Wrestler of the Day – June 3: Junkyard Dog

Start doing the Juke. It’s Junkyard Dog.

JYD would get started in the late 70s, including a run in Stampede under the name Big Daddy Ritter. Here’s one such match, and what is believed to be the first ever ladder matche, from July 1, 1979.

North American Heavyweight Title: Jake Roberts vs. Big Daddy Ritter

Jake is defending the promotion’s top title and this is joined in progress because it’s Stampede. In a bonus, there’s money in the bag as well so Jake can actually win something. Roberts puts the ladder (which just leans against a structure and doesn’t fold open, though there is someone helping hold it up) up and tries to climb but Ritter makes a save. They do the same sequence with the roles reversed and we’re about six minutes in according to commentary.

Ritter knocks him down again and hits a headbutt before throwing Jake into the ladder which doesn’t move at all. Jake makes a save and hits Ritter with….I think Ritter’s boot but Ritter grabs his foot to stop a climb. Ritter is sent face first into the steel but easily pulls the champion down the ladder. Big Daddy gets his boot back and lays Jake out, only to climb too slowly and get hit in the back with the boot again. Jake is sent to the apron and gets his feet tied in the ropes, allowing Ritter to climb up and win the title.

Rating: D+. You have to give them a bit of a break here as they may have literally never had anything to go off here. They actually did use the ladder as a weapon a few times so it wasn’t just there in the background. Not a good or memorable match but it’s certainly historic, which is why it’s on a WWE DVD.

We’ll jump ahead about three years to June 23, 1982, when Ritter was now the Junkyard Dog was at the peak of his career. He won the North American Heavyweight Title on June 21, 1982. DiBiase and JYD are friends here and if DiBiase loses, he leaves the territory.

North American Heavyweight Title: Ted DiBiase vs. Junkyard Dog

That’s a different North American Title if that’s not clear. It’s also No DQ, which is the kind of match DiBiase signed for when Bob Roop was still champion. Both guys are faces here and we get some promos before the match with Dog talking about fighting hard as champion and DiBiase says he has to feed his family. We also hear from Roop, who says he was ripped off when JYD took DiBiase’s place in a title match and won the belt. He wants the next match with Dog.

Dog is as over as free beer in a frat house and the fans just love him. He’s also ripped here and in about a thousand times better shape than he was in the WWF. Roop is on commentary but says he won’t interfere because it’ll cost him $2500. Feeling out process to start with Ted getting two off a quick rollup. A small package gets the same for the champion before they trade hammerlocks.

Dog takes him down twice in a row but won’t drop his fist out of respect. Back up and they both pull back fists but shake hands instead. DiBiase gets a quick powerslam but the kickout sends him flying across the ring. Dog kicks him away from trying a Figure Four and DiBiase falls outside. Ted is slow to get up so JYD helps him get back in, but DiBiase pulls out a loaded glove to knock Dog out cold for the pin and the title. Roop: “I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!”

Rating: C. This was ALL about the angle and the fans sitting in stunned silence suggests that it worked very well. This made DiBiase the most hated man in wrestling and the feud between these two was awesome stuff. Dog would get the title back of course, but the heel turn was talked about for years.

Here’s a random match against a fairly big name from a few months later on September 24, 1982.

Junkyard Dog vs. Nick Bockwinkel

Feeling out process to start with Bockwinkel bouncing off the Dog. JYD punches him in the face but a double clothesline puts both guys down. Nick sends him into the buckle a few times to no real effect so Dog nails some big right hands. A pair of Thump powerslams end Bockwinkle in less than four minutes. This was almost a squash.

Rating: D+. This was much more for the live fans than anyone else. I’m also rather surprised that Bockwinkel did such a clean job as I believe he was AWA World Champion when this match was taped. Not a good match for the most part but it made JYD look legit as well as popular so it’s hard to complain much.

Time to pick up the DiBiase feud again from I believed some point in early 1983.

Junkyard Dog/Mr. Wrestling II vs. Matt Borne/Ted DiBiase

Borne and DiBiase are the Mid-South Tag Team Champions but this is non-title. That also puts this between October 27, 1982 and March 12, 1983. Dog and the masked man easily clear the ring as this is going to be a huge brawl. We finally get down to JYD and DiBiase with Ted being backdropped as Bill Watts continues his tradition of saying Hacksaw Doogan instead of Duggan.

