Wrestler of the Day – March 29: Michael Hayes

Today we’re looking at one of the guys that belongs in the Hall of Fame: Michael Hayes.

Michael Hayes is of course most commonly known as part of a trio known as the Fabulous Freebirds. He was the unofficial leader of the team which was also comprised of Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts. Their greatest feud, and one of the best feuds of all time, was against the Von Erichs.

The feud started when David Von Erich was challenging Ric Flair for the NWA World Title and Hayes tried to help David win. David didn’t want it like that and turned the help down, so Hayes slammed the cage door on David’s head, eventually giving Flair the win. The groups feuded for the better part of ten years, including this match at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions in 1984.

Six Man Tag Titles: Freebirds vs. Von Erichs

Kevin, Mike and Fritz here. The Birds are the champions and the titles are represented by a big trophy instead of belts. Mike is one of the saddest stories you’ll ever hear: He wasn’t a good wrestler in the first place and then he was injured. The injury resulted in toxic shock syndrome, which resulted in brain damage. His dad, Fritz, made him get back in the ring anyway. He committed suicide later in the 80s.

This is anything goes. Fritz is in a dress shirt and jeans. Everything breaks down quickly and chairs are thrown in. The referee says anything goes but you have to tag. Ok then. Kevin is bleeding from the big brawl. Ok so it’s officially Buddy Roberts vs. Kevin to start. Kevin beats him down and it’s a brawl in less than 10 seconds with everyone coming in. Off to Mike who goes straight for the leg.

Mike is a very small man. Hayes comes in and stomps away as the fans HATE him. A middle rope splash misses and here’s old man Fritz. Everything breaks down again and Fritz whips Hayes’ back with a belt. Kevin vs. the monster known as Terry Gordy. Gordy starts his boxing and the fans are erupting more and more every second now. If the Von Erichs win, Kerry gets Fritz’s title since Fritz is retired. I’m glad they cleared that up.

Kevin tries the Iron Claw but Gordy fights it off at the five minute mark. Hayes comes in and the fans are louder in this match than they’ve been in the whole show so far. Hayes takes off his boot to get in some shots and it’s off to Roberts. In one of the oddest moves you’ll ever seen, Roberts thrusts his hips forward so his belt buckle hits Kevin in the head. Fritz comes in and everything breaks down. Claw to Hayes and to Roberts at the same time. Hayes is busted bad. Various people are rammed into each other until Kevin comes off the top with a cross body to pin Roberts for the title.

Rating: C. This was the first decent match of the entire show. Granted a lot of that was probably due to the crowd finally being interested. This was without a doubt the feud that defines the promotion so you knew they were going to have something going on here. Not a bad match, but the rematch in July won Match of the Year from Meltzer, so check that out instead since it had Kerry so Fritz didn’t look so out of place.

Soon after this the Freebirds would move on to the WWF, where they had ONE match as a team. From August 25, 1984 in MSG.

Fabulous Freebirds vs. Butcher Vachon/Ron Shaw/Pete Doherty

Now here’s a rarity for you. This is 2/3 falls and to the best of my knowledge, this is the ONLY match for the Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts and Terry Gordy) in the WWF. The Birds are good guys here and it’s Hayes vs. Vachon to start things off. Feeling out process to start with Hayes avoiding a shot in the corner before it’s off to Shaw. Hayes puts on a headlock and kicks Shaw in the face for good measure. Off to Roberts who pounds away on Shaw for a bit as we seem to be in squash territory.

Gordy comes in for a one arm slam before it’s off to Doherty. Back to Roberts who chases Doherty into the corner for a tag to Vachon. A slam puts Butcher down and here’s Hayes again, only to have him miss an elbow drop. The unnamed team pounds on Hayes in the corner but Gordy comes in for a save. Michael slides through the legs and tags in Gordy for a cross body to pin Vachon for the first fall.

After a break we start the second fall with Gordy locking up with Vachon. A few slams put Butcher down and it’s off to Shaw again. This goes about as well as you would expect for a jobber against a team the company is trying to get over as Buddy snaps Ron’s neck over the top rope. Doherty comes in and starts some triple teaming on Buddy which goes nowhere so here’s Hayes again to pound away. Doherty misses a legdrop and everything breaks down. Gordy gets all fired up and Doherty is backdropped down. An elbow from Roberts gets the pin.

