AS I SEE IT 7/18/2001: Thoughts on Terry Gordy
Before the column...I'd like to mention a friend who was in a car accident
recently, 1wrestling's Mike Johnson.
1wrestling.com reports that Mike suffered several injuries in an auto accident about 2 weeks ago, including a crushed left hand, which is his writing hand. He underwent surgery last week on his hand, and is home recovering. Mike will undergo x-rays to see how the hand is healing, and will hopefully be cleared to begin rehab soon.
Mike is one of those seemingly unique wrestling writers on the Internet that hasn't forgotten to always remain first and foremost to remain a fan first rather than trying to see how "smart" he can be in his columns.
Everyone here at PWBTS wishes Mike a quick recovery, and looks forward to his return to the wrestling scene.
Now on to this week's column... with more sad news...
"...If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change..."
Freebird, Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (c)
The wrestling world lost another legend this week, as legendary Freebird and Japanese wrestling star Terry Gordy was found dead on Monday morning by his girlfriend in his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee at age 40. An autopsy is being done to determine the cause of death.
Gordy's funeral will be held at Lane Funeral Home in Rossville, Georgia, Thursday morning at 11:00 am. There were two services held Wednesday for family and friends of Gordy.
Gordy was born in Chattanooga, TN on April 23, 1961. Throughout his long career, he held such American titles as:
NWA American Heavyweight Title
NWA American Tag Team Title (with Michael Hayes)
Southeastern/Alabama Heavyweight Title
Mid-America Tag Team Titles (twice)
SMW Heavyweight Title
Texas Brass Knuckles Title
Mid-South Tag Team Titles(with Steve Williams) (twice)
NWA/World Class World 6-Man Tag Team Titles (with the Freebirds) (6 times)
NWA Georgia/National Tag Team Titles (4 times - 3 with Michael Hayes, and 1 with Jimmy Snuka)
WCW World Tag Team Titles (with Steve Williams)
UWF Heavyweight Title
Louisiana Heavyweight Title
Global Wrestling Federation Tag Team Title (with Jimmy Garvin)
World Class Texas/American Heavyweight Title
In Japan, Gordy won the All-Japan Triple Crown twice, where he was the first foreign wrestler to win the title; was eight times the All-Japan International Tag Team (with Stan Hansen), and four times the All-Japan Double Cup Tag Team Champion (with Steve Williams).
Gordy's first matches were in 1975 at age 16 working for the Detroit territory, the IWA (the promotion that attempted to compete with the WWWF that featured Gino Brito, Dino Bravo, Mighty Igor, and Tex McKenzie), and a promotion competing with the Gulases in Tennessee.
But most American fans remember Gordy for his legendary partnership with Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts as part of the Freebirds, working in Eddie and Mike Graham's Florida promotion, Bill Watts's Mid-South/UWF, and Georgia Championship Wrestling in their early days on WTBS, Ted Turner's new "Superstation".
The Freebirds first began in 1979 in Bill Watts's Mid-South Wrestling, then moved into the national scene in 1980 via Ted Turner's "Superstation" and the nationally televised Georgia Championship Wrestling for two years; working programs with Ted DiBiase, Ron Fuller, Tommy Rich, The Wild Samoans, The Super Destroyer & "Big" John Studd and Steve Olsonowski.
Some have said that the hottest wrestling feud ever seen was that of the Von Erichs and The Freebirds as Hayes, Gordy, and Buddy Roberts tore up Jack "Fritz Von Erich" Adkisson's World Class Championship Wrestling territory from 1982 to 1985. It was, without question, certainly the bloodiest and famous feud in Texas wrestling history.
On December 25, 1982, Terry Gordy and the Freebirds entered World Class Championship Wrestling, winning the brand new NWA World 6-Man Tag Team title with David Von Erich (filling in for Buddy Roberts) their first night in the promotion; followed by Michael Hayes turning on the Von Erichs as a guest referee in a Von Erich-Flair NWA Title match. For over three years, hundreds of matches followed, all over the state of Texas, drawing huge houses and thousands of dollars for the Adkisson promotion.
