 2: Magnum T Aiming for the World Title?

I apologise for the awful pun.

As we enter the month of May, the world of the soon-to-be Horsemen picks up considerably, as titles are won and feuds simmer and boil over in blood and violence.

Ric Flair

Having spent the majority of his March and April parading around the Superstation looking cool, a more active month saw a clear challenger begin to rise as a prospective opponent for Ric Flair’s NWA World Title. A man who is a legitimate contender and a real threat to Flair’s championship reign: the US Champion, Magnum TA.

Their paths cross multiple times throughout the month of May, with several further opportunities for Ric Flair to show the TV audience his skills in the ring as he fought Rocky King and Sam Houston. You can see why Magnum TA was considered such a huge loss to the wrestling industry when he retired after the horrific car crash he was involved in, as he has ‘star’ written all over him. His mic time doesn’t exactly show us a wealth of talent in that area, but he is competent, and his looks and fire in the ring more than makes up for any percieved lack of ability. Most of Flair’s verbal barbs strike out at Magnum’s looks and clothes and it is an obvious difference to identify; Flair is the consumate rich snob, tailor-made suits and designer sunglasses. Magnum, the everyman wearing denim, is an easy fighter for the fans in attendance to get behind, and they do it in abundance.

Even better, as the month progresses, is that Flair seems content to bait and goad Magnum – at one point in the alteractations, offering Magnum out for a fight in the ring, only to leave the ring as soon as Magnum enters, above getting ‘down and dirty’ with the US Champion. Indeed, after several back and forths on the microphone, it is only after the Sam Houston match (a match that Ric Flair naturally wins) that we see the first physicality between the two, Magnum TA hitting the ring to stop Flair’s use of the figure four leglock after the match has finished. A shove, a push, some verbals; Flair is once again content to back off and leave Magnum standing tall in the ring. One can only imagine that it is a matter of time before these two meet in the ring, leaving Flair nowhere to run.

Tully Blanchard

Forty three days. That is all the time it took for Tully Blanchard to regain the NWA World Television Championship (renamed from the NWA Television Championship during Dusty’s reign). A match joined in progress saw Dusty hiptoss Blanchard into the referee, leaving Sunshine in an advantageous position to throw in an illegal object. One blow to the back of the head, and Tully regained his title.

Of the four, Tully thus far seems to be the hardest working week by week, and little changes during this time – unsurprisingly, considering his status as the TV Champion. Shortly after his title victory, he was already back in the ring to defend against Don Kernodle (a guy I don’t think I can take seriously as a face, though he does fire up well and have the crowd behind him throughout). If anything, Kernodle pushes Blanchard even closer than Rhodes did, a DQ ending which saw Sunshine push him off of the top rope the only thing that kept the belt around the waist of the champion.

Whilst there has been some small links between the Four Horsemen already, this is where issues begin to grow, develop and crossover. Not content to be at Flair’s heels, Magnum TA’s friendship with Dusty (a fact that Sunshine pointed out in the pre-match interview, warning Magnum about the company he keeps) sees Dusty and Magnum hit the ring to stop a post-match beatdown on Kernodle. Ever the opportunist, Blanchard strikes fast and gets out before the faces can get their hands on him, busting open Magnum in the process. Potentially, in lucking out against Kernodle, Blanchard had only gone and angered a much deadlier rival to his gold.

Not that the ex-champ was hanging around. One of the better moments of these few weeks saw Dusty Rhodes explain his desire for the title and his general good feeling about the condition he was in. Not content with just words, Dusty barrelled into the heel dressing room to back them up, pouncing on Tully and starting a multi-man melee, with heels and faces going at it over the top of a cowering Tully and a brutal Dusty.

Ole Anderson and Arn Anderson

A slower few weeks for the two guys – at least, as slow as a time when you win the NWA National Tag Team Championship from the team of Manny Fernandez and Thunderbolt Patterson. Unfortunately, it is a match I didn’t have access to, so was made aware by a gloating promo from the Andersons, content with the job they had done on Ole’s ex-partner.

We do see the tag champions in the ring, teaming with Bob Roop against the team of The Italian Stallion, Pez Whateley and Buzz Sawyer. A standard Anderson performance against a fairly random team, with some Roop goodness thrown in (though he does look old in comparison to the fresher and hungrier Andersons). The big issue with the finish to this match is Ole picking up the pin when he was the illegal man. It is a minor thing, but it works incredibly well at getting the Anderson’s over as a team who are generally better than most, but are also willing to bend any and all rules to win just to make sure.

As we head to the end of May, we begin to wonder who will be the first challengers for the Anderson’s titles, whether Dusty will retain the TV title from Tully Blanchard and if Magnum TA and Ric Flair will finally meet in the ring to settle who is the best wrestler in the company. Hopefully, these answers will be answered next time, along with many more. So long.

The Four Horsemen Ride – Episode 1: The Dinosaur vs The Chihuahua

So as to not make this purely review after review after review, I’ve decided to diversify some of the content that I post up. Not only does it make it less boring for you, but also allows me to trawl through the vaults of video footage I have, looking for something that will also entertain me.