Rating: D. I’m getting tired of writing that but it’s another uninteresting match which just kept going. The Birds would be back to likely Texas soon after this as the WWF wanted to split them up. To be fair, a three man team was only going to be able to do so much in the WWF, so the Freebirds weren’t the best fit around here.

It was soon off to the AWA for a big feud with the Road Warriors, including the Birds challenging them for the World Tag Team Titles at Superclash 1985.

AWA Tag Titles: Freebirds vs. Road Warriors

The Warriors are defending. This is Hayes/Gordy and they have their faces painted with the Confederate Flag. The champs clear the ring before the bell and are mad over because this is in Chicago. Hawk and Gordy start as Hayes walks around the field with people yelling at him. Hawk pounds on Terry so Terry heads off to bring in Hayes. Off to Animal as the Birds stall. Ok it’s Animal vs. Gordy.

The squashing continues with the Warriors taking their shots at Gordy. Michael comes back in again and gets pounded so much he crawls back to Gordy for a tag. Terry is like uh….not right now. Gordy finally wakes up and goes after the eyes before dodging a charging Hawk to send his shoulder into the post. Hayes comes back in and hits a side suplex for two. Piledriver by Gordy mostly works but Hawk doesn’t feel like selling that much.

Hayes goes up but Hawk slams him off the top but manages to tag before Hawk can. That’s kind of impressive. Gordy and Hawk collide but there’s the hot one to Animal. Hayes stays on the apron as Animal destroys Gordy, getting two off a powerslam. Everything breaks down and even Roberts and Ellering come in. Ellering gets dropped with a chair and Gordy accidentally pops Hayes. Powerslam to Hayes by Animal and a shoulder to Gordy looks to finish but Hayes comes off the middle rope with something around his hand to knock Animal out for the pin and the titles! The place is stunned.

Rating: D+. This one didn’t quite work either. The whole match was a mess and the ending was hard to follow due to everything going all nuts. The Warriors were still in the period where they would do nothing but run people over, which ran for about the next six or eight years. Bad match for the most part, but you know what’s coming.

Verne Gagne comes out and says hold on a minute. He reverses the decision and the Warriors get the titles back.

A rematch from WrestleRock 1986 but with no titles on the line.

Road Warriors vs. Freebirds

 

Thank goodness this is the last match. This actually took place before the other tag two cage matches, but Verne had to go on last on the real card. The tape version makes him seem more humble at least. This is Hayes/Garvin. Hawk and Hayes get things going. Hayes immediately hits a piledriver which is of course no sold. Let the pain begin. Hayes goes into the cage a few times and he’s busted quickly.

 

Gorilla press to Hayes and Hawk drops a right hand. Garvin runs away from a tag so Hayes tries to climb out. Hawk goes up top as well and Michael is knocked to the floor. Garvin finally gets the tag and he’s tentative at best. Why no Animal yet? Oh there he is, for a TEN REP gorilla press. Now Hayes runs from the tag.

 

And never mind as he comes in a few seconds alter. Hayes gets in a few shots but Hawk runs him over quickly. He bites the cut on Hayes’ head because Hawk is a little nuts. Garvin comes in to pound on him and it’s back to Hayes for a figure four. Hawk easily breaks it and it’s back to Garvin, whose offense is shrugged off. Not hot tag to Animal and everything breaks down. Hayes pulls out some brass knuckles but he hits Garvin by mistake so Animal gets the easy pin.

 

Rating: D. According to the announcer that gives the Warriors revenge for something, but again it’s not important enough to tell us about. This was about as dominant of a match as you can see without it being a squash. The Birds never had a chance but they were against the Road Warriors so that shouldn’t be a shock. The Warriors left the AWA after this match.

Around this time it was clear that the WWF was destroying every company in sight, so the rest of the organizations banded together to fight back. This resulted in a lot of super shows, such as SuperClash III, an AWA show with CWA and WCCW talent. Hayes teamed up with a guy named Steve Cox to challenge the Samoan Swat Team for the WCCW World Tag Team Titles.

WCCW Tag Titles: Samoan Swat Team vs. Michael Hayes/Steve Cox

The Samoans are Samu and Fatu with Buddy Roberts as the Freebirds are split up for awhile here. Cox is a no name and this is all WCCW. Cox and Hayes are the only team to beat the Samoans ever and they’ve traded the titles for the last few months. Cox’s nickname is Do It To It. The 80s were a weird time to say the least. The rows of empty seats are kind of funny.