A right hand from Mr. Wrestling sends Ted to the floor before the good guys start working over DiBiase’s arm. Mr. Wrestling easily takes both heels down before JYD hooks something resemblind a cross face chicken wing on Ted. Everything breaks down and Tiger Conway, Jim Duggan, Skandor Akbar and Kamala all run in for the no contest.

Rating: D+. Again this was about the angle than the match as DiBiase and Borne were saved by their fellow Rat Pack member Duggan. Nothing much to see, but anytime the fans got to see DiBiase beaten up by Dog, the fans were going to be pleased. Dog was just so freakishly over and Wrestling II wasn’t far behind.

We’ll look at something outside of Mid-South now, with this match from the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions in 1984.

Junkyard Dog vs. Missing Link

Dog was a HUGE star at this point. Missing Link is a crazy man. Link charges straight at him so Dog punches him a lot. A chair is brought in so Dog whacks him over the head with it and that’s all well and good I guess. Akbar is Link’s manager too. Link tries ramming Dog’s head into the buckle and that just fails. Now Link rams his own head into the buckle. They both get on all fours and ram heads which goes to Dog as well. Akbar tries to cheat and it allows Link to hit a middle rope headbutt for the pin? Akbar had the foot for the pin but another referee comes out and says what happened so Dog wins by DQ.

Rating: D-. It’s only really not a failure because Link had a cool look and I liked the insane character he had. The Dog was WAY over and it worked very well to have him here. Not a good match at all though as their styles completely clashed and the ending was even worse with neither guy looking good at all. It was pretty much a squash until the end.

It was then off to his most famous period as Dog entered the WWF in 1984. He would be on the first Wrestlemania, challenging for the Intercontinental Title.

Intercontinental Title: Junkyard Dog vs. Greg Valentine

Dog cranks on the arm to start and punches him in the shoulder ala Marciano. A punch to the face takes Valentine down and a headbutt sends the champion (Greg in case you’re not familiar with this era) to the floor. Valentine tries his luck at the arm now and pounds away with some forearms to the back of the head. I’m not sure if that should hurt the Dog or not.

The champion goes after the leg now with what looks to be the start of a half crab but he never turns Dog over. A kind of DDT on the leg has the Dog in trouble again and there’s a headbutt between the legs. Dog breaks up the Figure Four and hits a headbutt to stagger the champ some more. Jimmy Hart tries to interfere but Dog causes Valentine to blast him in the head instead. Valentine grabs a fast rollup and puts his feet on the ropes for the pin.

Rating: D+. I’m getting tired of using that rating but this is what the matches keep coming out as: not terrible but nothing good at all. Valentine would get back to his current feud with Tito Santana very soon with the title changing hands pretty soon if I remember properly. Dog was there as more of a fun character than a serious threat so this was fine.

Next up was the Wrestling Classic, a one night tournament in late 1985. Dog was in the finals against someone you might have heard of.

Wrestling Classic Finals: Randy Savage vs. Junkyard Dog

Savage in tye dye is a really weird look for him. He throws a chair at Dog but JYD catches it and blasts himself in the head about ten times. Randy stalls like he’s still in Memphis and then does it again for good measure. Back in and Dog easily shoves him down a few times before driving a headbutt into Randy’s spine.

We hit a bearhug on Savage, who might have a bad back after being superplexed earlier in the night. Savage is sent into the corner as this has been one sided so far. Choking ensues but Savage finally comes back with a clothesline for two. Dog is sent to the floor and Randy drops a top rope ax handle to get his first real advantage. Savage rams him into the post as Jesse keeps ranting about how unfair it was for Dog to get a bye.

Another top rope ax handle to the floor puts Dog down again and a chair shot keeps him down. Why that wasn’t a DQ isn’t quite clear. Savage dives back in at nine before throwing JYD back in as well, only to jump into a fist to the ribs. Some headbutts have Savage reeling and a backdrop over the top sends him to the floor for the countout, giving Dog the tournament.

Rating: D+. This was a bizarrely booked match as Savage got in nothing for the first half before taking over on the floor. Dog looked exhausted and you can’t really blame him. I mean, his first match was three and a half minutes, his second match was 45 seconds, and his third round match was a bye. That’s rather pathetic when he was tired at about seven minutes into this.

Dog was a big deal and this match from SNME VI proves it.