In this column, you will see a profile of the best stable in wrestling history, The Four Horseman, as the initial seeds of their formation were planted in the middle of the 80s. We’ll take a general look at the events leading up to the official formation of the Four Horsemen, as well as the prime years of the best version of the stable as they battled across the NWA to control all of the gold.

The events of this column took place in March and April of 1985.

Arn Anderson

A fairly recent addition to the roster of the NWA, Arn Anderson at this time was embroiled in a fierce feud with ‘The Raging Bull’ Manny Fernandez. Anderson’s vicious streak against another wrestler had led to Manny feeling the need to get involved, and Anderson’s subsequent attack on ‘The Bull’ meant that these men were destined to clash over the next few months.

Indeed, they clashed at least twice during the window of March and April, both matches seeing Anderson take to abusing Fernandez’ arm with pinpoint offense, whilst Manny powered up, feeding off of the intensity of the crowd. The first match saw Anderson win via DQ, Fernandez shoving the referee to the ground to allow himself to continue to try and re-arrange Anderson’s facial features. With nothing resolved, a re-match was clearly in the offing – one that would see the interjection of another key name in The Four Horseman saga.

Ole Anderson

A man who always confuses me as to how he could have ever been considered a heel, Ole Anderson was the one half of the NWA World Tag Team Champions with Thunderbolt Patterson as March 1985 rolled around. Things weren’t exactly rainbows and unicorns for the current champions however, as the first introduction to Ole on the set shows a confrontation during an interview conducted with both men – Patterson angered that Ole has been utilising some nefarious tactics, whilst Ole believes he has carried a list of babyfaces on his back for too long. Ole walks out, leaving Patterson with a threat about when they next see each other, an ominous peek into the potential future for Thunderbolt.

Ole’s words would be true, an early indicator of the trust with which the audience could take the promises of the Four Horsemen. In the re-match between Arn Anderson and Manny Fernandez, Ole first joined the commentary team, then the ringside, cheering on his ‘nephew’. His role in the finish was even more significant, showing the referee that Arn’s foot was underneath the rope after a flying double thrust seemed to have handed Manny the victory. A scuffle at ringside ensued, leaving Fernandez the de facto winner by DQ, yet laid out at the hands of the Andersons. Thunderbolt Patterson headed down to the ring, only for Arn to drag him into the ring and go toe-to-toe. To cement his heel turn, Ole joined in, a couple of stomps off the top rope (one to Thunderbolt, one to Manny after he threw his body onto Patterson) acting as a final nail in the babyface coffin.

The Andersons end the month looking at the potential of a family run at the NWA World Tag Team Titles when they are inevitably vacated.

Tully Blanchard

Arguably the most easily unlikeable of the Four Horsemen, Tully Blanchard seems to go out of his way to prove it as the month of March and April fly by. His current feud is with the NWA TV Champion, big ‘ol Dusty Rhodes, the man who took the title off of Blanchard in the first place. Baby Doll is the additional spice to this feud, intimations made that Rhodes had physically abused Baby Doll at some point in the recent history of this feud never far from the surface.

Where Tully Blanchard has Baby Doll, Dusty Rhodes has Sam Houston, and it is two matches between Blanchard and Houston that stand out most across this window of time. Blanchard easily dispatches of Houston in the first match, one that seems primarily about giving Rhodes mic time to run down Blanchard and Baby Doll. The return match offers so much more and cements Blanchard as an utterly contemptible prick (a point of view that a music video of him parading around his mahogany-furnitured rooms and swilling whisky around a glass also didn’t help).

A hotter crowd are initially excited by Houston’s general fire against the ex-TV champion, as is Dusty, who inexplicably jumps into the ring to hug Houston after Blanchard bails to the floor. The match is short, the ending sweet – Blanchard grabs a youthful Houston and plants him viciously to the mat with a piledriver, Blanchard’s eyes never leaving Rhodes for a second. The match is called a DQ victory for Houston, but the crowd is silent (admittedly, a cheer is given when Houston’s hand is raised, but it quickly dies down). Knowing what he has done, Blanchard leaves the ring and ringside area with speed, Rhodes just missing him as the TV Champion hit the ring.

Ric Flair

The current NWA World Champion, a belt he won off of Kerry Von Erich, has very little to do this month outside of standing around, looking good and being surrounded by women. There are worse jobs out there, I’m sure. He does take a moment in one promo to talk about his cousins, The Andersons, which is the one nod to the slow growth of this storyline.

All of Flair’s promos take on a similar tone – he champions the promotion, the belt, his potential opponents, himself. Flair is the master at putting things over, he makes everything sound so important, so necessary. When he tells the crowd ‘Ric Flair is forever’, you believe him. Whilst we don’t see Flair in the ring, and he namechecks a whole host of names up and down the NWA territories in his promos, two names seem to pop up more than most: Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA. In the last promo of the month, Flair reminds us all that he has an open contract and is willing to face anyone, anywhere, with the belt on the line.

Next time, we shall look at the month of May in 1985. Will Tully win back the TV title? Who will take Ric Flair’s open contract for a chance at the NWA World Title? Will the Andersons become the new NWA World Tag Team Champions? All this and more next time as The Four Horsemen Ride.