by Stephen Von Slagle
World Class Championship Wrestling/Southwest Sports, Inc. (a.k.a. “Dallas”)
Jack Adkisson (1966-1988)
Kevin Adkisson (1988-1990)
Kerry Adkisson (1988-1990)
Jerry Jarrett (1988-1990)
STATES & PRIMARY CITIES:
Texas (Dallas, Ft. Worth, El Paso, Irving, Wichita Falls, San Antonio)
Oklahoma (Enid, Ponca City, Lawton)
World Class Wrestling Association World Heavyweight title (1986-1989)
American Heavyweight title (1966-1986)
World Class Wrestling Association World Tag Team title (1986-1989)
American Tag Team title (1966-1986)
Texas Heavyweight title (1964-1991)
Texas Brass Knuckles title (1968-1987)
Texas Tag Team title (1966-1988)
World Six-Man Tag Team title (1982-1988)
World Class TV title (1979-1987)
As it pertains to professional wrestling, the city of Dallas, Texas boasts a long and storied history that was built by some of the toughest men and wildest action the sport has known. From the beginning with promoter Burt Willoughby in the 1930s, to Willoughby’s protégé, Ed McLemore, running the territory throughout the 1940s and 1950s to the start of Texas’ doomed dynasty when Fritz Von Erich took over ownership of the promotion in 1965, Dallas was invariably one of America’s top wrestling cities. While Southwest Sports, Inc. may not have been one the NWA’s most profitable territories prior to its explosion of popularity as World Class during the 1980s, it was still a very reliable and consistent promotion for wrestlers to earn a living in and, at the same time, Jack Adkisson’s group produced an exciting product for wrestling fans of the day. The pinnacle of pre-World Class wrestling in Dallas undoubtedly came on June 24, 1972 when NWA World Heavyweight champion Dory Funk, Jr. came to Dallas and faced off against Fritz Von Erich at Texas Stadium in front of 26,339 spectators. The event set an attendance record in Texas that stood for a dozen years until Fritz’s son Kerry drew just over 32,000 fans in the same building for his famous 1984 NWA title victory over Ric Flair. Three years after his Texas Stadium match with Funk, Fritz Von Erich was elected President of the NWA in 1975 and the Dallas territory surely benefitted from having its owner occupying such a powerful political position.
By 1979, Kevin, David and Kerry Von Erich had all made their professional wrestling debuts and were well on their way to the superstardom all three would achieve in the early & mid 1980s. However, in addition to the gifted Von Erich brothers, the promotion was also building a foundation of talented new performers that would help World Class Championship Wrestling reach the heights of popularity it would soon achieve. Charismatic young performers like The Fabulous Freebirds, Jake Roberts, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin & Sunshine, Gino Hernandez, Chris Adams, The One Man Gang, “Iceman” King Parsons, The Junkyard Dog, Kamala, Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express, and The Fantastics all contributed greatly to World Class morphing from a solid NWA territory into a legitimate television phenomenon. Riding on these talented additions to its roster, greatly improved production values and the unprecedented popularity of the Von Erich brothers, the NWA’s Dallas territory was soon being seen (and drawing tremendous ratings) in cities nowhere near Texas, such as Chicago, L.A., Boston, Honolulu and, curiously, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in Israel.
Following some of the many tragedies that came to be associated with World Class, plus a divorce from the NWA in 1986, the promotion found itself on a downward trajectory in terms of popularity and profitability during the second half of the decade. Yet, the newly-renamed World Class Wrestling Association still offered a strong lineup of fresh and exciting acts such as the “The Latin Heartthrob” Al Perez, the Dingo Warrior, the Simpson brothers, and WCWA. World Heavyweight champion “Ravishing” Rick Rude. That said, by 1988 or so, the damage had been done and World Class was free-falling. A retiring Jack Adkisson sold the promotion to his sons Kevin and Kerry, who in turn quickly proved that they were not capable of running World Class on their own. Enter longtime Tennessee promoter Jerry Jarrett, who came to an agreement with the Adkissons wherein he became the majority owner of the World Class Wrestling Association, with Kevin and Kerry Von Erich ostensibly serving as his lieutenants.
Although it took several months, Jarrett’s promotional techniques and business philosophy eventually began to turn things around and World Class slowly but surely saw an increase in both attendance and television ratings. The primary focus at the time featured an “Us vs. Them” scenario that pit Texas (World Class) against Tennessee (U.S.W.A.). The storyline took place in both promotions at the same time, with wrestlers traveling between states and switching from babyface to heel depending on which audience they were performing for. The ongoing WCWA. vs. U.S.W.A. feud culminated in an encounter that took place in Dallas on August 4, 1989, which saw Eric Embry (U.S.W.A.) defeat Phil Hickerson (WCWA.) in a “winner takes all” match. Although World Class seemingly no longer existed, the promotion’s tradition of spotlighting talented young performers continued in the U.S.W.A. Early in their careers, future superstars like Cactus Jack, Steve Austin, The Punisher (The Undertaker) and Jeff Jarrett were all featured prominently in Dallas. Unfortunately, though, the partnership between Jerry Jarrett and the Adkisson brothers was not working out and in the Fall of 1990 the two sides legally parted ways. Kerry Von Erich soon entered the WWF while Kevin Von Erich remained in Dallas and tried launching a revamped World Class Championship Wrestling promotion. However, he was doing so with no television outlet and a greatly reduced roster of talent. Although the Dallas faithful were at the world-famous Sportitorium to cheer on their hometown promotion, it was too little too late and on November 23, 1990, World Class Championship Wrestling presented its final event, with Kevin Von Erich winning the Texas Heavyweight title in the main event of the evening.