Hulk Hogan/Junkyard Dog vs. Funk Brothers

The Funks are Dory Jr. (called Hoss here for no reason whatsoever) and Terry and they have Jimmy Jack with them, but he’s no relation so there we are. Hogan has chains around him for the intro. That’s very odd as I’ve never seen him carry anyone else. Hogan gets on all fours and rams the Funks’ heads. Oh this is going to be a long night.

Why is it called the WWF Heavyweight Championship? There wasn’t a light heavyweight title on American soil, so what’s the point? I guess it just sounds better or something. Hogan is in white here. If nothing else we get Heenan ranting on midgets, so that’s going to help a lot. Oh poor Dory. What the heck happened to you man? Heenan goes on a rant and says Hogan and Dog aren’t wrestlers. Oh I want to buy this man a ham sandwich.

Terry goes after Haiti Kid and I would pay big money to see them in a cage. The biases here are just hilarious. Terry beats on Dog and I like him even more now. Jimmy nails Haiti Kid and I like him even more now. JYD still lives here so I still can’t stand him. Heenan is just on fire here and he’s easily the most entertaining person or thing out here. JYD takes the Kid to the back, throwing him over his shoulder like a 12 pack.

Hogan gets a branding iron to the ribs once we get back from commercial, which might still be hurt from a few months ago. One nice thing about SNME is that the footage picks up where we left off at the break so we don’t miss any action. Dog is back now. I didn’t notice but whatever.

Oh dear the Kid is back and has a big bandage on his head. It looks freaking ridiculous. Terry misses what I’m assuming was a splash which allows Hogan to get the tag and pin him in about 4 seconds. The heels beat up the Kid as I cheer.

Rating: C+. It’s a standard 80s tag match. I’m not sure I get the point of Hogan opening the show when he’s the star attraction, but then again the 80s were a weird time. JYD continues to reach new levels of uselessness every time I see him so he was worthless.

Another big show around this time was the Big Event on August 28, 1986.

Adrian Adonis vs. Junkyard Dog

It’s so cool to see the thousands of people and have a row cut out in there for the guys to come through. It looks completely awesome. Hart has a freaking feather duster for some reason. Adonis is rather gay in case you weren’t familiar with him. He’s also about 400lbs here. About two years before this he was a big deal actually as a biker character. I love that Dog’s theme song is about grabbing a girl’s hips. Adonis is bleeding pretty badly already. Ok apparently not as I refuse to listen to Ernie Ladd anymore.

Jimmy sprays perfume or cologne or whatever in Dog’s face to break the momentum though and Adonis goes to work. Dog no sells two megaphone shots and they fight on the floor. The referee gets to about 8 and then we go into the ring and Adonis is thrown into Hart and falls BACK OUT OF THE RING after being completely in for the count out. I think they botched that one.

Rating: D+. This was a standard 80s match but I don’t get the ending at all. It wasn’t any good which I would blame on the wrestlers and JYD is an annoying waste of oxygen as it is so there we are. This was just filler, but again you have to sympathize with Dog as he had to wrestle four minutes here.

Dog would have a brief feud with King Harley Race and have a loser must bow match at Wrestlemania III, which is one of his better known matches.

Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog

The loser has to bow. Uecker is apparently in love with Moolah and bails out of the booth. Race comes out to either Lawler’s music or the song Lawler’s music was remixed from. Dog says that he wants to take over the spot on the throne. Oh and I forgot to mention the ring carts which only appeared here and at Mania 6. Those things were AWESOME. Dog blocks some punches to start and pounds away but Race trips up JYD to give Race control.

Dog comes right back with a headbutt to send Race to the floor before pulling him right back in. Race gets knocked to the floor again and is in big trouble. Back in and Race tries a headbutt and knocks himself silly. A Flair Flip in the corner sends Race to the floor AGAIN but it still doesn’t last long. Back inside Dog hits some headbutts but has to stop to chase off Heenan, allowing Race to hit a belly to belly for the pin.

Rating: D. This wasn’t that good primarily due to time. The majority of the match was spent with Race on the floor which isn’t what you expect from him. Dog was all about personality and crowd response as most of his offense was a bunch of headbutts. Not much to see here but the crowd was into it.

Dog bows to Race but then blasts him with a chair and steals the robe.

Here’s a Philadelphia house show from September 18, 1987.