Hayes and Fatu start us off and Marshall can’t tell them apart either. Oh ok he called him Fatu. That helps some. Cox and Hayes work on the arm and it’s so weird to see Hayes as a face. Fatu misses a cross body and it’s back to the arm. Off to Samu as Hayes plays cheerleader. Heel miscommunication sends Fatu to the floor. Cox goes after him and eats table, shifting the momentum.

Big brawl breaks out and Roberts is able to get in a shot to Cox before sending him back inside. Samu slams him face first and the beating continues. Fatu (Rikishi) comes in off the top and Cox plays Ricky Morton for awhile. There’s a hot shot to Cox but a double clothesline puts both guys down. Hot tag to Hayes and everything breaks down. Cox and Fatu go to the floor as Hayes gets the DDT. Roberts comes in and drills Hayes though and Samu steals the pin to retain.

Rating: B-. Pretty good tag match here but it’s the late 80s so did you expect anything else? The SST would never lose the titles but would just leave the company, heading to the NWA again. Cox is a total no name and Hayes would be back in the NWA soon after this also I believe. Not bad here and a nice little surprise.

We’ll actually look at a singles match now with Hayes challenging US Champion Lex Luger at Wrestlewar 1989.

US Title: Lex Luger vs. Michael Hayes

This would be like Cena vs. Miz two years ago. Hayes is the career tag team guy that says he can do it without help. Luger is the hottest thing in the world not named Sting. Both guys in blue here which is kind of a weird look. Hayes stalls a lot to open the match as he tries to frustrate Lex. Hayes was Luger’s partner for no apparent reason and then turned on him because he’s a natural heel.

Teddy Long is here again for no adequately explained reason. Hayes gets slapped and stalls again. He comes back in, gets slammed and hits the floor again. Five minutes gone and Hayes has stalled more than a broken down truck. Hiro Matsuda, a big time heel manager, is here too. Luger works on the arm to take away the DDT which makes sense.

The idea here is Hayes does basic stuff, it doesn’t work, Luger pounds on him for a bit, Hayes stalls and cheats then we start again. Ten minutes in and Hayes has a chinlock. Hayes gets in a nice left hand and a bulldog for two. Matsuda sends Luger into the railing as Luger is in trouble. Bulldog is blocked by Luger and the crowd pops big.

Luger goes nuts again with a bunch of slams and clotheslines. The Rack is reversed though and Hayes gets the DDT to shock the crowd. No cover though so we slug it out. They hit heads and the referee goes down. One of the Freebirds comes down and puts Hayes on Luger and shoves Luger’s foot off the ropes to allow Hayes to win the title as the crowd is SILENT. This was legitimately a shock, up there with Sheamus beating Cena for the title at TLC.

Rating: D+. The match sucked but the ending brings it up a good bit. This was far too long at over 16 minutes but it wasn’t completely worthless. Luger would get the title back in just over two weeks and hold it for about a year and a half so it’s not like this meant anything long term. Pretty weak match but the ending helped it a lot.

It was quickly back to the tag team ranks under the Freebirds name, though this time Hayes teamed up with Jimmy Garvin in the World Tag Team Title tournament. Here are the semi-finals from Clash of the Champions VII.

World Tag Team Title Tournament Semifinals: Dynamic Dudes vs. Freebirds

 

The Dudes are Johnny (John Laurinitis) and Shane (Shane Douglas), a couple of guys that ride skateboards. The Freebirds are Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin, the latter of whom is a replacement for Terry Gordy (in the corner tonight) who wanted to be a singles wrestler again. Garvin has been affiliated with the team for years but never officially joined them. Johnny and Shane beat Rip Morgan and Jack Victory in the first round while the Freebirds beat the Road Warriors. One more note: it’s roughly 100 degrees in the building as there are about 1000 people there and there was no air conditioning.

 

The Freebirds try to get in a cheap shot to start but walk into a pair of suplexes, sending them outside. Johnny and Michael get things going with Hayes quickly being taken down by an armdrag. Garvin comes in and gets the same treatment before the shorter Dude comes in for a wristlock of his own. A double elbow drop has Garvin in even more trouble Michael and Shane come back in with Hayes getting caught in a sunset flip for two. Back to Johnny who misses a cross body and crashes to the mat, allowing Jimmy to come back in and stomp away.