After tours in Japan, Terry Gordy rejoined his partners in crime in Bill Watts's expanded UWF in 1986. The Freebirds were set up as the number one heels in Watts's Oklahoma-based territory; working a renewal of the Georgia feud with Ted Dibiase, and other programs with General. Scandar Akbar, babyface "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Gordy was also involved in singles programs with one of the two other men he'd be associated over his career (besides Hayes and Roberts) Oklahoma University football and wrestling All American Steve "Dr. Death" Williams.
Gordy won the inaugural UWF Heavyweight Title in May 1986 and worked programs against both heels and babyfaces such as The One Man Gang, Ted Dibiase, Jim Duggan, and Chris Adams.
After the UWF was purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions, Gordy went back to Japan for tours in 1988 and 1989, including two wins of the All Japan Double Cup Tag Team Titles with Stan Hansen, and a win of the annual Real World Tag Team Championship tournament; then briefly returned to WCW as part of a program involving Michael Hayes and Lex Luger, helping Hayes win the United States Title.
Terry Gordy went to All Japan Pro Wrestling to win four All Japan Tag Team Titles in 1990 and 1991 with Steve Williams, as well as wins with Williams in the 1990 and 1991 Real World Tag Team Championships. Gordy also won the All Japan Triple Crown (NWA International Heavyweight/PWF heavyweight/NWA United National Titles).
When Bill Watts took over WCW in 1992, he again brought in Gordy and Steve Williams to headline his athletic-styled product, unifying the WCW and NWA Tag Team Championships working with The Steiners.
Gordy and Williams won a final All Japan Tag Team Title in 1993.
In 1993, Terry Gordy collapsed as the result of a drug overdose and consequent stroke on a flight between the US and Japan; and was in a coma for a couple days. He suffered brain damage as a result of this incident. When Gordy made his return, he was obviously diminished.
Gordy worked for SMW in 1994 and 1995 (and briefly held the SMW Heavyweight Title in the last months of the promotion), but was clearly not the Terry Gordy of old.
He worked a series of matches in Japan with the IWA in the 1995 King of the Death Match tournament and in tag matches with Keisuke Yamada against The Headhunters.
Terry Gordy's last American exposure was in 1996 with a brief and unremarkable series with the WWF as the masked Executioner, and a run in ECW with the "Battle of the Bam Bams" with Bam Bam Bigelow, as well as matches with Brian Lee and Raven.
Gordy had worked occasional spot shows for Southern promotions, and on occasion in Japan, over the last several years.
The Pro Wrestling Torch reported Tuesday that Gordy had visited backstage at the Smackdown tapings last week in Birmingham, AL. He was said to appear in good health and good spirits.
Gordy had worked on independent shows over the last two weekends, including John Collinss Main Event Championship Wrestling show on July 14. The previous weekend, Gordy worked a three-way match for an independent promotion in East Ridge, TN.
The last time I saw Gordy in person was when he worked for ECW back in 1996 in ECW's "Battle of the Bam Bams".
Gordy came in to the Chinese restaurant that many fans hung out in across the street from the TraveLodge in Philadelphia that was ECW's hotel post-show headquarters. Gordy came in as fans were eating pre-show meals, was very friendly and talked wrestling with the fans who were there.
As I reflect on that day, I remember the phrase that Mick Foley used in his book Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks about Gordy "smiling that sad Muppet smile". That's the kind of the look Terry had that day...happy that the ECW fans of that time were the ones who still remembered him; even after his glory years in the States and in Japan, and too many years of life lived too quickly had caused them to fade away.
No doubt, Terry Gordy is up there on Freebird Mountain hanging out with David, Kerry, Mike and the rest of the Von Erich family...in a much happier place.
Rest in peace, Terry.
Until next time...
(Thanks to the assistance of Puroresu.com, 1wrestling.com, and Wrestling Museum.com for research information)
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)