Junkyard Dog vs. Ted DiBiase

We have a Mid-South reunion here. DiBiase offers JYD 500 bucks to take the night off but JYD drills him and gives the money to the fans. Ted is relatively new here too, only having been around about four or five months. Ted gets punched down again and it’s time to stall again. DiBiase hides in the ropes more than once as this is going nowhere so far. JYD rams Ted in the buckle a few times and Ted backs off again.

A fan asks DiBiase for more money when he’s on the floor. That made me chuckle. Back in and DiBiase’s boot to the ribs is caught in an atomic drop. We’re almost four minutes into this and almost nothing has happened so far. JYD works over the arm with a wristlock and then gets on all fours for some headbutts. A falling headbutt misses and DiBiase takes over. DiBiase goes up but jumps into an extended fist instead of the extended boot. Well at least it was different. More headbutts keep DiBiase down and Virgil gets one too. Virgil trips JYD up and DiBiase steals a win with a rollup.

Rating: D+. Another punch/kick/headbutt/stall match here which is continues to drag this show down. DiBiase was killing time until he started to go after Hogan and JYD didn’t mean much of anything yet. The match was mainly DiBiase stalling though and it didn’t go anywhere at all, which is a theme tonight.

He was also in a battle royal at Wrestlemania IV.

Battle Royal

Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Jim Powers, Paul Roma, Sika, Danny Davis, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Bad News Brown, Sam Houston, Jacques Rougeau, Ray Rougeau, Ken Patera, Ron Bass, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race, George Steele

Just for a big trophy here. Steele chills on the floor and Bob Uecker is in on commentary here. Sam Houston is put out quick as is Sika. Brunzell is sent to the apron by Nikolai but he makes the save. Both Bee’s are sent to the apron but Steele pulls Neidhart out to the floor. Both of the Bees are put out as is Ray Rougeau as the ring is thinning out a bit. Dog puts Bass out but has to fight off the Bolsheviks.

Hillbilly Jim is put out and Roma puts Davis out as well. We’re down to nine and Powers is out too. We’ve got Volkoff, Zhukov, Hart, Roma, Jacques Rougeau, Race, Brown, Patera and Dog. Race and Dog headbutt each other with the canine man winning. Nikolai is dumped by Patera and Zukov gets the same treatment.

Patera is pulled to the floor by Volkoff as Race and Rougeau go out. So it’s JYD, Hart and Brown to go. Dog gets on all fours to headbutt both heels but they finally catch up on him with some double teaming. He gets dumped out and Hart and Brown seem to be willing to split the win. Brown of course turns on Hart and dumps him out to win the trophy.

Rating: D+. This was nothing of note other than the potential beginning of Bret’s first aborted singles push. The problem with battle royals is the same most of the time: there’s no reason for most of them to happen and with no story, there’s not much interest in the match. Sometimes you’ll get a good one, but this wasn’t it.

Dog would be in the NWA later in the year and appear at Starrcade 1988.

Russian Assassins vs. Junkyard Dog/Ivan Koloff

This is a thrown together tag match and if the Russians lose, they have to unmask. The Dog is recently here from the WWF where he wasn’t a huge deal but he was a big deal in the UWF. Dog starts with we’ll say Assassin #1 and the masked man is sent into the corner for a quick two count. Off to #2 who is almost immediately knocked to the floor with a big right hand. Paul Jones, now a Russian sympathizer, pulls #2’s leg onto the ropes for the break.

Off to Ivan with a hard clothesline and he chokes #2 down to the mat with ease. #2 charges into a boot in the corner and there’s a middle rope clothesline from Ivan for two. JYD and Ivan hit a double clothesline on #2 but #2 comes back with a headbutt of his own to put Dog down. Everything breaks down for a bit until Dog gets a near fall on #1 off a clothesline. The Assassins double team JYD but #2 misses a splash in the corner. Ivan comes in to clean house as everything breaks down again. In the confusion, the Russians load up a foreign object in their masks and a headbutt ends Ivan.

Rating: D. This wasn’t any good. I have no idea why Ivan and the Dog teamed up for this match and I didn’t even know the Assassins were a team anymore at this point. This came off like a long filler match which isn’t something you should have to use on a card with just seven matches.

He would also appear at Clash of the Champion VI.

Junkyard Dog vs. Butch Reed

JYD is played to the ring by a full jazz band. This is an old rivalry from the Mid-South days when JYD was the biggest star in the company. Reed has Hiro Matsuda with him to further the idea that Reed might help restart the Horsemen. They shove each other to start until Reed gets knocked out to the floor for a breather. Shoulder blocks don’t work for either guy so JYD headbutts him to the mat and some more headbutts send Reed outside again.

