In 1979, Bill Watts purchased the Tri-State Wrestling territory – based in Texas, Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico coastal states – from Leroy McGuirk and then re-branded the promotion Mid-South Wrestling. While there was much controversy surrounding him, Watts knew how to book a legitimate professional wrestling promotion. Watts was old-school and no-nonsense in real life and he presented a no-nonsense wrestling product that was made to feel like a true blood sport. There were no gym mats around the floor, so wrestlers landed on bare concrete. If you threw your opponent over the top rope you were disqualified, and his championships were always the top priority for the wrestlers in his promotion.

Almost anyone with name recognition from the late 70s to the mid to late 80s passed through Watts’ turf at one time or another. Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Sting, Ultimate Warrior, Butch Reed, Junkyard Dog, Steve Williams, Jim Duggan, Dusty Rhodes, Afa and Sika and countless others either made short stops in Mid-South or in the case of Duggan, DiBiase, JYD and Reed, they all reached superstar levels in Mid-South.

One of Mid-Souths most famous rivalries belonged to DiBiase and Duggan. The two had been allies in the Rat Pack (along with Matt Borne) but once Borne left the promotion after he and DiBiase had lost the tag titles, DiBiase aligned with Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie. This soon caused Duggan – who was a truly proud American – to cut ties with DiBiase and the Sheik, kicking off a feud that culminated in their first (and only) Coal Miner’s Glove Tuxedo Steel Cage Match. This saw Duggan finally get a victory over the underhanded DiBiase. Both men would soon make their way to the then World Wrestling Federation.

Perhaps there was no greater name in Mid-South Wrestling than that of the Junkyard Dog. Many know the JYD from his run in the WWF, but his roots were planted in Watts’ territory, where he was their Hulk Hogan. Dog had a charisma all his own and the Mid-South crowds just fell in love with him. JYD had long-time rivalries with the likes of the Rat Pack (eventually forced to leave the promotion due to a loser-leaves-town stipulation), Butch Reed and the Wild Samoans of Afa and Sika. The rivalry with the Rat Pack saw Junkyard bring in various allies: Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, and Iceman King Parsons all came in to back up their friend against the dastardly faction.

In March of 1986, Bill Watts went national and rebranded Mid-South Wrestling as the Universal Wrestling Federation after getting a regional television program. While the show garnered lots of praise Watts simply could not compete with the NWA affiliated Jim Crocket Promotions or the World Wrestling Federation in marketing or merchandise. At the same time, Oklahoma – which was where the UWF made its most money and had their offices – went into a severe recession as the oil boom bubble that had floated the area burst. As a result, the fanbase had little to no disposable income. All these factors forced Watts to sell the UWF to Crockett on April 9, 1987.

After the sale, the wrestlers that did not jump to the World Wrestling Federation either went to World Class Championship Wrestling (based out of nearby Dallas) or were retained by Crockett. Unlike other promotions Crockett had purchased, they did not kill the UWF right away. Instead, they milked the initials for whatever juice they had left in a series of title for title unification matches, which saw the Crockett guys defeat the UWF wrestlers to unify the championships, thus officially ending the Universal Wrestling Federation.

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By Mark Cannon Jr.

Total wrestling nerd. I also like Batman, Basketball, and video games!

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