This week’s “Monday Night Raw” really wasn’t all that much to see. I’ve had to think back and try to come up with something good to say about it. We’re to the point where I’m thinking about considering a screwy finish between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to be a positive. With little else in sight, there was one thing that really made me smile on Monday night: the Fabulous Freebirds are going to the Hall of Fame.
First off, who are the Freebirds? They’re one of the all time best heel groups and helped cause the rise of World Class Championship Wrestling from a regional outfit to a company that had the potential to go national and become a major player in the wrestling world. The Freebirds were the archenemies of the Von Erich Family and feuded with them on and off (but mostly on) for the better part of ten years.
The team got their big break on Christmas night 1982 when Kerry Von Erich (World Class’ resident superhero) was challenging Ric Flair for the NWA World Title in Dallas. Hayes was a guest referee and eventually punched Flair out, allowing Von Erich to get the title without much effort. That wasn’t what Von Erich wanted though and wouldn’t cover Flair.
Ric got up and kneed Kerry in the back, knocking him into Hayes, who fell out to the floor. Gordy didn’t see Flair and thought Von Erich shoved Hayes so he slammed the cage door on Von Erich’s head, launching a war between the two groups and eventually costing Von Erich the World Title to make the Freebirds the biggest heels in Texas wrestling history.
The following three years were almost all about the Von Erichs vs. the Freebirds as they went at it over and over with the fans cheering louder and louder every single time. This was all World Class needed and you can’t overstate how important the Freebirds were to the company’s success. This led to other spots for the team, who wound up wrestling all over the country to make them an even bigger deal.
So why did the Freebirds work? It certainly wasn’t because of the individual parts because the three of them were talented but certainly not enough to make them stars at that high of a magnitude. However, like most great teams, they were stronger as the sum of their parts than the individual pieces. Let’s take a look at those pieces one by one. I’ll be leaving Garvin out for now though as he was only an associated member in the glory days and became Hayes’ partner in WCW when Gordy and Roberts were gone.
Hayes was the leader and the best overall performer. As Steve Austin has put it, Hayes was the kind of guy who could draw fans into the arena because he was such a showman and it was easy to hate someone like that. It was the way he would get on the ropes and dance out of his jacket while soaking in all of the hatred from the fans.
That kind of charisma is something you can’t teach no matter what and you either have it or you don’t. Hayes made people want to see the Von Erichs kill him and would put their money down to see it. That’s far more valuable than anything else people can do in the ring and Hayes milked the heck out of it.
The other two are a bit more simple as they fit a more traditional mold. Starting with Gordy, you had pure power and brawling abilities. He beat people up because no one could stop him and had some amazing brawls with people like Steve Williams and Bruiser Brody. It’s a really basic idea but it worked to perfection.
On the other hand you have Buddy Roberts for the technical work and speed. While talking and brawling are important and fun to see, at the end of the day you need to have someone who can wrestle a good match. That’s where Roberts came in and gave the Freebirds a bit more credibility. Instead of just fighting everyone and beating more talented teams, the group could beat wrestlers in a wrestling match on Roberts’ back.
The idea here is obvious: while none of them were complete packages, all three of them combined into a very well balanced package. You had a near perfect trio with a talker/showman, a power brawler and a fast technician. How many wrestling teams have you seen over the years who are close to something like this or are strong in two of the areas but lacking a third?
In addition to the ring styles, you had what brought them out to the ring. Back in 1982, theme music was just starting to become a thing with the Von Erichs popularizing the idea of coming to the ring to mainstream rock music. The Freebirds came out to, as you might have guessed, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was perfect for them, but there might have been one thing better: Hayes singing his own song.
That brought the world one of its greatest gifts in the form of “Badstreet USA”, an original song about where the Freebirds lived (The baddest street in the whole USA where the further down you went, the badder it got. They lived in the last house on the left.) with Hayes handling the singing. How much more obnoxious can you possibly get than that? The answer to that was not much, but the song was just so awesome. It was awesome enough that Hayes started performing concerts on his own with “Badstreet USA” as one of his main songs.
Finally, you have the Freebird Rule. This is one of those things that has become an unofficial rule in wrestling over the years but is still active to this day (literally, as the New Day switches the titles between its three members on a regular basis). While it’s little more than a glorified heel tactic today, this was a big deal back then as you could just put up “FREEBIRDS VS. VON ERICHS” and pick whichever combination you wanted while still delivering exactly what you had promised. When you have a rule named after you, it’s clear that you had some kind of an impact and are remembered far after you’ve retired.
I know I didn’t go into any details about the Freebirds but that’s kind of the point: it was about the act as a whole, not just one match or one feud (ok maybe it was about one feud). The Freebirds became an entity who worked all over the world (including one of the briefest WWF stints of all time) and wrestled against anyone they wanted because they were such a well put together act. Hayes is still viewed as a big deal today as he’s been one of the top creative minds behind Smackdown for years. These guys have belonged in the Hall of Fame for a long time now and hopefully it makes people realize how great they really are.
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