Back in and Reed pounds away with big right hands (soup bones according to Ross) but JYD hiptosses him out of the corner. More punches put Dog down and even more keep him down. Reed chokes on the middle rope and Matsuda gets in some of his own. Dog gets caught in a chinlock but fights up with more right hands. He punches Reed out of the air when Reed comes off the middle rope, only to miss a headbutt and get caught by a top rope shoulder for two. Matsuda gets on the apron but Dog whips them together, giving him a quick pin on Butch.

Rating: D. This was a ten minute punching match and it really didn’t work all that well. The match wasn’t horrible for the most part but it certainly wasn’t anything interesting. Both guys were much bigger stars in this area than they were nationwide so the match makes sense, but it doesn’t make it any easier to sit through.

Dog would be treated as a much bigger deal than he was around this time and receive an NWA World Title shot at Clash XI.

NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Junkyard Dog

It’s the battle of Charlotte with Flair defending of course. A hard slap puts Flair down to start and Dog drops to all fours. To say JYD is looking big here is an understatement as he’s bordering on huge. The Dog headbutts Flair into the corner and a big right hand sends him to the ramp. Back in and Flair’s chops aren’t sold at all and Dog hammers him down again.

Ric snapmares him down but a knee drop has no effect at all. Dog pounds on Flair even more so Ric gets a chair but a shot to the head does no damage either. See, Dog’s head is hard if that’s not clear. Flair is whipped upside down in the corner and slammed off the top. Dog pounds away even more and the Horsemen come in for the DQ.

Rating: F. To recap, Dog did nothing but punch and slam, wouldn’t sell, and made Flair look like a joke. It’s very difficult to make Ric Flair look terrible in the ring at this point but the Dog somehow did it. This is a good example of Ole Anderson’s downright awful (at times) booking decisions: it makes the company look clueless and annoys the fans on top of that. This is probably the worst Flair match I’ve seen prior to about 1999 and that covers a lot of ground.

One more, with a Six Man Tag Team Title match at WrestleWar 1991.

Six Man Tag Titles: Junkyard Dog/Ricky Morton/Tommy Rich vs. Stage Patrol/Big Cat

Where do I even start? Ok so odds are you haven’t heard of these titles before, and there’s a good reason for that: they were only around for less than nine months. The titles were first won seven days before this show at a live event. Now one might ask why they didn’t have the first champions crowned here on PPV. It’s WCW in 1991. There’s your answer and it’ll answer most of your questions. The State Patrol is Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker and Lt. James Earl Wright, who is most famous for being one half of the State Patrol. Big Cat is Mr. Hughes and he’s one of the challengers here.

Cat and Dog start things off. I think you can see JYD’s gut expanding from here. He hits Cat with some headbutts and it’s off to Morton and Wright. Morton speeds things up with armdrags and it’s off to Rich. Rich slams him down and hooks an armdrag followed by an armbar. Off to Parker who gets the exact same treatment. Back to Morton for some atomic drops and then back to the same armbar again.

The Dog comes back in to crank up the fat levels of this match. Big Cat comes in again and wants a test of strength. That goes nowhere so it’s back to Morton to face the State Patrol on his own. The numbers catch up with him and it’s time for Morton to start selling. Parker drop toeholds him down and Cat hits an elbow for two. Dropkick gets two. Morton slugs back against Parker but gets powerslammed down for two.

The State Patrol keeps up the double teaming, hitting a bulldog for two. Back to Parker as I’m seeing why this team never went anywhere. Cat comes back in for a big old backbreaker for two. Parker misses a charge and there’s the hot tag to JYD. He hits the Thump (powerslam) but Cat makes the save. In a smart move, Morton immediately dives on Parker and gets the pin to retain.

Rating: D. Technically this was barely passable but what in the world was the point to this match? On second thought what was the point to these titles? The match wasn’t any good as it was in essence just a bad TV main event, which doesn’t exactly fire me up for the rest of the show. This was an odd choice all around.

You can probably see the idea here: Dog was a big deal when he started but his conditioning went downhill in a hurry and he never got back in shape at all. The svelte Dog is worth checking out but his later days are just horrible. The fans got WAY behind him in Mid-South and he legitimately was one of the biggest stars in wrestling. After that though…..yeah it was a disaster.

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