 

Johnny is sent to the floor and chopped by Hayes as the fans are all over the Freebirds. Back up and the two of them ram heads, allowing for the hot tag to Shane. Hayes breaks up another sunset flip attempt and everything breaks down. A double dropkick puts Hayes on the floor but the referee gets Johnny onto the apron. Shane rolls up Garvin for two but Michael slides back in and lays Shane out for the DDT, giving Jimmy the easy pin. This was the Dudes’ first loss.

 

Rating: C. Basic match here but there’s nothing wrong with that. The new Freebirds needed a win to establish themselves as a threat for later and the Dudes were far too new to be a threat. Surprisingly enough Gordy never interfered, despite being one of the most famous cheaters in wrestling.

And the finals from later in the night.

World Tag Team Titles: Freebirds vs. Midnight Express

 

During the entrances, Dangerously comes out with a tennis racket and knocks Cornette silly. The Midnights take the racket and open the case, exposing a horseshoe and a chain inside. The Dynamic Dudes come out to carry Cornette to the back, leaving the Midnights at a 3-2 disadvantage. Hayes and Lane get things going with Stan scoring with some slams and armdrags, sending Hayes to the corner for a tag off to Garvin. Eaton comes in as well to drop an elbow on Garvin’s neck before bringing Lane back in for an enziguri.

 

A double back elbow gets two on Garvin and Jimmy is furious. The Freebirds have a meeting on the floor until Garvin comes back in for a knee to Eaton’s ribs. Bobby is thrown to the floor and Hayes pops him in the face with a right hand. Stan protects his partner from an even worse beating and get him a breather. Eaton makes it back onto the apron but gets knocked off onto the barricade to make things even worse.

 

Back inside and Garvin hooks a chinlock but Eaton fights up and sends him into the corner. Instead of trying to put up a fight, Eaton is smart enough to head right to the corner and tag in Lane who DDTs Hayes and tags Bobby back in far too soon. Everything breaks down and Lane dropkicks Hayes outside for a moment. Terry Gordy tries to interfere but gets knocked outside before Garvin takes the double flapjack for two. The referee is with Lane, allowing Gordy to come in and powerbomb Eaton, giving Garvin the pin and the titles.

 

Rating: C-. Not a terrible match here and the idea of the Midnights being off their game due to Cornette not being around made sense. This was quite the year for Hayes as he had a brief US Title reign after stealing the title from Lex Luger at WrestleWar. The Midnights weren’t having the best year but they would eventually round back into form.

The Birds wouldn’t do much in 1990 but would be back in the title hunt by Wrestlewar 1991.

World Tag Titles: Doom vs. Fabulous Freebirds

There’s a somewhat famous story to this that I’ll get to after the match is over. Before the match, DDP, the Freebirds’ manager, brings out Big Daddy Dink to be their road manager, whatever that means. Simmons and Hayes get us going and Simmons hits a quick spinebuster for two. Hayes hits a left hand for the same. Both Birds take powerslams for two. Garvin and Reed come in with Reed clotheslining his head off.

Garvin hooks a sunset flip for two and it’s back to Hayes. Reed looks a bit uninterested in the match for some reason. Garvin makes a blind tag but doesn’t jump Reed while he’s busy for some reason. A double elbow takes Garvin down and it’s back to Simmons. Boring match so far. Jimmy gets sent to the floor and hammered out there before it’s back to Reed in the ring. This is heel vs. heel for the most part so the dynamic is a bit off. Powerslam gets two on Garvin but Dink gets on the apron. Reed loads up his fist but hits Simmons by mistake, giving Garvin the pin and the titles.

Rating: F+. This was a horribly boring match. The whole idea here was that Doom is still having issues and would be broken up very soon. The Birds would be the subject of the story that I mentioned earlier which I’ll get to in a minute. The match sucked though as it was basically a squash with a screwy ending.

Post match Reed destroys Simmons with the object. Teddy leaves with Reed.

So as for the story, the Birds had actually lost the titles before they won them. At a TV taping six days prior to this, they were taped losing the titles to the Steiners, as in nearly a week before they won the belts. That was a very different time, as whole PPVs would be spoiled at TV tapings. Can you imagine that happening today?

A year later and the Freebirds had turned face. They would challenge Greg Valentine/Terry Taylor for the US Tag Team Titles at Wrestlewar 1992.

US Tag Titles: Greg Valentine/Terry Taylor vs. Freebirds

It amazes me how far tag wrestling has fallen. There are midcard tag titles here. The Freebirds are faces here and for the life of me I don’t get what was seen in Valentine and Taylor as a team. There are two rings here which is always kind of strange but it’s still cool. The Freebirds both use the DDT here so they’re looking for the quick win. Fonzie from ECW is the referee here.

Taylor and Hayes start us off and the fans more or less hate Taylor. At least they’re smart. It’s just strange seeing the Freebirds as faces. Also Greg Valentine is a champion in 1992. What’s weird about this picture? A backhand chop is a judo chop according to Jim. For those of you unsure, the Freebirds are Jimmy Garvin (no one of note really) and Michael Hayes, who is currently the head writer for Smackdown.

ALL Freebirds so far but this is a long match so there’s plenty of time left. We’re about eight minutes in and the champions haven’t been on offense longer than maybe 20 seconds yet. I could watch Valentine fall on his face every day. It’s just perfectly done. The heels take over for a bit and I emphasize the bit part since Garvin takes over again to get us to even.

Hayes gets a hot tag and cleans house. The crowd is hot tonight which gives me a good feeling about the main event. Hayes gets hit in the back of the head with the Five Arm, Terry’s finisher but it only gets two. Fans are completely behind the Freebirds. Taylor gets a gutwrench powerbomb for two on Hayes which is a move I wish we saw more often. We’re nearly fifteen minutes in and Jesse says it’s too early to go for the figure four.

Valentine works on the arm which is just weird for him but whatever. This has been a good match so I can live with that. Another hot tag to Garvin and he cleans house. Everything goes insane and Garvin gets a DDT on Taylor for the pin and the titles. Solid opener and the crowd is happy so everything worked. The titles would be retired in July so it’s not like it means much.

Rating: B. Great opener here as the crowd was way into it and the title change works well to open a show. Starting a show with a good tag match is pretty much a universally good idea and this was no exception. I’m not a fan of any of these four but this was a very solid match and has me wanting to watch more of the show, which is exactly the point of an opener.

Hayes would soon become a manager and mostly retire. He would eventually become Doc Hendrix in the WWF before managing the Hardy Boys under his own name. Hayes would wrestle a few matches around this time, including a handicap match at Fully Loaded 1999.

Tag Titles: Acolytes vs. Hardys/Michael Hayes

Yep it’s a handicap match. At this point I had zero clue which was Matt and which was Jeff. We start in the aisle where they just leave the belts. Who would have thought two of these four would win world titles? I don’t think this has started yet. According to Ross it has. Ah there’s the bell so Ross was wrong.

We have Farrooq and Jeff in there to start while Bradshaw beats up both guys on the floor. Matt takes out everyone with a top rope moonsault. They really were great fliers back in the day. Hayes is pretty freaking worthless here but what did you really expect? The APA takes over with just power. Matt picks to tag Hayes. Why in the world would you do that? We get a Freebird reference so I’m good for the night. There’s Jeff. Crowd is DEAD for this.

I think Lita helped them a good bit to say the least. The Hardys simply aren’t that good at this point. Bradshaw gets a nice belly to back suplex off the top. Not bad. Jeff clocks him with Hayes’ cane over the head. Poetry in Motion is still very much a work in progress here. Hayes comes in and a double powerbomb gives the APA their titles back. Edge, Christian and a ladder would be coming soon.

Rating: D+. I didn’t like it at all. Hayes was just in the way here as he’s old and most of the people here don’t know what he used to be nor do they care more than likely. The Hardys would dump him maybe the next night. Either way, the APA would lose the belts to Kane and X-Pac two weeks later so this was just to get Hayes out of the Hardy picture.

Michael Hayes is a guy that wasn’t all that great in the ring, but man alive could he talk. I’ve heard of several wrestlers that got into wrestling because of Michael Hayes or were huge Hayes fans, including Raven. The guy is just ridiculously charismatic and can talk with the best of them. He was a much better talker than wrestler, but that’s the key to a lot of stars over the years.

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